I went to school to be a therapist and I never felt like I could make a difference so we became foster parents and tried to have babies – though neither worked out quite like we’d planned. A few years later I learned about Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep – an organization where therapy and photography powerfully intersect.
For many of us it’s easy to take the happy ending of a pregnancy for granted. Despite several miscarriages, I went through two full term pregnancies where it didn’t even cross my mind that things might end badly. A few months after my son was born, a very close friend tragically and suddenly lost her son three weeks before his due date.
Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep is an organization that provides complimentary portraits for families suffering infant loss. Professional photographers apply to volunteer through the organization. Once their application has been accepted they are listed on the NILMDTS website and families or hospital staff can request that a photographer go to the hospital to take pictures of those few precious moments they are with their babies.
I’m often asked why families would want photos like that. I think the answer is because that’s all they’ll have. Most families are fortunate enough to have thousands of pictures of their children. If anything awful happened, it would be hard to pick which one to hang above your fireplace. But when all you have is a few hours with a child you’ve dreamed about for months or years, it’s too short.
One mom I spoke with didn’t have pictures taken and later regretted it. She thought she would always remember her child’s face, but the memories faded.
The other thing that many people aren’t aware of is that the images are beautiful. The colors of death are cruel, so all of the images are converted to black and white or sepia to allow the family to focus on the beauty of their baby instead of the tragedy.
One mom recently said to me, “All these moms are going home with their babies. I’m not going home with mine.” Many families find the images to be an important part of the grieving process.
We all wish NILMDTS wasn’t necessary. But in a world where it is, I’m thankful for the past few years that I’ve had the privilege of being affiliated with them.
“There is no foot too small that it cannot leave an imprint on this world.” Read more about the history of NILMDTS here.