You can’t believe your eyes; the test indicates that you’re pregnant. Your emotions are on overload. You cry, you laugh, and you can’t believe you are going to be a mother. Early on, you hear the baby’s heartbeat. Later you hold your husband’s hand at the ultrasound as you see a perfect little nose, ten tiny fingers and toes. You are buying newborn clothes, monogramming initials on blankets, and preparing the nursery for you little one’s arrival. You have contacted a photographer to have newborn pictures done to capture the baby’s first days of life. You feel the baby move and kick; each day it becomes more real that you will soon be a mother. Your belly is growing bigger every week, and you long for the day to hear your baby cry and snuggle him in your arms for the very first time. Then, in an instant, your world is completely turned upside down. You are no longer planning on the baby’s arrival; you are planning on how you will say goodbye to a baby you never met. When you hear the news that your baby won’t survive or live more than a few days after birth, you totally go numb. You can’t hear, you can’t breathe, and the tears flow endlessly.
Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep
I’m writing to share with you about an organization I recently discovered. The service they provide is so touching and heartwarming. When I heard exactly what they do, my heart skipped a beat. It was so devastating yet wonderful at the same time. Now I Lay Me Down To Sleep, named in reference to the children’s bedtime prayer, is a nonprofit organization that provides parents that experience a newborn infant loss with a gift of professional remembrance photography. Volunteer photographers donate their time, skills and talents so that this service is provided at no cost to the family. These images are professional quality and more than likely the only pictures the family will have of their baby to cherish forever. Typically, the general guidelines are for babies at least 25 weeks of gestation; however, the photographers can consult with medical personnel to determine if they can capture professional images of babies tinier. While I wish there wasn’t a need for this organization, I am glad it exists for the families that suffer this heartbreaking loss.
Let me go on record, I have never experienced this type of loss. I cannot imagine the grief involved for the families that do suffer a loss of a baby. My heart aches for them. However, I do have friends and family that have experienced this type of tragic loss, and I wonder if they knew this organization existed, would they want remembrance photography. Would they want to remember or forget?
I talked with Olivia Grey Pritchard, Area Coordinator for NILMDTS and asked her more about the services they provide to families. She told me something that stuck with me, “you can choose never to look at the pictures, but you can’t ever go back and take them again.” She also said, “Providing gifts of remembrance photography to the family serves as an important part of the grieving process.” I personally think most families would want these pictures and treasure them if given the option.
I want to share with you a video from the NILMDTS national website. Prepare to be moved, probably to tears. Although the video is sad, at the same time it is absolutely beautiful to hear from the families and volunteer photographers who help capture these memories that will be forever cherished.
How You Can Help
NILMDTS has volunteer photographers in every state. There is a demand for more volunteers to help serve the families in need of remembrance photography. If you are interested in volunteering as an Affiliated Photographer, Digital Retouch Artist, Assistant to a Photographer, or Community Volunteer, please be sure to visit their Volunteer Membership Information page.
I leave you with the following statements taken directly from the NILMDTS national website: “Imagine a photo session where each moment is a last moment, where there will be no second takes, where what you’re doing becomes a family’s most prized possession. Are you looking for a way to share your talents with your community? Are you willing to help a family create a lifetime of memories, in only moments? Are you willing to selflessly give of yourself in order to help a family begin to heal a broken heart?”
Maybe you want to contribute, but you don’t have the skills or talents needed to be a volunteer for NILMDTS. Do you have an old wedding gown sitting in storage, collecting dust? I encourage you to read a former post titled, “Angel Gowns for Grieving Families.” This wonderful cause takes old wedding dresses and sews them into beautiful burial gowns for newborns who have died. If you’re not sure what purpose that wedding dress will serve in the future, why not donate it today and help a family who has experienced the loss of a baby.
I wish I had known this existed when we were recently in this position. A very sweet nurse did provide us with a gown and take some pictures of our baby boy. I think they were taken too far post death though (I’ve chosen not to look at ny except of his feet because my husband said they don’t look like the baby we saw) and if I had known, I would’ve wanted pictures to be taken immediately after his birth. I do agree that having pictures with the option to look is better than not having any at all. In our case though, we had said no pictures and they took them anyway which I understand but still felt like a violation and we were upset at the time. I am grateful now to have pictures of his feet; I just wish I had more pictures of the minutes right after his birth.
Naomi, that happened to me too. I looked at the pictures and I wish I hadn’t. Hope that doesn’t sound horrible but when I think back to my baby those pictures the hospital took aren’t the ones I want to picture her like.
I would love to be involved in this organization. If I could afford the camera I would volunteer my time to do this.
Naomi & Mindy – I also lost my middle daughter just a few days before her due date. We were fortune to have a photographer there very soon after her birth. There is a stark difference in the immediate pictures compared to the one taken the next day. Since our loss I have started working in our birthing center and have contacted NILMDTS for multiple families. If you were unable to have one of their photographers out, you can still submit your personal or hospital taken photos for editing. They will fix the colors and imperfections so that your baby looks better. I know how hard it is to look at unedited pictures. Our minds have a way of fixing those blemishes and beautifying our memories of our sweet babies. There is information on the NILMDTS website to submit your photos. Good luck momma’s and I’m so sorry for your losses.
I was blessed to have NILMDTS take pictures, along with the hospital. I truly cherish the ones NILMDTS took of my daughter they have helped me tremendously. Though I am grateful to the hospital for taking some as well, even though they took theirs first I can hardly look at them. I hate that I, or anyone else, needs these services but I’m forever grateful they are there.
This is amazing! After having a stillbirth with our firstborn son, I never thought I’d want pics but social services offered to take them anyway. They said I never had to look at them or even retrieve them but they would always be available should I change my mind. It wasn’t until 5 years later that I decided I wanted them. I called to track them down and am so thankful they were available. I never want to forget my son and while I don’t have these pics on display, they help me remember him and are so special to me.
If you want to send me some of the pictures that aren’t too bad, I can change their color and make them more transparent, with say something like angel wings (if you’re religious) or anything you could want, even you and the father… It’s worth a shot. I have so many pictures and am so thankful.
[email protected] I am going through a really hard time and if I were to help you in any way…it would help me tremendously.
I also am able to clone out if it’s just some dark spots. It’s still your baby!!
4 years ago my baby was diagnosed with anencephaly at his 20 week anatomy ultrasound. I carries him to term and was able to find a NILMDTS photographer but she had to come all the way from Mississippi (I delivered at Touro). She had to leave early but her pictures were amazing. They were all black and white and taken immediately after his birth.
Another great organization who’s services I utilized is String of Pearls. They sent a kit full of items to collect things like hand prints and hand casts. I couldn’t have gotten all these things together in my state of grief.
I’ve always wanted to figure out a way to put together packets of info for hospitals to give out in situations like mine. Or even figure out a way to have String of Pearla kits available at hospitals for days when tragedy strikes.
It is wonderful to have mementos of our boy. It makes the memories seem more real and helps fill in the gaps when I was concentrating on soaking up his precious little self.
Thank you Janie! NILMDTS is such a great organization and I am grateful they dispatched Olivia Prichard to us when our son was dying in NOLA back in 2012. I am pleased to see Braylen’s photo displayed as part of your blog…thank you! God bless you for sharing our story.