I've said this before and here it comes again, I couldn't be more proud to be an Ambassador for Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep. This post, by Cyd Lapour, is one of the reasons. She's a NILMDTS affiliate photographer from Baton Rouge, LA. The original post ran on Cyd's blog, but I wanted to share it here as well. To find out more about Cyd, her site, Bayou Rose Photography is just a click away.
What I love most is Cyd's ability to share her feelings about getting involved with NILMDTS in the first place. Over and over again I've heard so many stories from NILMDTS artists who went into the program filled with cautious anxiety. Over and over again they talk about the experience of their first session and how it was life-changing and helped them grow as people, artists and parents themselves.
Cyd's quote is one of the most poignant I've read yet about the experience...
"I've never heard a thank you that left me so sad, and yet so proud. I walked out knowing that the images I had taken weren't just pictures - they were someone's memories. They mattered."
It's recruitment time at NILMDTS and they need all the volunteers they can get. This is an amazing group of people providing a source of healing for so many parents in need. Just click the banner above to find out more information.
I did something tonight - something terrifying, and humbling, and changing for me.
I'd made the decision to volunteer for an organization called Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep (NILMDTS) a while back. Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep is a charitable organization dedicated to providing photographs of infants born to parents who have had to say goodbye to them too soon. Before committing, I thought long and hard about the decision - I needed to be absolutely sure I could handle it before I volunteered. As the organization is woefully short on volunteers--especially locally--I didn't want to sign up to fill a need that needed filling, only to later bail because I couldn't hack it.
I'll be honest and say I still wasn't one hundred percent sure how I'd handle it when I signed on the dotted line. At the end of it, though, my heart hurt more at the thought of grieving parents wanting photos of their baby but unable to find anyone to take them, than at the thought of me actually showing up to take those photos. So I signed, and prayed that I'd figure all of the important stuff out when the time came.
The call today came last-minute. It was me or nothing - no one else was reachable or available, the nurse said. There was to be no hand-holding, no training wheels, no guidance other than the (thankfully thorough) resources on NILMDTS's website. It was time to figure all the important stuff out, on my own, and on a tight time schedule.
I won't say it wasn't hard. It was hard. From the minute I walked through the door, though, hard took a back seat. My hard was suddenly small, and insignificant, and fleeting.
Hard is watching your baby be baptized, but hearing no outraged cry at the feel of cold water. Hard is dressing your infant in an outfit you know they will never grow out of, and preparing to go home from the hospital with an empty car seat. Hard is screwing up the courage to ask for a stranger to take photos of your baby, when you know those images will be the only things you have to help you remember your child's face.
Yes, it was hard. But not a forever Hard, like the one Mom and Dad were facing. And not a hard that mattered a tiny bit against the heart-breaking sincere gratitude they expressed as I was packing up to go. I've never heard a thank you that left me so sad, and yet so proud. I walked out knowing that the images I had taken weren't just pictures - they were someone's memories. They mattered.
When I got home, I paused on my way to backup the images to hold each of my children in my arms for just long enough to have them sighing in exasperation and rolling their eyes in annoyance. I didn't care, though. I squeezed them just a little bit tighter anyway.
Duties completed, I grabbed a fresh memory card, popped it into my camera, and headed back out of my office toward those loud, wiggly, messy little boys that looked just a little more precious to me now. I wanted--needed--to capture them in all their joy and complexity, while letting them cheat bedtime for just a little while longer.
I love my happy, healthy little gremlins. Even if they do fight like puppies, and take cheap shots at each other, and give one another the side eye, and cheat shamelessly at cooperative kids games.
They're happy, and they're healthy, and they're here with me.
Note: While the images documented by Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep Photographers are usually kept private, baby Kason’s mom was generous enough to allow the use of his images here in the hopes that his story would encourage other photographers to share their talents and help other families in need.
If you're a photographer and you think you can do it--do it. If you want to do it, but are scared that you can't--do it.
Hard things are worth-it things.