I've written so many times over the years about how as professional photographers you have the ability to literally stop time and help your clients capture memories. Often these moments are the most precious in their lives and here's a prime example from Gina Harris.
At the time, Gina had no idea just how much of an impact her son would have, not just on the hearts of her and her husband, but on the way David, and later Ethan, would influence her role in our industry. As today's Director of Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep, Gina understands firsthand the important role photography plays in the healing process.
NILMDTS needs your help and March is Recruitment Month. So many of you have so much talent and the ability to help a family in need. Don't let yourself get trapped into that old excuse of, "I just don't think I could do this kind of photography without crying!" As Vicki Zoller points out in her guest post, her role in helping families to heal, far out weighs her worries about being able to cope.
Being a part of this terrific organization is just a click away!
Almost 34 weeks into the pregnancy, our son David was coming. When David was delivered, his heart was not beating. The doctor handed David to me. I was overwhelmed at how beautiful he was. He looked so perfect. How could anything be wrong with him? We held him for six hours. I made sure to remember how he smelled and how soft his skin was. I tried my best to remember every moment with him.
Thankfully, a friend had told me about Now I Lay Me Down To Sleep (NILMDTS). When I went into labor, we called Sandy Puc’, co-founder of NILMDTS to take images of our son. These photographs helped capture the moments with him and every feature of our adorable boy. There is no way I could have remembered this much without the photographs. When we received the images, they became and still are, our most prized possession. When I look at the images of David, I feel peace. His cute little face puts a smile on my face, but tears in my eyes.
Shortly after, we became pregnant again. At the 16-week ultra-sound we learned the baby had kidneys, but he had two fatal conditions - cystic hygromas and hydrops. The doctor said most babies with these conditions tend to miscarry, but was surprised that our baby’s heart was beating strong. Each week, we went to the doctor’s office to see if the baby’s heart was still beating. As each week went by, I started believing that maybe this baby would be healed. Unfortunately at 24 weeks, the baby’s heart stopped beating and my labor was induced. We found out he was a boy and we named him Ethan.
Ethan’s condition was extremely severe, more so than what we had thought. In our grief, we chose not to photograph him. We held Ethan as long as we could. I told him, “You are beautiful. Your body is perfect now in heaven. You are with your big brother now.” We buried Ethan next to his big brother David.
Not having images of Ethan made the grieving and healing process much more difficult for my husband and me. The images we have of David shows that he was real – he existed. I often feel that Ethan is forgotten because we don’t have images of him.
In 2011, I had the opportunity to become the executive director at NILMDTS. I had been in the nonprofit field my whole career and was serving as the executive director at another agency. To be able to bring my nonprofit experience and my passion for an organization that has impacted me in such a profound way is such an honor. For as long as I had worked in nonprofit, I had never needed the services of one until I needed NILMDTS. NILMDTS gave me my most prized possession – images of my beautiful son David. Now, it was my time, to utilize my experience and skills to give back.
Even though I lost David and Ethan, I still did not truly grasp the magnitude of infant loss and the need for NILMDTS services until I became the executive director at this amazing organization. Even though we have volunteer photographers throughout the world, we still do not have enough to serve all of the families who need our services. Our volunteers do one of the most incredible services a volunteer could offer. I hope that if you are reading this and have photography and/or retouching skills, you will consider being part of NILMDTS.
Please consider applying as a photographer or digital retouch artist. Visit: www.nowilaymedowntosleep.org.