March 9, 2009

No, I did not screw up in the title. A couple of days ago, a friend of mine was writing a column for the newspaper and asked me to write a few words regarding how I feel about the pictures I have of Norah and why the service of taking pictures of babies who have passed too soon is needed. Here is what I wrote….names changed for confidentiality (I always wanted to write that).

            You asked me to tell you about the Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep (NILMDTS) organization and what having the pictures of my baby means to me. First I need to provide some background for you. In March of 2007, I found out that I was pregnant. This was following a miscarriage in November of 2006 at 12 weeks. We were trying to get pregnant and were very happy to receive the news. My pregnancy was uneventful with absolutely no problems the entire time. Our due date was November 18, 2007, and as that date approached we prepared our hearts, our family, and our home to accept a new child. Days were spent getting the baby room ready, talking to our children about the new baby and the changes that would occur and talking to the baby as he/she prepared for birth. We had decided that we would wait until the birth to find out if the baby was a boy or a girl. On November 16-17, the baby had increased movement that I thought indicated that birth was imminent. On November 18, I noticed a decrease in fetal movement. I went to labor and delivery and then heard the words that no one wants to here. “I’m sorry but your baby’s heart has stopped”. We were devastated. The life that we created had ended before we even got to physically meet the baby. Our kids were so sad that they were not going to have a living sibling. For 40 weeks I had carried our baby, and at that moment my heart broke into little tiny bits. Our dreams, our hopes, and our lives as we knew them stopped.

            We chose to induce labor the next day. However, we had to wait 18 hours for that induction to begin. In the intervening time, I thought about the choices we had to make to plan for the arrival of our little one. We would only get to spend a little time with the baby and those memories created during that time period had to last us the rest of our lives. Instead of thinking about car seats and diapers, we had to think about saying hello and goodbye at once and planning a funeral. There was absolutely no question in my mind that I wanted pictures of my baby, as many pictures as I could take. I knew we only had one chance to greet the baby and spend time with the baby.

            The baby was a girl born at 7 lbs and 9 ounces. We named her Norah Clare. It took me 7 months to come up with that name and it suited her. The emotions of greeting the baby that I carried for 9 months but never getting to see her alive were overwhelming. She was absolutely perfect in every way, except she was not breathing. That night my husband and I held Norah, talked to her, cut a lock of her hair, changed her clothes, and took as many pictures as we could handle. The next morning our kids met Norah, and I took pictures of them with her also. We left the hospital without a baby, empty. We had a car seat but no baby to go in the car seat. There was no joy, only shock, sadness, grief, and anger. In the next days, we had a service for her and buried her at a family cemetery. Afterwards, we were left with only pictures, a finished baby room, and baby supplies but no baby, no Norah.

            A couple of days after Norah’s death, a fellow babyloss Mom suggested that I contact NILMDTS. I look on their website and found a person in Cottondale; however, she was no longer in business. I contacted the Alabama NILMDTS coordinator, Aimee, and she told me to send my pictures to her. Pictures of babies that have died too soon are hard for those outside the family to view because of the discoloration and bruising that sometimes occurs during birth. I wanted to fix that discoloration so that I could show pictures of Norah to everyone. Aimee not only fixed the pictures that I asked but put all my pictures into a beautiful slideshow set to music. I am so grateful to have that slideshow of my daughter.

            Recently I learned that Tuscaloosa now has a NILMDTS photographer. This news is wonderful for future babyloss families. This means that instead of having to take pictures themselves, like we did, parents of babies that are born from 20 weeks to full term but are no longer living can ask this NILMDTS photographer the help with pictures. The services of NILMDTS photographers are free and the organization is run by these generous photographers volunteering their time and supplies and donations from other people. My emotions for these photographers are overwhelming. I cry just thinking about the photographers taking pictures of the family and the baby. These are the only pictures the family will ever get of their baby who died too soon. Dead babies are taboo to the general public, and people avoid the conversation. Moms who have lost babies are avoided (as if babyloss were contagious) and withdraw from society. However to fellow babyloss Moms, these pictures are our only link, our only proof that our babies were alive. With these pictures, the baby’s life is validated. Yes, I grew a life, a baby. Sadly, that baby died. I loved that baby with all of my heart. I miss my baby. I can show you pictures of my baby.

            So XXXX, I wanted to write to give you a personal story of babyloss and tell you how grateful I am every day that I have pictures of my daughter. I am happy to know that Tuscaloosa now has a NILMDTS photographer and think her work will help babyloss families both grieve for their lost child and help the healing process begin. Please let me know if I can help you more with your article.

One comment

  1. I, too, am so thankful for the pictures we have. The nurses and midwives encouraged us to take pictures, which felt so wrong. I think that because Baker’s death occurred during labor, and I woke up to find him dead, I didn’t have time to process what was going on and didn’t know what to do. I wish we had a thousand more pictures, but am thankful for the ones we have. A photographer acquaintance, who I didn’t know was a NILMDTS volunteer, later retouched some of his photos, taking out the tubes and tape.

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