Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep | Affiliated Photographer
NILMDTS is a non-profit organization, Please consider
I recently became a volunteer Affiliated Photographer with Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep. After several years of an emotional roller coaster during my own fertility journey and far too many loses to mention, I have a huge heart for parents who have experienced the loss of a child.
I've always been drawn to babies and I love people, so its no wonder I became a birth photographer. And if I didn't suck at math I would have gone to nursing school to be a labor and delivery nurse, I just love babies and mamas and everything surrounding birth. I think its absolutely fascinating and I cant get enough of it.
When I introduce myself as a birth photographer, I often have to explain (to almost everybody!) what that means and WHY on earth I would want to photograph a birth. So, naturally, as an Affiliated Photographer for Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep, likewise I have to explain to people why I photograph babies who are dying and/or have already passed away.
As a documentary photographer I document the world as I see it through my lens. Whether thats a mama holding her son as he takes his first breath or a father holding his daughter as she takes takes her last.
The first session I did with NILMDTS I had all sort of emotions swirling around. I didn't know what to expect or what to do or say or how to act. I stood there frozen, looking at two lifeless 23 week old twin boys who were just born too early to survive. My heart wanted to explode into a million pieces, but I held my composure, captured the images and went straight to my car to ball my eyes out. My brain just couldn't comprehend how to process the information it just received. I unfortunately personally know loss all too well, but those emotions and horrible memories had been cried out years ago, had been dealt with and have been stored WAY back into my memory bank as painful, distant memories.
The babies were so, so, so very tiny. but so, so, so very perfect in every way. Fully formed with toenails, eyelashes, etc. Stretched out from head to toe, they were the size of my hand, the size of my iPhone 6s+,. Literally the smallest little humans I had ever laid eyes on. They were so handsome, identical twin boys. I laid them next to one another and photographed them holding hands, something they probably inadvertently did in the womb and would have done had they lived past a few briefs moments.
There was just NO compartment in my brain to compartmentalize what photographing two 23 week old stillborn babies would look like.
The next day I told the area coordinator "I cant do this, its too hard". and he reminded me that
"Its not about me, its about the parents,
and documenting their child's legacy here on earth,
however long or short that may be."
Due to the privacy of the family, I cannot share images of the session, but in its place, look at these tiny, tiny, tiny litlte feet from "Baby A".
Watch this video for more information about becoming a NILMDTS Affiliated Photographer
NILMDTS is a non-profit organization, Please consider
The following are excerpts from the NILMDTS website:
What is NILMDTS?
The organization was founded by Sandy Puc and Cheryl Haggard in April 2005 and called it Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep (NILMDTS) after the children’s bedtime prayer.
NILMDTS offers the gift of healing, hope, and honor to parents experiencing the death of a baby through the overwhelming power of remembrance portraits. Professional-level photographers volunteer their time to capture the only moments parents spend with their babies and gift the beautiful heirloom portraits free of charge. These priceless images serve as an important step in the healing recovery for bereaved families. NILMDTS remembrance photography validates the existence and presence of these precious babies by honoring their legacy.
NILMDTS recruits, trains, and mobilizes professional quality photographers around the world. Through NILMDTS, medical personnel are given a meaningful option to offer bereaved parents by creating remembrance portraiture for their babies.
Why was NILMDTS created?
Maddux Achilles Haggard was born on February 4, 2005, with a condition called myotubular myopathy, which prevented him from breathing, swallowing, or moving on his own. The following six days, his parents Mike and Cheryl Haggard sat by his side with questions that had no answers.
Cheryl tried to create memories of their time together using her own camera. In reviewing the pictures she captured, Cheryl said, “I saw our tear stained cheeks, our red swollen eyes, our forced smiles, and the fear in our faces as we looked into the camera.”
On the sixth day of Maddux’s young life, his parents made the excruciating decision to remove him from life support. Before they removed life support, Cheryl knew she wanted professional images of Maddux that she could hang on her wall alongside the portraits of her other children.
“Maddux deserved that space on our wall. I could not comfortably hang the pictures I had taken. The color images bring back the reality of that day. I wanted heirloom portraits as a way to remember and honor our son,” said Cheryl.
It was then, Mike called photographer Sandy Puc' to take black and white portraits of them cradling their son.
Cheryl said, “That night was the worst night of my life, but when I look at the images, I am not reminded of my worst night. I’m reminded of the beauty and blessings he brought.”
Those tender photographs documenting Maddux’s eternal connection with his parents inspired Cheryl Haggard and Sandy Puc' to create Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep in 2005 as a nonprofit organization. NILMDTS exists to give bereaved families the gift of professional heirloom portraits to bring healing and comfort.