The Gift of Pictures

photography-love1When a baby dies, it is, in short, terrible. I remember sitting in my hospital bed, waiting to deliver a stillborn Avery, a million thoughts rushing through my tortured brain but none I could actually grab onto and process. The nurse had mentioned taking pictures after her birth, and the same thought kept pounding through my skull:

Why would I want a picture of a dead baby? 

After my deceased daughter was cleaned and dressed, we passed her around like the porcelain doll she was, took deep breaths, and fake smiled for the camera.  They aren’t the most artistic pictures in the world, but six years later I feel so blessed to have them. I’ve heard other bereaved parents say that they don’t have any pictures of their children, and it breaks my heart.

The non-profit organization Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep was founded in 2005 to provide the gift of remembrance photography for parents suffering the loss of a baby.  They train, educate, and mobilize quality photographers to provide beautiful portraits to families who have lost a baby too soon.  They didn’t take my pictures, but I can’t stress the void these amazing photographers fill and the importance of these portraits for grieving families.  Cosmopolitan Magazine recently did a story on this incredible organization and published a few beautiful pictures of these angels.  You can read the article here.

Today

photoToday is Pregnancy and Infant Loss Remembrance Day. To be honest, I’m not a big fan of Days. If you’ve ever lost a loved one – a child, a parent, a relative, a friend – you know that their loss is felt daily. Having a designated day to remember them is kind of like saying you’re not supposed to miss them the other 364 days of the year. At the same time, pregnancy loss is something many Americans don’t like to talk about, and I’m thankful that today brings the heartbreak of losing a child to the forefront.

For me, today is a reminder that while years may pass, I will never, ever, forget my daughter Avery. It’s a reminder that though a horrible thing happened to me, I am not alone. And today is a reminder that when you hear terrible statistics, statistics about death and sickness and hurt, there are real people behind those numbers, real people who need support and love.

Every October 15th I light a candle for Avery.  This morning as I lit the flame I thought not only of what I have lost, but what I have gained. I have so much love in my life, yet I often get stuck in the monotony of the daily grind and forget how lucky I am.

I also found myself thinking of the fragility of life. Our world has always been a scary place, but lately that badness has been creeping a little too close to home. Children the same age as my boys are dying from Enterovirus.  Seventeen miles south of my house people are fighting Ebola, a disease that wasn’t supposed to be possible here. While it’s shocking and horrible and terrifying, it’s also a much-needed reminder.

Life is precious.  Life is fleeting.  Tomorrow is not guaranteed to any of us, so make sure you appreciate today.

Today is Pregnancy and Infant Loss Remembrance Day, and I will remember my daughter.  But I will also take some time to cherish the beautiful life I’ve been given, to hug my husband and my boys, to tell my parents that I love them. Today is a gift, and I intend to treat it that way.

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 Please take time tonight to participate in the International Wave of Light. Light a candle from 7 p.m. to 8 p.m. in your timezone in remembrance of the babies lost too soon.