Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Documenting Loss

Get out your tissues.

A news story pointed me to Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep. It is a non-profit organization that makes professional photographers available to take pictures of babies that die in utero or after birth. The photographs are beautiful and horrible at the same time. They look like the studio photos parents proudly display in albums or on desktops. Except that the purpose of these images is to preserve the memory of a baby the parents only held for a few hours, days or weeks.

I have been thinking about posting pictures of Louis, the son we delivered at 20 weeks' gestation. This Saturday will be the 10th anniversary of his birth and death. The problem is, I hate the photos. One of the nurses took them. And though in fact he was dead in the photos, I don't like it that he looks dead. His mouth hangs open, his skin is bruised, a little blood shines at the edges of his nostrils.

The pictures of me and my spouse with Louis are equally clinical. We each look into the camera with our bloodshot eyes.

When I see the pictures at Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep, I wish deeply that I had a similar image by which to remember Louis. What those photos convey, that mine do not, is the love and tenderness these parents have for their baby.

For that reason, when my clients' baby was stillborn in September, I did my amateur best to photograph him as they'd want to remember him. I photographed her labor and the baby's birth. I took pictures of his precious feet, ears, face. And of his fingers held in his parents'. I wish I had the skills of a professional photographer. It is a relief to know that others are recognizing the value of this documentation.

Please share this resource widely. I wish I had known about it two months ago.

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Anonymous Michael said...

The pictures you took mean more to us than I can express. I carry two of them on my keychain and she wears one in a locket.

Thank you.

12:54 PM  
Blogger doulicia said...

Michael, I am touched and humbled (and still sad, nonetheless).

1:26 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi, I read your blog all the time, but have never commented. When you said you were unhappy with your photos of Louis, since I am an amature artist, I immediately thought that an artist's portrait of him would be the answer. I googled 'artists drawing of stillborn' and here is one of the first links I found; bereavement drawings. In my opinion she does a great job of drawing babies. Not all artists do, since their proportions are much different than adults. Anyway, just an idea for you and other people in this situation.

4:09 PM  
Blogger Tara said...

Hugs to you for your loss, Doulicia. Thank you for sharing your experiences and strength with others.

I had an idea similar to Jennifer's, though hers might be better. I wondered about contacting photographers to see if they would retouch the photos of your baby. I know this service was given to a friend of ours whose son was stillborn. It gives her so much comfort to have pictures of him where the discolorations on his face are removed and he looks peaceful.

Best wishes to you on this difficult anniversary.

5:40 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have friends who lost a daughter to leukemia. Shortly before she died, they called the photographer who did their wedding photos. The photographer came to the hospital, set up, and took beautiful - and necessary - photos.

As the father said, they wanted to remember their daughter not as the child that was lost to leukemia, but as herself.

I needed the tissue box, doulicia, but it was a good post - and a better link. Thank you.

8:55 PM  
Blogger DeeDee B. said...

Thanks for posting this. I thought you would also want to see this...

"I Spoke With My Child"

I found it to be powerful and comforting in my loss.

Beautiful, but have tissues.

7:24 AM  
Blogger DeeDee B. said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

7:25 AM  
Blogger doulicia said...

Wow! Thanks all for your suggestions, links, thoughts. I am actually pretty proficient in photoshop (moreso then with an actual camera!). Maybe I will try a little touching up of the photos myself.

Also I am glad to meet the new commenters. I hope to hear from you again.

11:45 AM  
Blogger mm said...

Thank you for sharing.
I'll add another name to my rememberance candle this weekend.
We have a few photographers here who will come to the hospital and do this for the parents. I think that no matter how beautiful the photo (and I have a photo of a hospice client like this) as the person left behind I pick it apart and don't like how it looks.
But that may just be me.
Hope you have a peaceful anniversary and I'm sure your son was absolutely beautiful.

11:50 AM  
Anonymous Catherine said...

I would also like to suggest Portraits by Dana Klein ( She has drawn pencil portraits of both of our stillborn babies and she did an amazing job.

I am so sorry for your loss and the loss of your clients.

3:08 PM  
Blogger Darla, Pencil Portrait Artist said...

It was very thoughtful of you to take those pictures. Very often, the parents just aren't up to photographing, and even if they don't want to look at the photos now, they probably will later on. I do pencil portraits from photographs of stillborn babies, and I know what a wonderful keepsake it is...but just to have nice photos is a precious gift, and they can do a nice scrapbook to remember the baby.

2:11 PM  

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