But there is another aspect of pregnancy and birth. There is an unexpected place in this journey where some families may find themselves. When a baby dies, a world is turned upside down. There is confusion, sadness, fear, and uncertainty that cannot be explained. There is sorrow where there should have been joy. During this time, it might be impossible for families to know what they might need in order to heal in the future.
Local photographer Eileen Hyland (Creative Images Photography in Dungarvan) explains, “This is the where the Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep Foundation gently provides a helping hand and a healing heart. For families overcome by grief and pain, the idea of photographing their baby may not immediately occur to them. Offering gentle and beautiful photography services in a compassionate and sensitive manner is the heart of this organization. The soft, gentle heirloom photographs of these beautiful babies can be an important part of the healing process and can provide great comfort. They enable families to honour and cherish their babies, and share the little life with family and friends . The NILMDTS mission statement is to introduce remembrance photography to parents suffering the loss of a baby with the gift of professional portraiture. We believe these images serve as an important step in the family’s healing process by honoring their child’s legacy.
The Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep Foundation (NILMDTS) has a network of more than 7,000 volunteer photographers all around the world. Eileen explains “We are delighted that NILMDTS is now available to grieving families in Ireland. We have a network of 30 professional photographers around the country – all highly trained and affiliated to the US organisation. At a family’s request, a NILMDTS Affiliated Photographer will come to your hospital or hospice location and conduct a sensitive and private portrait session. The portraits are then professionally retouched and presented to the families on an archival DVD or CD that can be used to print portraits of their cherished baby. The photographers give their time and their expertise entirely free and there is no charge for the service.
Eileen continues “ When nurses or social workers at Waterford or Cork hospitals call me on behalf of a family, I pack up my gear and head to the hospital. I first offer the family my condolences on their loss or impending loss, and then I get to work, knowing that the images I capture will be their only connection to that child once they have said goodbye. Some of these babies pass away at or near birth due to genetic defects, pregnancy trauma or stillbirth. In other cases, doctors have tried everything they can to help find a cure for whatever ailment the child suffers from, but the hospital calls me when the family has realised all efforts have been exhausted and they will soon be disconnecting life support. In some cases, I am able to capture the last images of this child’s time here on Earth; in other cases, the parents are more interested in seeing their child memorialised eternally at peace.
We work very closely with Feileacain (Stillbirth and Neonatal Death Association of Ireland). This charity is made up of bereaved parents who come together to offer hope and support to other affected by the loss of a baby. They provide hospitals with beautiful Memory Boxes for parents and offer a befriending service and telephone support, as well as regular support meetings. If they are contacted by a newly bereaved family or family friend, they tell them about NILMDTS and put them in contact with us directly.”
“It’s a humbling experience, doing this work. We are with families at a time where their lives are turned upside down with grief. Often they enter hospital with all excitement and anticipation of bringing home their longed-for baby – and in the case of stillbirth, they go home empty handed. Often, the only tangible thing they have to remember and celebrate their baby is our photographs.” Eileen explains. Now we need to spread awareness of NILMDTS, so that more families can avail of our services. Also, we are engaging with hospitals around the country, and so far the response has been fantastic.
If you wish to avail of NILMDTS services, you can find a list of participating photographers on the NILMDTS website under Photographers, or on the Feileacain website www.feileacain.ie . You can then call any photographer directly for more information or to book a session.
You can also help spread the word by LIKING our Facebook page at www.facebook.com/nilmdtsireland