July 31, 2014 was the day that I decided once and for all that I would volunteer my time to be a NILMDTS photographer. A friend who had hired me to do her newborn baby girl’s photos had lost her during labor. A rare uterine rupture had robbed her of enjoying watching her daughter grow up.
It took me a few months to recover from her loss. Being in the room and seeing the grief. With the new year, I gathered my images together, donated a small fee, and awaited the news that I would be accepted to donate to such an amazing organization. Once accepted, I waited a few weeks with no calls. Over a month went by and I had not been called upon to give the service. A relief, but I also wanted to help.
My day to help came on May 24, 2015. I had spent the past two days working non-stop and I was exhausted but when I saw the unknown number on my cell phone, I knew exactly what it was.
The nurse quickly explained the situation and that mom was going in for a c-section within the hour. I agreed to go to the hospital in a few hours and prepared myself, my paperwork, my gear. The drive to the hospital seemed to take 2 hours, though in reality, it took maybe 20 minutes. I bawled my eyes out. This family, that I had never met before, is experiencing the worst day of their lives, and I am supposed to walk in and create memories for them to last a lifetime.
I was afraid that I wouldn’t be able to compose myself enough to walk into the hospital. I prayed and blasted worship music the whole drive there. I prayed for God to guide my hands, and bless this family.
As I walked into the hospital I was greeted by the nurses, who lovingly had purchased hats and outfits and blankets for this little baby boy. I spoke with them and was led to the room where baby Sam lay in his parent’s arms. The room was warm and bright and filled with so much love. I was welcomed in and explained what would happen. Mom and dad, grandma and grandpa, aunt and uncle, were all drawing close to mourn the loss of this little, very anticipated, and very loved baby boy.
The whole family was involved and photographed with Sam. Mom was beautiful holding her firstborn son, but when dad had his moment, I couldn’t fight the tears back anymore. I was worried that I would cry in front of the parents, and I did, but it was ok. Nobody can be expected to enter into a situation such as this, and not feel overcome with emotion. I cried with them over the loss.
After the session, I walked to my car and sat and cried. But these tears were not so much tears of sadness, as joy. The overwhelming fulfillment that I received from doing one little thing that would help this family through such a hard time was inexplicable. The one day that this family was able to spend with their baby, was documented. They wouldn’t have to search their memories for what their son’s face looked like…they know.
I went home and immediately edited the images and loaded them to a gallery for the family to see. I was told that the family had the images printed and waiting for mom and dad upon their return home from the hospital. The funeral home was filled with images of their sweet baby. Few had been able to meet sweet Sam, but everyone would remember him and see him. He existed, he is real, and he is forever loved.
In a day and age where ‘miscarriages’ are titled as such, we feel like we are unable to grieve. As though since the child never took a breath, they don’t count. Remembrance photography shows the world and ourselves that this isn’t the case. Every child matters, whether born into this world or the next. I have since done other NILMDTS sessions, and each has affected me differently. However, each time I leave a session I walk away knowing that someday, mom and dad will cherish the images. Mom and dad will be grateful, and this baby will be remembered. What we do cannot be replaced. It cannot be re-done. The aim of NILMDTS is to tell the world that there is no footprint too small that it cannot leave an imprint on this world, and I believe that to be true. I know that I am a better mom and person because of it.
– Rebecca Cummings, NILMDTS Volunteer Photographer