I consider photography to be a sacred practice. I use it to drink in the details and beauty in the world, from dewdrops to teeny tiny toes. For me, photography is not just a hobby, but also a therapeutic tool. As a Certified Child Life Specialist working in a high acuity NICU, my goal is to help families cope with the trauma and challenges associated with hospitalization. Oftentimes, this includes loss. From, an unexpected demise, to a baby who may not survive a surgery, to a withdrawal of support—I am there. I am there to offer photography, sibling support, memory making, and guidance to parents who have unimaginable decisions to make.
Using remembrance photography, I help families cope with saying goodbye to a baby. Sometimes, even an older child, when I get a referral for another unit such as the PICU, Labor, and Delivery, or even the Emergency Department. I show up ready to focus on the not so scary details, a family’s touch, and try fervently to incorporate normal and unique accessories to help balance out the sterile components of the hospital setting. I hope my photos are a testament to this. Parents do not want to remember the tubes, they want to remember their baby girl’s soft black eyelashes, the tiny birthmark on her shoulder, the way their foot rests in dad’s hand, or the way the baby’s hair naturally forms a sweet mohawk.
As I worked on writing this post, I looked through images I have taken over the last few decades, looking for inspiration and images to share. I smiled softly as I looked at a baby girl held in the sunlight between the daisies, I swooned over our magical twinkle light creations, I shed a tear over a mom’s first and last cuddle, and I sent prayers of love out while remembering a 19 weeker lying in the palm of a teen mom’s hand.
Simultaneously, photography has helped me cope with burnout in a creative and prolific way. I help families and staff celebrate milestones, document babies’ growth, and offset stress with bursts of joy through my images. A light in the dark, giving proof to this baby’s life and the presence of so much love.
I am grateful for the NILMDTS’ medical affiliate training as it ensures that the last images a family has of their baby are extra special. Holding space, and sometimes a camera, I help countless heartbroken families begin their journey into the world of grief.