The death of a child is one of life’s most heartbreaking events made all the more poignant when it occurs at or near the time of birth. In 2010 the Republic of Ireland had its first Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep Affiliated Photographer. Since then, affiliated photographers in Ireland have been instrumental in providing this most precious service – the gift of professional portraits to grieving families.
For many grieving parents, often the time in the hospital is brief and yet this is also the most precious time with their baby. It is also the only opportunity to create these precious memories, which we now know from research are pivotal steps in the journey of healing for parents and families. The requests for NILMDTS services continue to grow in Ireland and so does the demand for photographers. It became more apparent to the NILMDTS headquarters office that NILMDTS Ireland needed official leaders in their country.
In 2014 Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep appointed new country coordinators to Ireland, Lisa Kennedy Byrne, and Louise Brooks. NILMDTS Ireland opened 2015 with an official launch of the organization. Since then NILMDTS Ireland has seen a steady increase in applications for photographers and also a heightened awareness of the service throughout the country, especially within the medical profession. At the launch, NILMDTS Ireland extended a warm welcome to all in attendance. This included families who have received the gift of remembrance photography, medical professionals from hospitals that we serve, representatives from organizations within Ireland working with those affected by infant loss, affiliated photographers and other photographers, as well as members of the media. The launch also coincided with the workshop of Sandy Puc’, the Co-Founder of NILMDTS, who spoke with such passion about the work of NILMDTS and how the organization was started with Cheryl Haggard in memory of Baby Maddux.
The launch opened with a parent lighting a candle in memory of all the precious little ones we have met along our way as photographers. It was fitting to have a bereaved parent light a candle, as they are the ones that understand the meaning and value of what these portraits represent. The launch was filled with emotion and sensitivity and we heard from a bereaved Mum who spoke about her family’s decision to call our central number and how important that call will always be to her family, as they have amazing images of their little boy Sean.
We then heard from the photographer who had captured the images of Sean and he spoke of his path to becoming affiliated with the organization and the decisions he had to make along the way. We were very pleased to have a specialist bereavement midwife from one of Dublin’s largest maternity hospitals speak about how she came to advocate the service in her hospital, and its significant importance to the families that this hospital serves. We used the launch to finally inform everyone about our central number which we have found to be vital in progressing NILMDTS Ireland.
Since the official launch, NILMDTS Ireland has received extensive media coverage. Almost every day for a month, NILMDTS was featured in Irish media outlets as well as the UK and in various places in Europe. The media coverage has benefited in helping us recruit more photographers and Community Volunteers. We have also ensured that any further interviews or media coverage that involves a family can be previewed in advance of anything going to print. We believe that missing an opportunity for coverage is a better option than the message being delivered incorrectly and to date, we have not had any article not published by making this request.
We have also seen an increase in the number of parents who are willing to share their own stories of infant loss. Hospitals are more aware of our service and are more aware of the importance of informing parents facing the journey of infant loss that our service is available and it is so important that parents are given the choice to make. The research is there to prove the importance these portraits are to families in the months and years ahead. It is our role as Coordinators in Ireland to provide the resources to the team that allows them to provide the best service we as a team can provide.
Due to the worldwide pandemic, NILMDTS Ireland has adapted how they provide services to ensure it is aligned with Covid restrictions. We continue to liaise with the hospitals, and thank them for their ongoing support to ensure families receive the service. Thank you to our dedicated team for their heart in providing their talents and time …
A special note from NILMDTS CEO, Gina Harris:
It is remarkable the significant strides NILMDTS Ireland has made. It is under the leadership of Lisa and Louise that significant growth has occurred. They are leading an extremely dedicated team of volunteers in Ireland. Recruitment of volunteers continues to grow and hospital education continues to increase. Thank you to Lisa and Louise for your leadership. Thank you to our entire Irish team for your dedication. You are a beacon of light to all of our other NILMDTS volunteers.