I was never supposed to give birth in a hospital, but I found myself there delivering my stillborn son after a home birth gone catastrophically wrong.
The company my doula worked for knew to contact Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep. The nurse told me the photographer would be arriving at 9am, some four or five hours after a 51-hour labor, death, and birth tragedy, but I agreed numbly.
Our NILMDTS photographer, Gwyne, arrived and I wasn’t ready. I was in a haze, my dead baby laid next to me in a clear plastic bassinet. I woke up to his sweet silhouette a few times in the short rest I got overnight. My hair was a mess, I knew I probably looked like proper hell. But we rallied and we got to take Miles out of his bassinet.
The outfit we put him in before bed was way too big for him, so we put him in something a little more fitting, and Gwyne took photos. She got photos of us holding him, changing him, and crying over him. I thought I would hate how I looked, but somehow my wavy hair fell to the side and the nest that was the back of my hair stayed out of most of the photos. Mental note: I should have packed a comb in the hospital bag I never intended on using.
When you leave your baby at a hospital, watching a security guard roll the bassinet out of the room, knowing he’s going straight to the morgue, your heart rips out right there and gets placed in that bassinet to never return. The next thing you know, you’re being rolled out the front doors with nothing but a bag filled with a memorial box, a folder containing some pamphlets, discharge documents, paperwork for a funeral home, and books on grieving. You get in the car with your partner, trying to avert your eyes from the car seat all ready and set up in the back seat, and drive home. It’s quiet at first. We stopped for vegan tacos and coffee because I could drink a sugary latte again because nothing mattered anymore.
Fast forward 2 1/2 weeks and the images were in my email inbox. The photos turned out beautifully. Within 2 weeks of receiving the digital gallery, everyone in our immediate family had the images in their inboxes too.
Grief looks different to the people within a family. The emotions, and how photos are handled, are so varied.
One of my sisters, unprompted, ordered a photo on her own and hung it in her entryway. I saw it hanging there when I visited 7 months later.
My Mom shared it with an organization that made the photo into a couple of buttons and she gifted one back to me.
When one of my aunts saw a photo of Miles on Facebook, she asked me to send her more.
I never knew what my in-laws did, so this Christmas I went out on a limb and printed small photos from the NILMDTS shoot, framed them, and sent them.
My Mother-in-law thanked me and said she cherishes it.
My Father-in-law said he won’t put up the photos stating they are too painful to look at and wanted to know my intention for sending them.
My Sister-in-law immediately put the photo up in her office and said that’s where it will stay.
Every time I post an image of Miles on social media a friend will thank me for sharing him with them.
Some will display photos of deceased babies proudly and some will never share a word after seeing them, like my Dad.
I look at Miles’ photo and think “he is so cute”. How could I not share him?
I’m proud of my baby. He will forever be my son, my firstborn.
Photos from NILMDTS help to keep death from being shoved into the past, and bring our son into the present and future. I will forever be grateful to have these images and feel so fortunate that NILMDTS exists, and someone thought to gift this amazing treasure to me.
Heather and Alex’s son Miles died on 4.23.2019 at home and was delivered 14 hours later.