A Volunteers Impact: Aria’s Story

My wife and I have learned there are two types of people we encounter after revealing the loss of our daughter to stillbirth: those who react with empathy and those who do not. We quickly learned not to take offense to the latter since it happens more often than not.

On September 29th, 2021, my wife went in for our 5-month (20 weeks) appointment. That was the first time she attended our pregnancy appointment without me since we could not find a babysitter for our 17-month-old son and I needed to watch him. After the appointment, she called me from her car crying. She then told me there was something wrong with the ultrasound. She said the doctor told her we need to see a neonatal specialist because our daughter had a lot of fluid in her lungs, her skin, and her heart.

The next day, we saw the specialist who told us our daughter had no chance of survival due to the amount of fluid (cystic hygroma hydrops fetalis). You can only imagine the pain, anger, and our tears of agony we shared at the doctor’s office. We searched for another specialist who also confirmed the unthinkable truth.

We were scheduled for another routine ultrasound. Our daughter Aria was breathing and her heartbeat was stronger each time but on October 11th, 2021, (22 weeks) ultrasound, we found our Aria’s heartbeat had stopped. Our world was crushed.

We were then scheduled to deliver Aria on October 15th, 2021 (we chose that day because until then, we were not ready to let go). Aria was delivered on October 16th, 2021.

We wanted to capture the beautiful moments we had with our daughter. A friend of ours told us about Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep. We were unsure how it would turn out.

Fortunately, the photographer assigned to us, Benjamin Wilkins, from Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep, was not only empathetic but treated the whole situation like it was his own personal loss. He knew exactly how to approach the delicate situation. He gracefully balanced a compassionate presence with our grief while also directing a technical camera set-up to capture the perfect shot.

This was no “job” or “favor” for Ben, but a response to a higher calling. How does an outside cameraman walk into a hospital room and tell a grieving family he is about to take some pictures of their stillborn child? Ben somehow did it with all the grace in the world, as if he was a part of our family. His heart broke with ours and he worked diligently to make sure we were able to memorialize this moment. The black and white pictures were stunning and somehow captured the loss of the moment while celebrating the healing hope of the family bond. We now have a wall in our house with all the pictures that Ben took.

Through the darkness and grief of a horrific loss, there is light. There is hope. There is love. We are grateful that Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep walked side by side with us, feeling our pain, loving on our broken hearts, and capturing that eternal light that shines beyond the darkness.

Thank you Ben and thank you Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep. We are forever grateful.

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