In 2006 we moved into a new house on a street with lots of young families and kids including Cheryl, a friendly pregnant lady at the end of the street. We spent many days taking our young kids to the park and watching them ride their tricycles up and down the street in the evening. Life was perfect. Towards the end of Cheryl’s pregnancy she discovered, her son Luke had an illness that would not allow him to live. This tragic news rocked our community. Cheryl timidity asked me if I would accompany them to the hospital and take pictures of Luke, since I often had a camera in hand and was constantly snapping pictures of the kids. I said I would.

The pictures weren’t great quality by any means but they were the only pictures she had of Luke. Months later Cheryl, suggested that I look into volunteering for the organization Now I Lay Me Down To Sleep. After doing some research I excitedly contacted them and applied only to find myself rejected. There was so many “professional photographer” requirements I had never heard of.

Fast forward 6 years.

My husband and I were working on 10 years of marriage and raising our three daughters. I was a mother to a stepdaughter, a biological daughter, and an adopted daughter. After nine years of “trying” and two miscarriages later, I was expecting. Finally, I was on my way to experiencing pregnancy again and all the dreams of adding another child to our family. I was so happy with anticipation.

At 18 weeks, due to a rare condition called Velamentous Insertion of the umbilical cord, only 3% of woman experience, Reese was born and died. My world imploded. The pain, the grief, the loss that wracked my heart and body were relentless. I had never in my life felt such a degree of loss.

Photograph courtesy of Heidi

Tiffany, my God-sent nurse, saw my devastation and knew the hospital rules which state a pregnancy is not viable until 24 weeks or further, and NILMDTS would not be called.

Despite her lack of photography knowledge, she knew the importance of providing images for the healing process. She went above and beyond that night and did a mini photo session with the hospital camera.

Photograph courtesy of Heidi

Those snapshots in a poorly lit room proved to be dynamic in my healing process. My grief was so intense that my whole world was put on hold for an entire year. I could barely parent my other kids. I quit going to church. I quit volunteering at my kid’s school. I quit spending time with friends. I spent many days hiking in the desert along with my thoughts and grief.

After a year I knew I needed to move on with my life. I knew I needed to get a job and continue living. As I was headed into the first business to drop off an application I received a phone call from the Art Institute of Phoenix, telling me about their photography program. With my husband’s coaxing, we went and took a tour of the campus. I knew immediately this was the place I needed to be. The amount of creativity was palpable and I needed creativity to survive and thrive.

A month before graduating I re-applied for NILMDTS and was accepted with flying colors. Every session I’ve taken over the last few years has given me a great sense of satisfaction. I know this work is impacting families for the good.

People often ask, is it hard? How do you deal with the sadness? I know it sounds crazy but I am rarely sad. I spent a whole year wrestling through my own sadness, and the sessions I take, well, that isn’t my sadness to carry. My job is to give a precious gift to parents and share my talents. I know personally that the photographs can help in their healing process.

My proudest moment as a photographer was at a 2018 bereavement ceremony held in honor of lost babies. I was asked to accompany a friend to honor our daughters. To my surprise, both of the evening’s guest speakers were mothers I had the privilege of photographing through NILMDTS. Each mother brought along their “most prized” possession, portraits of their daughters that I had taken.

Photograph courtesy of Heidi

The feeling was indescribable as both of these ladies shared their stories and included me as a huge part of their healing, a stranger who stepped in on their darkest day and gave them a gift they would cherish forever.

Remembrance Portraits
Medical Affiliate Program