In April of this year, I applied, and was accepted to an organization called Now I Lay Me Down To Sleep as a Volunteer Photographer. NILMDTS provides remembrance photography to families suffering the loss of a newborn.
I have known of the organization for some time now. I looked into the application requirements a while back, but I was intimidated and apprehensive, and put off applying, telling myself I would do it soon.
Finally, one afternoon in March of this year, I had a conversation with my younger sister, who is a Labor & Delivery nurse, that made it clear I could no longer put off applying. I realized that there was no NILMDTS presence here in Southeastern Connecticut, and that families in my own backyard facing an unimaginable loss did not have this service available to them. That evening, I submitted my application to NILMDTS and a few weeks later I found out that I was accepted.
In the months that have followed since then, I have done a few sessions, and I find it is hard to describe my exact feelings about the families I serve and the babies I have photographed.
I have become close with one family in particular - the family of Kaden, who was born sleeping on August 3, 2015. As the summer ended, his mom contacted me and asked if I would be able to create some family photos of them that would serve to honor him. I photographed Kaden's mom, dad and big sister releasing butterflies at Napatree Point - it is something I will never forget. Earlier this month, there was a memorial service for him, and his mom and dad asked family members to write letters to Kaden that they would display at the service. I was so honored when his mom asked me not only to attend, but to write a letter as well.
I struggled with putting what I felt into words, but finally, I was able to - I wrote from my heart:
I am the photographer from Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep who came to take photos of you the day you were born. You were only the second sleeping angel I had ever photographed.
Earlier in the year, when I applied to volunteer with the organization, I thought I knew what I was getting myself into. I knew that it was going to be hard, and heartbreaking. I thought that I would cry when I left the hospital, and hoped I wouldn’t cry in front of the families I served. I thought I knew.
I didn’t know.
I didn’t know that a phone call I received from the hospital one balmy August morning would change my life.
I didn’t know that the perfect strangers I met that morning would become people I hold very close to my heart. I never knew that I could feel so much for people I just met. I held back tears as your family in the room softly wept. When I left, I cried, but through my tears, I smiled. There was so much love in that room despite the overwhelming grief.
I didn’t know that I could be so inspired by a seven-year-old. Your big sister Kaitlyn held you with a strength, bravery and grace I will never forget.
I didn’t know that your sweet face would allow my heart to swell and break so greatly. Meeting you expanded my heart to depths I didn’t know were possible. You made room in my heart for the families I have served since and those I will serve in the future.
I didn’t know that seeing a monarch butterfly fluttering in the air would become such a beautiful affirmation for me. I watched your mom, dad and sister release butterflies at the beach in your honor, and every time I see one, I smile at the beautiful memories and the thought of you.
I didn’t know that through the heartache and pain, there would be a beacon of light.
I didn’t know that there was so much more to it.
Thank you, Kaden, for teaching me.