I Will Remember You
If you are a parent, think back to the moments your newborn entered the world: she strained to open her eyes. You were awestruck, delighted. If you are like most parents, a spouse, friend, or partner photographed each moment; every coo, each grin, movement, cry, swaddle. You witnessed a miracle and you have the photographs to show for it.
But what about those parents who looked into the eye of their child and recognized that something was wrong. Or…they
registered panic in the room. How about those parents who leave with the layette still packed, the cameras untouched, their grief their only novelty.
Should we have taken a picture? Would that would have been morbid? I wish we had had a photo…
These are all questions and thoughts that photographers from Now I Lay Me Down To Sleep (NILMDTS) have heard; the photographers who sensitively, carefully work with a special population: bereaved parents and their dying or deceased babies.
In 2006, Angela and Bob Kott resembled the classic, American, suburban family: Two children, Kendall and Lauren, one baby on the way; soccer on Saturdays; the county fair in the summer; a swimming hole to cool off ; barbecues in the back
yard. Although the birth of baby Trevor was uncomplicated, as the new parents got ready to leave the hospital, they spotted a rash on their newborn son. He never left the hospital except for brief visits home.
Trevor was diagnosed with terminal leukemia and needed a bone marrow transplant. His hometown held a bone marrow drive to attempt to find a match. Immediately, the Kott family was put in touch with a photographer from Now I
Lay Me Down to Sleep (NILMDTS), Brenda Bisharat, who would photograph Trevor for the his brief, six months of life.
NILMDTS meets an immediate need during a critical time for grieving parents by providing sensitive and private photography sessions. Founded in 2005 by Cheryl Haggard and Sandy Pic, the organization now has over 5,000 volunteers in the United States and is represented in nineteen international countries.
Angela and Bob made the intentional decision to photograph Trevor, incorporating him into their family life. NILMDTS states that their goal is to, “…help aid (families) in their healing, bring hope to their future, and honor their child.
It is through remembrance that a family can truly begin to heal.” The Kotts certainly embraced this, as was demonstrated in the way their living room was decorated with photos of their two daughters, as well as their baby, Trevor, throughout his progressing illness.
What NILMDTS volunteers have witnessed through their photography sessions and in follow up contacts is that the photographs memorialize a baby’s death and allow a continued connection with the child. The process of photo-documenting the baby’s death, as Bisharat states, facilitates a true bond even when that life has been cut short. Bereavement specialists, Klass & Silverman, observe that bereaved parents maintain an inner relationship with their deceased child as they adjust to their baby’s death. Therefore, having a photo can be a healing tool to locate or place the grief that a parent feels. There is a bond in place and family and friends must come to understand this to effectively offer support to bereaved parents who need to share their story. The story may be, “Let me show you a photo of my baby…she lived only an hour.” Mother of Trevor, Angela, put it best, “The pictures captured Trevor’s personality and our lives with him, helping us recall that he was very much a part of our family. He will forever be my sixth-month-old baby.” Hence, even as they grieve, bereaved parents are able to dream, talk , and experience feelings about their child through a continued inner relationship (Klass & Silverman.)
It is sad, but true, that some well-intended friends and family members offer platitudes such as, “You need to put this behind you,” Or, “You are, young, it’s best not to think about this too much.” And even, “At least you weren’t too attached.” Ours is a culture of “move on and move forward.” However, grief specialists, Corr, Nabe, and Corr, speak to the misguided assumption that there cannot be great grief in fetal deaths because there has not been real bonding with one’s infant. When we push aside a parent’s serious loss, minimizing the impact, then their grief is disenfranchised, and they are isolated and at risk for being misunderstood.
“The death of a child is a pivotal event and photo-documenting maximizes the ability to offer support to bereaved parents who are coping with the proverbial, ‘Elephant in the Middle of the Room,’” bereavement specialist, Barbara Rubel notes. “If a life narrative is punctuated by a baby’s death and that other life experiences come to be understood as having occurred before or after this pivotal event, then anyone supporting grieving parents needs to identify everything that occurred during and surrounding that event in order to maximize the effectiveness of support” (p,20).
One cannot underestimate the toll that losing a baby has upon a family. Although parental bereavement is something that some believe should be whispered about behind the blinds, families recognize the significance of their voice being heard and NILMDTS is listening. When a terminal diagnosis is given or a still born death delivered, the parents are faced with a multitude of medical decisions. NILMDTS is a gentle companion to grief, whereby that child is given the proper
attention in his or her family: recognition. Offering photographs to parents of their baby’s brief time in their lives eases the grief for parents as they continue the bond with their child. This special form of memorialization gives this baby a voice that gently whispers, “I am a part of your life. Thank you for remembering me, and loving me.”
Web site for Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep: www.nowilaymedowntosleep.org
*permission granted by Cheryl Haggard, co-founder of Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep to use quote and information from organization’s statistics and quote used in text.
*permission also granted by the Kott family and Brenda Bisharat
Photo by Brenda Bisharat Photography, www.bisharatphotos.com