Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Now I Lay Me Down To Sleep

Right now I am not sure where to begin this post. I suppose I should start at the beginning... Several months ago I began the application process to become a volunteer photographer for Now I Lay Me Down To Sleep. This is an organization that sends photographers into hospitals to photograph babies who will never go home with their families. I suppose it sounds a little morbid.. but for the families, it is a precious gift. The babies are either stillborn or pass shortly after birth, so generally these photos will be the only ones their families have to remember them.
I had considered joining for a long time, but wasn't sure if I was up to it. But then I realized that if I were one of those families, those photos would be priceless to me. So I felt that I needed to put my selfish fears and emotions aside and do it.. so I signed up. It took a few months to go through the application process, but a few weeks ago I received an email that I had been approved. The next step was for me to contact the coordinator for our area, and she told me that she would have me shadow another photographer at first so I could see how to handle the situation.
So that brings me to last night.. I had gone running with a friend, helped put the kids to bed, and then sat down to check my email. I noticed one from the coordinator, and when I opened it I read that a mother had lost her baby. She was full term, but hadn't felt movement since Saturday. She went in yesterday morning and there was no heartbeat, so they had to induce her. As of about 7pm, the baby still hadn't been born, (it was about 9pm at that point) but they wanted a photographer to come. The coordinator was desperately looking for someone... and before I knew what I was doing, I replied that I was available. I wasn't ready - I hadn't shadowed anyone, I had my camera equipment ready but nothing else... but something in me refused to let it go. Within minutes the coordinator called me, and within a few more I was on my way. The hospital was over an hour away, so even after talking to my sister on the phone I still had plenty of time to try to prepare myself for and pray about what lay ahead. I was so distracted I even accidentally ran a red light - with a cop in the lane next to me! Thankfully he didn't pull me over! When I arrived on the floor I had to wait a few minutes while the nurse got ready. I remember thinking that it was strange that the other nurses were talking and laughing like nothing was happening. It was after 10:30 by this point, so everything else was quiet. Then it was time.
I entered the room and introduced myself to the parents. They were alone in the room other than the nurse and the baby, who was laying in it's little bed. I could immediately tell that it was a little boy by its clothes: blue knit cap, t-shirt, and jeans. I wanted to say that he was beautiful, but I stopped - while he didn't have any deformities, his face was a very dark red/purple color. Still, I wish I would have said he was beautiful, because he was. I guess I was just nervous. But I started taking pictures of him. At one point I adjusted his shirt, and for a split second I thought I saw his chest move. I just about jumped out of my skin.. but I didn't let on, and of course didn't say anything. I realized then how nervous I was.
Next the mom picked up her baby, and cradled him as I snapped away. I asked what his name was, and since it was an unusual name we chatted about it for a few minutes. The father held him for a few minutes, and then we put him back in his bed. I took their wedding rings and put them on the baby's fingers for a few shots. Not only is this sentimental, but it also provides a sense of scale. I was surprised when I touched him that he was still warm and soft. (I am not sure what time he was born). I gave the rings back, and then the nurse adjusted his fingers a little more. I had been a little hesitant when I did it, but I noticed that while she wasn't rough, she definitely wasn't as careful as I had been. Maybe I could have gotten better shots with the rings if I had done it more like her, but I just couldn't. At some point during all of this the mom made a comment that she had just changed her first diaper in 15 years. We started talking about diapers at that point; she talked about how she had researched the best ones, and she'd been planning on using cloth diapers. Then it fell quiet again. Almost the whole time I was there, it was so quiet. When any of us did talk, it was in the slightest of whispers - I had to get really close to the mom whenever she said anything so that I could hear her. It was just so quiet. It really felt surreal - like a dream. There was only one small light on, so it was also kind of dark. The whole time I kept wondering if I was taking too many pictures, or not enough.
Then, the mom picked up her son again. This time she held him really close to her face, and kissed him. I saw her tearing up, and then she mouthed "thank you" to me as I snapped away. By this point it was about 11:30 at night, so I figured I had been there long enough. I thanked them again, went over the formalities, and left. The nurse walked me out and commented that she didn't know how we photographers did it. I don't know, either.
The whole time I was driving to the hospital, the verse "to be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord" kept coming to mind. I believe that when babies die, they go to heaven. So I believe, and look forward to the day, that when I go to heaven I will get to meet him there. I will tell him how much he was loved by his parents! But I am so grateful that I was able to be there for this family. I pray that the photos will give them comfort through this difficult time. I won't be posting any of the photos here, but I guess I needed to tell the story.
When I got home Mark was in bed, but was still awake. I told him about the session, and then it was quiet - for a split second, and then he got up. I asked where he was going, but he didn't say anything. A minute later he came back, carrying a sleeping Chris. He put him in bed between us, and the three of us slept.


Kristin said...

Proud of you Care. (((HUGS)))

Saint Pete Niki said...

Beautiful post.

cristal said...

I am the Mommy of Surak - the baby in the story. Thank you so much for doing this for us.

Melrose said...

I love you so much.

Jennifer said...

Caroline---God has always blessed you with an abundant heart full of His love. You have always allowed that to shine through, and now, in the parents' darkest hour, you are the light that shines. Continue to blog about these experiences. The world needs to know that people hurt, but in that hurt, people can rejoice because of Jesus. Proud of your courage!

A Wedding To Remember said...

Oh my goodness... as I read this, I couldn't help but to cry. I am amazed at the strength of the mom. She must be a wonderful women.

Caroline, I think it is wonderful that you can bless families in this way.

Vicki Knitorious said...

Oh, thank you for posting this -- so beautifully written and heartfelt, such a generous and selfless gift.

Steve and Shannon Mersinger said...

What a beautiful testimony! Love you and your heart!

Cristal said...

This is Surak's Mommy again. I still cherish those photos. One of them was framed and have it on my coffee table at all times. We are currently 23 weeks pregnant again.

Thank you so much for taking the time and energy to come to our aid that night.