This Is What It’s Like to Photograph Stillborn Babies for Grieving Families

From Redbook

I never thought I’d be a full-time photographer, but in 2007 I realized I had a deep passion for it. So I enrolled at the Texas School of Professional Photography, and I’ve now been working professionally for 10 years. I mostly shoot high school portraits, community events, and do aerial photography, but for the last seven years I’ve also done work as a remembrance photographer.

I first heard about remembrance photography when I was about three years into my photography career. I was at a trade show and noticed a booth from Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep, a nonprofit organization that connects remembrance photographers with parents suffering the loss of a baby for a free portrait session. I was intrigued by the concept and the way these photographers handled a very emotional situation. I immediately signed up to offer my services. I didn’t have an obvious reason for why – I’m lucky in that I have never lost a child (I have two children who are the lights of my life), and at the time I didn’t have any close friends who had been through that experience, either. But I felt, quite strongly, that this was a way I could give back to my community. I didn’t know of any photographers in my area who did this type of work, and after talking to a friend who works as a nurse at the local hospital, I realized it was a way I could hopefully help these families through their grieving process.

I still remember the first remembrance shoot that I did. It was for the family of a little boy who was born with a terminal disease. For the short time he was alive, about 8 or 9 months, he was hooked up to tubes and monitors that could never be taken off. They called me after they made the decision to take him off of life support, and as I walked up to their tiny, cracker box-like house, my heart immediately started breaking for this family. Here they were, just having made one of the most difficult decisions of their lives, and it looked like they had close to nothing to help them get by. I thought, “My God, they’re going through all of this and they probably don’t have any money to pay for those medical expenses.”

Photo credit: Courtesy of Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep

But as I photographed him in his nursery, you could feel the love pouring out of these parents. When I asked if they wanted me to take pictures of him with all the tubes out, they gently told me no, explaining that this – tubes and monitors and all – was the only version of him they had ever known. They wanted to remember him exactly as he was, not as who he could have been. That was so heartbreaking to hear, but I completely understood and respected their wishes. As I photographed their little boy, all I wanted to do was try to give them some sort of peace – something they could look back on someday and maybe, even if just for a second, feel happiness instead of devastation.

I do remembrance sessions like this at least once or twice a month, and I’m always on call with Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep…

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