It has taken me five days to appreciate that Friday night was a pivotal and precious moment in my life.
A photog friend of mine volunteers for Now I Lay Me Down To Sleep or NILMDTS. She had taken photographs of a full-term baby moments after delivery. Mom had realized he was no longer moving and later learned he had passed days before. Mom delivered the baby and my friend was called to take photographs for the mom who is 20 and single. My friend was moved during this experience and truly struggled with what she had seen in the hospital. She had called me to share her experience and her thoughts and to ask for my help in the editing process. She was unsure she could get the results she wanted/needed doing it alone. As I imagined the images, I was unsure it was something I was ready to handle but knew she really needed help. She needed someone to share this with and someone to help with the postedit. It’s so strange when these worlds collide.
On Friday night, after putting the kids to bed with Shad, I went over to her house. The images I saw were beyond anything I could have ever imagined and I was unprepared. The images took me to a place that my mind had never traveled – on so many levels. With the elephant in the room, we talked about it, we discussed the baby and what she experienced in the hospital with the staff. I can’t imagine. It was the unspoken after that, we focused on what we needed to accomplish. We were both sad. As mothers ourselves this was so incredibly hard to do, we both just took it step by step as we would with any other photograph. I felt guilty about that. The mother of the baby wanted something on Sunday morning for a service she was having on Monday. We had this work to do and this life that we were dealing with. It was weird.
At 12:30am we had only gotten through four images. It was hard… as I mentioned earlier, on so many levels. With my skillset and my friends skillset we were able to create images that Mom will have forever. Through this process I realized, understood, and began to appreciate what a gift NILMDTS really is. It gives parents the permission to have an image to go back to whenever they choose. The gift of life, and death, doesn’t need to be something just in their head that might get fuzzy and change over time. It’s permission to look, to study, to grieve, to hold, to touch, to imagine so much about the little life that they created. It’s confirmation that it was all real.
For me it was life changing. I can’t say I slept well the following two nights and it gives me a perspective I never had. Being part of this process allowed me to see a side of life that I have been naive to and it allowed me to empathize even more with every parent and the special gift of conceiving and bearing a child. It caused me to reflect on how truly blessed I am with my family and how much the three little people Shad and I created mean to me, and to one another.
When I got home Friday night I picked up Shea from her crib and held her and loved her in a new way. As I stood there with Shea in my arms, leaning against the wall, she wrapped her arms and legs around me like a little bear. She tried to nestle her head into my neck comfortably but couldn’t. She kept flipping her head back and forth in an attempt to fall back asleep (like she was just minutes before). I didn’t want to let go. A minute or so later she pulled her head back and looked at me and said “Mommy, I go to bed” I smiled and hugged her tighter. Shortly after, she asked again…. I still held her. It made me feel good and I figured she would get over it if she even remembered in the morning. I put Shea back to bed and moved to Kate’s bed and laid down beside her. I kissed her on the forehead (since Kate tells me where I am allowed to kiss her and I know that’s one of the “approved zones”), she immediately wiped her head and turned away pulling up her covers. Of course she did. Since this was my need, and not hers, I stayed put for a while (but out of her way). I went into Reilly’s room. He rolled over, looked at me, smiled, and curled up along side me sharing his covers. Wow, my kids are SO different.
I am blessed to have them all. I finally crawled in with Shad… he was sound asleep. I lay awake thinking about how thankful I am for the gifts I have and praying for the mother who has a completely different life than she could have ever imagined.
I know this experience makes me stronger. I am slightly less naive and I have a new perspective, a new way to think about people and about life. It makes me more appreciative and I can’t help but to think the experience was in my path for a reason, a greater reason.