This is a story about loss. Its hard to read, there are no images of the family or baby Hayden, whose gender will not be revealed.
I wanted to write about this for several reasons: the first for my friends who have experienced lost, most especially for my two friends who lost pregnancies over the Christmas holiday. You live far away from me, and there was not much that I could do for you, except to listen, and grieve with you, this was my tiny way to give back. The other reason, and the most important reason, is because the family was so grateful for the images of Hayden, that I want to offer this service free of charge. I’ll share more about this as you read on.
I found about this family and their need for a photographer, from a facebook group that I belong to which is geared toward birth professionals. They had recently found out that their baby’s heart had stopped beating and they wanted a photographer to capture images of their child. The mother was being induced and the baby would be here soon. When I saw their need, I just *knew* that I wanted to help this family. All of the emotions from the previous months with my friends came flooding back, one had lost her baby at 20+ weeks as well. It takes a special kind of person to take photos of images of an angel baby because its hard on the heart, but after working in healthcare for the past 16 years, I knew I could do it. Phone numbers got exchanged and I was put in touch with the family, we kept in touch via text until Hayden arrived, around 4:30am in the morning. I got out of bed and loaded up my gear, it was snowing and very cold, my wonderful husband got up with me and started my car and scraped my windshield, while I made tea and had a good cry. My husband told me that I was very strong, he couldn’t do this, and we hugged and I left. The night sky was black with a new moon and crystal clear.
When I arrived, all I could think about was that the family had planned on coming here, 20 weeks from now to give birth and how hard this must be for them. This really hit me hard and I struggled to keep my composure. Earlier that evening I spoke with a bereavement support doula, an acquaintance and client of mine, who I’ve come to know over the past year. Thank goodness she reached out to me before I got the text to go to the hospital. She told me what to expect, gave me suggestions for photos and was there for me when I needed it after. You can find more about her support services here.
When I walked into the hospital room, there were two nurses who were getting ready to make a mold of Hayden’s feet. These two nurses handled the night with such grace and compassion for the family and I was blown away by their composure. Initially, the family didn’t want to know the gender of their child, but after holding their baby and some gentle words from the nurse, they chose to find out. She kindly said, ‘most families find peace in knowing their child and naming them.’ She didn’t push, she just spoke and we gave the family some time alone. When we returned, they had named the child Hayden. We took photos of Hayden’s feet, hands, little ears and the nurses were a great help to me, they picked out a bunting for the baby and we wrapped Hayden in it.
The family was able to spend a few hours with Hayden in their room, the nurse asked if they wanted the chaplain to come and to give a blessing to Hayden, and they agreed. It took about a half an hour before she was able to come, so I waited outside in the hallway and said a few prayers. Prayers for healing for everyone. When the chaplain came in, we all held hands, and the chaplain gave a blessing. Then mama held baby Hayden one more time and they decided it was time to say goodbye. In just a few hours, this family had met their child and said goodbye to their child.
Its only been just over a week since I met this family and a good amount of healing is being done by all of us. Hayden’s family is so grateful for the images that I’ve given them, that it solidified my decision to volunteer with Now I Lay Me Down To Sleep. This is an organization that coordinates photographers and families who want photos of their stillborn baby, however, they only photograph stillbirths >25 weeks in gestation. Hayden’s family did not qualify for Now I Lay Me Down To Sleep services because Hayden was 21 weeks in gestation. Because of that qualifier, I want to offer this service to families at no cost. This will be available on the west side of the Denver Metro area in Colorado. Lutheran Hospital in Wheat Ridge, CO; Saint Anthony Hospital in Lakewood, CO, and Denver West Hospital in Denver, CO. I can be contacted via email as soon as possible prior to knowing services are needed, and I will do my best to help. If I am unavailable, there are others in my circle of photographers, who offer this service as well and I will get you in touch with one of them, they will service the north metro Denver area and the southern areas like Parker, Centennial and Castle Rock Colorado.
I cannot thank Hayden’s family enough for inviting me into their hospital room on one of the hardest days of their life, because it changed my life too. I want to reach out to other families experiencing loss and give them a gift they can hang onto; photos of every little part of that baby, and they can look at them forever.
Thank you Angel baby Hayden and God bless.
And special thanks to nurse Lauren at Lutheran hospital, you are amazing.
If you are interested in speaking to me further about loss or birth photography services, please message me at firstname.lastname@example.org