Some of you may be worried that your photographs aren’t good enough to send me. That you didn’t have a professional organization like Now I Lay Me Down To Sleep come in and photograph your baby, and so your pictures might be too raw or too shocking or too hard for me to see. A few people have mentioned this to me, or seemed apologetic when they send me their photographs.
I just wanted to take a moment to reassure you that none of the sketches I have done so far have been from professional photos. And none of the photos anyone has sent has shocked me.
My own stillborn baby died eight weeks before she was born. She shared my womb with her growing sister and had no amniotic fluid to cushion her. She was so flattened and pressed into my placenta when I delivered them that the doctors did not want to let me see her. It was only after I reassured them that I knew she was going to be flat and not look normal, and said that if they could not remove her from the placenta I would like to please just see the placenta so that I could look at her, that they finally agreed to try to remove her. She had no facial features. She was pale and fragile and her head looked like a little Pac Man with no eyes and a tiny open mouth. But she was my Fiona. She fought so hard to stay alive in there against such great obstacles, and she was absolutely beautiful to me. I loved her with all my heart, and my husband and I were so thankful that we had the opportunity to hold her and talk to her and say our goodbyes.
Our Brigid died while she was hemorrhaging and intubated, so that afterward, when we got to hold her and finally see her with no tubes or tape on her face, she had cotton gauze in her nose from the bleeding. Her little lip was sticking out from where the ventilator tube had been taped to it. But she was the most beautiful baby girl I had ever seen in my life.
So when you send me your photographs, please know that I am not surprised by them. Rather, I am in awe of the beauty and detail of these precious little ones, no matter how small. And because a photograph does not always depict them the way you remember them, I will work closely with you to fine tune your sketch so that it feels like your baby when you see it. If it is a little out of focus or far away, or difficult to see exactly how something looks, I do my best to interpret it from the picture and then I send a photograph of the sketch to you for feedback. Is it like this? Is the face rounder, or thinner, is the nose smaller or narrower? Your input is so important because you were there. You have that face etched in your memory. You know it like one else does.
I never share your photograph with anyone else, except, occasionally, my amazing husband, who often sits with me while I sketch. And I delete the the message with your photograph, whether it was sent through Etsy or through email, after your sketch is complete. I know how precious these photographs are. I do not take them lightly, and I feel privileged to do what I do.
Please don’t worry that your photo is not good enough. It is.