About your photographs

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.

Grieving other losses

Yesterday’s post about, among other things, the first day of school had me thinking about the other losses that we grieve when we lose a baby.

We don’t just grieve our baby who died.  Which seems unfathomable because that loss is enormous – how can we possibly add more to it?  But we do.  We add so much more.

Many of us grieve the loss of bringing a baby home from the hospital.

We grieve the loss of flowers and cards that people get when they bring home a new baby.

We grieve the loss of “Congratulations!

We grieve the loss of decorating the nursery (or possibly worse, we grieve the loss of a baby to enjoy in our beautifully decorated and lovingly prepared nursery).

We grieve the loss of late night feedings and diaper changes.

We grieve the loss of trips to the park and the zoo and Disney World with them.

We grieve the loss of siblings for our children.

We grieve the loss of brushing their hair and dressing them in cute outfits and giving them baths and reading them stories.

At holidays, we grieve the empty spaces where their stockings or Easter baskets or gifts or presence would be.  Should be.

We grieve the loss of first words, first steps, first teeth, and first days of school.

Some of us, like me, grieve the loss of having multiples when one or both of them is gone – it is such a rare thing that everyone loves to comment on.  Oh wow, twins!  Triplets!

There are so many facets to our losses that it is no wonder that our grief can spiral back and catch us off guard sometimes, rearing its ugly head and reducing us to tears at different times throughout the year.  Years.  Not just on their birthdays or on anniversaries.  Maybe that’s why it seems unending and bottomless.

i-learned-about-grief

Knowing that this is a normal part of grief and loss is helpful, but those things still hurt.  Sometimes, people don’t understand.  How are you still grieving like this is new? It’s been years.  But every one of these is a new loss.  A loss of something else that we didn’t even realize that we’d be missing, reminding us of the ultimate sadness which was seeing our baby die.

What other losses do you grieve with the death of your little one?