fine art maternity, birth, newborn, baby, child and family photography

why I’m a Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep affiliated photographer…{New Orleans baby photographer}

It took me a few days to write this post.  Last week, during the beginning of Mardi Gras parades and festivities, I went to Ocshner Hospital to photograph a birth for Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep.  Normally NILMDTS doesn’t photograph births, but since I photograph one birth per month professionally already, I knew I could handle both the technical and emotional challenges that photographing a birth presents.  The reason it was so crucial to photograph this birth is that Mom and Dad were having triplets, and Triplet A wasn’t expected to live long after birth.  We wanted to photograph her with her sisters, and all three triplets with their parents, and since Babies B and C were being whisked away to the NICU right after birth and wouldn’t be allowed to come into the recovery room, that needed to happen in the delivery room.  We weren’t even sure we were going to get that shot, but we were hoping for it.  Mom delivered via C-section, and we did get the pictures we wanted, of all three girls, then all three girls with Mom and Dad.  Then we got to spend some more time with Baby A, and Dad baptized her with Mom watching from the operating table.

Several things made this session so special to me:  one, hospitals are dealing much more with palliative care and doing what is best for the family who is losing a child.  NILMDTS is a huge part of that, but we can’t be present unless someone calls to inform us of a family that needs our services.  Usually, it’s a nurse at the hospital who calls.  This time, a social worker dedicated especially to these situations called me and asked me specifically to photograph the birth.  I feel like it’s a huge step in the right direction towards easing the emotional burdens for families suffering a loss.  The second aspect of this session that really impacted me was the fact that it was a birth of multiples.  I felt it was so important to photograph all three babies together, so they would have at least a few pictures of themselves when they were three.  The third thing that stood out to me was that I got to photograph a father baptizing his daughter.  It was a special, special moment.

But the most important thing, that didn’t strike me until I had left, was that I got to witness a person’s entire life.  I was there when she was pulled from her mother’s womb and I was there as she drifted back out of our world.  What an amazing privilege.  How many people can say that they were present for another person’s entire life?  Given what that means, I would say, too many.  But NILMDTS was created for this purpose.  To document a life that was far too brief.  To give parents, and grandparents, and brothers and sisters, and aunts and uncles and cousins and friends, a tangible reminder that a little spirit was here, was loved, did love, and blessed those that knew her.  I watched this sweet baby make eye contact with each of her parents when she came out — she acknowledged them and blessed them with her recognition.  They felt that connection, and because of NILMDTS, they don’t have to rely on memory alone to recall that moment in the years to come.  They don’t have to experience the panic that must come on the inevitable day when they wake up and can’t picture their daughter’s face exactly in their minds, and don’t have any photographs to remind them of its details.

If you are a professional portrait photographer in the New Orleans area (or anywhere!), please consider volunteering with Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep. You can read up on the technical skill requirements and application process here.  And if you’re not sure and would like to talk about it first, I’m happy to have you come by the studio for some tea and a chat.  These sessions are, by definition, sad.  I usually go home and take a nap for a couple of hours to process what I just photographed.  I know it sounds weird, but that’s how I process it in a way that it doesn’t affect me for days.  And the joy that I get from knowing I’ve provided something absolutely irreplaceable for a grieving family far outweighs the grief I feel at and after each session.  Some people ask me, “How can you do that?!!”  I, along with probably every other NILMDTS volunteer who takes sessions for these families, respond: “How can I not?”

Hug the babies in your life tight the next time you see them.  Say an extra prayer of thanksgiving that you have them here with you, and healthy.  They are a gift!

6 responses

  1. I love you.

    February 12, 2013 at 9:54 pm

  2. I love you, too, Amanda!

    February 12, 2013 at 9:59 pm

  3. Katie

    This brought tears to my eyes. Bless you, Liv. Your work is no doubt so cherished by the NILMDTS families.

    February 13, 2013 at 8:26 pm

  4. Rene' Wallace

    It was an amazing day and you did an amazing job! Thank you again for making this happen.

    February 18, 2013 at 11:06 am

  5. Sarah Lazaro

    Olivia, we are so grateful for what you did. You were amazing and we cannot wait to see what you captured. Thank you from the bottom of our hearts. -Sarah, Jeff, Liam, Logan, Lilly, Isabelle, and our sweet angel, Mackenzie ❤

    March 14, 2013 at 8:47 pm

    • Hi Sarah and Jeff,
      I’m sorry that I needed to come, but I’m happy that I could. I hope you’re settling in at home well with Mackenzie’s sisters and your sweet boys, too. Please tell them hello for me! Warmly, Olivia

      March 14, 2013 at 9:25 pm

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