Photographers get to share in the most special times in the lives of families. Weddings, family portrait sessions, maternity photos, and other special events fill their typical sample galleries. However, a network of professional photographers have come together to share in a time of grief and to create cherish memories.
The Now I Lay Me Down To Sleep (NILMDTS) organization has a mission to introduce remembrance photography to parents suffering the loss of a baby with the free gift of professional portraiture. These images serve as an important step in the family’s process of grief by honoring their child’s legacy.
In February 2005, Maddux Achilles Haggard was born with a condition called myotyular myopathy that prevented him from breathing, swallowing, or moving on his own. At just six days old, his parents had to make the excruciating decision to take him off life support. Before they did, they called photographer Sandy Puc’to take black and white portraits of them cradling their son. Puc’ photographed Maddux with his parents, before and after being removed from life support, including photos where he was free from the tubes and wires that sustained his short life.
Maddux’s mom, Cheryl Haggard said, “That night was the worst night of my life. But when I look at the images, that’s not what I’m reminded of. I’m reminded of the beauty and blessings he brought. Those tender photographs documenting Maddux’s eternal connection with his parents inspired Cheryl Haggard and Sandy Puc’ to found a nonprofit organization that has provided thousands of families of babies who are stillborn or are at risk of dying as newborns with free professional portraits with their baby.
The organization is based in Centennial, Colorado, but they have volunteer over 12,000 photographers across the United States as well as forty countries worldwide.
This feature from 2008 on the NBC Today Show is a touching view into a NILMDTS session:
How can you help?
- Photographers can learn more and apply to be a volunteer photographer or photo retoucher via the organization’s website.
- If you work in or with a hospital, you can NILMDTS to make the hospital staff aware of the program, download a guide for hospital staff, request brochures, and find training options on the organization’s website.
- If you know of a family who may need the services of a NILMDTS photographer, you can direct them to the organization’s website and click “Find a Photographer”.
- Individuals can also volunteer as area coordinators or volunteer to help the existing area coordinators in your area. To find nearby area coordinators, you can go to the Find a Photographer section of the website and enter your zip code.
- Monetary donations can also be accepted via the organization’s website.
You can read stories of some of the families touched by the NILMDTS organization on the website, however, I will warn you that some of the stories are hard to read.