Thursday, October 15, 2009

Today, squeeze someone you love

October 15th is Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Day in the United States. I'd like to take some time to reflect on loss and love.

As reluctant as I was to join Facebook last year, it has really turned out to be a wonderful tool for renewing and deepening friendships. In August I "friended" Amy Whitney, a bride whose wedding I photographed in Oakland, CA in 2007. The last time I saw Amy she and I were both pregnant (me with Mack) and due about the same time. Whenever I find a new friend on Facebook, I usually go straight to the photos first. Amy's small profile photo showed her and her baby girl and I was excited to see all the pictures of her daughter Alexis Lynne. I was confused when I saw the first image, thinking perhaps I had clicked on the wrong album. It was a picture of a cemetery plot. I clicked over to the next picture, and I knew right away that Alexis Lynne was stillborn.

Memories came rushing back of a summer night when Lily was 5 months old. My sister-in-law Lora had just given birth to her first child, Hope Lynn. Hope was perfect, with wispy brown hair, eyes like her sister Rachel, delicate fingers and rosy red lips. But instead of tears of joy, my eyes were filled with tears of anguish as I photographed my brother Don and his wife mourning the loss of their first child. Hope died from a cord injury, just one day before she was scheduled to be born. Here is an excerpt from my journal on Aug. 17, 2002:

Those were the hardest pictures I've ever taken... It was hard to keep
focusing and taking pictures through my tears, but I was so glad I could be
there to take those pictures for them. They are the most sad and beautiful and
sacred photographs... I am so honored that Don and Lora trusted me enough to be
there and record such a private moment. I didn't get to hold Hope that night, I
just kissed her head and stroked her hair. But in the morning I held her before
the man from the mortuary came to pick her up. Oh, how I love her! She is
perfect and she is an individual and I'm so glad I got the chance to hold her
and love her and grieve her loss... I think I will always remember the anguish and poignancy of Don carrying the beautiful tiny white casket with his baby daughter to the grave site.
Amy, amid her grief, has used her experience to become a voice for mothers suffering from infant loss. She and her husband Zach were fortunate to have the services of a photographer from Now I Lay Me Down To Sleep at the hospital after Alexis was born. Amy is a digital scrapbooker and has designed a beautiful album of Alexis, detailing all the events of the pregnancy, birth, and memorial service. I think it has been tremendously healing for Amy to make Alexis's scrapbook. One of the amazing gifts that the people at Now I Lay Me Down To Sleep give to the parents is a memorial video of the photographs taken of their child. You can see Alexis Lynne's video on Amy's blog here. But be warned, you WILL cry.

The knowledge of Amy and Zach's loss came at time when I really needed to be reminded of my blessings. I was feeling numb from my responsibilities as a mother and struggling with my emotional attachment to my children. After reading Amy's blog, watching the video, and pondering the loss that I know nothing of, I crept into my childrens' rooms and wept as I watched each of them sleep. Amy was an instrument in God's hand in opening my eyes to the blessings before me.

When things get tough, I remember Amy, and so many others that I love (Becky, Lori, Becca, Samantha, Lora, Victoria, my Gram, my cousin Jen...) who would give anything to trade my trivial stress to have the privilege of holding their infant in their arms. Our children are our greatest blessings, and while God will restore all to those who are faithful, we must always remember to love the ones we have, while we have them.

Tonight, if you are so inclined, gather your loved ones around you at 7:00pm and light a candle in remembrance of all those who have lost a child during pregnancy or shortly after birth. Then go and squeeze someone you love.


Amy said...

K, you made me cry. :) Thank you Sue...I don't deserve those words but I do appreciate them. You are such an example to me and your sweet brother and his wife. I hope they can feel peace today.

The Dragonfly said...

Tissue please. Love you. Love this post.

Lori Gerten said...

This is why you will always remain close to my heart. Your ability to always help me remember what my blessings are makes me remember what I have and not what I don't have. I love you so much! Thank you.

Apis Melliflora said...

Very moving remembrance. Our children are only ours in trust. A lesson that is both beautiful and heartbreaking and one that we must learn and relearn many times.

Farah said...

So sad. Well written Susan and your so right, Chidren are a blessing from God, we need to cherish every moment.

Brian and Rebecca Nate said...

I always think about our little man in March because that's when he was born, but thank you for making me think of him today. Love you.

Brooks said...

Thanks for the reminder. I love the pics of your kids. When am I going to have time to catch up on my blog?? I enjoy your blog. Thanks for sharing...

Becky in Wyo said...

This is going to sound sarcastic, and it isn't, I swear. But no one can exposulate like you.

You have a gift for meaningful writing, truly. And I say that with only 5% bitterness.

Love you!

P.S. But maybe I can take some teaching/mentoring credit for lecturing you mercilessly when we were growing up. Great post!!