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 keepAmy, 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.
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.
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.