Why did we take pictures of those we love? So that at another time in the future we may be present to them again as we were in that moment. Photographs allow us to transcend time. We are able to re-present that moment, to make it present again. Because of our spiritual nature this is possible; we are both body and spirit, but our spirit is able to transcend the bounds of time and share in God’s timelessness.
This capacity is especially poignant when it involves those we love who have passed away. Love is stronger than death; we remain united to them, but we desire a way to keep the flames of love enkindled, and photographs are fuel for that fire.
When these pictures are photos of your child who has died, they are as precious as gold.
Some people think that to contemplate such photos is morbid and will make the bereaved parents sad, but they misunderstand; love is a two-edged sword, but looking at the loved ones only releases the sadness that is trapped within. It is a wound that heals, because it is, at the same time, a celebration of the one you love.
It is proof that they existed and that they mattered– no, it is proof that they still exist and still matter!
Moreover, these pictures help make your baby more real for their siblings who came before them or may come after. Their lost sibling is no mere idea or vague memory, but a person whose picture they have seen many times–always a part of the family.
In the case of stillbirth, taking these important photographs is a delicate and challenging matter. When you’ve just lost a child, and have only a few hours to snuggle your precious little bundle, it can be hard to have the presence of mind and emotional ability to calmly take the pictures you will later treasure. I was so fortunate that my friend Julia, who had lost her son Thomas at 29 weeks, advised me to take many pictures.
My irreplaceable little photo album of my baby Josephine would have been much thinner if not for her encouragement to capture as much as possible of our very short time together before her burial.
It’s good to know that some hospitals offer a volunteer photography service such as Now I Lay Me Down To Sleep specifically for such heart-breaking situations. Be sure to ask for them if you ever find yourself in the terrible position of having lost a newborn. From the depths of grief and shock, it may seem like taking pictures is frivolous or insufficient, but those photos are truly gems, especially when done with a gentle and artistic eye.