This is a story about loss. It is hard to read; there are no images of the family or baby Hayden, whose gender will not be revealed.
I wanted to write about this for several reasons: the first for my friends who have experienced lost, most especially for my two friends who lost pregnancies over the Christmas holiday. You live far away from me, and there was not much that I could do for you, except to listen, and grieve with you, this was my tiny way to give back. The other reason, and the most important reason, is because the family was so grateful for the images of Hayden, that I want to offer this service free of charge. I’ll share more about this as you read on.
I found out about this family, and their need for a photographer, from a Facebook group that I belong to which is geared toward birth professionals. They had recently found out that their baby’s heart had stopped beating and they wanted a photographer to capture images of their child. The mother was being induced and the baby would be here soon. When I saw their need, I just *knew* that I wanted to help this family. All of the emotions from the previous months with my friends came flooding back, one had lost her baby at 20+ weeks as well. It takes a special kind of person to take photos of an angel baby because it's hard on the heart, but after working in healthcare for the past 16 years, I knew I could do it. Phone numbers got exchanged and I was put in touch with the family; we kept in touch via text until Hayden arrived, around 4:30am in the morning. I got out of bed and loaded up my gear; it was snowing and very cold. My wonderful husband got up with me and started my car and scraped my windshield, while I made tea and had a good cry.
When I arrived, all I could think about was that the family had planned on coming here 20 weeks from now to give birth, and how hard this must be for them. This really hit me hard and I struggled to keep my composure. Earlier that evening I spoke with a bereavement support doula, an acquaintance and client of mine, who I’ve come to know over the past year. Thank goodness she reached out to me before I got the text to go to the hospital. She told me what to expect, gave me suggestions for photos and was there for me when I needed it after. You can find more about her support services here.
When I walked into the hospital room, there were two nurses who were getting ready to make a mold of Hayden’s feet. These two nurses handled the night with such grace and compassion for the family and I was blown away by their composure. Initially, the family didn’t want to know the gender of their child, but after holding their baby and some gentle words from the nurse, they chose to find out. She kindly said, ‘most families find peace in knowing their child and naming them.’ She didn’t push, she just spoke and we gave the family some time alone. When we returned, they had named the child Hayden. We took photos of Hayden’s feet, hands, little ears and the nurses were a great help to me, they picked out a bunting for the baby and we wrapped Hayden in it.
The family was able to spend a few hours with Hayden in their room; the nurse asked if they wanted the chaplain to come and give a blessing to Hayden, and they agreed. It took about a half an hour before she was able to come, so I waited outside in the hallway and said a few prayers. Prayers for healing for everyone. When the chaplain came in, we all held hands, and the chaplain gave a blessing. Then mama held baby Hayden one more time and they decided it was time to say goodbye. In just a few hours, this family had met their child and said goodbye to their child.
It's only been just over a week since I met this family and a good amount of healing is being done by all of us. Hayden’s family is so grateful for the images that I’ve given them, that it solidified my decision to volunteer with Now I Lay Me Down To Sleep. This is an organization that coordinates photographers and families who want photos of their stillborn baby. They only photograph stillbirths >25 weeks in gestation, however. Hayden’s family did not qualify for Now I Lay Me Down To Sleep services because Hayden was 21 weeks in gestation. Because of that qualifier, I want to offer this service to families at no cost. This will be available on the west side of the Denver Metro area in Colorado. Lutheran Hospital in Wheat Ridge, CO; Saint Anthony Hospital in Lakewood, CO, and Denver West Hospital in Denver, CO. I can be contacted via email as soon as possible prior to knowing services are needed, and I will do my best to help. If I am unavailable, there are others in my circle of photographers, who offer this service as well and I will get you in touch with one of them, they will service the north metro Denver area and the southern areas like Parker, Centennial and Castle Rock Colorado.
I cannot thank Hayden’s family enough for inviting me into their hospital room on one of the hardest days of their life, because it changed my life too. I want to reach out to other families experiencing loss and give them a gift they can hang onto; photos of every little part of that baby, and they can look at them forever.
Thank you Angel baby Hayden and God bless.
Special thanks to Elizabeth Petrucelli, bereavement trained, doula, and mama, please take a minute to check out her website and services here.
And special thanks to nurse Lauren at Lutheran hospital, you are amazing.
You will want to have a room that will comfortably fit everyone and your birthing tub (if using). A warm cozy area where light levels can be adjusted as needed is also very beneficial. If you are using candles look into having some flameless candles, as candles can heat up a room very quickly. Most women labor best in a darkened quiet area. Make sure there are curtains or blinds on the windows so they can be closed to allow for additional privacy.
Make sure your birthing supplies are easily accessible and everyone knows where they are. If having a waterbirth, make sure you have a stack of clean towels next to the tub. Also make sure there is water or an energy drink available to you at all times, along with snacks.
Set up your cd player/mp3 player and make sure your care provider or doula know how to use it, so they can start or stop it as needed. If you want photos or video makes sure your support people also know how to use them and what moments you want captured from the labour and birth.
Prepare the room for any religious beliefs or practices, including plans for the placenta. Some women find personal items that make them feel good important to have, whether this be a favorite photo or a focal point to concentrate on when labour gets tough. And last but not least, make sure you have items for baby like clothes, blankets, towels, hat and diapers.
Go back to: Step #9: Birth Support
Go ahead to: Step #11: Birthing Day
Go to: Birthing Methods Main Menu
Creating a Birth Plan is a great idea regardless of where you are birthing. This makes sure that you and your care provider are on the same page in terms of what you want for and from your birth. When you're in labour you will not want to spend a lot of time explaining your wishes. It's nice to have people just know their role and what's expected of them, this makes for no suprises with conflict in your wishes.
Some considerations of things to include:
To learn more about birth plans visit this site or any other resources you can find online.
This birth plan article may also provide you with additional things to consider in your birth plan.
Go back to: Step #5: Tests and Ultrasounds
Go ahead to: Step #7: Gathering Birthing Supplies
Go to: Birthing Methods Main Menu
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