This post was written by my friend, Shelley Madueme, who experienced the loss of her baby girl back in 2014. These photos were taken in the very early stages of my newborn photography training. While I look at my photographic work back then and see how much I have improved, I am still glad that I was able to create these images for their family to have and to cherish. Here is her story and if you also have experienced loss, I hope her telling her story brings you comfort as it did for me.
Also, the NILMDTS (Now I Lay Me Down To Sleep) program is a volunteer organization that provides portraits to parents that are experiencing the death of a baby. If you know of anyone that is going through the loss of their baby, I highly recommend contacting someone through the website.
In honor of Shelley’s baby girl, Sarah Grace, as well as, October is Pregnancy and Infant Loss and Awareness month.
Photographs are a precious treasure to a family that has experienced the loss of an infant or young child.
I hope my story will help others understand the value of portrait photographs and encourage those who might be facing a tragic loss to make the effort to have photos made.
During my first pregnancy, I didn’t really know what a maternity photoshoot was. Sure, I figured it meant getting pictures made when you were pregnant (duh😂), but I didn’t understand how meaningful it was, so I skipped it.
Because we hadn’t connected with a local photographer during pregnancy, I didn’t know where to turn for newborn photos. And honestly, I was overwhelmed and struggling to recover from our son’s birth, so I wasn’t in a great place to find a photographer. But I wanted to send birth announcements, so I knew we needed a professional photo.
Somehow I managed to book a newborn photo session at a big box store at the mall. And while we managed to get some decent pictures, the experience was stressful.
Fast forward about 2 years to my second pregnancy. After our anatomy scan and followup tests, we learned that our baby had a lethal genetic disorder.
This was devastating news. If she survived pregnancy, we knew our daughter would have a short life. We wanted to have photos that would be a visual reminder of her.
I had known Rachael for about a year when we learned about our daughter’s condition. That made working with her a natural choice. Given our circumstances, this experience could have been hard. But Rachael was a compassionate, talented photographer and an expert at keeping two-year-olds happy. So the maternity session was a special time.
After our daughter’s birth, she was able to come home from the hospital the same day I did. About a week later, we had a photoshoot with Rachael. This time, instead of hauling two kids and all the photo supplies to the mall, Rachael came to our house and captured memories of us in everyday life.
Each year we still celebrate our daughter’s birthday.
One of the special traditions we have is looking at the photo album that Rachael and a group of neighborhood mom friends gave me. We talk to our son and our daughter who was born a year later about their sister.
When we had newborn photos of our second daughter made, Rachael had an idea for a way we could include the daughter we lost.
On her first birthday, my son and I had gone to Build a Bear and made a special stuffed animal that had a recording of her heartbeat. So when we did our newborn session, we included this special bunny in our family photos.
While we will always miss our daughter, these beautiful photos are a comfort to us and remind us of the brief time that she was with us.
If you’re supporting a friend or family member whose child is facing a terminal condition, encourage them to get photos made. These precious photographs are treasured memories.
Shelley Madueme is a copywriter who helps online business owners and coaches grow their revenue and audience by creating highly converting, story-based email, sales page, and website copy. After losing her one-month-old daughter in 2014, Shelley learned to use story to integrate her Christian faith and her New Testament academic training. She has written about and shared her experience of infant loss with women through blogging and women’s events.