A Child As Special As Any Other
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Friday, March 09, 2012
By DonnaKay Johnson
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Wednesday was one of those days that I had my time all planned out.  I had a list of all that I needed to accomplish, and was working my way down that list... and then the phone rang.  It was a call to do a session for Now I Lay Me Down To Sleep... and it was not close by.  It would be a good hour and a half drive to get there.  I have noticed a trend that these calls seem to happen on the days when my equipment is not neatly packed in my bags - ready to head out the door; when I have been a bit lazier about getting dressed up (you know, even drying my hair rather than letting it air dry and pulling it into a ponytail!)... and this day was no different.  My hair was a bit crazy and no makeup had touched my face.  Fortunately, it wasn't one of those days where I waited until the end of the afternoon to hit the shower.  For that I was thankful!  Funny thing is that when these calls some in, somehow what my hair or makeup look like just doesn't seem too important anymore - and this time was no different.  I quickly gathered all the equipment, hats, blankies, release forms, etc., that I would need to take with me... threw on some blue jeans and a shirt, slipped on a pair of boots and headed out the door.  Oh... I did grab a Nutri-grain bar and a Diet Dr. Pepper, since I hadn't had anything to eat yet for the day!  A friend was planning on coming over for a few hours in the afternoon, so I had to call her when I was in my car and on my way.  As usual, my drive there consisted of many thoughts and prayers, going over my mental lists to make sure I had everything in order... and I was blessed to have a friend to talk with on the phone for much of the drive.  


Once I arrived, I was thrilled to be greeted kindly at the first desk I came to... and it set the path for how everyone else at this hospital treated me.  They were grateful for my presence - something I wish I could say about every hospital I've been to!  But today there wasn't time to worry about other days... I had a job to get done on this day, and I was thankful that it was going smoothly and I had so much support.  My heart always breaks over and over as I deal with a parent who has just lost their child.  There is simply no amount of time or preparation that can make this kind of loss any easier. And this case just happened to be one twin survived - but one did not.  It was impossible for me to completely comprehend how it must feel to be so sad at the loss of one child and so elated at the survival of the other.  The bittersweetness of the whole situation showed on the mother's face. Since the babies were so early, she wasn't able to have the surviving twin with her... but for the moment she could hold the one who had skipped his time on earth and gone straight to heaven.  She was loving on him as if he maybe could feel her love.  It would melt the heart of the hardest person. As I usually do, I explained what I would be doing... made sure that she was comfortable with everything and didn't have any questions or other requests.  She was fine with whatever I wanted to do.  So I swiftly got my job done, knowing that time was short and she didn't need me lingering around for too long.  The moments were ticking down until she had to say a final goodbye to her baby.  

As I was finishing up and getting my gear packed to go, the nurses thanked me over and over again. One nurse even shared with me how kind she had found the NILMDTS photographers to be over the years. And that warmed my heart.  I assured her that if I could, I would surely rather give these parents their child... but I would give them precious memories of their child to hopefully allow them to heal and have something tangible to help remember the details of their child. That this little life would not be forgotten or fade away.

When I left, as soon as I got in my car I was overtaken with tears.  Amazingly, even though I'll have tears when I'm doing the photos, I am able to keep myself together... not lose control and sob through the session.  Yes - it is a tough place to be.  But it doesn't help the parents at all for me to be sobbing.  Once I get back in my car, though, all bets are off -- and I can cry as much as I need.  This time was no different.  It's always so hard to see these parents with such pain engraved on their faces... to know the loss and confusion they must be feeling is so different than the hopes and dreams they had for this child...and I find myself always wishing that instead of giving them heirloom portraits of their little angel that I could actually give them just a few moments with their child breathing and crying.  

My outlet for handling the grief I feel each time is having people who are close to me to talk to, to cry as I'm editing the photos and thinking of how much that sweet child was loved, and knowing without any doubt in my heart that each of these sweet babies is now in the arms of Jesus.  Never will they have to suffer, have their feelings hurt, or even worry about tomorrow.  The only thing that allows me to find peace in seeing the loss these families are suffering is knowing that their babies are perfect now.  But greater than any sadness I can ever feel is the humbleness and honor I feel to be able to give something to these parents who are at such a painful time in their lives.  I am always so thankful that God would pick me for my life... that He would bestow a talent, a gift, an ability to offer something to someone else at such a painful time.  And I know in my heart that as long as I am able, I will do my best to continue offering the best I can to this important cause.  

Leave a comment:
Stacy Gilmore - Thank you for sharing this post! What a blessing you are to these families, and what a priceless gift you give them. Aside from their child, I can't imagine anything more important to have as a remembrance. This post came just as i have been thinking about what I would need to do to become a local NILMDTS photographer. I think this is God's whisper to nudge me along. Thank you so much.
cheryl stone - Donna, you have always had the heart and beauty of an angel. You are a gift to these parents. My sister lost her 1st child at the age of 6 1/2yrs. She was always a very sick little girl, but changed everything about our whole family and she is so missed. I remember the pain and suffering of my sister, and everyday she still grieves. I just can't imagine this pain, even though I felt my niece was my own, it's not the same. My sister works in the NICU in GSO, and she says you guys are the best and so very appreciated. I will always pray for your strength to get through these times, but just always know your gift is beautiful and so wonderful. I pray you are blessed through each one. Love you! Cheryl
Nikki Johnson - Just Beautiful Donna! I'm of course crying my eyes out. You have such an amazing talent and a wonderful gift! Thanks for sharing!