Thursday, August 31, 2006


It finally happened today. I got a call from a nurse at a nearby hospital. They had a 36-week baby that had died, and the parents wanted some photos to remember him/her by. I knew that the call would come someday, but really didn't want to get it at all.

About a month ago, I signed up to be a photographer for Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep, a national organization of professional photographers who donate sessions to bereaved families. Many families who lose a baby either before or shortly after birth don't have any photos to remember their child by, and NILMDTS is trying to fix that. The group was started by a mother and a photographer who lost her own child. She realized that it was quite comforting to have some nice photographs of her child, who entered and exited this world too quickly. Affiliated photographers offer a photo session, a slideshow and a set of prints - at no cost to the family.

I have lost two babies myself. One was the first-born of my triplets. Nicholas was born February 21, 1999 weighing only 1lb 7oz. He was 15 weeks early. He held on for 11 days, but never recovered from surgery to repair his digestive system. I have very few pictures of him - a couple of polaroids taken before he got sick, and a few shots taken by the nurses after he had passed. They did the best they could, but they aren't photographers. I find it very difficult to look at those photos. I know that if I had had someone there to capture our moments with him, I would cherish those photos.

The second baby was at 17 weeks gestation. We found out at a routine appointment that he had died at 14 weeks. I never got to see him or hold him, but I do know that he was a chromosonally normal little boy.

Sometimes it hits too close to home. The world of children's photographers is pretty tight-knit, and most of us know or know of one another. One photographer I have had the pleasure of "knowing" through an on-line photography community is Blair Blanks. She was expecting a son, after a 3-year ordeal with infertility treatment and pregnancy. She was so excited the morning of his planned c-section birth. Another one of the photographers was going to be there to capture the first moments of his life. They were so excited, discussing all the newborn shots they would get.

Sadly, Blair discovered when she got to the hospital that her baby, James, had died of an umbilical cord accident earlier that morning. Instead of capturing a joyful birth, there were instead photos of a devestating loss. I have seen the slideshow of the morning's events and it cuts so deeply - you can't help the tears, the profound feeling of sadness.

As photographers, we were only able to share our shock, our sadness, and our grief with Blair. Our on-line community was stunned. But we were also touched by the slideshow produced by one of our own. We saw firsthand how much the photographs meant, how much emotion they captured. And I think we all realized how important groups like NILMDTS are.

Many of us donated to help cover the funeral costs. And some of us signed up to be members of NILMDTS. None of us wants to get that call - but we all want to do what we can to help parents who are going through the unthinkable.

In the end, I didn't do the session today. By the time I was able to get back to the nurse who had called me, she had already arranged for another NILMDTS photographer to come by. I was relieved, but also saddened. There is a family out there tonight grieving their loss, a loss no parent should have to endure. I may not be able to help them in their grief, but I can pray for them and ask that they be given comfort and strength at this time. And I will pray as well for my fellow photographer, who has undoubtedly been touched by today's events as well.

Friday, August 25, 2006

Happy birthday Gracie-pie!

Has it really been 2 years already? Unbelievably, it has. We celebrated Grace's second birthday yesterday. It seems like only yesterday that we were going to the hospital, full of excitement and anticipation - and a little bit of fear. Would she be all right? Was it too early? How on earth would we adjst to having three kids? Two kids and two parents is fine, but three kids means you're outnumbered!

I remember every detail of that day. I remember getting to the hospital and it hitting me - I was going to be having surgery in a couple of hours. I would have a new daughter, and we would be starting over with the whole diaper and breastfeeding thing. But then once she arrived, the joy of having her here outshone all the possible sacrifices. Seeing her in her daddy's arms for the first time was such a beautiful sight!

She was 5 pounds 14 ounces when she was born. She was tiny compared to the other babies on the floor - but she was huge to me. Adam and Marie had been born at 26 weeks, and they were only 1 pound 9 ounces each. When they arrived, they were immediately taken down to the NICU and baptised, "just in case." We didn't get to enjoy those first weeks as new parents as it should be done, instead we got to go down to the hospital every day to see how they had done over the night. It was difficult at first, because we had lost our son Nicholas in that same NICU, just 11 days after his birth. They were triplets, and he was born five days before the other two. Those five days made all the difference in the world.

So it was such a different experience this time around. Grace went to the nursery for observation while I recovered and was taken up to my room. She came to the room around 8 PM and stayed with me the rest of my stay in the hospital. What a different experience it is to have a healthy baby than a premature one!

Gracie has grown up quite a bit since that day. She runs around and dances, talks a little bit and loves to cuddle. Her passion appears to be shoes, and it is one of the few words she can reliably say and be understood. Her favorite present has been six pairs of plastic dress-up shoes. Maybe one day she'll graduate to Nike's and Jimmy Choo, but for now Wal-Mart seems to be OK with her.

Happy birthday, Grace!

Sunday, August 06, 2006

We're going to the zoo, zoo, zoo...

Despite the heat, it wasn't so hot that we couldn't visit the Wildlife World Zoo yesterday. We had visitors from California (my mom, sister and nieces) here to celebrate Grace's second birthday. A couple of weeks early, but Grace didn't really mind!

I also got a chance to try out my newest lens - the Canon 70-200mmL f/2.8 lens. It's a pretty heavy lens, but the results are great. The color is perfect and the sharpness is unbelievable. And at the price I paid for it - it should be great! It's not something I'll be using in portrait sessions, but for events it will be perfect.

If you haven't ever visited the zoo in the far, far west valley - it's well worth the trip. The animals aren't very far away from you and sometimes they are even on top of you! They don't have elephants or bears, but they have just about everything else. The penguins and white alligator are gone until the weather cools down, but there is still plenty to do. There are also exhibits where you can feed the animals - a couple of different types of bird, as well as giraffes and the typical petting zoo.

Thursday, August 03, 2006

Where did the time go?

So it's already August. For Arizona residents, this means back to school. It's hard to believe that the summer has passed so quickly. Of course, "summer" in Arizona has nothing to do with the weather. Summer weather lasts until at least October. While the rest of the country is celebrating fall with orange and brown leaves, we'll just be getting around to celebrating days under 100 degrees!

It seems like just yesterday I was attending the Class of 2006 graduation ceremony for marvel High School. And just the day before that, I was seeing these students as freshmen. Time just flies by so fast. I am sure that every parent out there can understand this sentiment. Doesn't it seem like just yesterday that your child was a newborn? Taking his/her first steps? Saying his/her first words? Children grow so quickly, and one of the perks of doing children's photography is that I get to help parents preserve memories of those quick-passing stages.

Where did the summer go? It feels like I did so little, and yet the reality is I did quite a bit. Every summer vacation starts with grand plans, the feeling that we are going to accomplish great things with the weeks ahead of us. What did I do this summer? I traveled - to France, California, Payson. I rode my bicycle, getting in exercise even though it meant getting up at 5:30 each morning to beat the heat. I spent time with my children, took them swimming and to the library. I read lots of books and did a lot of scrapbooking. I shot my first wedding, and did a lot of photo sessions. So much and yet it feels like so little now that it's over.

School will start for my entire family on Monday. The new year is filled with anticipation and excitement. I think "this is the year that my students will all learn to speak perfect French! I will be the best teacher ever and I will change their lives!" That lasts until about September, when I inevitably realize that some students just don't want to learn French, and they don't really want their lives changed. But I will continue to do my best, showing up every morning with a smile and making them all feel welcome. I hope that all of your children have teachers who care for them and will love them as much as you do, and I wish you all the best of luck in whatever post-summer endeavors you have before you.