What is NILMDTS? Why do you do this? Those are always the first two questions I hear when I mention NILMDTS, Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep.
- What? NILMDTS introduces remembrance photography to parents suffering the loss of a baby with a free gift of professional portraiture.
- Why? We believe these images serve as an important step in the family’s healing process by honoring their child’s legacy.
NILMDTS gently provides a helping hand and a healing heart. For families overcome by grief and pain, the idea of photographing their baby may not immediately occur to them. Offering gentle and beautiful photography services in a compassionate and sensitive manner is the heart of this organization. The soft, gentle heirloom photographs of these beautiful babies are an important part of the healing process. They allow families to honor and cherish their babies, and share the spirits of their lives.
The Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep Foundation (NILMDTS) administers a network of more than 7,000 volunteer photographers in the United States and 25 countries. At a family’s request, a NILMDTS Affiliated Photographer will come to your hospital or hospice location and conduct a sensitive and private portrait session. The portraits are then professionally retouched and presented to the families on an archival DVD or CD that can be used to print portraits of their cherished baby. The entire network of affiliated photographers graciously donate their time and talents to these families and are proud to be able to offer these services at no cost.
Volunteering opportunities come in a wide variety. This type of volunteering cannot be scheduled or predictable. Photographers can tell their area coordinator what days and hours they are willing to volunteer. It is not completely out of your control. Depending on your commitment, you may receive a call in the middle of the night to wake you from a deep sleep, in the middle of dinner or even in the middle of a vacation. It’s not an activity that necessary fits into my schedule on a particular day but it is a cause I strongly believe in and believe in making time for due to its importance.
This also is not the type of volunteering that you know what to expect ahead of time and can be prepared for the job you have to do. You get the call and you don’t know what to expect at all. Is the baby 3 months old or is the baby 20 weeks gestational? Has the baby deceased or is the baby on life support? Are there deformities or skin tears? What do I say to the parents and how will they react? How do I walk into that room and stay emotionally in tact? What if I cry? What if I can’t take the photos and do them justice . . . I don’t have another chance to reshoot them? What if . . . 100 more times. It is a job that takes a toll on you emotionally. I received my last call on Sunday. There was a photographer already at the hospital earlier that day. He asked if I could take the second session, because he just couldn’t do a second angel that day.
I arrived at the hospital and spoke with the hospital staff. I learned that baby’s name was Bella and then I proceeded to introduce myself to mom. Mom and dad were not sure they wanted to be in the room during the session, let alone in any pictures. Especially dad. I reassured them it was completely up to them. The nurse brought Bella back into the room, dressed in her beautiful gown. Mom held Bella weeping harder than she was when I walked in to introduce myself. Dad sat next to her consoling her. Mom starred at her beautiful angel, making comments to daddy on his little girl. I captured the two of them admiring and grieving her at the same time. As I took pictures, I reassured mom how beautiful she was. As we took pictures of her tiny feet in mom’s hand, I told her how she will be able to show Bella’s four siblings at home how tiny she was. Dad became emotional, as he kept trying to hold it in. I hugged dad and then mom before I left. The next day, I actually crossed paths with the parents at the store. They were shopping for a shadow box for when they receive the photos I took, reminding me how important this gift is to them.
I’ve been fortunate to work with some wonderful hospitals who are prepared for me. They can prepare me before I enter the room so I can brace myself on what baby looks like, how mom, dad and family are doing. Not only that, they are already preparing to dress baby in a homemade gown and hat, and sometimes even a crocheted blanket (for those that are too small to fit into anything the family may already have). But what they cannot prepare me for is editing the photos after my session. Not every photographer handles the sessions the same. For me, I found that it is harder for me following the session than it is during the session. Everyone of God’s children is beautiful and some of these angels are too beautiful for earth that he takes them from us sooner than we ever wanted. But how do I do these photos justice that these family members will be proud to hold these and remember their angel by? I still don’t know if I have the answer to this but I do believe I am providing something valuable to these families which will help them not only heal but remember their angels.
There is no foot too small that it cannot leave an imprint on this world