Public awareness, education and sensitivity of Remembrance Photography

In February of 2005, my husband and I experienced the death our son Maddux during the first week of his life. During that week, we saw the amazing portraits of parents with their newborns that lined the hospital walls. My husband called the photographer to request she come to the hospital to take pictures of our precious son. The images taken that night have been an immense comfort not only to us but to our older children as well and have helped us deal with the grief of losing a child and a baby brother. Within months, photographer Sandy Puc’ and I founded Now I Lay Me Down To Sleep (NILMDTS) a non-profit organization that exists to assist other families suffering an early infant loss. (

On June 12, 2006, I received an email from a mother who also has suffered an early infant loss. Kara was upset by a recent dialogue on RadioAlice 97.3, a CBS Radio station in San Francisco. In an attempt at humor, the announcer went too far and was insensitive to parents who have suffered the loss of a baby. Their topic regarded stillborn babies and parents who memorialize their babies with photographs. The language and concepts that were discussed were horrific to families who have lost beloved babies.

We at NILMDTS are deeply saddened by this incident but are grateful for the apology issued by RadioAlice 97.3: “On Tuesday June 6th, the Alice morning show reported a story about parents who have photographs of their stillborn babies taken to remember them by. The subject matter was inappropriately taken lightly, and we wish to issue a public apology. The show is known for walking the edge in terms of content and style, and often mocks things that others take seriously. In this particular case, we were insensitive to the feelings of parents who suffer through the loss of a baby in their early days. We sincerely apologize.”

Too many people in our society do not realize the grief and sorrow experienced when a little one is lost. Parents don’t want to forget their child’s beautiful face, tiny hands and perfect feet. Photography is a tool to assist them through the days of loss, and those images serve as a memorial to their children.   -continued below-

Kara says she would like to have the voices of families who lost children be heard and understood. We stand with her. It is our earnest desire that CBS radio assist us in this cause. We are requesting they help make the public aware of this issue and educate the public about remembrance photography.

Too often well-meaning people give grieving families’ worn-out platitudes—it was God’s will, you can always have other children, at least you didn’t know this baby. This is not what helped my family move forward after the loss of Maddux. What helped us were the beautiful keepsake images we will always cherish. Parents can never forget their children, by helping them remember, they begin to live again.
We would also like to educate the medical caregivers—and there are some wonderful ones out there.  I receive emails daily from parents about their nurses who encouraged them to see and hold their baby, name their baby and create memories through photographs.  How grateful those parents are. But there are also emails from parents who were not encouraged to do any of this, and they are just heartbroken. How they wished someone would have told them it is all right to bond with their baby and take a photograph of their baby. Parents are in such a state of shock after the death of a child, and their memories fade. They fade very fast. Too often in this type of situation, the caregivers themselves are uncomfortable or untrained. They don't encourage parents to take the extra time to see or hold or even name their baby. And taking a photograph, most of the time, is out of the question. There is such an incredible difference between an amateur hospital photograph and a professional photograph that organizations like NILMDTS provide. 
Families move beyond their grief not by forgetting that their child existed, but by remembering that child. When birth and death coincide, there is only a brief opportunity to substantiate the importance of a baby in a family’s life. And when NILMDTS helps these families, we are all helping each other. We hope to create a new generation of children that will grow up to be caring, sensitive and productive adults—they will know that words really can hurt.

It is distressing that those insensitive comments were aired in San Francisco. If the public were more aware of the pain associated with the early loss of a child, comments like that would never have been made.

We hope that this unfortunate situation can be redeemed by a partnership to educate people about early infant loss and the comfort of remembrance photography.

Cheryl Haggard
Sandy Puc'
Co founders NILMDTS
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