Yesterday I was at the hospital for about six hours with a family who lost their baby. And it was beautiful and hard all at the same time, like it always is. But yesterday I got angry. And I realized that although I’m there to take photos, I end up acting more like a patient advocate than photographer.
And I realized this as the new mom was holding her baby in the cradle position but looked a little awkward with all of her IVs and tubes connected to her arm. So rather than stand back and keep shooting I set my camera down, walked over to her and asked if she wanted me to help her get the baby up on her shoulder so she could hug him.
It’s a simple thing. Hugging your baby. But as I watched the scene unfold I realized that she wouldn’t move that baby unless someone told her it was ok. And no one was telling her it was ok. So I stepped in, got that baby nestled in up on her shoulder so she could put her face next to his. And she looked so happy.
A mom needs to feel the weight of her baby on her chest, cuddled up next to her face so she can nuzzle him and kiss him and close her eyes just BEING with him.
I know a lot of you that read this are photographers and I know a lot of you have considered doing Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep or other organizations like them and I know a lot of you are active participants already. So I’m writing this to tell you that if you’ve done enough of them you know what’s going to happen. You know people grieve differently, you know you have to walk softly, you know you have to melt into the walls, you know you have to capture the baby plus everything happening around the baby and you know when you’ve taken all the shots you’re going to get and it’s time to sneak away. But yesterday I realized that I’ve done so many I now feel comfortable stepping in a little. In the waiting room with the grandparents I warned them of what the baby might look like so they could prepare themselves, something hospital staff doesn’t do. I made sure mom had pillows under her arms and was comfortable with her son. I wiped his nose when it leaked a little fluid, something that might make a family member nervous. I suggested to a family friend to run out and get supplies for hand+foot prints so they’d have something to hold onto later.
I stepped in.
And normally my role is to step back, out of the way, hidden, just capturing.
But yesterday I stepped in and even if every decision I made was wrong I know in my heart that that mother needed to hug her son. And I’m glad I was brave enough to make it happen.
Don’t be afraid to step in.
Now I understand that our job is so much more than taking photographs of a grieving family and a deceased baby. We are there to be the eyes and ears. We can anticipate the needs of the mother… which leads me to something else I thought of yesterday.
A man shouldn’t do this job.
I’m sorry to all of you men that are amazing at what you do. I just believe very strongly that only a woman, another mother, can truly put herself in that mom’s shoes and try to anticipate her needs. Even though I’ve never had to suffer the loss of a baby, I can imagine the pain. A man can’t imagine that b/c he’s never been a mother. And although the dad is struggling it’s the mom that needs an advocate in my opinion. But what do you think? Can a man be as sensitive as a woman in this situation? If he’s a dad can he understand as much as another mother can? I’d love to hear your opinion b/c I really do believe strongly that a grieving mother needs another mother in that room with her to put her at ease since most of the time we’re strangers walking into the worst day of their lives. Just curious if you have any thoughts.
And now, after a really hard day yesterday I need to get back to work today and catch up!