Sunday, June 16, 2013

Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep

It was Saturday night at 10:15 when my cell phone rang. The night before Mother's Day.

Neil and I had just finished putting away groceries after a last minute run to the supermarket. Lars wanted to make dinner for Grandma and me for Mother's Day so a ham,  potatoes and other sundries were needed before the big day.

Who would be calling this late? I didn't recognize the number. Probably a wrong number, I thought, half expecting to hear, "Is Joe there?" when I answered. But that is not what I heard.

""This is Mary __________ from Good Samaritan Hospital in Corvallis. I got your name from the Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep website. We have a case of fetal demise. The mother is going to deliver in about an hour."

For about a year, I have volunteered my services with Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep, a non profit that connects volunteer professional photographers with families suffering from the untimely loss of an infant to provide beautiful heirloom portraits.  These images serve as an important step in the family’s healing process by honoring the child’s legacy. 

My mind is racing. Should I drop everything and head to Corvallis in the middle of the night? Is that what she is asking me to do? Can I even do this? When can I do this? How can I do this?

Then I those two little words, "fetal demise" finally registered. This was not just a baby that was not expected to live but one that was already gone. Mary went on to explain that the baby had been "gone" for about a week.

Can I even do this?

I knew that I would be asked to do this at some point and I also knew that I would never really be "ready". Twenty miles away there was a mother laboring to give birth to a child that she carried for 9 months and felt move within her but would never see smile or suckle at her breast. She would never hold a Mother's Day card from this child made with construction paper and felt pens.She would never watch her dance. Of course, I would do this.

Mary and I agreed that she would ask the parents if they would like me to come and I would call in the morning to see what the answer was. At 6:15 am I called and at 7:45 I arrived at the hospital. I was told that the parents had already said their goodbyes to their little girl and did not want to be included in the session.I was very grateful for time to think and work in the quiet of a space tucked away from normal hospital hubub. Nurses came and went and assisted in moving the little angel and asking the parents if there were special items to include. A hand croqueted blanket appeared.

An hour later, I left to meet Neil and Lars at church. It was a wonderful service and we all went home to enjoy ham and mashed potatoes. A home cooked meal that I didn't even have to help with was a treat but the most meaningful moment was when Lars handed me a card made with construction paper and felt pens. At age 14, this was the most beautiful card I had ever received.