The moment you’re told your baby has died or that they’re stillborn is a moment of shock and of being absolutely numb. There are so many unanswered questions rushing through your mind, and the last thing you might think about is photographs. Despite all of those things, this is probably the most important photo opportunity ever; a lifetime’s worth of chances to capture all those milestones is gone in a heartbeat, your baby’s last heartbeat.
There is such a small window of opportunity; there is only one chance to capture images that will provide comfort for a lifetime.
Remember My Baby was launched in August 2014 to capture the images that, for the most poignant and upsetting reasons, are once in a lifetime. Volunteer Photographers go into hospital and hospice settings at short notice to provide high quality portraiture for parents losing their baby before, during or shortly after birth.
Families receive a special Remember My Baby USB memory stick that carries high resolution black and white images suitable for printing, and some volunteers also create slideshows of their images as an optional extra. This is all provided free of charge 4-6 weeks from the session date, entirely funded by donations.
With almost every smartphone doubling as a very respectable camera one might assume that that might be enough, but what if your phone is lost or stolen, and the only images of your baby were on it? Images taken at a Remember My Baby session are backed up as soon as possible afterwards*. Within a few weeks they are carefully edited and sensitively retouched, and black & white images delivered to the parents for them to keep, cherish, and print at will. Remember My Baby also keeps back-ups of those images just in case - in the event of loss through fire, theft, flood etc., parents can get in touch with us for a link to a secure gallery to download their images.
Remember My Baby coverage within the UK remains somewhat patchy in a number of areas and recruitment of volunteers continues to be a high priority. Ultimately, we aim to have an official RMB Volunteer Photographer linked with every hospital and birth centre across the UK. Some parents hear about us via friends or relatives and look us up direct; most calls come from midwives already actively embracing what we do and offering it as a choice to bereaved parents in their care. We aim to allocate a photographer to meet a family the same day or the next day, but we have attended as long as 3 to 4 weeks following birth. We have also on occasion visited funeral directors to provide the service. Occasionally we are unable to provide a photographer, making the requirement of having more photographers on board absolutely paramount. To say no breaks our hearts every single time. We simply can’t have too many volunteers – this need is twofold; firstly, to maximise our availability, and secondly to minimise the impact upon our volunteers’ family and working lives. This is a literal case of many hands making light work.
In the 7 years since our launch, we have carried out almost 5000 sessions in more than 130 hospitals; we have appeared in local, national and international press talking about stillbirth and the significant contribution photographs can make to a family’s grief. We have achieved a great deal, but there is and will always be more to do. There is clearly a demand for what we do and feedback from parents and health professionals is overwhelmingly positive – we are clearly making a difference to grieving families on a daily basis; in fact, we are providing more than 3 sessions a day on average, meeting over a thousand families a year. We are also hearing from families to whom we have provided images who have since welcomed rainbow babies into the world, safe and sound. (Rainbow babies is the term used to describe those babies born following a loss.)
Remembrance Photography is not a new idea. In the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, when photography was still far from commonplace, grieving families would commission a photograph of a deceased family member which was often the only photograph of that family member, becoming one of their most precious possessions. This was not confined to babies and children, but these were the most common portraits to be taken.
In this visual age every arrival should be able to feature in the family photos no matter how brief their stay, and Remember My Baby hope to contribute images which parents feel comfortable sharing with family and friends.
To find out more about our service please visit www.remembermybaby.org.uk or find us on Facebook and Instagram.