Currently, in the United States, there are 26,000 stillbirths annually; and 6,000- 10,000 of all live births are afflicted with defects severe enough to cause neonatal death. A non-profit organization called Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep (NILMDTS) offers free services that assist families facing these types of tragedies and helps them in the grieving process.
The group says their mission is to introduce remembrance photography to parents suffering the loss of a baby with a free gift of professional portraiture.
On their website they say that their organization trains, educates and organizes professional photographers to provide what they describe as ‘beautiful heirloom portraits’ to families facing the untimely death of an infant. They say, “We believe these images serve as an important step in the family’s healing process by honoring the child’s legacy.”
According to the Daily Mail, NILMDTS has boomed in popularity since launching in the USA ten years ago and boasts 1,650 volunteers in 40 countries across the globe, who offer their services. In April 2005, Cheryl Haggard founded the organization after she had to make the excruciating decision to take her newborn son, Maddux Achilles Haggard, off life support.
Maddux was born with a condition called myotubular myopathy, which prevented him from breathing, swallowing or moving on his own. However, before removing the equipment that kept him alive, they called photographer Sandy Puc to take pictures of them cradling their son.They even took some photographs when Maddux “was free from the tubes and the wires that had sustained him.”
Cheryl said, “That night was the worst night of my life. But when I look at the images, I am not reminded of my worst night. I’m reminded of the beauty and blessings he brought.”
Named after the children’s bedtime prayer, Now I Lay Me Down To Sleep provides families of babies who are stillborn or extremely ill newborns with free professional portraits.
They said about the service: ‘Photographs are one of the most precious and tangible mementos that a parent can have, showing the love and bond that was given and shared with their baby.
‘These portraits will last for generations, and will honor and remember a tiny life that is forever loved and cherished.’
In one testimonial on their website, a couple explained how their final family portrait helped them grieve. ‘On Saturday March 17, 2012 around 10:45 am, we said hello and good-bye to our beloved son.
‘It is shocking to know that he is physically no longer with us. Yet we are glad that your organization exists and was able to provide us a lifetime of memories through the baby pictures taken of him.
‘We are so grateful and thank God that we have these pictures to forever treasure our baby angel. May God continue to bless you as you bless and help families through their difficult time.’