Three years ago I picked up a camera with one goal in mind. We were starting a family and was determined to avoid paying a professional photographer to take photos that I thought I could learn to achieve on on my own. I was quickly bitten by the photography bug and when we fell pregnant on Mother’s Day 2009 everything seemed to be falling into place. I was gifted a brand new Nikon d90 and upon the baby’s arrival I was confident I’d be able to capture beautiful squishy newborn portraits of our bundle of joy.
I never expected that things would go terribly wrong.
At our 20 week sonogram a red flags were raised and we were alarmingly referred to a high risk practice to have them investigated. The vivid memories of our trip to that high risk office will haunt me until the day I die. The technician called us back and rushed us through a series of sonogram photos. She was rough on my belly, she pressed a little to intensely, I could feel our baby kick the technician back as if staying “Stop!”. I wanted her to stop too. Finally she left. Minutes dragged on like hours.
Then, the doctor finally walked in and broke the silence with 5 little words that would change our world forever: “Your baby has multiple problems”.
Without stopping for air, he continued to spout out medical jargon about this syndrome and that syndrome. Things we had never even heard of before. He listed off the numerous organs our baby was missing one by one. So cold. So heartless. We left the office numb, dazed, and confused. That evening, as I googled every little snippet of medical jargon our doctor threw around that day I knew what was coming next.
That’s when I broke down in a river of tears for the first time.
We sought a 2nd opinion at Children’s Hospital in Washington DC where a fatal diagnosis was confirmed. Our daughter Bella’s defects were 1 in 20,000. No one expects to be the 1 in 20,000, but somehow the devastating baby loss lottery struck us at 20 weeks pregnant.
Our lives were forever changed.
Bella Rose was stillborn on September 11th, 2009. When we arrived home from the hospital empty handed and broken hearted, flowers began to arrive in mass quantities. I was looking to busy my mind and my hands and I sought a way to collect the beauty of Bella’s blooms and preserve them for when I could truly appreciate them. That’s when I remembered I had her camera. The oneI intended to be used to to take beautiful images of newborn Bella to fill our walls with canvas and framed prints in our home.
Instead, I picked up Bella’s camera after she died and used it to capture a glimpse into my fragile heart. And then, a magical thing happened.
I discovered photography to be an incredible tool in my healing and I started to shift my perspective. I uncovered small bits of beauty in my broken world. I celebrated the little accomplishments, even something a simple as getting out of bed in the morning. I made it my daily meditation to visually express gratitude for what I did still have left in my life. I blogged images and words that revealed my most private feelings of loneliness and failure after losing an unborn child. But, I also shared how photography was allowing me to experience emotions more fully, learn about myself, and heal my soul.
Do you have a special image you’ve taken that has helped you on a healing journey? I’d love it if you’d share it here today. Let’s celebrate the magical powers of photography in soothing our souls when they are hurting.
Guest blogger, Beryl Ayn Young, serves as chief photography muse over on her personal blog and serves as teacher of the Illuminate Photography e-course, designed especially for moms who have lost a baby due to stillbirth, miscarriage, or infant loss. She believes in nourishing the soul with lifelong learning, photographic healing, & a glass half full perspective. Beryl photography classes and mentoring aimed at teaching you how to improve your camera skills and cherish life’s journey.