(Photo shared with permission from Lorie Kesl)
In 2006 I heard my very favorite photographer, Sandy Puc, speak at a convention. At the end she told us about a nonprofit she had formed with Cheryl Haggard called Now I Lay Me Down To Sleep (NILMDTS) They needed photographers to volunteer to take the only professional portraits of babies that never get to go home from the hospital.
I thought that sounded like such a beautiful service as the tears slid down my cheeks. Certainly not something I could ever do though. I wear my emotions on my sleeve.
The following year I heard Sandy speak again. At the end, she again talked about the need for NILMDTS photographers. I decided to sign up in my area and hoped I would never get a call. I signed up and no calls. I was relieved that that sort of thing apparently wasn't happening in Waterloo, Iowa.
At a session a few months later I was telling one of my favorite clients, Lorie Kesl about how I had signed up. We were doing Kamden's 2-year portraits. Since Lorie was pregnant we did some pregnancy photos too.
A couple months later I got a call late at night from Lorie's sister in law, Jamie. Jamie was also one of my favorite clients and I wasn't sure why she would be calling so late. She told me that Lorie had delivered Maggie and she was stillborn and Lorie wanted pictures like I had told her about.
My heart sank. We already had scheduled Maggie's newborn session and this could not be happening. Not to someone I knew! I did Lorie's session that night and meeting Maggie changed me. She was so perfect and beautiful.
After the session, I saw how the portraits I took were so important in the healing of their family. I started to visit and educate the hospitals in my area about NILMDTS. I found out that those kinds of tragedies occur and they didn't know about us. After that, I got calls on a pretty regular basis. Before I moved to Peoria in 2009 I had 3 consecutive Fridays I had a session. It was heartbreaking.
It's hard work but I know it's why I am meant to be a photographer. I can give families a priceless gift that they can never repay. But they do repay it and never know. In seeing how they heal, in their lifelong friendship and in seeing the things they do to honor their babies. I have gotten so much from my volunteer work. I feel like meeting these families and these angels has been such a gift.
Our organization has really grown. From just photographers to now having roles for non-photographers. Positions like session dispatcher to take calls and line up a photographer and assistant to positions raising community awareness so no family goes home without our gift to recruiting volunteers to help us find more photographers willing to help. We need more volunteers in the Peoria area. I bet every area feel the same so if you aren't in Peoria you can help in your area. Please feel free to check out the positions online and see if one might be a good fit for you. Contact me with any questions.
Please, share my post so we can make everyone aware of our services! I hear every day from people who have never heard of us and I wish for everyone to know we are here for families who need us.
Jenni Williams Photography is a Certified Professional Family Portrait Photographer in Peoria, Illinois specializing in preserving your family's memories in photographic prints and wall art.