Today my thoughts are with a beautiful family who have had a really tough year. It is the first birthday of their treasured Harry. He died just moments after he was born. Mary and Johnny knew their darling boy wouldn’t be with us for very long, and they asked me to come and photograph their newborn son soon after he passed away.
A few years ago I helped Val Isherwood set up the Tigerlily Trust, a charity to support bereaved new parents. Helping parents who have lost their baby through neonatal death, stillbirth and miscarriage on the road to healing. I have been on their books offering this complementary service ever since.
When we were making plans to create these portraits, they asked if I had done this for many other bereaved parents. The truth is it has been talked about and planned a number of times, but this was actually the first time that I had the call.
I think I got the call on this occasion because I already had a relationship with the parents. I had photographed their wedding and maternity photo shoot, I was not some unknown entity intruding on this precious short time with their son.
On the day I wasn’t with them for long. Just long enough to use all my skills to make a small collection to capture their treasured fleeting moments with their son. The portraits are beautiful and timeless and a celebration that Harry was here, and part of their lives.
Providing this service is all very close to my heart because my first daughter Chloe was stillborn. She showed me how fragile and fleeting life is and how precious a photograph can be.
Coping with the Loss
One of the toughest parts of losing your baby so early is that no one else knew them. You have had all these months to build your bond; singing, talking, and planning with them. Love beyond anything you could ever comprehend growing as they do, every day. And then suddenly, just like that, they are gone. Then you are left with a nothingness that no one else can understand.
This is why marking their little bit of time on this world is so valuable to healing and why what Val does at Tigerlily is so important.
The Treasure of Photography
I hope the photographs I have created help a little on their long road to healing. Twenty-two years on, my own photographs of Chloe are some of my most treasured possessions. They weren’t made with a portrait photographers skill. They are point and shoot images that are blunt, sad and macabre. I am very glad that I was able to use my skills to create something beautiful for Mary and Johnny. The images that I made can be displayed and won’t need to be hidden away.
Having the opportunity to provide this service has shown me I should be sharing my skills in this way more often. Sadly many more people lose their baby each year than you might realise. So I’ll be going back to Val to work out how we can offer this service in a better way and show that it’s value far out ways the intrusion.
Honouring a Little Life
Mary and Johnny have directed their grief into fundraising this year. Over the past few months they have honoured Harry’s little life by raising an amazing £10,000 for Tigerlily and Lancaster Royal Infirmary. Today they are hosting a tea party in baby Harry’s memory with a final fundraising auction.