For those of you who don’t know, Remember my baby is a national charity which provides the gift of remembrance photography to parents of babies who pass away before, during or shortly after birth.
I wanted to write this blog post about to tell you all why I volunteer as a photographer.
Why I volunteer
On the 30th September 1976 my mum gave birth to a baby girl who they called Joanne. She was born with a mop of Jet black hair & a slight cleft lip. Unfortunately, Joanne was born with severe internal abnormalities and only lived for 2 hours.
My parents were devastated; back then there was no support like we have today in the form of Chesterfield SANDS and no mobile phones, let alone camera phones. In fact cameras back in those days weren’t something everyone had.
Growing up, my older sister Laura and I were always told about our big sister Joanne. When I was little and had fallen out (as sisters often do) with Laura, I would imagine what Joanne would be like and how we would be close and how she would be nice to me. I didn’t need an imaginary friend; I had my angel sister to play with.
The thing that always stuck in my mind was my mum saying that she never had one photo of Joanne.
As a Professional Newborn Photographer, as soon as I heard about Remember my Baby I knew instantly it was something I wanted to do, and really something that I had to do. I couldn’t give my parents a photo of the baby girl they had so tragically lost, but I could give that gift to other parents who had suffered the same loss.
My First Session
After receiving the email that a session was required, I panicked. It was my first session and it was going to be a solo session. I’d never even seen a dead person, and now I would be photographing a tiny deceased baby. With RMB we always try and let volunteer photographers shadow an experienced RMB photographer so that they can see how they will cope and how to handle the session. They provide a training day, where you go along and talk all about what happens during sessions and are shown photos from previous sessions. Even after having this, I was still nervous.
Unfortunately, Nicky Heppenstall, one of the co founders of Remember My Baby, who is my was area coordinator as well as my nearest experienced RMB photographer, was unavailable to attend the session. I wasn’t willing to let the fact that I was terrified get in the way of me giving the parents this small gift. So after a quick phone call to Nicky, who talked me through everything, I was ready to go.
The session went as planned & when I was ready to leave, mum gave me a big hug and a massive bunch of flowers. She was so grateful for the service and couldn’t believe it was totally free.
I left the hospital feeling sad for the loss of this beautiful baby girl, but so happy that I could help bring a little bit of comfort to the family. I had a debrief on the phone with Nicky when i got home and could pour out my emotions to her. RMB is very supportive to its members and even have a counsellor on board should you wish to talk to someone professionally.
Up to now (October 2018) I have completed 31 sessions for Remember My Baby, at Chesterfield Royal Hospital, Sheffield Children’s Hospital, Barnsley Hospital, Kings Mill Hospital, Derby & Doncaster Hospital.
Im now regional coordinator for the East Midlands, and both coordinate sessions and photograph them as well as helping out where I can at any shows and hospital conference days.
The charity was started in 2015 and we have just celebrated our 4th anniversary. We now have over 292 volunteer photographers & 24 Digital Retouchers, but we need more.
We now have 4 local photographers covering Chesterfield, Sheffield & Worksop, which is amazing and they are all amazing in every way. We can’t cover it all by Ourselves. Likewise, there are other areas which don’t even have cover. Quite often one of our volunteers will travel quite a distance from their own location to make sure we covered a session. Unfortunately, this isn’t always possible and we have to inform a family we have no one available. This is something we hate doing and it can really upset us.
If you have been thinking of joining but don’t think you would cope, my advice is, just do it. The fear is always worse than the reality and those few hours of discomfort you may feel are nothing compared to what the parents are going through. In giving your time, you will be doing something so amazing for them.
To find out more about Remember My Baby or to volunteer as a photographer please visit their website www.remembermybaby.org.uk.
Other bereavement services in the local area:
Special Care foetal Cremations offer a specialised individual cremation with return of all ashes of babies lost through miscarriage pre 24 weeks gestation. www.specialcarecremations.co.uk
Chesterfield SANDS www.chesterfieldsands.co.uk
SANDS main charity www.uk-sands.org
Just a couple of photos (by kind permission form the parents) from one of my sessions: