Stillbirth is Still Birth
These are the word written by mother, Erin. She shares the delicate story of saying hello and goodbye to her perfect baby boy Henry. We share this story in hopes to comfort and educate the world that Stillbirth is Still Birth.
I had always known I wanted to have a professional birth photographer take pictures of my labor and delivery. I was obsessed with the amazing moments that can be captured, that pass by so quickly, as I have seen in my profession as a labor and delivery nurse. At first, my husband was skeptical and nervous about having a stranger in the room but thankfully he agreed after some discussion. We researched online and asked friends and ended up meeting and hiring a birth photographer who lived pretty close to where we were planning to deliver, the hospital that I worked at.
Unfortunately, our pregnancy ended in a horrible tragedy. We found out at 38 weeks and 4 days that our baby had died inside of me. There is no way to really convey the intense emotions we experienced from that point on, including the ones that arose within me knowing I would have to face an induction of labor and give birth to our lifeless child. Everything was just so wrong about all of it. I knew immediately that more than ever did I want those photos. They would be almost all we would be able to bring home with us from this day. It was very important to me. So I texted her and explained the situation and asked if she would still be willing to come. She said she would but admitted she had never photographed a stillbirth before. She asked how we would feel about having someone else who had experience with this come instead. I said that was fine with me but doubted that she would be able to find someone last minute. She texted me back very shortly after and said that Brianna Waltman, who lived in Corinna, about an hour and a half away, was absolutely willing to come and photograph our child’s birth, and to call her anytime day or night when labor had begun. I couldn’t really believe it but was just very grateful.
Labor took a while to get going, as is typical for a first-time induction, but once my water broke things got intense immediately! At some point, I think my husband thought of calling Bri and asking her to head our way when she could. I don’t know what time it was when she showed up and I don’t even really remember her being there until right before I was about to start pushing I looked up and saw someone I had never met before and I asked her, “Are you the photographer?” She said, “Yeah hi, I’m Bri!” It made me chuckle but within a minute I had something else to focus on, pushing out our son. She was so inconspicuous and not distracting at all, which I really appreciated. Everything about what happened that day was so wrong and awful and scary and painful, but when it came time to push him out, it was like time slowed down and it was the most beautiful moment of my life, sacred. I felt so much connection to my son, even though his life was already gone. I talked to him and touched his head when it began to emerge and I felt so extremely present in that moment with him. My midwife guided my hands to his body and helped me to deliver him into my own hands as I lifted him onto my stomach. I held him close like that, feeling so much intense love for him I felt like I should have been able to love him back to life. My husband told me that he was a boy; we didn’t know ahead of time. I instantly knew his name was Henry, my sweet Henry boy. It was a moment of pure joy and utter heartbreak that I will never, ever forget.
Later when we got the photos that Bri had taken, we just sobbed as we looked through them. They were so incredibly beautiful and allowed me to really solidify that special moment in my mind. Seeing my sweet husband’s loving support and his tender looks and touches warmed me to the core, as I wasn’t necessarily aware of them in the moment. These pictures are some of our most precious possessions now and several are displayed around our house, as we think about and talk about Henry every day. Having your child die inside of you at the very end is something I wish no parent ever had to go through. But if you do, I highly recommend taking as many pictures as possible, of the baby and the family, and I really, truly hope that you are able to have someone as talented and special as Brianna to take them.