This is the longest I’ve ever thought about a blog post before I wrote it. I want this blog to be about Elyse, who is beautiful and sweet. But it can’t only be about her, I can’t think of Elyse without thinking of Maggie, her older sister. As a newborn photographer, a Rainbow Baby is always just a tiny bit extra special.
Last May I went to “Third Thursday” in Downtown Summerville, a weekly food truck festival with vendors peddling their wares.
I stared at the woman’s face a little too long. I had just moved to Summerville from Mt. Pleasant. I knew no one, but I knew her. She looked my age… she had curls like me. I liked her outfit. And I recognized her husband too? My mind suddenly went back to the hospital room where we met.
Do I say hi? Do I hug them? Are we friends? Should I leave them alone? They look like it took every ounce of their being just to be outdoors, hunched over, pretending to enjoy a meal from a food truck. I decided to keep walking. I didn’t want to be a reminder of the worst day of their lives. I was the photographer that photographed their beautiful daughter, Margaret. Margaret did not get to leave the hospital with them, she was born full term without a heartbeat.
I volunteer for Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep. The hospital calls our area coordinator whenever there is a family in need of a photographer. I hesitate and wrestle with sharing this with people. One, because I get some strange reactions from people who don’t “get it”. I pray they never have to “get it.” Two, I’m not patting myself on the back, I don’t do it to promote my business, I would hate for someone to think that’s why I do it. I know that meeting, holding, and photographing these babies is a privilege. Sometimes even family members don’t get the opportunity. It means a lot to me. I’m thankful that my job allows me to do something meaningful. I’m glad I get to help people. I’m glad there is something positive I can do in someone’s worst hour. Sometimes the families don’t understand why someone would want pictures of a baby that has passed, but when the pictures are the only thing you have, you understand. Personally I have only known friends that have miscarried early on, but it still feels devastating not to be able to do something for them. I do this because I can.
I was surprised to get an email from Emily…
“You took our sweet Maggie’s photos in May of 2019. I am emailing because my husband and I are pregnant again and we are due in July. We are having another baby girl. We also currently have a foster son, and I would like him to be in some of the photos as well in case we are able to adopt him. I like the idea of having you do them because you met our sweet Maggie, and that is very special to me.”
Incorporating Maggie “touches” into both the maternity and newborn photos was such a special way to include her and recognize her status as “Big Sister!”
Because of Covid, we did a consultation via Zoom instead of in person. It lasted two hours. I was interested to hear how the past year had been for them. She mentioned that she had seen me once at “Third Thursday”. I embarrassingly admitted that I had seen them too. She agreed with me that it took all her energy just to be outside that day. The more we talked the more we began to realize that my husband and I had just bought a house in the same neighborhood. We were still under contract so I hadn’t moved in yet, we then realized she could see my backyard from her house! We are neighbors!
I never knew that the term “Rainbow Baby” is disliked by some. Well, actually I know now, because I follow Emily’s blog, Still Our Maggie. A “Rainbow Baby” is a term for a baby born after a loss. At the most basic level it implies the first baby was a storm, and the second baby is the beautiful rainbow. I understand that the implication without context is not true or welcome.
But to quote Emily’s blog again…
It recognizes that a “rainbow baby” isn’t “the rainbow after the storm,” he/she is something beautiful and full of hope that is happening simultaneously while parents are still weathering the storm that comes from losing their precious baby…
For me, I think using the phrase “rainbow baby” has given me some hope and light in the midst of all the storm clouds that still hover over me. This allows me to smile and think about Margaret with joy as well because she is going to be a big sister.
Two of my favorite things that I offer, are the box of matted prints, and the small box of 4×6 prints. It makes me happy to deliver finished prints! One box for the wall, one box for sharing! You have finished artwork straight from me, plus the digitals to print yourself. (We are neighbors so this part is super convenient!
You can store all your pictures in the back and display them when you are ready! Or just let people browse when they come over. It’s like a functional baby book!
In a few of the pictures “Maggie Bear” is featured. Maggie Bear weighs the same amount as Maggie at birth, 5lbs 10oz. These bears are made by two different companies, Molly Bears and Healing Embrace. They allow families to have someone to hold, hug, and love while navigating their grief after loss. I love that we were able to get some sister pictures this way!
(I know it’s hard to see, but Elyse’s headband says “Little Sister!”)
Maybe the hearts look a little silly, but for foster children it’s important to protect their privacy. They have their own lives and stories to tell. They get to decide how much of their story they want to share, I don’t get to do that for them. There are people out there that love these children and could potentially be hurt to see them with another family. The hearts are there to protect the children and quite literally to protect the hearts of others.
I wish I could show you his face! He did such a good job being sweet and gentle with her.
Who doesn’t love a good before and after shot!?
Dad has a sweet tattoo for his daughter “Magpie”. I love that Elyse reached out to her sister on her own. No help from me!
Mom’s necklace has Maggie’s hand and footprints, and emerald birthstone.
Margaret’s death has been the most devastating experience of my life, and her death is unexplained. She falls into the category where 60 percent of stillbirths are unexplained.
I was never educated on the importance of keeping track of fetal movement during the third trimester, but I strongly believe that if I had been, Margaret would be here with us today.
I want to honor her every day of my life, and I want her brief life to make a difference for others. Through my work with Count the Kicks, I will be able to honor Margaret in a beautiful way. I am excited to educate expectant mothers, families, and medical professionals in South Carolina about Count the Kicks.https://www.countthekicks.org/team/emily-mcconnell/
Emily is now an ambassador for Count the Kicks. “Healthy Birth Day, Inc. is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization dedicated to the prevention of stillbirth and infant death through education and outreach focused on tracking fetal movement in the third trimester of pregnancy.”
Thanks for reading!
Email me , and let’s chat about your newborn photo session.