The journey through grief takes many twists and turns. Thankfully, there are organizations like “Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep” to help parents navigate the rough waters surrounding the loss of a pregnancy or death of an infant. When Her View From Home decided to dedicate October 15 to grieving parents, lost pregnancies and infants, and those who care about them, it seemed appropriate to include information about this generous organization and its volunteers. I decided to research and locate a NILMDTS volunteer in Central Nebraska. Sonya Schultz was gracious and provided information about her work as well as her personal story, and why she chooses to give her time to grieving moms and dads.
A little about NILMDTS
To introduce remembrance photography to parents suffering the loss of a baby with a free gift of professional portraiture.
NILMDTS trains, educates, and mobilizes professional quality photographers to provide beautiful heirloom portraits to families facing the untimely death of an infant. We believe these images serve as an important step in the family’s healing process by honoring the child’s legacy.
Maddux Achilles Haggard was born on Feb. 4, 2005, with a condition called myotubular myopathy. It prevented him from breathing, swallowing or moving on his own. On the sixth day of his young life, his parents had to make the excruciating decision to take him off life support. But before they did, they called photographer Sandy Puc’ to take black and white portraits of them cradling their son. Puc’ photographed the couple with Maddux at the hospital before he was removed from life support and after — when he was free from the tubes and the wires that had sustained him.
“That night was the worst night of my life. But when I look at the images, I am not reminded of my worst night. I’m reminded of the beauty and blessings he brought.” Cheryl Haggard, Maddux’s mother and co-founder of NILMDTS
Those tender photographs documenting Maddux’s eternal connection with his parents inspired Cheryl Haggard and Sandy Puc’ to begin a nonprofit organization that has provided thousands of families of babies who are stillborn or are at risk of dying as newborns with free professional portraits with their baby.
Sandy and Cheryl founded the organization in April 2005 and called it Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep (NILMDTS) after the children’s bedtime prayer.
Since NILMDTS was founded, over 11,000 volunteers have been part of the network. NILMDTS reaches every state in the United States and has been or is present in 40 countries worldwide.
Sonya Schultz is a photographer from Wood River, NE and her studio is in Grand Island. I reahed out to Sonya and asked her to share in her own words about her inspiration, and what her volunteer work means to her.
Our story began almost 20 years ago when our 2nd daughter Paige was born on Oct 18th-1993. She was the biggest of our 4 kids weighing in at 9 lbs:) She was super healthy and thrived. I had taken her to the DR. on January 28th for her 3 month check and he said she was perfect. Just 3 days later she was gone. I remember the exact time I got a call, I remember what I had on, I remember throwing up and begging God not to take my baby. I remember running in the emergency room and I felt like my legs weren’t connected to my body. It was by far the worst day in our young lives. I can’t even describe the feeling of being told that your baby that you dropped off at the babysitters house at 7:30 was dead at 12:55.
We were able to keep Paige with us in the hospital chapel until our out of town family could get there. We took turns holding her and rocking her. As a mother I could not get past the point that I was supposed to be taking care if her and how could I leave her at the hospital. Life after Paige died was a blur- friends and relatives took turns helping with out 2 year old daughter Shelby. I remember having to buy a dress for her, pick out a cemetery plot and plan a funeral at the age of 25. Over the past 20 years we have tried to keep Paige’s memory alive in our hearts. We were lucky enough to have 2 sons after Paige and they talk about her like they knew her:)
I don’t have any pictures of me holding Paige. I was always the one taking the pictures. I guess I have always thought that if Paige picked me to be her mom so that I can help other parents who have suffered a similar loss then maybe I can make some sense of our loss. When I get called to the hospital to take pictures for a family it is hard but for some reason I can do it- maybe it because I know exactly the devastation they are feeling and I know the pictures will bring them some peace. Most of the time they don’t know I have lost a child so I just do my job and tell them I am so sorry. Losing a child is something that is with you your entire life- I can always find a spot for Paige in every family photo, days like when she should have started school, graduation day, college always stir up feelings of loss-we just miss out on so many plans we had for our kids. There is not a day in the past 20 years that I have not thought of her or said her name. I saw a quote once that has stuck with me and I try to live my life by it….
“Everyone has pain and suffering in their life but misery is optional.
I always feel bad when I see an obituary in the paper for someone who was preceded in death by their children. I always think- that poor mother or father and then I realize that my obit will say the same thing someday. I guess if I can help other parents and volunteer my time with NILMDTS to prove to myself that losing Paige can be turned in to something good and meaningful. In the end we are all supposed to be here to help other people and make a difference in someone’s life and I hope that is what I can do.
I think people need to realize that living your life after the loss of a child is a lifelong journey. You go on and you are happy but there is always a hole in your heart. Some days it’s a tiny hole and other days it feels like it is big enough for a river to run through it…but, it is always there.
The Her View from Home staff would like to thank Sonya Schultz for her contribution to Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Day. In addition, we would like to thank the parents of this lost little one for sharing one of the portraits that Sonya was able to create for them.
You may read more about Now I Lay Me Down To Sleep and Sonya Schultz Photography on the web.