Photograher: Elizabeth Mohr
Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep
The story of Andrei’s life is too long to recount here. Though he lived a mere nine months, he has had a lasting impact. Andrei is our first child. We exuberantly awaited his arrival while preparing our home and our lives for the shift to becoming a family. After nine long months the due date finally arrived and my excitement to meet our baby was overwhelming. Matt and I attended the due date checkup. Everything was good. The heartbeat was strong and baby passed the non-stress test with flying colors.
Four days later, I commented to Matt that I hadn’t felt the baby kick as much as usual. After trying a few tricks at home to incite movement, we headed to the hospital to meet our midwife. The nurses immediately rushed me into an examining room and put the Doppler on my abdomen. Matt and I held our breath waiting to hear the familiar thumping of our first child’s heartbeat. She searched all over my humungous overdue belly. Meanwhile she frantically called someone on the hospital phone.
A young doctor rolled an ultrasound machine in and set to it. There, on the screen, was our perfect baby - perfectly still. No heart beat. No blood flow. He was already gone.
With much sobbing and discussion, we decided to induce that evening. We labored through the night and Andrei was born late the following morning. He was absolutely perfect! I was so awed by the beautiful baby placed on my stomach that it was a full minute or two before I even thought to check if he was a boy or a girl. After some doting, Matt went to our duffle bag and pulled out our point-and-shoot camera. We took half a dozen photos and a short video. We admiringly checked out every feature and detail of his flawless body. There was no hesitation in consenting when we were given the option of calling “Now I Lay Me Down To Sleep photography.” A few hours after Andrei was born the photographer arrived and snapped many photos of our sweet boy, us as a family and even Andrei’s grandparents as they said hello and goodbye to their first grandchild.
In the pictures that we took ourselves, he looks…well…different. Perhaps it was the hours that had passed or the photographer’s touching up, regardless we cherish both sets of photos. The truth is you can never have too many photos of your baby. Additionally, we had the photos from our personal camera immediately whereas the professional pictures took a couple weeks to arrive. This provided the opportunity to share our beautiful baby with the family and friends who were excitedly anticipating his arrival but were unable to meet him at the hospital.
We are grateful for all of the mementos we have: his footprints, locks of hair, his tiny urn. But his photos show how heart-meltingly adorable he was and how many features mirror his father’s. They show us the sweet face we couldn’t wait to meet and that we miss so intently.
Our hope for the A Moment in Our Arms, Forever in Our Hearts camera program is to offer families a chance to capture the miracle that is their child. We recognize that some mothers arrive at the hospital in an emergent situation. They may not have had the leisure of grabbing their camera or perhaps they’re preterm and have not yet packed a hospital bag. Regardless of the circumstances, every family should be urged to take photos of their baby. Naturally they are in shock, but the window of opportunity to capture memories with their baby is very, very small. They can always decide later if they want to keep the pictures, however, they cannot go back and take more photos.
Based on the millions of bereaved parents who’ve come before them, they will most certainly opt to keep the photos. We will treasure Andrei’s photos for the rest of our lives. And we look forward to sharing his pictures with his future siblings.
Sincerely, Courtney Bajdas and Matthew Barnhardt - Bereaved parents of Andrei Skolikas Barnhardt
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