Working with the Child
before I go too much further. I do want to make it very clear at this point. There are some very graphic images coming up. That is why I sort of started with E, um, with the prerequisite of explaining that the majority of the babys we work with are perfect condition. They're just little babies who will or have passed away. But we do need to show you some of the other things. So if you are not comfortable with this part of the segment, we would understand if this was not something you wanted to watch. But some of these images will be very graphic, so just note that different situations you could walk into one of the more common situations in a rural area would be that the baby would be born. Still, most babies who are born in rural areas if they're in critical care need they will be flown or taken to a bigger, higher level hospital. So what happens is in small area small towns with smaller hospitals, the only time you'll be called is typically when somebody has had a still worn and ther...
e is nothing that can be done. And so again, your services may not be needed as often, and the majority of the babys you deal with will have already passed away. Like us in Denver, there are a lot there critical care hospitals for newborns. So babies, as Cheryl said, are flown from all over the world are I'm sorry all over the community from different states, and they all come to Denver. So we have a massive need in Denver. There many cities, Texas, there many cities that just have many big hospitals. And so your your level of work is gonna be very different. And you're gonna be dealing with babies connected to machines and different scenarios. Baby, That's born still, as was mentioned earlier. There are a few things that are pretty common. Their lips will be black. Typically, their fingernails will be dark or black. They can have separation of skin. It tends to tear around the eyes in the lip area so they can have small tearing around the crevices that could have entire pieces of skin missing. We'll talk about how to handle that later. One of the other things that is a little startling when you do this is and I remember the very first time that's happened to me. We'll talk about holding and caring and moving the baby. But in the beginning, remember, I had no advice and the nurses assumed I knew what I was doing. And I do remember the first time I picked up a child that had passed. And as I cradled his head, babies before they're born, they're their school is not fused. They're in separate pieces. There are three separate pieces. And when I picked him up, they move. There is the bones actually move. They're separated in depending on how long the baby has passed, They could be very almost feels gelatinous. And it it feels very uncouple. You can feel and definitely touch that cracking sensation. And so, of course, that could be a little startling. And we like to warn our photographers that that is a possibility with a stillborn, that their bones do become soft and they do move a little bit. So those are a few things that I think are are definitely the most the most obvious. Right out of the gate you will work a lot with babies on life support. If you're in especially If you're in a big community with lots of hospitals, these babies can be hooked up to a lot of monitors. Some cannot be moved at all from their beds and a few of them can be moved. Many of them could be moved to have a parent hold them. However, the nurses do all of that. They're not gonna let you pick up this baby, and they're very careful with how they manage that. So so keep that in mind. This is a very typical of what we work with, and we'll talk later about what should you leave in the image? What should you remove as photographers were documenting what's happening? And so those tubes and wires we're not going to read. You recommend removing them and retouching and rebuilding facial structures. That is what the situation is in the moment. Then, of course, there's the mid gestation loss. These are the little ones. These air, the workers and up. We do handle babies that are less than 25 weeks. You can see they're extremely tiny and extremely fragile. I have seen 18 workers that were perfectly formed babies from head to toe. I have also, unfortunately, seen babies in that gestation ranges that are not and as as older gestations, that are not in good condition, and that has to do a lot with when they passed away. If they are born still and they were early gestation, they tend Teoh deteriorate faster. If they were born alive and struggled but were able to stay alive for a period of time, they tend to be able Teoh maintain their features a little bit longer. So so this is one I think that's always startling. It's if you've never seen a baby that fits in the palm of your hand. It is pretty amazing to imagine a little little baby like that. But that is something that from about 25 week, 25 weeks on are the age ranges that we typically deal with. Now. This is one that, as I mentioned, some of these images will get very graphic but severe deformities. This is something that you will run across there many, many, many conditions that are incompatible with wife, and unfortunately I learned them one at a time. Having served these families on SF, really, they're different conditions, high drops, different things that will cause the baby's shape to change on A 70. Babies can be born without their entire school, so they will be missing the skull. The brain will show. Most are missing from the eyebrows up, some underneath the eyebrows, so you'll have the actual eyeballs and the brain exposed. So many of those babies we can cover with hats. Some of those babies we complete. We keep completely wraps. During the session, we photographed their hands and the feet and mom and dad holding the babies and loving the babies and the babies. Facial features may never be seen really depends on each condition. The baby. I don't know the medical term. I'm sorry, but the baby in the centre image I know, the nurse told me. It's called Cyclops Syndrome, but it has a medical term. This baby is born without eyes and has that small cavity through the center. But as you can see, there are many different things. Some are things that you could never imagine, and each baby again is a beautiful, perfect baby to that family and and they're going through. They have gone through the process. Some of them know in advance that this is gonna happen. Some of them are completely unaware until the baby's born. And so there is that energy of everybody trying to understand a terminal diagnosis. Those are the hardest for us. I think, for me, at least, because the's air families who did not typically do not know that their baby is going to pass very much like Cheryl when she went to the hospital. You know, diaper bag and ready to have a baby in a nursery at home. And so many of these parents were blindsided from the birth of their child. Their baby may have a stress and situation and eventually maybe diagnosed with a terminal condition that they will not survive. Ah, summer output on life support and the parents have to go through the process then of deciding to remove life support. And there is a process. And I've worked with enough families to know that that decision alone is just heart wrenching. Some people, it takes a very long time many days to make that decision. Some people want it to happen very quickly because they understand that there is nothing that can be done and so that each family will go through different stages. Some will want us right away because they've made that decision and others will hang on and hang on and the babys due start to deteriorate a little bit, but they just aren't ready to say goodbye. So So these diagnosis are hard for me because I know that these parents are just very shell shocked and, um, are going through this. Some of the babies can hang on for quite a long time, so working with the hospitals and getting that information on when it's appropriate time and there, it's a time between the parents acknowledging this and processing that and before the baby is really deteriorating toe where it can't be done now, live births are also conditions that again, there are a lot of times where a baby is born and they look perfectly normal. I know that the hardest session probably ever in my life, surprisingly enough was a baby that was absolutely beautiful. There was no wires, no tubes, nothing attached to this child. She was the perfect little girl. And when I went to the hospital, they explained to me that she was born without a brain, and so her body would function, she could live. She could grow. She could definitely. Her body could grow. But without a brain, she would never have a life at all. She would never move. She would never do anything. And so it's hard because I spoke to that mom and I tried to stay out of it. But I could tell the mom wanted to give me information. And the mom was terrified because in her mind, you know, she had to let this baby go. But this baby, it's a slow process because it's not like they can take him off life support. They just have to let the baby pass away. And I just remember thinking, You know, how I just wanted to grab that baby and take that. Maybe home because she could cry. She could, you know, make sucking motions. She, even though she had no her, she had no brain that would want her to eat. That would even require that she need food. She would still make the motions. If you touched her cheek, she would turn in and would want to eat. And I could never imagine Sorry what that poor mom would have to go through watching the end of that situation. So So there are babies that are perfect condition that would be just like a regular newborn session. But again, the parent is dealing with something that is just almost impossible to imagine. When we're in the session, we want to make sure we've talked about it a little bit, but really important to use the baby's name when you walk in there. This is a really child, this somebody's baby. And instead of hammer her, it would be, you know, Baby Jane, baby Joey, Whatever it is, you want to make sure that you're talking to the baby, I spend a lot of time whispering to the baby as I'm going, I speak to them as if they're really there. Even if they passed, I'll say, Oh, my goodness, sweetie, you look at those little fingers. You look so beautiful. Look at your toes, you know, and I find, especially when a parent is very uncomfortable and they don't want to hold their own child. That those kind of conversations that creating that sort of an experience helps them connect more, too. I know personally somebody who I love dearly that when she lost her child, she did not want to see or hold her child. And I know today, even today she regrets that. But at the time it was if she was saying, This is not happening to me and you have to I think we have an incredible opportunity to break down that barrier and whether they choose to hold the baby or not. Acknowledging the baby is really an amazing thing for those families. For them to see somebody love their baby outside of the hospital. Experience is really amazing as well. We try to focus on all the little details. In some cases, there isn't a lot to work with. In most cases there are beautiful babies, so the fingers, the hands, the lips, the years capturing every little part. We speak very quietly and we're very respectful. Sometimes you're in rooms where there are other families right outside a curtain. Other times you're afforded the luxury of a private room, which is a little nicer if possible. We work very gently. We do. If we have to move the baby, we can. That is something that each photographer has to make a choice. There um, we recommend that you have nurse. In fact, we require that you have a parent or nurse present. But if you're moving or adjusting the baby, you can ask a nurse and nurses who have worked with us. They just get in and do the job. Now they just kind of they tell us what the best poses are. But if you're in a situation where it's new to a hospital, you you know, when I started this, I had no. And I still to this day have no problem lifting, moving, posing a baby, no matter what the condition. But not all of our photographers are comfortable with that. And if they feel like they would prefer not to touch the baby, it's not offensive. You just need to ask the nurse Say, I would prefer that you pose the baby If I could, you know, tell you what to do. Would you be willing to do that? And the nurses air absolutely there to help you, and they're willing to do that. Do keep in mind there busy. You need to be efficient. They can't spend an hour with a family posing a baby. They need you have 15 minutes to minutes. If you're gonna need that kind of assistance, do show empathy. And I think we talked a lot about that as well as our goal is to capture the beauty of the moment. Originally, I was trying to hide what was going on with the backdrops in the clothing and everything, and now I tend to find that and we recommend this that we're not trying to hide the experience. However, using shallow depths of fields and using particular types of lighting, we can lessen the look in the field. We can throw everything into the dark so we can really get those very strong emotional images without showcasing the machines and the wires and all of the things going on there. We've mentioned it. I cannot even scream it from the rooftops. How important backing up your files are. This is critical, this thes air People's Onley, heirlooms of their child. And as I said sadly, there have been very, very few cases and all of them were accidental. Nobody's ever intentionally hurt a family, but just to imagine that you could have done something that maybe if you would have done something you would have been able to save that. You just do not want to have that kind of sadness in your heart. So you want to not only download the images, you want to confirm that they've actually made it on. My suggestion is burn it to a CD as quick as possible, so you have them on a hard drive and on a CD. If, in case something happens and the turnaround time that we require for our photographers is four weeks, our preference is a few days or a week. Um, I know that the families are literally watching their phones, waiting for that call or trying to wait for the for those images. So just imagine that every day that goes by that they don't have them. They're they're just desperate to see those images because the last time they saw the baby was pretty close to when you worked with them. And so this is their chance to see their beautiful baby again. So So try very hard. In fact, we require that you stay within the four weeks, but our preferences, of course, the sooner the better when working with them. Now, when it comes to lighting imposing. There are many tools that you can use to do this type of work. There is no requirement. We do require that you have skill sets. That includes several lighting styles. However, when I started, the first session was shell. I brought in big strobes and lighting stands and four people, and I was nervous and didn't know what to do. We had definitely do not recommend those items anymore. Most of our photographers use hand held units there, either flash or a continuous light or something very small that they can handhold. We we do. Our goal is professional portraiture, so on camera flashes not a preferred method. However, in some rooms it's I've had to do it on an emergency case. I've had to use fluorescence above. I've had to use the Billy Rubin lights. I mean, we definitely have had to make choices when there is nothing. You know there are no other options, but most of the sessions, if you have a handhold device, a flash ah, flash with a soft box, that would be appropriate. Definitely, if you can put some sort of diffuser diffusion on your flash to give it a softer, broader light would be good. Natural light is an option in some cases. But remember, you have no idea what room you're walking into, so it could be that you're walking into hospital room with big windows. It could be a very dark room with lots of babies and lots of curtains and and you just really never know. So so we recommend that you come prepared with two light sources. In my case, we bring ah, bigger flash unit and then I have small flashes in my camp camera bags. Most photographers will have a backup flash or small led lights, and there's just a lot of options out there. It's really amazing how far lighting technology has come even in the last seven years. And so, you know, be prepared. Worst case scenario, you're going to use the overhead hospital lights. We really don't recommend that we're very meticulous about choosing our photographers because we want them to have excellent skills. I feel like personally that the overhead lights we all know if your photographer you know the rules, that overhead you're gonna have shadows and and you know, there's color casts and things like that and our goal is to avoid that. But even myself, I've had to do that in extreme cases, so be prepared to work with those.