Friday, May 15, 2015

Bereavement Photos

I recently read a CafeMom article about a woman who is suing a hospital for photographing her deceased 16 day old premature son and then mailing the envelop of photos to her. You can read the article at the link below.
The mother said she told the hospital she did not want photos taken of her baby son and that she was devastated and that the developing of these photos was done at the local Walgreen's allowing many people access to them. She is upset they took a total of 154 photos in 20 different poses. She is suing for "Desecrating a Corpse".

.   I lost my beautiful little girl, Olivia thirty minutes after her birth.  The hospital I had her in did not have a bereavement photographer, so the only pictures I have of my baby are the standard hospital photo, (one single pose),  and then one photo that my adult daughter took of her in her casket.  Both photos are framed and in my living room with the pictures of my other children.  My husband and I were not in the right mind or condition to think about taking any snapshots of us holding her....this deeply saddens me.  Two pictures of her are all I have and will ever have.  
Some people may think it's odd I cherish those photos...but they are all I have left of Olivia...I don't have a collection of memories, or anything else.  The hurt of losing her is still as fresh at this moment as it was 4½ years ago.  A piece of me is forever missing....but those two photos give me comfort, I can look at them and see her beautiful, perfect, tiny little face. 

I understand we all grieve differently, but someday I am willing to bet, this mother will find comfort in those pictures and she will appreciate the fact they were taken. 

I saw some comments about the fact she probably has photos of him alive in the NICU....I am also the mother of a preemie and the photos of her taken in the NICU at the beginning of her life are of a teeny little baby, barely visible underneath all kinds of wires and tubes.

When you have a tiny premature baby,  it's not like the baby is  just there in a hospital crib where you can hold and see it and bask in the joy of motherhood, the NICU is a very sad and scary place.

It's also totally different with a newborn than in the author’s example of her Grandmother.....when you lose a newborn infant, you are denied all the memories and wonderful pictures of the person you love and adored in happy and great times.   We only had 30 minutes with Olivia alive, and those 30 minutes were used by the doctors trying to save her…neither my husband or I were given the chance to hold her and look into her crystal blue eyes and see life, or feel her heartbeat against our chests, or any of the other things new parents take for granted every day and do not even realize are treasured gifts.   
With my Preemie, Marygrace, she was 4 weeks and 2 days old before I was even able to hold her for the very first time because she was so sick and fragile....if she had passed on like the baby in the story after just 16 days, it's not like there would have been wonderful memories or heartwarming photos of us together.  There would have just been memories of her struggling to breathe even with the help of a ventilator and photos of her basically hidden under all of those tubes and wire.  So, again, I would have cherished the bereavement photos as they would have been photos of my baby without tubes, wires, and machines, photos of her beautiful face that I would not have even clearly seen until after she had passed.

 Finally, I don't understand parents that sue over things like received because my child was deceased would never spend well.   I am always dumbfounded when I hear of parents suing for their child's death.  When my baby girl died I could have sued her death was partly due to the negligence of the high risk OB doctor.  Different people in my life tried to encourage me to sue, but I had zero desire to, I did not want money for my baby's death. I would never and could not even if I tried, spend money that I gained in that way.  Suing would not have brought Olivia back, it would not have taken away our grief so there was no reason to even consider it.
What I did do though, was contact our state medical license board and file a complaint on that doctor's record, so that her slack care that resulted in the death of my child was publicly documented in hopes that no other mother would have to go through what I did.

If I had received an unexpected envelope of photos like that of Olivia, sure it have been devastating to open it, not knowing they were taken, and see a large batch of photos of would have taken my breath and I would have lost it and probably curled up in the fetal position and bawled my eyes out once again until I could not cry anymore....something I have done many, many times since losing her...but, then once I regained control of my raw emotions about the photos, I would have sat and looked at them, and would have been so grateful to have have a forever reminder of her beautiful little face. I would have realized what a blessing these photos were.

  I hope this mother thinks long and hard about what treasure she has in that envelope and drops this suit. File a complaint for the way it was handled, but then just be grateful that as over time, when my memory of that little face I only had the opportunity to see for a very short time began to get fuzzy, I would have a envelope full of her beautiful face to remind me.

~Shea Clarke
May 26, 2011

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