Posted: Jan 20, 2013 8:00 PM
During what could be the darkest hour for a parent, Lisa Smiley comes in and helps them in a most interesting way. Lisa is a photographer who loves shooting anything from toddlers to weddings, but this is her most solemn job.

Losing a child is something no parent should ever have to face. Unfortunately some moms who head to the hospital to deliver their babies instead come home empty-handed. Sometimes the reasons a baby doesn't survive are known, yet at other times it remains a mystery. Capturing the brief lives of these newborns is the job of some very special people.

An idea is born

The Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep (NILMDTS) organization provides lasting memories for parents who have lost or are losing a baby by connecting them with a photographer who can capture the essence of their baby. Volunteer photographers are available at all hours, ready to create professional remembrance photographs for parents in their time of need.

Volunteer photographers are available at all hours, ready to create professional remembrance photographs for parents in their time of need.

When Cheryl Haggard gave birth to her son Maddux in 2005, he suffered from myotubular myopathy — a condition which makes it hard to breathe, swallow or move on his own. On his sixth day of life, his parents had to make the painful decision to remove him from life support. Cheryl called on photographer Sandy Puc' to capture her son in remembrance photographs, which became the inspiration for the creation of NILMDTS. Cheryl and Sandy founded the organization just two months after Maddux passed away.

Her heart is in her photos

Lisa Smiley is a Sacramento, California-based photographer with an amazing eye for capturing her subjects. She also volunteers her time with NILMDTS as a photographer for families who need her. Unfortunately, Lisa knows the pain of losing a baby all too well. "Having experienced the loss of our first baby boy, Joshua, in 1999 I have some idea what these families are going through, though I don't venture to say I know what they are going through," Lisa shares. "Every family and person is different in their experiences and their grief."

Lisa felt drawn to volunteer for NILMDTS based on her experience with her own loss. "I knew that there was a reason behind my experience of losing a child," she says. "When I heard of NILMDTS, I knew that this was one of the reasons that I went through my loss and one of the ways to use the gifts that God has given me as a photographer — to reach these families and help them through their grieving."

Emotional, but important

Dealing with the pain of losing your baby amidst the otherwise cheeriness of the labor and delivery ward is beyond hard. While capturing these moments on film may seem odd to some, for parents who have had their memories captured these photographs are cherished treasures. "For me yes, it is an emotionally challenging thing to do," Lisa admits. "But as one other NILMDTS photographer has said when people ask her how she does it — and with which I totally agree — is how could I not? I believe it is a priceless gift of remembrance and something I will do as long as I am called to do it."

For more information about NILMDTS, visit their website at

More on grief and loss

Marie Tillman: Her path through love and loss
Pregnancy after loss
The heartbreak of miscarriage

Topics: grief