*The taboos of infant loss*
Every year, 2.6 million babies around the world die in utero or at birth* and most of the time, the loss of an infant and a child is a taboo subject which make the grieving process even more difficult for parents. In many countries, the baby is taken away from the mother immediately after birth as if he/she never existed.
The attitude towards parents is often strange as parents hear sentences such as: “Don’t worry, you will have an other one!” or “It just means something was wrong with the baby. It’s better that way!”. But if you loose your husband, no one would come to you and say “Don’t worry, you’ll find an other husband!”*. The loss of a baby scars you for life and comes with the loss of dreams, hopes and love. Broken parents often struggle to find the necessary support.*
I have been working as a volunteer for an association in Belgium called “Au-delà des Nuages” (ADN) in French, “Boven the Wolkens” (BDW) in Dutch that provides support to parents and medical teams dealing with pregnancy loss, stillbirth and neonatal death.
There is so much to be said about the subject but I’ll talk about one of the things I can do best: photography.
My fellow photographers and I, help families mourning the loss of their baby by offering them the healing power of remembrance through photography. These family portraits we take of them and their deceased baby are all they have left to remember their little angel.
When I talk about it around me I realise that the subject makes people uncomfortable and I often hear “So you actually take pictures of dead babies?”, “But doesn’t it affect you negatively?”, “Why do you do this? Well, here are the answers:
We photographers do it because it really matters! It matters because death is actually part of life and because the taboos surrounding infant death prevents parents of expressing their sadness which is an essential part of the grieving process.
When we enter a room with grieving parents, we sit down with them, talk openly about their babies and sometimes cry with them. We talk to their baby, touch their baby, love their baby to remove the taboos and allow them to do the same. Often they are relieved as this is exactly what they wanted to do but did not dare doing it as society conditions them to get over it quick. We often come with props, such as hearts, angel nests, clothes and we offer them beautiful portraits that they cherish for life.
Each time, we take their baby and put them into their arms, we remind them that they are still parents and that the death of their child does not change their status of parents to not parents anymore. Those pictures means that their baby exists and will always exist.
To the question: “Does it affect you negatively?”. The answer for me is without hesitation NO. What affects me is to take pictures of children and family suffering because I know that those pictures won’t change their life directly.
However, taking pictures for “Au-delà des Nuages”, is something that has a direct positive impact on families and although it is always hard to deal with grievance, it makes me feel like a healer and that is a nice change.
If you want to find out more the work of ADN/BDW, please take a look at their webpage in French and Dutch HERE
Crédit Photos: © Au-delà des Nuages