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Photographers capture precious memories in midst of sorrow
Dead babies pic3
Michelle Stark, Kathy Ray, Carolyn Welch and Tammy Hughes are local photographers who have joined the network for Now I Lay Me Down To Sleep, a non-profit organization dedicated to remembrance photography for parents and families suffering the loss of a baby. Now I Lay Me Down offers free professional level portraits to the parents of a child who was stillborn or passed in the hours and days after birth. - photo by Photo Contributed

One of the most miraculous events on earth is the creation and birth of a human life. Nearly everyone has pictures or video of when their children were born and those precious moments are celebrated with wonder, happiness and hope for the future.

Yet, in the midst of a new life sometimes the unimaginable happens, striking with sadness and confusion. The life created ends before it has even begun or in the minutes, days or weeks that follow. When these times occur photographers from non-profit organization known as Now I Lay Me Down To Sleep (NILMDTS) provide remembrance photography to suffering parents and families with free professional portraits of precious moments with a passed child or a child that will soon pass.

NILMDTS began in Littleton, Colo. in 2005 after Sandy Puc, a local photographer, was asked to capture a baby’s final moments of life embraced with the mother and father, who were friends of Puc. Cheryl Haggard, the baby’s mother, and Puc decided to start the organization shortly thereafter and from that moment of inspiration to now, nearly 7,000 photographers volunteer their services nationwide and in nine other countries.

Locally, four photographers from Stanislaus County have taken the pledge to join NILMDTS. Michelle Stark, Kathy Ray, Tammy Hughes and Carolyn Welch all serve as NILMDTS volunteer photographers and all are mothers of multiple children. The four volunteers have found that joining the network of volunteers has put their own families into perspective.

“You look back through pictures of my own kids and you realize how fast time goes. Those photos gain so much value with time. They really are priceless,” said Hughes, a mother of four children.

The four photographers want the community to know they are here and they are ready to provide the service of capturing a young life’s presence on earth.

Ray and Welch have combined for nearly 20 assignments; both explained that photographers with NILMDTS are highly trained on how to deal with such emotional scenarios such as a still born child or the removal of a child from life support.

“When you’re in the room with the family you have to be very professional and hold back. It is so emotional but there are no do-overs, but when I get in the car and drive home it just rips me in half,” said Welch, who is a mother of two children.

Candice McDaniel, who lost her infant daughter just over three years ago due to stillbirth, found the NILMDTS service immeasurable.

“The photographs from Now I Lay Me Down were the best gift I’ve ever gotten in my entire life. That’s all I had from my daughter’s entire life. When you are having a baby and when you are hit with traumatic news and then you have to deliver the baby, you just don’t know what to think or do, you are really in shock. I’m just so grateful they are there,” she said.

McDaniel now runs a support group for mothers of deceased infants.

“When I tell some of the other mothers about this service they all say I wish I had that chance. I hear so many horror stories of parents who the only picture of their baby was a cell-phone picture or disposable camera picture.”

NILMDTS photographers provide high quality, tasteful, professional black and white or color pictures along with edited digital copies on compact discs and DVD set to music. Photographers are selected on experience and professionalism. Only a fraction of applicants are approved by NILMDTS. After approval most photographers will enroll in follow-up training on how to capture appropriate images and deal with emotions in delicate environments.

For Welch, Ray, Stark and Hughes, the importance is getting NILMDTS message out.

“We want social workers, nurses, doctors and people to know that this service is available locally in Turlock, Modesto, Madera and even the Bay Area. We all fill in for each other if we need to,” said Ray.

For more information on Now I Lay Me Down To Sleep, visit

To contact Jonathan McCorkell, e-mail or call 634-9141 ext. 2015.