Validating Our Grief – heather hamilton {infant loss/miscarriage}

Heather blogs at Blessed Little Nest, and among her many talents as a graphic designer,  knack for decorating (um, she was featured on Apartment Therapy, hello?!!!), and making life just a little more lovely…Heather blogs about the loss of her sweet boy Samuel.  Heather does it all with a measure of grace, thankfulness and sweetness….and plenty of bunting.  :)

I loved how Heather described herself in her about page, so I included it here:

My name is Heather and in 2007 my life changed forever when
my infant son Samuel was born with a rare intestinal birth defect that
caused him to contract a terminal form of bacterial meningitis.
He lost his difficult battle when he was six weeks old.

I thought for sure that the loss of Samuel would be the end of joy,
smiling, and happiness for me, but God had other plans.  Each time
I was ready to throw in the towel and give up, He would grab my hand
and pick me up.  He showed me that what I thought was the end of my
life, was actually just the beginning.  He taught me that through the
journey of Samuel’s life, and through the grief of his loss, that I could live
a more vibrant and joyful life than I ever thought possible.  Now I spend
my days savoring the little things and finding the lovely that exists in life.

I think it’s really important to tell you guys that in the email that Heather sent over with the text for this post, she wrote:

i also included one of our nilmdts photos of samuel.  i’ve never posted any of them before.  i guard them pretty closely, but i know the difference that an image can make on peoples hearts and so i hope that it will help people to see the value in this amazing organization.

That’s huge you guys.  And I’m honored, truly, that Heather would allow this space to host a sacred image she shares nowhere else…not even her own blog.  Humbled.  I love your selfless heart Heather.  Thank you.  {as I type through tears}

* * * *

Once we learned that the bacterial meningitis Samuel contracted had ferociously destroyed his brain, we knew it was time to leave the hospital and bring him to hospice.  We had already been in the hospital with Samuel for well over four weeks, and experienced more medical ups and downs than we knew possible.  Hearing his final diagnosis left us emotionally spent and feeling like our world was crashing down around us.  We knew we still had the most difficult part of our journey in front of us, saying goodbye to our child, and we prayed that coming to the hospice home would be a step towards the calm we needed in order to just that.  After just a few minutes of being there we knew we were exactly where we needed to be.  We felt more prepared for the new journey we were beginning.

During our first day the social worker came in to our room to talk with us and get us started on the new path we had to walk.  She brought with her information on cemeteries, counseling services, and Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep.  As she explained to us what the NILMDTS organization was all about, I found myself nodding my head.  I had no idea what to expect in regards to the process or the photos, I just knew that we needed to do it because the few photos we currently had of Samuel wouldn’t be enough.  Most of them had been taken with cell phones or while he was in the PICU with tubes attached all over his body.  I wanted photos that captured him, not his circumstance.  My husband was a bit more reluctant.  This was the first time in over a month that we were able to catch our breath, hold our baby, and be together.  Wouldn’t this photographer just be an intruder into these last few days we had together?  I completely understood how he felt, and wanted to protect our precious time together just as much, but I believed this was worth the risk.  The social worker made the arrangements and the photographer arrived later that very evening.  What happened next came a complete surprise to both of us.

For all the weeks that Samuel was in the PICU we couldn’t hold him, change his diaper, or wake up every two hours to feed him.  We hadn’t been able to bath him with the super soft wash cloths I bought before he was born or use the yummy smelling baby soap I adored.  All of those things had been taken away from us because of his illness.  For the hour that our NILMDTS photographer was with us we didn’t think about any of that.  We just thought about Samuel and how he looked in that very moment in time.  We laughed about how his hiney fit in the palm of our hands and how tiny his feet were compared to his big brother’s.  We marveled over his wavy wisps of hair and how his earlobes were just like his daddy’s.  We kissed his nose bridge and thanked God for giving him to us.

Our photos, all 99 of them, have helped our family to heal in ways that are indescribable.  They help to validate our grief in a world that wants to hide from loss, particularly infant loss.  They allow us to share Samuel with his siblings in a way that otherwise wouldn’t be possible.  They gave us back our son from the illness that took his life away.

* * * *

If you are new here, there’s one more thing you should know: in addition to highlighting Story, a fundraiser is paired with the theme of the series…in this case, we are fundraising for the Now I Lay Me Down To Sleep Foundation.  An amazing group of volunteer photographers who capture beauty in the midst of indescribable pain.  Free to families.  Not free to organize and run.

Please consider giving to honor the sweet babies like Samuel who are bouncing in Heaven with Jesus.  For the amazing mommies and daddies who Glorify even when it hurts deeper than they thought possible.

$1, $5, $500.

It does not matter the size of your donation, but the condition of the heart behind it.
{If you are reading through a reader and don’t see the ChipIn widget, please condsider clicking through to donate.}

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I'm a mom to four. A wife to one. I believe in story. I love telling you about mine and would love to hear yours. There's really no sense in wasting our suffering and not sharing in each other's joy. We're all in this together...even if it doesn't always feel like it.

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  1. 1

    I have referred so many friends, family, and even complete strangers to Now I Lay Me Down To Sleep when they have suffered the unimaginable loss of an infant.
    The work NILMDTS and their photographers do is nothing short of amazing and beautiful. Their pictures offer beauty amongst the ashes of loss and grief.

  2. 2

    What a precious picture of Samuel. You’re a dear.

  3. 3

    What a beautiful picture…he is absolutely precious and your story brought tears to my eyes. Hopefully our financial situation will change soon and I can donate before the deadline.

    P.S. I used to be Heather Hamilton too, before I got married.

  4. 4

    I have never heard of NILMDTS but what an awesome organization! I think I will actually see if there is anyway to be involved locally with them – thank you so much for sharing your story.

    The picture is beautiful :) You are amazing and strong!

  5. 5

    We were fortunate to have NILMDTS take pictures when our daughter Mikayla passed away in June and we are so grateful for this wonderful organization!

  6. 6

    This ripped me to the core.
    Donated, praying and holding my children.
    Thank you Heather for your vulnerability and sharing that picture. Truly, it made a difference. If only just for me.
    No. 17 Cherry Tree Lane´s last blog post ..parenthood

  7. 7

    We also were told about the NILMDTS foundation through our nurse when I was giving birth to my preemie daughter. She only lived for an hour, but I cherish the pictures, and they did such an amazing job. I would be happy to donate to such a wonderful cause!

  8. 8

    i love you, heather! so proud of you for sharing your story, samuel’s story and i am so happy to donate to NILMDTS.
    danielle´s last blog post ..wiwaw

  9. 9

    In tears. Samuel is so beautiful. As a new mother and photographer this blog post moved me so much. Chipped in x

  10. 10

    What a sweet picture. I can’t even imagine what all you moms go through when you lose a child so soon. I’m definitely chipping in. :) love
    Robbin´s last blog post ..Treasured Tokens Thursday

  11. 11

    Oh man, so sorry for your loss. What a sweetie. I LOVE that picture. He is loved.

  12. 12

    Oh my, I should not have read that at school (sobbing)…what a beautiful story. His grace is sufficient for us. I had never heard of NILMDTS but my heart is wanting to donate to help families :)
    Melinda´s last blog post ..embrace the camera- march 3

  13. 13

    What an amazing organisation! Such precious pictures of a truly beautiful little man. xo
    Belinda´s last blog post ..Books by the Pallet!

  14. 14

    Holding the Hamilton 5 in my heart always…love this girl and her enormous heart. Heather you inspire me to love richly every single day dear friend, love you!
    Jenni Carlisle´s last blog post ..Im moving

  15. 15

    I have never heard of NILMDTS. How beautiful! I will donate to the cause. I didn’t know about this blog, Life Rearranged, either. I am going to follow you here. We lost our firstborn, a son, Gabriel, 6 years ago, a few minutes after birth.
    Thanks you for this post Heather & sharing the beautiful picture of Samuel. My husband & I had a good cry seeing his precious picture. We have a roll of treasured photos for our own boy. I am so grateful for them. Anytime my mind’s eye starts to forget what he looks like, it grieves me so deeply. If I didn’t have photos, I think it would be so heartbreaking. Because, as much as we want to remember something, our memories aren’t as perfect as we would hope them to be.
    What a special work NILMDTS is doing!

  16. 16

    On Dec. 26 2008, I was blessed to be with my friend, to assist as she did a NILMDTS shoot. Wee, tiny perfect baby boy. Just 25 weeks. I held him, wrapped in a blanket and supported his tiny head for the photos. Just the three of us in a tiny room. Afterwards, I cuddled him and whispered, “We are in the presence of an Angel.” I’ll never forget that time.
    (FYI: parents were from the Middle East and chose not to see their boy. I believe for Religious reasons, but Mom wanted photos “just in case”.) I was honored to be the person who loved on him during his brief time on this earth.
    Karen J Moseley´s last blog post ..04202011 SHARE THE LOVE GIVEAWAY

  17. 17

    I work with mothers and their infants all the time and this story really hit hard. It takes tremendous strength to overcome this type of tragedy.
    andrew guard´s last blog post ..Welcome to KidSwim