Taking photos, touching lives | VailDaily.com

Taking photos, touching lives

Melanie Wong
Vail, CO Colorado
Photo courtesy of Betsy StrafachFort Collins couple Cheryl and Heath Harvey hold their baby, Christian Lucas.

EAGLE COUNTY, Colorado ” Adam and Mariah Guinn went to the hospital expecting to bring home a newborn daughter, Celeste.

Instead, the Highlands Ranch couple came home empty-handed ” doctors found Celeste’s umbilical cord had gotten wrapped around her neck, and the baby had died, a day before Mariah Guinn was set to give birth.

While grieving for their baby has not been an easy process, the couple has a way to remember their daughter almost exactly a year after her death.

After the Guinns were told the heart-breaking news, nurses at the hospital told them about a nationwide, nonprofit program called Now I Lay Me Down To Sleep. Volunteer photographers for the Colorado-based organization take portrait shots of the lost babies and their families.

Now, photos of Celeste hang above the Guinn’s mantle and in their bedroom. And while the couple still isn’t ready to browse through all the photos freely, the ever-present images remind them that their first child is a part of the family.

“Even though she’s gone, she’s still a part of us, and she’s with us,” Guinn said. “I would regret it every day of my life if we didn’t have these pictures.”

The organization hopes to offer the same services for High Country families, too.

Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep started when co-founder Cheryl Haggard lost her son about a week after he was born in 2005. She knew that her family’s healing was going to come by remembering details about her son, so her husband contacted photographer and eventual co-founder Sandy Puc’, and requested her services.

Now, the organization has over 5,000 volunteer photographers worldwide. At a family’s request, a photographer comes to the hospital and takes the photos. The photos are then professionally retouched and presented to the family both in a DVD slide show and on a CD.

Edwards photographer Liz Pyke is the organization’s first volunteer in Eagle County, but the organization is always looking to recruit new photographers, especially in the more rural areas of the state, said Fort Collins photographer Betsy Strafach, coordinator for northern Colorado.

It is a tough assignment, she admits.

“At first I thought, ‘I don’t know if I can do this.’ Then I thought, ‘How can I not?'” Strafach said. “It’s difficult every time. You are with people in their darkest grief.”

However, the grateful reactions from the grieving families make the job worthwhile, she said.

“It’s something to remember that little baby by ” remembering that little face and who they look like,” she said. “By doing this I’ve done something that will change the way they heal.”

Mariah Guinn said she recommends the service to other grieving families. It can be an odd concept at first, she admits, but well worth it.

The photographer and a representative from the organization waited at the hospital all through her labor and delivery, and waited until she and her husband were ready before getting to work.

“The photographer waited until 2 a.m. in the morning, and now we have over 350 pictures of our daughter ” of her baptism, of people saying good-bye, of my husband dressing her,” she said.

Two weeks ago, the couple had twin boys, Xander and Michael, and Guinn said she hopes that someday they will come to know Celeste as part of the family, too.

“When they’re old enough, I’ll be able to show them pictures of their sister,” she said.

Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep certified trainer Betsy Strafach will be gathering professional photographers, including Edwards photographer Liz Pyke, from around the Western Slope to train and bring added awareness the organization’s work

The seminar will be held Monday, Aug. 25, in Glenwood Springs. Representatives from labor and delivery, and social work departments at area hospitals are encouraged to attend also.

For more information on Now I Lay Me Down To Sleep or for more information on the Glenwood Springs seminar or other seminars in the area, see the group’s Web site at http://www.nilmdts.org.

Staff Writer Melanie Wong can be reached at 970-748-2928 or mwong@vaildaily.com.

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