Remembering a brief life

In Minnesota’s Twin Cities, volunteer photographers are called in when parents want photos to remember a baby who’s going to die . However little time they’ll have together, parents want to remember their child.

Heather Lombardo photographed Carrie Wilson “with her hands cradled on her pregnant stomach and Katie when she first nursed. And she made portraits of the family at home before Katie died, two months later, of a rare chromosomal disorder.”

The Wilsons treasure every day with Katie. And Lombardo’s photos — 971 in all, taken and given at no charge — have brought them joy and peace. “It’s absolutely the best gift that we could have,” Carrie Wilson said. “Having all that has been a godsend — a saving grace in this whole journey. The memories of Katie mean so much to us.”

It’s a journey Lombardo has traveled with many families through a volunteer group called Now I Lay Me Down To Sleep. She has photographed babies so tiny they could fit in teacups. She has brought sweaters made for teddy bears for infants to wear in photo shoots. And she made miniature diapers for one set of premature quadruplets; to photograph them bare, she said, would have been too shocking.

Her most heartbreaking shoot involved triplets who died within three weeks of one another. After losing the first two babies, the parents knew what they wanted when the third was removed from life support.

‘They read books to her until she passed,’ Lombardo said. ‘I have a picture of the dad dancing with her as well. He wanted one last dance with his baby girl.

‘I was bawling. Thank goodness for auto focus. I couldn’t see through the lens. I so wanted them to leave the hospital with at least one baby. I stood out in the hall with the pastor and the nurse, and I just sobbed. I just sobbed.’

Try reading the story without crying.

I’m the mother of a healthy daughter who wasn’t expected to make it through her first week of life. We took lots of photos, though you can hardly see her underneath the tubes and wires and bandages. Allison will turn 26 two weeks from tomorrow.

About Joanne


  1. I have a nephew who wasn’t expected to live more that a couple days. He’s in early elementary school, and nothing about his life has been easy–for him or for my sister. But who would want to imagine life without him?

  2. Cardinal Fang says:

    Degrees of awfulness:

    “When the doctors first said Down syndrome, we were devastated,” Carrie Wilson said. “If only it had been Down syndrome, we would have been so happy.”

    It makes me realize how minor and unimportant my healthy son’s disabilities are.

    That photographer is a saint.