As volunteer week 2020 comes to a close, I’ve been reflecting on journey to becoming a volunteer photographer and what it means to me to use my photography for good.

For the past 30 years (yes I know I don’t look that old 😉 ) I’ve always volunteered in one role or another, I spent my teen years as a “young helper” and handmaid on annual pilgrimages to Lourdes and lead a local Faith and Light group who found themselves without a group leader…quite a daunting task for a 19 year old!  Since then I’ve done various things, from volunteering for the school PTA to fundraising and coordinating the collecting and distribution of boxes for our deployed service personnel…and lots in between!  I’ve enjoyed every one of those roles, and each have taught me lots about others and myself.

Photo of Leeds Faith and Light and Leeds Youth Service Lourdes 1993

My journey to becoming a specialist newborn photographer and a volunteer for Remember My Baby was a strange one, and I truly think that where I am today was meant to be….yeah yeah, you’re probably thinking, but bear with me.

tiny crocheted hats for babies born sleeping

Around the same time that I began photographing families I came across a page called Lisa’s Stars on Facebook: Lisa had tragically lost several babies of various gestations, she had shared a photo of  one of her babies who had been brought to her in a plastic tray, covered with a piece of tissue.  I can’t really put into words how that made me feel, but I can still see that photo in my head as clear as it was yesterday.  I joined with lots of others, picked up my crochet hooks and began crocheting pretty hats and sleepsacs so that these tiny babies could be laid to rest with dignity.  Thankfully we have moved on massively in recent years and every baby I’ve met through Remember my Baby has been beautifully dressed/wrapped.

I searched the internet for pretty patterns, and invariably the pattern makers used beautiful photos of posed newborn babies to show off their finished creations.  It was then that I knew that I wanted to create images like those, and my journey to becoming a newborn photographer began.

In my search for resources and  specialist newborn training I joined various photography groups on Facebook,  and it was in one of those groups that I discovered an American organisation called Now I Lay Me Down To Sleep.  In July 2014 I gathered the courage to message them and discovered that a group of their volunteers were in the process of establishing Remember My Baby in the UK.

It took me a further year to get the confidence to apply…there were so many things holding me back;  was I good enough? there are no second chances!  Would I break down?  You see I am a “crier” I cry at EVERYTHING…my friend had a baby, I cried, I make a slideshow of photos from a newborn session and I cry when I watch it back!  So how would I manage to hold it together?

I spoke about my concerns to one of the founders of Remember My Baby and with her encouragement I finally applied, I accepted that yes, I may become upset….but is that really such a bad thing?  I mean as long as I’m not sobbing in a corner, the odd escaped tear merely shows that I care, that I feel….and whilst I will never comprehend the pain that a family is experiencing, I feel for them, I feel with them.

On 9th October 2015 I finally became a volunteer photographer Remember My Baby and attended my first RMB session just 2 weeks later.

I am honoured that to date I have provided 22 grieving families with precious photos of their babies.

Every one of those babies so very beautiful,

so very special,

so very loved,

and always remembered.

Perhaps one of my most poignant moments was capturing newborn portraits of a very healthy 5 pounder in the studio one morning, then that same afternoon a baby of the same size and weight in the bereavement suite at the hospital.  I held 2 beautiful babies that day, in 2 very different circumstances.

In May 2018, I was invited to become the Regional Co-ordinator for Remember my Baby in the Glasgow area, with team of amazing volunteers we cover Glasgow, Lanarkshire and Ayrshire, whether a hospital, hospice, funeral director or the family home, we try our very best to cover every request.

Increased awareness of our services brings increased demand and we are always looking for more volunteers to join our team.  If you are interested in joining us as a photographer or a retoucher, please do hop onto the Remember My Baby website and apply.

If you would like to have a chat with me to find out more, or to talk over any concerns you may have before clicking that button, please do get in touch.

photo of Remember my Baby volunteer badge Life in Focus Portraits baby photographer Helensburgh