Kerry and Clay Riddell were expecting their second child when a routine ultrasound led them to a pediatric cardiologist and a devastating diagnosis: a severe heart condition and trisomy 18, a genetic disorder.
“We were just told straight up that it was really bad. And you know, it's a kick to the stomach,” Clay said. “I mean, you're getting excited. You know, we were busy with one kid and then it's just all of a sudden, it's like slipping from your fingers.”
Doctors gave the couple two options: terminate the pregnancy, or continue it with the knowledge that their child, whom they named Chase, would not be able to survive after birth.
“We felt immediately that life is a gift, every day and every week that we have with Chase makes us happy,” Kerry said. “And we wanted to continue on as long as we'd be able to have him.”
That’s when the Riddells turned to a nonprofit organization that provides free professional portraits for families coping with early infant loss.
Cheryl Haggard started “Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep” after losing her own son, Maddox, to a rare genetic condition called myotubular myopathy that left him unable to breathe unassisted. Just six days after birth, Haggard and her husband decided to remove Maddox from life support.
“It’s a decision no parent should ever have to make. It's heartbreaking,” she said.
Despite their overwhelming grief, Haggard and her husband knew immediately they wanted their last moments with their son captured in pictures. They called a local photographer, Sandy Puc, who wasn't sure what to expect from the hospital photo session.
“This was something I had never done before,” she said. “I had this responsibility to capture really the essence of this little boy. I wanted to get everything.”
Their experience together led the two women to create Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep. “I think people forget all the little details, and when you have just minutes or hours with the child, there is no way to remember the most important things. And we give them the ability to remember everything," Puc said.
Haggard said the portraits help parents begin the recovery process. "I think those photographs do bring peace, healing, and honor to the baby," she said.
The Riddells, including son Miles, met recently with a Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep photographer for a maternity photo shoot. Kerry said the session would provide the only opportunity for a family photo.
“To have an organization take these photos and understand everything about it because this is what they do, is just the biggest gift, I think, a mom could ever receive,” Kerry said.
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