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My second child and our first daughter, Camille, died and was born on June, 30 2011 when I was full term at 38 weeks pregnant. I gave birth to my rainbow baby, a second daughter, on August 31, 2012. This is me trying to figure out how to be a mother to my living son and daughter and function in society after our tragic loss.

Friday, October 26, 2012

The Photographs Lie

Tonight, after watching a couple vlogs from Still life with Circles I was very emotional.

Earlier today I was looking at Harlow's feet. I had this moment where I realized that her feet looked very much like I remembered Camille's looking. I knew I had to look at my pictures to see if I was right. After I watched the vlogs, with Camille very much on my mind, I decided to look at the photos.

It breaks my heart, my eyes become blurry with tears. My daughter is not as beautiful as I remember. Damn those photos for not being what I remember, but rather what was reality. Damn them for not making her look more alive, for not washing the dead away. No instagram filter to soften the death.

Ever since Harlow was born I tell everyone how much she looks like her brother and sister. They all have very similar characteristics...similar features. All my children have the same nose, chin, ears and feet. I call them cookie cutter kids because our genes seem to match up the same way each time. I could see them in Camille, but she was dead.
no tone
no spirit
no life
It changes the way she would have looked. Some sleep deprived nights I can look down at Harlow and it is like I am nursing Kai. That is how similar they look. They look so much more alike especially because of their aliveness. In my moments of sadness in the middle of the night I sometimes secretly wish that maybe just maybe Harlow and Camille are the same, that my baby didn't really die. That never happened to me. I don't want to be the women who's daughter died. I wish it hadn't happened. I want it to go away. I am not confused and I do not pretend. It is a passing flicker of a thought. When I look at those photos, Camille looks a lot like Jean, Daryl's mother, to me; mostly in her mouth. I remember being fascinated with her tongue. I kept thinking about how it should move and cry, what it would feel like sucking on my breast. A newborns tongue is so different and unique from a child or adults tongue. And so there are a lot of photos where her mouth is open because I wanted pictures of her tongue. But this just made her look more dead, mouth gapping
no movement
tongue still
Her hand that should be clasping my finger, lay open and limp; perfect tiny fingers. .

But the pictures lie...My daughter was beautiful. It took me a while to see past her death and recognize her beyond the lack of life. Now that is how I choose to remember. I am so thankful for those photos but I don't really like looking at them. Memories are softened and many times our mind chooses to remember the joy more than the sorrow, but when the memory is of the death and birth of your child there is very little except sorrow and pain, anguish and loss. And so I am trying to choose to remember the beauty I saw, the photo filter my mind has created around the fading memory of her beautiful face.


  1. Beautiful Renel!! I also very rarely look at the pictures of Logan. We had none right after he was born which is the second biggest sadness next to losing Logan ( i blame my hospital/nurse for this because no one ever encouraged me to take pictures of my beautiful son). The photographer took pictures the next morning...pictures that in no way shape or form look like the son I gave birth to and just shows death.

    It is wonderful that you can see Camille in Harlow. No shame in wishing they could be one in the same because I know I do it all the time and I am sure most BLM's do it as well. To not have to carry around this grief and sadness that has become a constant weight on our shoulders.

    Many thoughts of peace and love to you and your beautiful family.

  2. Renel, it's so true what you wrote.
    The photos lie. They are 2 D, they don't compliment in the ways our love does. That is why I'm so protective of showing his picture to anyone else. I know he looks dead. But he is still the most beautiful new born I've ever seen.
    I too think about what happened to me *not* really being my reality. This pregnancy, *this* baby will be my first child... And in a lot of experiences, that will be the heartbreak I will face. And n these fleeting thoughts, I really dont know where to put my real first born. It was a dream? A horrible wake up call? A warning? None of it makes sense...
    Do remember the joy. Let them only live there. I hope to one day achieve true supernova through his life with me, and be left with nothing heavy to carry from it.

    Love to you Renel. Loving all your babies in all their beauty

  3. HI,
    It's sometimes haunting when all we saw of our daughters was death. It scares me when he is still and his mouth is open, i get flash backs of her open mouth, seeing no life, but then he breathes and i can breath again. The past will always be with us, even though we try to fill the hole. I love when you said no instagram filter to change it....it sucks!!! thanks for all your support through this crazy ride! I love all your words of encouragement. You're amazing! lxoxo

  4. Gosh, I know.

    The very reason I love my HEAVILY touched-up professional NILMDTS photos and loathe the hospital unfiltered photos is because they made Andrew look more like he would've/should've/could've looked. The way things should have been all along.

    I won't look at the other photos and only included a few in his birth book I made, in addition to all the professional shots. Why should I view my child purple, like he was? He shouldn't have been and since all we have are memories, I want to remember him how he should be remembered.

    This is just how I feel about open caskets. I won't judge others for their choices, but I'll never look into an open casket. I don't want that vision to be the last I remember of someone I loved. I want their living picture to be permanently stored in my brain.

    It sucks because we didn't even have those living moments to soak up with our stillborn babies. I want to remember his cry or him holding my finger or looking up at me... or... not looking... purple.

    But I don't have that. In so many ways, we were cheated. I don't want to be the woman with the dead baby. I've had those very same thoughts of just wishing Andrew and Benjamin were one in the same. And they aren't.

    Love to you. I appreciate your absolute honesty and the rawness you write here.

  5. They do lie. We have two pictures. That's it. I wish we knew about NILMDTS. I wish I had the strength to take pictures with our own camera. But I didn't. And I'm left with two pictures of a bruised baby who is far more perfect looking in my heart.

    This was beautiful. Love to you all.

  6. Oh Renel.

    I don't look at the pictures I have. Even the pictures where she is still alive. Because they lie. They lie, just like your photographs of Camille lie.

    They were beautiful. They were so, so beautiful. Their little hands, their tongues, their faces. The people they might have grown up to be. And death isn't so all encompassing that it can steal their beauty away from them.

    And I wish it hadn't happened. To you. To me. Sometimes I used to pretend that there never were twins, that there was always just one baby. But it doesn't last. Because there is that aching space in my heart that says, 'two, two, always two. Two girls.' Just as I know there is in yours too. xo

  7. Like Caroline, we only have two photos of A. NILMDTS doesn't come in to the hospital A was born at on weekends and, also like caroline, we didn't have the strength to take any pictures with our own camera. I wish so much that we had more than just those couple photos. One is of R and I holding her and you can barely see her at all. The other is of her face, her hands tucked under her chin and I hated it so much when I first saw it. It didn't look like I remembered A at all. But I have a terrible time now remembering exactly how she looked (only 9 months later) and I am so incredibly thankful now for that one photo I used to despise. I look at it often and try to understand what's happened to us. That our baby died. That she was here and is gone, but that she was really, really here, once upon a time. This was a beautiful post Renel. Thank you.

  8. Renel - thank you for this post. NILMDTS took photos of our son Bode (lost at 23.5 wks) but I have not looked at them for this very reason. My husband did at the time and told me that I should not or it would steal the sweet memory of him when I was holding him and he was still warm. A year later, holding my rainbow daughter I've been wondering about looking at them. My gut said no but I've still wondered, wanting to compare him to his baby sister Serena. But your post has answered the question for me. I see him when she sleeps with her mouth gaping, like many of you have said. It terrifies me and reminds me of him all at the same time. I will hold tight to his footprints and cast hands and feet and know that he is real no matter what. Always in my heart. As Camille will always be in yours. Thank you, thank you.

  9. Nicole my glow in the woods friend. Thank you for visiting.
    Thank you everyone for your comments. It's so incredibly important to feel like I am not alone. You all make writing the hard stuff easier because you validate even the most disturbing and difficult thoughts and feelings. Thank you for holding my heart.

  10. I was just looking at photos of my sweet Amelia this afternoon and remembering. It is as you say, not how I remember her. I was left saying over and over, my poor girl, my poor girl... Purple and bruised and crimson lips agap never to move. With the birth of my son so close too many thoughts linger in my mind at the moment about her final moments and these photos make it so hard to not feel complete sadness for her, how I wish she got to be here alive. The photos I have help me remain close to her and remember her, and as brandy says, I prefer the retouched ones that help me remember who she would have been. I can't wait to see if her brother will share a little of her looks, to see a glimpse of who she might have become. Thoughts to you and all of your precious babes. Di xx

  11. Eliza's pictures still break my heart. And until I had Caroline, I don't think I realized fully how beautiful she would have and should have been. I haven't been able to go back and look at the photos since Caroline was born.

    And yes, I still don't want to be that mom whose first baby died.

  12. Yes to so many Momma's above - I am eternally grateful for all of the photos we have of A.

    My least favorite are the ones where his mouth is gaping, where he looks so dead instead of peacefully slumbering. Initially the photos showing his overlapping skull plates also bothered me. I'm sure to someone who hasn't seen his photos before it is jarring, but now I can see right past that ridge on his head to the beautiful orange-haired boy my heart longs for.

    I hope for all of our sakes that some day acceptance is possible. But in the meantime I'm in the same I-don't-want-to-be-the-girl-whose-firstborn-died boat.

  13. Some days I wish I could forget it all -just go out and do something light and bright and fun, without the background ache and heaviness... I don't want to be a walking tragedy.

    As for the photos... I keep them more privately now. We're lucky in that we have a couple of good ones... but also a few that are too vivid and painful. I don't look at them very often now.

  14. I have some photos of Nathaniel around the house. At one point, I talked to my spouse about taking them down because I was going through a really dark place in my grief, and looking at his pictures all of the time was just so painful. But he disagreed, and the pictures have stayed up. I'm attached to them now, but came to a place a few months ago where I could really feel that the image in the picture was only my baby's body, and that it actually had very little to do with him. How I remember him. How I remember feeling when he was inside of me. How I knew him.

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