A story that kept asking to be told

It started two years ago with an account executive who was simply doing her job. Ruth Ann Miller was busily contacting Valley photographers about participating in a photography-themed advertising section we put together in a fall issue that year. During her research, she ran across the work of Gilbert photographer Jenny Schomaker. As she browsed Jenny’s website, she was introduced to the Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep organization, for which Jenny is a volunteer.

“It brought me to tears as I read the story behind the creation of this incredible cause,” Ruth Ann wrote in an email to me. She suggested we do a story and, after visiting the foundation’s website, I agreed that it was a topic we should cover. I put it in my story ideas file and waited for the right moment to assign it to a writer.

Fast forward to November 2007, when I received an email from Tempe mom Heather Hamilton. “I used to send [Calendar & Directories Editor] Mala Blomquist monthly updates for As You Wish Pottery Painting Place events,” she wrote. “I am emailing today with a different kind of update. My newborn son died a little over a month ago and prior to his death we were connected with an organization called Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep. It is a non-profit group that takes professional bereavement photographs of infants. Professional photographers all over the world donate their time and resources to families in this awful situation. This service is so valuable to the healing process that I feel the need to spread the word about it. Without the photos we received through Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep, we would only have six photos that we took ourselves, some on cell phones. By having these pictures, we are able to share our son with his 3-year-old brother and family members that never had the chance to meet him.”

It was time to assign the story. I put staff writer Mary Ann Bashaw in touch with Heather and this month’s lead feature is the result. Mary Ann, who has tackled sensitive topics in the past—including our February issue’s “Gender Journeys” story—took this on as a personal mission. She was determined to tell the story respectfully, reverently and with as much honesty as the parents she talked with were comfortable sharing.

We recognize that it may be uncomfortable—even upsetting—for you to view photographs of babies whose lives touched so briefly upon this earth. It was difficult and sad for us to work with the photos and read about heartbreaking stories. But we agreed with Heather that these powerful photographs—and the work of this remarkable organization—deserved attention. And we kept Heather’s words in mind as we put this package together: “The only thing standing in the way of other parents taking advantage of this amazing service is knowing about it. My hope is that RAISING ARIZONA KIDS will spread the word to families in Arizona.”