We've all heard this phrase, "to add insult to injury"; many of us have even used it. A definition of this phrase is, "To exacerbate an already problematic situation in a way that is humiliating; to make someone who has just experienced injury or defeat feel worse about the situation with one's words." This last portion is so true for this post.
I want to address an issue that I have been sitting on for a while, debating on how to address it,if I should even at all. But, I believe I need to. It is important; not just because of the heartache that was caused by it, but to hopefully raise awareness so another family does not have to suffer such treatment.
Miscarriage, stillbirth, infant loss, child loss of any kind is one of the most devastating pains that a parent can go through, more so for the mothers usually when it is a loss during pregnancy. While birth is sacred, bereavement births are even more. The mother is more vulnerable. Encounters she has with others can leave a lifelong impact. For better or for worse.
As a photographer, being invited into the birth space to capture the memories of this momentous occasion is not something I take lightly. To capture the final moments a family has with their precious baby is something that I cannot begin to explain the magnitude of. While I always want my presence to be one that brings about positive feelings, I would be devastated to discover that I left a lifelong negative impact on the grieving family.
In our state, Alabama laws do not dictate what a family does with their child's body until 20 weeks and after. So, how a family chooses to memorialize their child 19 weeks and earlier is completely up to them. A local family lost their baby in a late miscarriage, before the 20 week mark. This family opened their hearts and this sacred space to a photographer to have these final moments documented. When the photographer brought the family their finished images, they shared with this person what those final decisions had been.
This photographer went on to call the police and file a report against this family.
All through history, across cultures and families, the care of the body of the loved one has been unique. So long as a deceased person's body is not being exploited, abused, or neglected, how a family chooses to honor that loved one should not be up for judgement, let alone a busy-body calling in police. This family will forever had added heartache on top of an already devastating time, these precious memories always sullied by this person's heartless action.
As I came to the end of my degree, I came to the realization that I have a very special place in the lives of families going through various different life experiences, both joyous and heartbreaking. I can offer services but am not what is called a mandatory reporter. Mandatory reporters are specific professionals bound by law to report suspected abuse and neglect; while primarily of children, this can apply to elderly individuals as well. How a family chooses to handle the remains of their miscarried child is not one of those instances, nor is a photographer a mandatory reporter. Therefore, this is one of those many times in life when it is at the very least, best to just mind your own business.
As a photographer, and as a birth worker, I come across all different individuals, couples, and families. I see and hear things that I do not always agree with, however, that does not mean I have to have a judgement about it, nor say anything. To each their own.
As a woman serving women, particularly women who have had, or are living through trauma of some kind, it is so important that we rally together and lift one another up. If we don't understand something, ask questions and gain a new perspective. Our criticisms of one another only add to the burden being carried. I am reminded of a verse in the Bible that reminds us to be salt and light to the world. Understand the role we have in each person's life and fill that role in such a way that breathes life into the dying, brings "taste to the tasteless", and floods the darkness with light. Love one another.
If there is genuine concern for someone, it is important to make sure that we do what we can to find them help. There are resources though that are set up to do such a thing that does not bring about harm. Reach out to your local community and ask for suggestions. Calling the police or child protective services should be an absolute last resort, when all others have been exhausted, or time does not permit anything other.
And if you are the kind of person to do something like this out of malice, just stop working with people and go get help for yourself.