Thursday, 9 June 2016

RMB Volunteer Photographer- One Year On

Well, it has been one year since I joined Remember My Baby as a Volunteer Photographer and today I renewed my membership to continue being a volunteer.

I thought I would write this blog about what I’ve learnt in my year of becoming a Volunteer Photographer, for people to read about the different experiences, for photographers who are thinking about Volunteering, and for other Volunteers who know they are not going it alone.

I’m not going to lie, I ummed and ahh-ed a lot before I became a Volunteer. At the time I mainly shot natural light and didn’t understand why they stipulated we should have flash images too - NOW I totally understand why. It doesn’t matter how capable you are or how much you understand natural light, sometimes there is nothing natural available and you may just have a horrible strip lighting above the bed - or in the corner of the room. It's about giving the best possible images for those parents who are going through an unimaginable nightmare for those of us who have never been through it ourselves.

So I joined, one year ago today I paid my membership fee after having my application reviewed and accepted and started my journey into being a Remember My Baby Volunteer Photographer.

Images used with kind permission of parents.
In those 12 Months, I have photographed some absolutely beautiful babies. The youngest at 20 Weeks Gestation, to 3 Months of Age. You see, Remember My Baby covers babies lost before, during or shortly after birth - or babies that never get to go home.
Images used with kind permission of parents.
I was the first volunteer in South Yorkshire, but being based in Barnsley meant that if a session needed covering with our volunteer agreement that we have signed that I can cover West Yorkshire too. I have covered sessions at Barnsley Hospital, Martin House Hospice, Doncaster Royal Infirmary, Forget Me Not Hospice, Pinderfields Hospital, Leeds General Infirmary and Leeds St James. Sometimes the requests come via midwives who already know about the service we offer, sometimes it comes directly from parents who have been told about us. But the important thing is to keep getting the word out.

So in this last year, I have learnt…

Your first session always stays with you
Whether your first session was on your own or you shadowed someone else, that first session will always stay in your heart. It the first set of parents and family you met who was going through a child bereavement and you were there to do a job, and what a job you were doing. You won’t forget how thankful they were for you just being there for them. I won’t forget how tightly mum hugged me and said thank you what felt like a million times.

It’s not as scary as you expect
The fear itself of doing a session, seeing the parents and baby is a lot scarier than the actuality of it. But it's still scary. I’m not going to tell you it's not - but it's not as scary as you think it's going to be.

Images used with kind permission of parents.
There won’t always be tears
When you get a call to go to a session for someone who has lost their child you expect there to be tears, and lots of them. I expected uncontrollable sobbing, the kind of crying where people are wailing in pain. It's not like that. Sometimes there is silence. Sometimes there is just general chatter. Sometimes there are silent tears, that look and pang of grief. And sometimes there is laughter. Sometimes families and partners are laughing and joking with each other. A lot of the time when you walk into the room - it's not fully hit them that they won’t get to take their baby home.

Some people won’t understand
Some people won’t understand that you do what you do. Some people won’t understand why people would want photographs of their “dead baby” (yes some people are brash enough to say those words to you!). And it's not just general people, even sometimes midwives won’t understand why you’ve been called in by a family. But a good bereavement team will support the decision.

Some parents won’t want to see you
As a volunteer photographer I don’t always meet the families I photograph and just photograph baby alone. There are varying reasons for this. Sometimes the parents are going through a hard time of acceptance but want the memories when they are ready. Sometimes they are angry that things weren’t picked up sooner. Sometimes they feel guilty that they’ve not spent long with baby and in their eyes you may spend longer with baby than they have. For whatever reasons parents don’t want to see you - just use the midwife as the go-between and deliver as many beautiful images as you can.

Sometimes it's hard to get into hospitals
You'd think that a FREE service for bereaved parents would be welcomed by all hospitals that were approached but this is not the case. Sometimes they have things already in place, have midwives that have gone on courses in bereavement photography. Sometimes the hospitals are happy with what the medical photographers provide, or sometimes they may think that families won’t want a “stranger” in at their most vulnerable time. Being a Volunteer photographer and getting “turned away” isn’t easy especially when you know that there are parents who would love the service. We just have to remind people that we aren’t there to replace anything that is already in place - we are just there as an additional service should we be requested.

Someone will always be touched by what you do
Planning the Charity Event that I am in Barnsley for Remember My Baby I have been touched by how many people have said how amazing it is what us Volunteers do. People you may never have ever spoken to will message you to say how amazing they think the charity is. That they know someone who lost a baby and it would have been a welcomed service. It shows that the charity is needed. 

Each session is different
No two Remember My Baby sessions are the same. Whether it is with parents there, or not, with siblings included or not. Sometimes there’s extended family - sometimes it's just you and baby. The time that you visit after baby has been delivered is different too. Hospice and NICU sessions can be a bit more relaxed and less tense than hospital sessions. Remember to go into each session with a fresh pair of eyes and know that it's not always going to be the same as the last one you did.

Sometimes people can’t volunteer
Just because someone is a photographer doesn’t mean that they can volunteer to be a Remember My Baby Photographer. It’s not necessarily that they aren’t good enough to be one - just sometimes they don’t have the right “headspace” to do it. Being a Remember My Baby Photographer isn’t for everyone. People think there are more volunteers in the charity than there actually are - and certain areas are crying out for more. The aim for me is to speak to people who are photographers and they know what I do as a volunteer. I will speak honestly and from the heart and with passion - but if they cannot volunteer for whatever reason then that is their choice. I just ask that they spread the word whenever they can about the charity and the good work it does.

And who would think that the charity runs solely on donations, from cofounders to volunteers every position is voluntary. The charity will turn 2 in August and I hope that we raise plenty of money for them on my Charity Night in July.

Here’s to another year of being a Remember My Baby Photographer. Meeting families I really wish didn’t need us.

To find out more about being a Volunteer Photographer visit here
To find out more about offering Remember My Baby in your Hospital visit here
To find out more about donating to Remember My Baby visit here
To find out more about the services offered to families visit here


  1. Hear hear <3 Beautifully written, couldn't have put it better myself xx

    1. Thank you lovely lady! So glad to have you on board the RMB Volunteer Train too! xx


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