They say a photo is worth a thousand words. Jan Favret knows it can be worth much more. A cardiology nurse at Mayo Clinic Health System in Eau Claire, Wisconsin, Favret is also a professional photographer and a volunteer with Now I Lay Me Down To Sleep. The nonprofit organization provides remembrance photography at no charge to families who have lost a baby, often to stillbirth. What that can mean for the family is hard to put into words.
“For most of the families we photograph, parents go into labor with no idea this is going to happen,” says Favret. “The nursery is ready at home, and they are completely unprepared for this loss. They’re caught by horrible surprise. They have to say goodbye before they’ve had a chance to say hello.”
In the midst of their “profound grief,” families are asked by hospital staff if they’d like to have portraits taken of their child and family. If the answer is yes, a specially trained volunteer like Favret is called to the hospital, often just hours after the baby’s birth. “There’s a quiet grief in the room, a stillness,” says Favret. “The family is trying to process what has happened.” Often, they’re uncertain of what to do. Do they touch their child? Hold her? Dress him in the outfit they’d planned to take him home in?
Favret says having photos taken seems to help answer some of those questions. “It’s almost like it gives the families permission to treat their baby as they would a living infant. It gives them permission to hold that baby in their arms,” she says.
When Favret first learned about Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep, the idea of becoming a volunteer for the organization “grabbed me and wouldn’t let me go.” She’s since photographed more than a dozen families, and says “this is a commitment and calling. It’s a difficult job that needs to be done. Someone needs to give these people this gift.” She hopes other photographers will be inspired to use their talents to help. “I hope someone reading this feels the spark and feels this is something they need to do,” Favret says. If so, they’ll discover something terribly difficult but very rewarding. “You’ll hate that it happens but you’ll love that you can give a family this gift.”
WQOW-TV in Eau Claire, Wisconsin, recently shared the story of Breanna and Stacy Winsand, and how Favret’s photography helped them deal with the loss of their son, Sawyer. "It's such an intimate and private moment, and clearly we'll never forget her and what's she's given to us," Breanna, a Mayo Clinic Health System nurse, tells the station. Watch their story in the video embedded below.
Learn more about Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep here. Share your comments below and share this story with others using the handy tools atop this page.