Heartfelt are a charity service that preserves memories of the babies who didn’t make it. Professional photographers take photos of stillborn babies, so that their parents have a record of the moments they shared.
Kristalee Pollock and her husband Brendan are two of those parents. Kristalee and Brendan spoke to ABC’s 7:30 about the days that changed their lives forever and how a volunteer photographer from the charity Heartfelt helped the family cope with their loss.
KRISTALEE: A doctor came in and did the ultrasound. I guess as soon as we saw the picture of the baby, we knew… ‘Cause she wasn’t moving at all.
BRENDON: And we were actually in the very end room, 15, 20 rooms along, so we had to walk past every room as we went along that hallway, and as we walked past each room, you could hear the joy in people and families with the newborn babies. And I knew we were going down the corridor to be told that she’d passed away. And that was really difficult.
Lola Pollock was stillborn two days later.
KRISTALEE: She was born in two hours, and then we spent the next 24 hours with her. As devastating and awful as it was, it was also joyous because this was the only time that our family had to meet Lola so it was very bittersweet.
The family agreed to have portraits taken by a volunteer photographer from the charity Heartfelt.
KRISTALEE: Gavin arrived, the photographer. I was gone for hours, I think about a couple of hours. And Gavin was there for the entire time. He was there probably I think half an hour after Lola was born and stayed for hours while I was not there and he captured all the things that I missed while I was gone, which I’m forever grateful for.
The President of Heartfelt, Gavin Blue says: “It’s a gift to give them some memory because usually it’s the last thing people think of in a time like that. And when this sort of stuff happens, having a photo that you can share really helps the grieving for a family.”
These are not photo of Lola but they’re an example of the kinds of photos Heartfelt take. These images are being shared with the kind permission of the families.
In the last year alone, the number of photo sessions has more than doubled.
A few months ago we ran a post from Gemma-Rose Turnbull, a photographer for Heartfelt.
I think it was the hair that got me. Days later it is still the hair that I’m thinking about. Little waves of it, slicked to her scalp by the way she had entered the world. Dried and curly with the remnants of birth. And her tiny lips, puckered ready for kissing. But this babe hadn’t entered peacefully, and the way her head lay, her tiny feet, her hands and her chest pinpricked with the texture of the towel that covered her, was testament to the lack of breath in her lungs.
Her mouth, that sweet kissable mouth, was dark and seemed to frown somehow. It was like she was sad she knew she’d almost made it from that deep dark place in her Mums belly to that safe milky spot on her chest. Still she lay there, a lovely chubby girl, and I took what I could of her for a memento. I took her face, her hands crossed over her little heart, her feet, everything I could get into my camera for safe keeping, and then I walked out into the relentless summer sunshine, to a world that moved on, paying no heed to the loss of her small breaths, and a parking ticket.
It was then, photographing the second dead child in less than an hour, that the midwife had turned to me and said “This part is the hardest part. I hate it”. And I knew she meant what I was feeling, that those little lifeless bodies, were more than their size. So many hopes and dreams, even expectations, were tucked up into their teeny hearts, under their miniature fingernails, in the wave of those birth formed curls, that they should have been 1000 feet tall not so terribly, terribly, eternally small.
These babies, are in my heart. I can’t name them, and they are not mine to grieve for, but they are there. Heart. Felt. So let this be a catalogue for you, of my moments with them, which were privileged and precious, no matter how fleeting.