next … moms on the move
by Melissa Caddell
Lisa Hezlep: A Focus on Healing
What have I gotten myself into? Lisa Hezlep thought as she approached the hospital room door. The photographer and MOPS mom continued the silent prayer she’d started when she’d received the phone call an hour before, “Please, God, don’t let me mess this up.” With a deep breath and a pounding heart, she stepped into the delivery room where a mom was holding her baby for the first — and last — time.
Lisa is a volunteer for Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep, an organization that coordinates over 7,000 professional photographers worldwide who go to hospitals and take photos of babies who are stillborn or whose lives are all too brief. The pictures Lisa takes will be the only professional photographs a family will ever have of their child — thus her anxiety over doing a good job.
The idea of remembrance photography may seem difficult and be uncomfortable to talk about, but after her first session, Lisa said. “I don’t think of it as taking pictures of a baby that’s passed away; I see it as taking pictures of a mother’s child that she won’t be able to hold again.”
Lisa has not experienced infant loss, but knew remembrance photography was a good fit for her desire to help other moms through her talent in photography. “Photography has always spoken to me. It’s such a powerful way to freeze a moment in time.” She admits that working with moms under such tragic circumstances is hard and that when she first heard of the idea of photographing these precious babies, she wondered how anyone could do it. She struggled with the decision to volunteer for a year before another MOPS leader encouraged her to apply.
As a MOPS leader, Lisa gained confidence in her ability to connect with other moms, allowing her to push past the difficulty of the moment and to make an impact on the lives of moms and families. “Sure it’s hard,” she acknowledges, “I cry during some sessions and after all sessions. But I simply could not imagine how a mom would feel if she had a baby, lost that baby and had no way to see her child. The photographs give her something tangible she can hold onto.”
In the trauma and heartbreak of the moment, a mom may not notice, or may forget details about her baby. When she looks at the breathtaking images Lisa captures, a mom can make concrete Connections to a child who had her nose or Daddy’s feet. The photographs are an important part of the healing process — acknowledging the impact of a baby’s presence on earth and on their families.
As she quietly takes pictures of little hands and little feet, Lisa connects with moms, carefully handling their baby, calling the child by name. How does she do that? “All moms have different gifts,” Lisa says. “This is just mine.”
TOP RIGHT: Maggie and her husband hold little Neve, who their two year-old son called ‘Angel!’ when he saw the photos of her. Maggie said, "We found out that day that death can be both sad and beautiful.”*
MIDDLE LEFT: These ten precious toes belong to Cooper. His mommy, Jennifer said, “We are grateful to NILMDTS and Lisa for beautifully preserving one of the few memories we have of our son. We had so little time with him but these pictures will last a lifetime.” Cooper was unexpectedly stillborn.
BOTTOM RIGHT: Neve’s memorial announcement. Remembrance photography can be significant in the healing that eventually comes after the loss of a newborn. Oftentimes, our worst fear is of losing a child. But photographer Lisa Hezlep says, “The worst thing that can happen is we don’t remember them.”
Photos courtesy of Lisa Hezlep. *Re-touching by Lisa Kammel.
Lisa attends MOPS at Parkside Christian Church in Cincinnati, Ohio where she has served as a Discussion Group Leader and on the Publicity team. She has been married to her husband, Mike, for seven years. She’s the mother to three kids: Nolan (5), Rylie (4) and Ashlynn (2).
Melissa Caddell is a writer, speaker and former MOPS mom in the Denver, Colorado, area. She and her husband, Casey, are raising three girls (11, 8 and 4). Visit her at: melissacaddell.com.
Sometimes when you are going through difficult situations like grief, loss, miscarriage, health challenges or depression, you need some extra help. Visit MOPS.org/help for resource articles.