It's hard to believe the joy of birth and the sorrow of death can happen in the same breath.
"Whether she came out breathing or not, we knew we weren't going to have Ella for years to come," said Henrico County mom Christi Hancock. Her daughter, baby Ella, was born with Trisomy 13. It means she had an extra chromosome and her organs did not develop properly. 80% of babies with this disorder live only minutes, maybe hours.
"When she was born there was just that frightening silence. Then she let out her huge cry and so we knew that we at least were going to have a few minutes with her," said Hancock.
Hancock and her family wanted to make sure their first moments with baby Ella would last a lifetime — which is why the family invited professional photographer Anthony Rumley into their hospital room. Rumley is a volunteer and area coordinator for 'Now I Lay Me Down To Sleep,' a national non-profit that pairs photographers with parents facing the loss of a baby.
"No matter how long or how short a life, I feel it should be celebrated and that's one of the driving forces behind the remembrance photography," said Rumley.
In a moments notice, he could get that difficult call, from any of our area hospitals, to show up and capture the final moments of a life cut unbearably short. The pictures are free, his work, almost like a ministry.
"It's really part of the grieving process. It used to be it was very taboo, not to speak about the loss of a child because people didn't know what to say to comfort them," said Rumley.
He see's this as a gift and it's not an easy one. Some, like baby Ella, are in the final days of life. Other times the babies are in the moments after they have already passed away.
"We've had situations where the moms weren't even able to hold their child because they were so distraught," said Rumley.
The lens is a sort of protection for Rumley, but the emotion of what he does is never really shut out.
"You feel the emotion that was there and you kind of have to breathe a little bit."
Christi Hancock is forever grateful.
"It's an amazing gift for families who are going through an incredibly hard time and it's a way to cherish and remember their baby," said Hancock.
Baby Ella was a fighter and hung on for three whole months. She died in her sleep at home. To Christi, the pictures are worth every word, every thought, every emotion. "Just to still remember every details about her face and her head and her toes. She was still our baby whether she lived or not. She was still a part of the family," said Hancock.
You have to be a professional photographer that can handle emotional situations. Contact Richmond area coordinator Anthony Rumley at 804-864-5700 or his cell: 804-513-3106. You can also visit his website.