Helping those who have experienced loss heal through remembrance photography: Ranisha De La Cruz experience with NILMDTS

In the Story “Helping those who have experienced infant loss heal through remembrance photography” the organization Now I Lay Me Down To Sleep was discussed along with what they do and provide to families who go through a loss while in the hospital. This can include a late term loss, or a stillborn, or a child born to premature to live or a child born with medical conditions that does not have a chance of surviving outside the hospital.

In this story, Ranisha tells about her experience with Now I Lay Me Down To Sleep when she lost her daughter Shiloh at 23 weeks and 2 days; just five days before the Georgia State Age of viability.

Shiloh was born at 23 weeks and 2 days to Ranisha and her husband Andres De La Cruz. They had one other child at the time. Ranisha was 17 weeks with Shiloh when her water broke after a placenta bleed. She was able to carry her until 23 weeks before she was forced to give birth to her due to infection. Shiloh was born alive but did not survive due to hospital policy and Georgia Law stating that no life-saving therapies could be given to a baby born under 24 weeks.

This is where Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep (NILMDTS) came in. “They were offered to me while I was in the hospital,” Ranisha says about her time with NILMDTS. “Thank God for them. They came as soon as possible to the hospital and made the whole experience joyful.”

Now I Lay Me Down to sleep is a non-profit organization that provides lasting memories to parents who will not be able to bring their baby home from the hospital. The photographers who volunteer their time are trained in how to handle just about any situation when called in. The parents have the option to contact the company themselves, but the nurses/social workers usually have contact information for them as well.

Cass Martinez, the Atlanta Area Coordinator and photographer for NILMDTS, said the reason she loves doing what she does and providing this gift to families is, “I think my favorite part is just the Thank you. We get written notes and cards all the time from families that reiterate what we are doing and that we are doing the right thing. This is something everyone should have, it shouldn’t matter if you can afford a photographer or not, this is a very special, intimate time that should be preserved and so it’s very important to me that anyone who wants these types of photos gets them. It fills my heart with joy to know that we serve these families.”

Ranisha and Andres De la Cruz and their 5 children. 3 of the 5 children are Rainbows. The oldest boy is the rainbow after the low of Shiloh and is holding the elephant that represents her. Photo Credit Sariah Luna @Reflections by Luna

Shiloh lived approximately 1 hour after birth. She was born at 23 weeks and 2 days gestation; just 5 days to the age of viability but so much more could have been done to help her survive. Ranisha had been having issues off and on her whole pregnancy and it was constantly brushed off by not only her doctor but also the nurses/doctors at the hospital. If they had taken her care seriously and realized there was more going on than just “regular bleeding” during pregnancy, they may have been able to prevent the fluid leak that led to the infection that led to Shiloh being preterm.

Shiloh is not Ranisha’s first loss. Ranisha had 2 more miscarriages after her. Three of her 5 kids are considered rainbow babies because of the losses or trials they had to go through for that child to be born. Losing your sibling or child is never easy whether it’s early on in pregnancy, infant loss such as a stillborn, or even a child or adult.

Ranisha and Andres De la Cruz after the birth of their last child and with Shiloh represented as part of the family. Photo Credit Sariah Luna @Reflections by Luna

Jessica Kanter, MD at Shady Grove Infertility clinic says, “A big part of providing support is recognizing their loss. And I think that you know, for some women, it is every loss is a loss. Whether it’s a loss of biochemical pregnancy, a recognized pregnancy in the first trimester, or a pregnancy that is later or even after birth. All of these are losses, and they should be treated as such and should be recognized as such.” More medical professionals, family members, and friends should be willing to recognize any loss as a loss and to provide love and support to that person as if it was a grown child/adult who passed away.

The law in Georgia at the time of Ranisha’s daughter’s death was that if the child was born before the age of viability, no life-saving therapies would be administered, regardless of how close to the 24-week mark they were. Because of this, her daughter was born alive, but Ranisha had to watch her little girl die right before her eyes. It was one of the hardest things she ever had to go through.

However, because of NILMDTS, she has those precious memories preserved for a lifetime. Ranisha said, “Every year I open her memorial box that the hospital gave me and look at her pictures. It’s become a joyous tradition to open her box and talk about whom she looked like and how old she would be now. Because of the pictures, I still have a part of her that will always remain with me. I’ll always be eternally grateful to NILMDTS for the blessing they give families.”

Ramie Pregnant with her final child and Rainbow Genevieve. Photo Credit: Sariah Luna @Reflections by Luna

Now, there is an Executive Order in place that allows life-saving therapies for infants born between 22- and 24 weeks gestation. According to Executive Order 13952, “Every infant born alive, no matter the circumstances of his or her birth, has the same dignity and the same right as every other individual and is entitled to the same protections under Federal Law…In addition, the Born-Alive infant’s protection Act makes clear that all infants born alive are individuals for these and other Federal Laws and are therefore afforded the same legal protections as any other person. Together, these laws help protect infants born alive from discrimination in the provision of medical treatment, including infants who require emergency medical treatment, who are premature, or who are born with disabilities.”

This executive order was signed into law by President Trump on September 25, 2020. If it had been put into law just a couple of years earlier, sweet Shiloh would still be with us or would have had a better chance at survival.

Without the gift that NILMDTS provides to families like Ranisha’s, they would never have the opportunity to preserve those precious memories of the little one they never get to bring home.

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