The Infamous Photo Post (best of)

Here is another retrospective post from my old blog. This was one of my more popular posts, and I figured I’d share it again.  I will mention this, I don’t do the Duggers.  I just don’t get it. I don’t care how many kids they have or any of that, and that’s just it I don’t have cable, and I don’t care. BUT, I was deeply offended by news stories that called them “weird” for wanting a picture of the baby they lost.  There’s probably a whole lot of reasons to call them weird that qualify, but I don’t agree with that one.

No one who hasn’t had a child on the verge of death, or worse, can judge what we grasp for comfort.  So, without further ado, a “Best of” from 2011 – and if you read my book when it comes out this is the post I was talking about.

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In Bad Taste

Yesterday, in one of my Facebook groups, a heart mom with a new baby was asking for advice from us veterans. Apparently, some people (more than one!) told her it was “in bad taste” to photograph her newborn son in the hospital. I don’t get deeply and passionately angry about much. Wal-Mart makes the list, but else-wise I’m a live and let live kind of person. However, I’ve been fuming about this since yesterday.

While I was writing my book I came across a blog entry by a CHD survivor. She didn’t like that parents were sharing their kids’ pictures online because she felt it left the children vulnerable to bullying later in life, and possibly would make them feel exposed. I give her credence as a survivor, but in the book I took exception to two things 1). the idea that we should EVER tolerate or give way to bullying in such a way that it changes what we do in our private lives and 2). the notion that any child who survives such a severe condition should ever be ashamed of what it took to just live.

I give CHD survivors a wide berth because they have to deal with far more than I understand, and Liam is one of them so they are like extended family. However, anyone who neither has CHD nor has consented to their newborn’s open heart surgery before ever leaving the hospital needs to reconsider “bad taste.”

More than 100 mothers responded to this woman’s call for advice. Not ONE told her that she should not photograph her child. Several who had not photographed their own children, or felt they hadn’t done enough in that situation, encouraged her to take many pictures. Some women’s children have died, and those pictures are more precious to them than most people can even imagine.

In an effort to bridge the knowledge gap, I present the case for capturing your child’s first moments regardless of where they happen:

First and foremost, the child might die and those may be the only photos that parent ever has of her child. Cold hard fact – if people find that distasteful then they need a reality check.

This child might survive, and when he/she grows up deserves to know the reality and severity they overcame. Additionally, doctors consider it an “epidemic” that so many adult CHD survivor don’t understand their defects or seek proper follow up care. Hiding from the truth does no one any favors.

Heart Moms don’t get birth announcement pictures that healthy babies get. Some of us get helicopter transport, months on end at the hospital, and an overwhelming fear of losing our child, but we don’t get many things that other moms get – so don’t begrudge us our pictures.

Matthew Brady is famous for documenting the cost and reality of the Civil War. Until the photojournalism of Vietnam, most Americans on the home-front could not appreciate the true cost of war. In fact, the absence of coverage of our current wars has been attributed to American apathy for the conflicts and our involvement.

War is Hell, and honesty is never in bad taste. Fighting for your child’s survival is also hellacious, and I’ve been damned enough on this road, that I’ll be damned again, before I let any “civilian” tell me or my sisters in arms that telling the truth by capturing our children’s fight is in “bad taste.”

Would these people tell a mother of a child with cancer that she shouldn’t photograph her child until his hair grows back? Would they tell a mother whose child has cerebral palsy that she needs to crop out the wheelchair? The people just might. A friend was photographed after her double mastectomy. Was that picture hard to see? – YES, of course it was, but not as hard as having both of your breasts removed, fighting for your life though chemo, and worrying about leaving your children behind. If I thought, “Oh, that’s too hard for me to look at,” then I would never be able to begin to empathize with my friend and so many like her. It is the cost of survival. It is the truth. Pictures aren’t always pretty, and they shouldn’t have to be.  If my friend is hurting, who am I to tell her to be quiet because her pain hurts me? Talk about bad taste.

So, is it hard to look at a tiny helpless little baby on life support machines? Of course. Imagine how hard it is when it’s YOUR baby. Imagine that you are expecting a child and after he is born people don’t want to look at him. Think about how cruel that is. It’s not like she’s showing off her placenta, it’s her child for God’s sake.

If I treated you to a fancy dinner, yes it would be in bad taste for me to show you the bill. When the subject is survival, the vulgarity is not in the battle itself but in the public’s, and especially fair weather friends’, refusal to recognize the cost of it. Polite society has historically turned a blind eye to domestic abuse, racism, and a plethora of cruelties against humanity. It is not vulgar to be honest and bear testament to the truth. It is in bad taste to place one’s own illusions about how life “should” be above the simple yet strenuous act of basic human compassion. It’s unquestionably rude to assume that one’s personal discomfort supersedes the extraordinary pain of a woman whose child is close to death.

Who is so bold and so conceited to expect such a mother fighting to edit her experience for their own comfort? That’s the most extraordinary example of hubris I’ve ever heard. Like so many situations in life, it’s what the statement says about the speaker that is so much more telling than the words themselves.

3 Comments »

  1. YOU ROCK Amanda, I CHERISH the photo’s of my kids I took in hospital, before and after surgeries, while having blood tests, its there story, one I might not be around to tell them when they are older, who knows what life might spin us…..ITS there story and they deserve to see it just like any other child would. They deserve to see milstones like breathing tubes coming out, because it was as big if not bigger milstone than any kids who learns to walks is………….People sure need a reality check and think you just have them one……good on you….(((HUGS)))))

  2. Amanda this is a great post that brought me to tears. I treasure my pictures of Luke in the hospital after his 13 surgeries, especially the newborn ones. His tiny body surrounded by machines keeping him alive reminds me how hard we fought and how far we’ve come.

    Luke is now at the age where he’s asking questions about those pictures and starting to process everything he’s been through. They are a valuable teaching and coping tool.

    I cannot imagine anyone having the nerve to tell a parent not to take pictures of the baby or child EVER or in any circumstance! If someone said that to me I would be extremely offended.

  3. I have hundreds of pictures of all my kids but Analicia was my first and was my heart child. I cannot imagine losing even one of her pictures. I treasure every one of them no matter how hard it might be to see and reflect back on what she has been through. But I look at them and am so proud of what she has overcome and still battles to this day. It really is a pity that people need to berate these parents for holding on to all they have left of their children other than their memories. Just sad.

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