I look at those pictures and they make me cry. Instead of thinking about what a beautiful baby we made, I think about how dead she looks, how dark her lips are, how loose her skin had become, how her nose kept bleeding. They shred my heart to pieces, so I rarely look at them.
I think Now I Lay Me Down To Sleep is an amazing service, but I'm not crazy about the way Eliza was posed--it looks to me like she's in a coffin, not a cradle. Her poses seem unnatural to me. My favorite ones of her are the ones that include David and me--she's cradled in our arms and she really looks like our baby. But I hate those pictures because I'm sobbing and I have three chins and I'm wearing a hospital gown, and David's face has the most haunted, heartbreaking expression I've ever seen. I can't look at those pictures without all those emotions flooding back. It's just not something I could frame and display in my home.
So I had pretty much resigned myself to remember Eliza just the way she was in my mind, and keeping her photos stored in our fireproof safe in the closet.
Then my friend Caroline told me about an artist who drew a portrait of her first son, Cale, and she was kind enough to send me his photo and the drawing so I could see them side by side. I was really touched that she would share Cale's picture with me, and I was so impressed by the beautiful way the artist had captured Cale just as he was, and also as he should have been.
This artist has a talent for seeing past the stillness to the baby who's there, and that's something that I have never quite been able to do when I look at Eliza's pictures. My mom had told me that she thought Eliza looked like me when I was a baby, but I could never see it.
I wanted to be able to see Eliza that way, so I contacted Dana Klein through her website and inquired about having Eliza's portrait done. It was an incredibly emotional process for me. I cried when I read Caroline's e-mail, I cried when I wrote to Dana, I cried when I got a response from her. I sobbed when I sent her the photos as an e-mail attachment--the idea of a stranger looking at her pictures just freaked me out. But Dana was absolutely kind and compassionate. (And, yes, she told me what a beautiful baby Eliza was.)
It was definitely worth the emotional roller coaster, because when Dana sent me her portrait, it just took my breath away. It looked just like her, and also just as she should have looked.
I remembered her pouty lips--and she definitely got those from me--I have that same shadow under my bottom lip. And her button nose does look like mine did as a baby. I always thought newborns tend to look like their dads, but Eliza seems to be a mini-me, except through the eyes, which I think are David's. Seeing a portrait of her that brings out those qualities, instead of the gruesome reality of her death, makes me so happy and breaks my heart all over again.
I'm thrilled that we now have a portrait of Eliza that I will be hanging in our hallway. I couldn't be prouder of our Baby Duck, and I'm so grateful to Dana for helping to bring forward the beauty that had been lost in our sadness.