Photos chronicle the life of a baby girl who only lived for two days but was loved enough for a lifetime
When parents are getting ready to bring a new baby into the world, they’re imagining so many things. Holding their child for the first time, watching them grow and learn, celebrating their first birthdays — it’s a truly exciting time.
Sadly, there are some parents who will say goodbye to their children much too soon, before they’re able to experience a fraction of those special moments. A photographer captured one such brief life in a series of stunning photos as a family spent only two days with their baby girl before she died in her mother’s arms.
Ela Wunderli, of Itsy Photography, shares the story of Lillian Haynie and her family, parents Julianne and Jared, and her six older siblings. Baby Lily only lived for two and a half days and the third anniversary of her death was this past February, but her family celebrated her life and continue to do so every year on her birthday. The way Juilanne and Jared handled the birth and death of their child is both heartbreaking and inspiring — it’s hard to imagine what they went through, but they did it all with such grace and love.
From Wunderli’s blog Julianne explains how after a move to California and tracking down an ob-gyn to care for her during the last month of her pregnancy, the family received difficult news. Lily had either Trisomy 18 or Trisomy 13, both fatal diagnoses with half of babies born still and the other half not living beyond a week. Julianne says despite these dismal statistics, she “felt the reassurance that she would be born alive.”
And her intuition was correct. Baby Lily’s two and a half days on earth were captured in a series of the most beautiful photos you’ll ever see. Wunderli caught every moment, from Julianne sitting quietly in her hospital bed awaiting her baby’s birth all the way to Lily’s funeral.
One of the most striking images is where Lily’s siblings came to meet her. Of that precious moment, Wunderli says, “Each one had a different way of expressing his/her feelings during this time. It was an honor to capture their first moments together, and the expressions on their faces as they met their little sister.”
When the time came for Lily to take her final breathes, the family tells Huffington Post that they removed her from the machines keeping her alive and were then able to take her to a quiet room and spend as much time with her as they wanted. It was decided that Jared would take the older children home and put them to bed while Julianne would have a little time alone with her baby girl. Of the experience, Julianne says, “It was so beautiful and precious. I would do it again, and again, and again…”
A unique aspect of this story is how the Haynie family chose to celebrate the birth of their daughter and include their older children every step of the way. When a family deals with a deep loss like this, it can be easy for the grief and pain to swallow up everything else. Julianne and Jared made the choice to celebrate their daughter’s life, however brief it was, and to continue to remember her every year since.
Julianne says, “We still have moments today when we remember her and cry, but I don’t feel any negative emotions remain with us from this experience. It is not a memory we hide or try to bury in our hearts, but instead we celebrate her short life and the spirit we know lives on.”
As they should. And in the process, they give hope and solace to other families going through the loss of a child.