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Bellwood photographer helps grieving families

December 20, 2018

The loss of a child, either midway through pregnancy or shortly after being born, can be devastating. But, Angie Wellman is trying to aid with the grieving process through a photography outlet.

The Bellwood resident volunteers for Now I Lay Me Down To Sleep, a nonprofit organization providing free heirloom portraits for families whose child has either passed away at or near birth. Co-founded by Sandy Puc in 2005, the organization has thousands of volunteer photographers working in more than 40 countries, according to Puc’s website.

It was almost 10 years ago that Wellman was introduced to the organization while attending a workshop led by Puc. The Bellwood resident runs a photography studio, New World Designs. Although most of her work revolves around weddings and high school senior portraits, it was Puc’s workshop that inspired Wellman to volunteer with the program. To date, she has provided photos for 15 families through the organization.

Wellman said when a family loses a child, typically they don’t think of taking any photos of the baby. But Wellman said having these portraits can help a family remember their lost child and heal.

“You’re not thinking of that when it’s happening, that’s the last thing on your mind,” Wellman said about the photos. “So I put myself in their position and kind of think for them.”

Right after a child is either stillborn or discovered to not have much time to live, the hospital contacts a regional NILMDTS representative upon the family’s approval. That person then reaches out to a volunteer photographer, such as Wellman.

“It’s emotional. You feel for that family that just lost a baby or is going to lose a baby, Wellman said. “You have to put yourself in their position and think of how hard that is and how they’re probably not going to want to smile in a picture, and how these are probably the only pictures they’re going to have (of that child).”

Driving to the hospital, Wellman said she mentally prepares herself.

“You have to hold it together during the session,” Wellman said. “Usually when I leave is when I break down.”

The family can request to have the photo of the baby either with or without the parents. All photos are edited to make the baby look flawless and free from any bruising, wounds, or sores they may have. The photos are in black and white to avoid any harsh coloring the baby may have, Wellman said.

Many of the families post these photos online during the anniversary of the child’s death.

“They’re so appreciative and they’re so happy because this is the only photos they have of their baby,” Wellman said. “They can look back and see that picture and remember what their baby looked liked.”

Wellman’s husband, Kenny Wellman, said doing this kind of work can put a strain on many, but helping others is just what his Angie is all about.

“I think it’s something she needs to be commended for, I don’t think it’s for everyone,” Kenny Wellman said. “Not everyone is up for that, but at the same time she feels like there’s sort of a calling for that.”

About two months ago, Wellman gave birth to her third child. The baby was born five weeks prematurely, and there was grave concern over whether the child would survive. With her daughter pulling through, Wellman said the experience gave her some new insight.

“Being that close to losing ours kind of put me in their position a little more,” Wellman said.

And with this new found perspective, Wellman plans to continue volunteering with NILMDTS for as long as she can.

Eric Schucht is a reporter for The Banner-Press. Reach him via email at eric.schucht@lee.net.

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