WAYNE, N.J. — Renee Valente of Wayne wrapped the newborn’s limp fingers first around those of the mother, then the father.
Then she grabbed her camera.
"These parents will never take their child home," Valente explained. "There is no record, no memories — nothing.
"It is their way to say 'he or she existed and he or she was our child -- if only for a moment."
Valente , whose regular job is taking studio shots of parents with their newborns , also volunteers with “Now I Lay Me Down To Sleep” — an organization that provides free professional remembrance photography to parents suffering the loss of a baby.
Seeing life and death collide in one day hasn't gotten easier for the mother of two. It's her mission, though, to preserve the moment.
“I feel I was given this type of talent to be able to portray things photographically for people,” said Valente, who owns and operates Captured By Renee in Morristown. “I feel it would be selfish of me to put my needs before the family’s needs.”
Each session begins similarly and is always somber. The endings can be vastly different, though, and Valente comes prepared for the worst.
She starts in the NICU, where she’s briefed by the nurses on the status of the baby. Then she makes her way to the parents’ hospital room to capture the nuances of the moment.
The time on the clock. The room number. The baby’s heart rate.
“It’s a story of what happened that day,” Valente said. “Anything the mom and dad can think of and things you might want to remember.”
When she gets home, she processes the photos — all in black and white — and everything she’d been holding in during the session.
“That’s when I completely lose it,” Valente said. “I succumb to the emotion that I suppress while I do it.”
In the larger scheme of things, capturing such tragedies has helped Valente appreciate the happier moments.
“If is is a celebration, everything has gone right,” she said. “So many things can go wrong. But with my regular clients, that is perfection.”
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