VISALIA, Calif. (KGPE) – The old saying still rings true today – a picture is worth a thousand words. But what if a picture is all you had to hold, touch, and feel? What if a few precious portraits were all you had to remember? A photographer from Visalia is making a difference – and many are calling her an angel.
For Aimee Sa, photography started as a hobby that turned into a profession.
That profession turned into a burning passion, but there’s one thing Aimee is even more passionate about than holding a camera in her hands.
“Gosh, all I wanted to be was a mom. I taught for 15 years and was ready. I wanted to be like all the other moms with the babies and at the time I was teaching there were seven of us pregnant at school. We had a young staff. So, seven pregnant mamas at school and I didn’t get to bring mine home,” says Aimee Sa, owner of Aimee Sa Photography.
Aimee and her husband Jeff lost their first son, whose name was going to be Seth.
Seth would be 22 years old today, but they didn’t give up and tried again to get pregnant.
“I had a miscarriage after Seth. Just at two months, they call it a normal miscarriage, there’s nothing normal about it,” says Sa.
After back-to-back losses and wondering if they will ever be able to have children – a miracle on December 31, 2004, little Peyton was born.
“She was our tax break baby,” Sa giggled.
The Sa’s would try one more time after Peyton, but they lost that child, too.
“I think she’s all of the babies rolled up into one. She’s got a lot of personality. I think God said you’re not going to have four babies, but you’re going to have all four rolled up into one kid and you’re going to enjoy every bit of it,” says Sa.
When asked what Sa learned through the three losses, she realized her life had a different calling.
“I learned I really, really wanted to be a mother. I learned that I would do anything to become a mother and I learned that not everybody is good at being pregnant. I was not good at being pregnant. Just because you want to doesn’t mean you can and will,” says Sa.
She also learned a lesson that haunts her still to this day. Aimee wishes she had said yes when the hospital offered her a few precious Polaroid portraits of Seth.
“It was very traumatic, so when they offered me a snapshot. I was just definitely just not going to have that. I just wanted to close that chapter, leave the hospital and go home. Little did I realize how much healing takes place when you actually get to revisit what happened, revisit the baby, it keeps that you’re still a mother, you know, it keeps that baby a part of your life,” says Sa.
Jocelynn and Ryan Perry also lost their first child, Rylynn Jade, on April 4, 2018.
“I think it’s rough regardless, but I think it’s a lot different when it’s your first because you have all that excitement and your announcement, your gender reveal, nursery, and the last thing you would ever expect is to come home to an empty house,” says Jocelynn Perry.
By their side, in their hospital room, Aimee Sa quietly, discreetly, takes pictures with her camera. Capturing these precious portraits of Rylynn’s little hands, tiny toes, and the thin strands of hair on the top of her head.
“It’s just such a blessing. At the moment, somebody coming to you saying “Hey, this is a service I offer,” and not even knowing that it’s available, and in that moment, I was kinda hesitant like this is something like I don’t think I want captured and today I’m grateful she did that because today we have something to look back on,” says Ryan Perry.
Aimee is a volunteer photographer for Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep, a national nonprofit agency that provides the gift of free remembrance portraits to parents experiencing the death of a baby.
Aimee is the only volunteer photographer with Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep in the Central Valley, sometimes photographing as many as three to four babies in one week. Over the past 10 years, Aimee has photographed more than 100 sessions.
“I like to start with the baby and get shots of the face and the baby all swaddled in the blanket and I ask for permission if I can unwrap the baby so we can get the toes, and the fingers and I treat it just like I would any other newborn session,” says Sa.
Behind each click of the camera are passion and another precious portrait – a forever gift for the families. And while the sessions carry the weight of the moment, Aimee admits in some strange way that for her the sessions are often therapeutic.
“I’ve actually shot many sessions in the room where I delivered Seth. The first time I did that was very hard. Very emotional. But I could go in there and try to envision me being there, him being there. That’s right, I did see that window there, that’s right, I was lying right there. He was in this bed. It kinda gave me a clearer picture of what happened that night,” says Sa.
“I have one friend that says I’m earning my wings. She says “Oh, Aimee, you’re earning your wings and I’m like, no I’m not I’m just making up for what I lost or what I didn’t get, and every parent deserves that,” Sa added.
And speaking of parents – life is much different today for the Perry family.
Those sleepless nights spent in grief over the loss of baby Rylynn, are now replaced with sleepless nights as they raise their two beautiful kids.
Calvin, he’s four now and Evelynn is two.
“I just want her to know she’s an angel and her babies live on because she carried that on for other people. She personally knew what that meant just like I do. Which is something you could never understand until you go through it,” says Jocelynn Perry.
For anyone interested in getting involved with Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep, click here for information on free training to provide the gift of remembrance photos or to send information to a family who is in need of their photo sessions.