A precious few moments in the life of a child, gone all too quickly as children grow up. Last March, Heather Hartlen of Canada captured some precious footage of a tiny baby, and sadly reflected on this very truth. She realized that many parents never have professional photos of their newborn children. Thus, was born the Tiny Footprints Project, a free service where photographers offer their services free of charge to parents of babies born in the NICU. The program quickly spread, and the project now serves the United States as well.
Locally, Sierra Medina, a self-employed photographer from Wauseon, who specializes in labor and delivery photography, learned of the Tiny Footprints Projects on Facebook via a group she is a part of for newborn photographers. Moved by the greater desire to give back to the community, Sierra requested information about how she could become a part of this project.
Sierra, a graduate of Four County Career Center in the graphic design program, has enjoyed taking pictures since she was a small child. At the age of seven, she received a Polaroid camera and took pictures of everything including the stones in the driveway. While in high school, she was an active part of the yearbook. Mr. Buchholz, her graphics art teacher, whom she credits for encouraging and helping her in her photography skills, continues to be a mentor even today.
Sierra, who moved to Wauseon from Holgate in 2012 to be closer to her finance, discovered a love of labor and delivery photography when her pregnant neighbor asked her to do some photos of her actual labor and delivery. This type of photo shoot captures the first few precious moments of life and provides parents with a priceless keepsake. It is a relatively new concept in photography in our local area.
While Sierra says she will do any type of photography, her passion is in newborn and labor and delivery photos. So, it seems natural that Sierra would be interested in such an amazing project as the Tiny Footprints Project. Any family with a baby in the NICU qualifies for a free session with Tiny Footprints. Tiny Footprints is a non-profit organization. Photographers, who volunteer their services, pay a $10 fee which provides them with an official badge identifying them as a Tiny Footprints photographer. Photographers can accept no cash donations but are permitted to accept gas card donations.
So far, Sierra, has photographed three babies through the Tiny Footprints Project including a set of twins who underwent open heart surgery and the baby of a Toledo Police Department officer. She has done photo shoots at Toledo Children’s Hospital and Mercy St. Vincent’s Hospital in Toledo. To Sierra’s knowledge, she is the only Tiny Footprints photographer in this local area.
Tracy Lee from Defiance, the mother of the twin babies, who had her babies on February 17 at 23 weeks and 4 days, was told that the baby girls would not survive birth. The babies are presently in the NICU at St Vincent’s hospital in Toledo. Tracy shares that the Tiny Footprints Project was a blessing. She says, “Sierra was so polite, so friendly, so caring, and did such an amazing job that I would recommend them [Tiny Footprints] to anyone. They are truly a blessing to anybody to do such an amazing thing for people in the same situation that we are in.”
Anyone who knows they will be delivering prematurely can pre-arrange a Tiny Footprints photo session. Besides the photo session, families also receive a photo necklace through Picture Perfect Printing and Gifts. There are no income stipulations. Once the photographer has finished the session, the family will receive the photos within 30 days. The family will then receive all photos that turn out on disc or a digital download with a form for print release.
With Sierra’s experience in labor and delivery, she states, “I feel comfortable with complicated delivery situations.” Given the delicate health of babies in the NICU, Sierra acknowledges that sometimes these stories do not always have happy endings. The Tiny Footprints Project provides parents with something special, something tangible to hold onto. “It’s a win-win situation. Parents have images to look back on as their babies grow or they have something to treasure,” Sierra attests.
For more information about the Tiny Footprints project, you may email them at email@example.com and provide your name, phone number, name and location of the hospital, and approximate time your baby will be in the NICU. Once the request has been made, the family will be matched with a photographer. Tiny Footprints Project can also be found on Facebook at Tiny Footprints Project. For more information about Sierra’s photos, check out her Facebook page Sierra Medina Photography.