Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep: Remembering Emma

By+Kelli Stopczynski

Ladybugs are emblematic to Lee and Jessica Stevens. From the tiny insects on the flag in front of their home, to their doormat, decorations in their garden, to the stuffed animal ladybugs throughout their home, the pins they wear on their shirts each day and Jessica’s ladybug bracelet, the little red bugs with black dots will always remind them of Emma.

“We probably looked at hundreds of baby room and bedding patterns once we found out we were having a girl,” Jessica remembered. “The one with ladybugs was the one we both agreed on and fell in love with.”

A fourth grade teacher, Jessica recalls having a textbook pregnancy. 

“I went through the morning sickness, the headaches, everything that every other woman goes through and there was nothing out of the ordinary with ultrasounds or doctor visits,” she said. “At 35 weeks, my blood pressure went up and they sent me to the hospital to be monitored for a few hours then sent me home and said everything was fine.”

Five days later on March 5, 2010, she went to the hospital with severe stomach pains. In a whirlwind of ultrasounds and tests, doctors discovered Emma wasn’t moving and her heart wasn’t beating. They delivered her four weeks early in an emergency C-Section.

A short time later, doctors informed the couple that a concealed placental abruption had caused internal bleeding in Jessica and their daughter swallowed some of that blood. They did not expect Emma to survive.

When Emma was just two days old a nurse approached the couple, asking if they’d heard about Now I Lay Me Down To Sleep, a national non-profit organization dedicated to providing free professional photography to parents suffering the loss of a baby. The nurse offered to call a local volunteer to take photos. Lee and Jessica agreed it was a good idea.

Dale Longacre, owner of Lighthousekeeper Studios in Elkhart, received that phone call, dropped what he was doing at the time and arrived at the hospital a few hours later. He spent about eight hours photographing Emma with her friends and family.

“You try very hard to remember everything about every time you got to hold her, see her or see anyone else with her and we were going through so much that it’s sometimes hard to remember,” Lee explained. “We knew we wouldn’t get kindergarten pictures or prom or graduation pictures. That’s why this was so important to us.”

On March 13, Emma passed away at the hospital, surrounded by her parents and ladybug toys and blankets.

“We had eight days with her,” Jessica said. “In that time you don’t get a chance to do a lot. The pictures help us remember and see the joy she brought so many people.”

The one year anniversaries of Emma’s birth and death are bittersweet for the Stevenses, marked with sadness of the loss and knowing they should be celebrating their daughter’s first birthday. But Lee and Jessica are also moving forward with cautious optimism, expecting their second
child in August.

“This baby will know about his or her big sister,” Jessica said.

And Emma’s legacy will live on in ladybug ornaments,  mementos and other gifts friends and family still give Lee and Jessica from time to time, and precious photos that show a sweet, innocent face that continues to touch so many lives.

LOW I LAY ME DOWN TO SLEEP is a non-profit organization founded in 2005 by a Colorado woman whose good friend suffered the loss of a newborn. Currently a network of more than 7,000 photographers throughout the United States and in 25 countries volunteer their time and talent to document the final hours and minutes of infants’ lives. The parents are then given a disc of the photos. For more information on how to donate your time or money visit:


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