Local residents Summer Thorp-Lancaster and Kandi Woessner work with new or expecting mothers everyday, helping them welcome their newborns into the world. And recently, the two have taken it upon themselves to aid those families who have to say goodbye too soon.

Local residents Summer Thorp-Lancaster and Kandi Woessner work with new or expecting mothers everyday, helping them welcome their newborns into the world. And recently, the two have taken it upon themselves to aid those families who have to say goodbye too soon.

Kandi, the owner of Little Mother Photography, and Summer, the owner of Summer Birth Services and professional doula, are working to serve families dealing with pregnancy loss or stillbirth, helping them through the grieving process and giving them something to hold onto for the future.

“What we offer are our services to families dealing with pregnancy loss or stillbirth,” said Kandi. “They don’t get to see that child grow up and create memories. The pictures I take and the care Summer provides—those are moments where you can’t grasp their importance until later.”

Kandi explained she works with the family, asking them what sort of photos they would like, and creates a collection that she’ll gift to the family in the form of a digital file they can look at later.

“That gives them time to access them when they’re ready,” she said.

Kandi said there is often a sense of urgency when the baby is delivered, as families have a window of time in which they are able to handle the baby. She explained she likes to be there “between hours one and two of delivery”, and stays close to her phone to be ready at any time.

While Kandi provides a tangible memory for the family to hang onto, Summer works with the family to help them get through the pain of the situation.

“My focus is on the care and the support,” Summer said. “What typically happens when there is a loss situation, is there are decisions that are needing to be made. I help the family step back and think about what they need to do.”

Summer described herself as an advocate who isn’t bothering the grieving family with paperwork, and to quietly support them and help them decide what they need in the moments where they might be overwhelmed.

“For someone to be an advocate for a mom or dad in that situation is huge,” she said.

Even after the family leaves the hospital, Summer continues to work with them. She explained the loss of a child comes with a very specific type of grief, and general support groups aren’t always equipped to offer the help grieving families need.

“There’s a very poignant grief that people who haven’t been through that don’t understand, meeting your baby the same day you say goodbye,” she said.

Kandi and Summer both explained this type of loss is more common than many people realize, and one of their main goals is to spread awareness and let others know support exists. They gave the statistic that one in four women experience some form of child loss, but suspect it’s actually much higher due to a lack of reporting.

“From my own experience, it’s much higher,” said Summer. “So many people feel like they can’t discuss it. It’s like this terrible little club you don’t realize exists until you experience a loss.”

Kandi added that often, mother’s who are in the moment don’t realize there’s a place or person they can call to get support.

“I would like to bring awareness, I would like to let these families know there are people out there that would like to offer them those services and support,” she said.

Kandi said she and Summer have worked together often over the years, as they’re respective businesses have them regularly cross paths and clients. After discussing the topic with each other, the decision to make a move and actively begin helping these families was made.

Kandi said that many mother’s she’s spoken with through her work have mentioned their own experiences with pregnancy loss, and said they wished to have had photos of their child along with the support. She added that she has been blessed by the community and this is a way for her to give back using her skills.

The number one thing Kandi and Summer want families in this situation to realize is they are not alone.

“Help is there if they would like it,” Summer said. “It very much needs to be something they want to have, rather than something forced upon them, because so many things are already forced upon them.”

The two have also started a Facebook support group specific to this type of loss. Mothers and fathers alike can visit Rolla Rainbow Group. The group also meets in-person once a month.

Families or individuals interested in Kandi’s or Summer’s services can contact them through Kandi’s website, littlemotherphotography.com. The services offered to these families are free of charge, although donations are accepted.