Pregnancy and birth are miraculous journeys. This amazing time of life is full of mystery, anticipation, joy, hope, and wonder. These things humble and amaze and are what we celebrate when a baby is born. But, there is another aspect of pregnancy and birth. There is an unexpected place in this journey where some families may find themselves. When a baby dies, a world is turned upside down. There is confusion, sadness, fear, and uncertainty that cannot be explained. There is sorrow where there should have been joy. During this time, it might be impossible for families to know what they might need in order to heal in the future.
Francie Batten Hodges is the area coordinator for the Now I Lay Me Down To Sleep Foundation (NILMDTS), a network of more than 7,000 volunteer photographers in the United States and 25 countries. At a family’s request, Mrs. Hodges, or another photographer in the network, goes to the hospital or hospice location to conduct a sensitive and private portrait session of the infant or child. The photos are professionally retouched and presented to the family on an archival DVD or CD.
“I work closely with East Texas Medical Center and Mother Frances Hospital, but we cover an area that includes Longview, Palestine, Jacksonville, and even home births,” Mrs. Hodges said. “We go to the hospital and photograph the infant or child with the parents, grandparents, and siblings without any charge to the families. For parents who have had so little time with their child, these photos tend to give them a tangible object to keep and remind them of their baby.”
Outside of her service to NILMDTS, Mrs. Hodges also volunteers with PATH, Bethesda Health Clinic, the Dr. Luke Society, the Tyler ISD Foundation, and with PTA. She is active with both the Susan G. Komen Foundation and the St. Paul’s Children’s Foundation. Mrs. Hodges is currently helping plan the Discovery Science Place’s fundraiser, Sweet Discoveries.
Quoting Aesop, Mrs. Hodges said, “ ‘No act of kindness, no matter how small, is ever wasted.’ Tyler is my home, and I love to give back to the town that has meant so much to me. My husband and I feel fortunate to have raised our family here.”
Born in San Angelo, Texas, Mrs. Hodges moved to Tyler in 1977. She and her husband, Bryan, have also lived in Austin, but returned to Tyler in 2000. The Hodges are the parents of Will, 19, and Clayton, 15. Mrs. Hodges is a graduate of Robert E. Lee High School. She earned her associate’s degree from Tyler Junior College and her bachelor’s degree from The University of Texas at Tyler. Mrs. Hodges and her family attend Marvin United Methodist Church.
“Tyler is a very giving city. It’s very easy to become involved in the community’s needs because every organization has a giving spirit that is infectious,” Mrs. Hodges said.