When she was 33 weeks pregnant, mum-of-two Sarah Jade learnt the devastating news that her son Aksel Jude had passed away in the womb, she was determined to capture the moment he was born.
Aksel had died following severe complications with his brain development, but as Sarah, 33, was so far along, she still needed to give birth to her stillborn child.
“I wanted a beautiful birth,” Sarah who is also mum to Arthur, three, explains. “But when we knew what the outcome of the birth would be, I still wanted to capture those moments.”
So Sarah turned to birth photographer Lacey Barratt to capture her devastating journey from start to finish – from her emotional labour to a poignant second photoshoot the following day and finally Aksel’s funeral.
Sarah, from Melbourne, Australia, said the images have helped her and husband Tim, 34, begin to heal.
They see the beautiful shots as a way to honour their son’s memory.
“It was traumatic,” Sarah recalls. “The worst part was that I was pushing so hard, and Aksel was halfway out but then went back in, and I had to push all over again.”
“I just burst out in tears at that moment,” she continues. “It was like my body wanted to push but my heart wanted to keep him inside of me.”
Sarah says getting to hold Aksel after she’d given birth was an amazing feeling.
“I just wanted to soak in those moments with Aksel and embrace him forever. I have never experienced that amount of different emotions at one time. I thought I was going to explode.”
Doctors first became concerned about the development of Aksel’s brain at Sarah’s 20 week scan, and after a series of tests she went for an MRI scan at 31 weeks pregnant.
But her worst fears were confirmed when her son was diagnosed with a brain abnormality called Polymicrogyria, which was so severe he would not have been able to survive or have any quality of life outside the womb.
Tragically, at 33 weeks Aksel’s heart stopped beating and Sarah gave birth to her stillborn son on February 11th.
Sarah wanted Aksel’s birth to be special and is thankful she has the photographs to honour the precious moments with her son.
“I’ll never regret having those photographs taken. It is something for us to hold onto forever,” she says.
“Our whole family saw Aksel and said goodbye. Letting go was the hardest thing we’ve ever had to go through.”
Speaking about the task of capturing the family’s emotional journey, photographer Lacey Barratt, who is also based in Melbourne, said: “There are so many hidden stories of pregnancy loss and there are so many women that have never been validated.
“So by sharing stories and photographs like this, we’re uniting everyone in that validation.
“I’ve had so many messages and comments from women who have lost their babies, and there is just so much solidarity.
“I think back to all the friends and family that I’ve lost over the course of my life, and while you know what they look like, you don’t have a very vivid picture in your mind but a faint recollection of what that person was like.
“But to have a photograph of them you’re getting a hard copy replica of what they looked like. It’s so reassuring to go back and look at them and say ‘I was holding you. You were real.’
“To have that cemented in photographs, means you can look back whenever you want to. Every birth matters. And I’m so honoured to be a part of these experiences.”
Here’s how the family’s heartbreaking journey was captured.
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