* WARNING SENSITIVE CONTENT *
By Jasmine Kazlauskas
A heartbroken mum has revealed intimate photographs of her battling through a traumatic labour while knowing her son would be stillborn.
Mum-of-two Sarah Jade, 33, gave birth to son Aksel Jude at 33 weeks after he passed away in the womb following severe complications with his brain development.
Photographer Lacey Barratt captured her devastating journey from start to finish – from her emotional labour to a poignant second photoshoot the following day and finally Aksel’s funeral.
And Sarah, from Melbourne, Australia, said the heart-wrenching gallery of images – which encapsulate her raw emotion and the tragedy of pregnancy loss – have helped her and husband Tim, 34, begin to heal and are a way to honour their son’s memory.
Sarah, who is also mum to three-year-old Arthur, said: “I wanted a beautiful birth.
“But when we knew what the outcome of the birth would be, I still wanted to capture those moments.
“It was traumatic. 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. It was like my body wanted to push but my heart wanted to keep him inside of me.
“Getting to hold him after he was out was such an amazing feeling. It really helped us all to be able to see him and hold him.
“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.
“I’ll never regret having those photographs taken. It is something for us to hold onto forever.
“Our whole family saw Aksel and said goodbye. Letting go was the hardest thing we’ve ever had to go through.
“Our three-year-old Arthur came in to say goodbye. We had talked about him having a little baby brother for so long, so we needed him to see Aksel.
“I said ‘here is your brother’. Arthur looked for a moment and then turned to me and said ‘but he’s not talking mummy. Why is he sleeping?’
“He still has that pure childhood innocence that meant he couldn’t fully understand the gravity of the situation.
“Aksel will be in our hearts forever.”
Doctors became extremely 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 went into labour on February 10 before giving birth to her stillborn son early the following morning [Feb 11].
Lacey returned for a second solemn post mortem photoshoot with Sarah and Aksel on February 12 before he was laid to rest on March 9.
Sarah wanted Aksel’s birth to be special and said she is thankful she has the photographs to honour the precious moments with her son.
She said: “I hadn’t felt quite right the entire pregnancy – it was a bit like mother’s intuition telling me that something was wrong.
“But it wasn’t until the 20-week scan that the doctors began noticing something was really wrong with Aksel’s brain. Each test came back with more bad news.
“After an MRI scan at 31 weeks, our doctor told us that our baby would not be able to survive outside the womb.
“And if somehow, he did miraculously survive the birth, he would most likely pass away soon after.
“We were heartbroken. It was absolutely devastating. It was so hard to have this dream of another child be completely ripped out from underneath you.
“The hardest thing is not knowing why this happened to us. Why we had to go through this nightmare.
“Before I had Aksel I was just happy with just having one child. But now I feel so incomplete.
“We are just taking it one day at a time and trying to move forward.”
Photographer Lacey, 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.”
To donate to Sarah’s fundraising page to help parents dealing with pregnancy loss, go to https://www.gofundme.com/from-one-angel-to-another