A recent trend has seen new mothers photographing themselves with their babies, and posting the image next to a photo of themselves in the same pose while pregnant.
The photos are beautiful, and I loved looking at other mothers’ before-and-after photos while I was pregnant. Photos of my own growing bump were taken, and I was looking forward to taking similar images when my own baby was born.
My baby loss blogging friend Meghan recently posted about these photos, quoting this compilation. She says she genuinely expected to see some empty-handed mothers. However as Meghan says, you are unlikely to see such images in a compilation entitled ‘heartwarming’.
For obvious reasons, I hadn’t looked at such compilations in some months and had forgotten about them.
Meghan’s observations really made me think. Why shouldn’t we see photos of empty-handed mothers side-by-side with their bump photos?
Bereaved mothers are still very much proud mothers.
Hugo grew inside my womb for 24 precious weeks and four vital days.
We still want to show off photos of our precious babies.
Meghan posted her own side-by-side collage with her holding a photo of her beautiful baby girl Mabel, who sadly died a few hours after she was born. I accepted Megan’s challenge to do a side-by-side photo of my own.
Here it is:
I’m about 20/21 weeks’ pregnant in the left-hand side photo. It’s my best bump photo – being as it was winter, my bump in most of the other photos I had taken in those three or so weeks before Hugo’s birth is obscured by jumpers.
I so wish I had taken more bump photos. I was so proud of my bump, and the little life growing inside me. I had taken for granted that I would have 20 or so more weeks of pregnancy and many more photo opportunities as my bump grew ever-bigger.
I’d packed away my maternity clothes at the end of April (Hugo died at the end of March). When I packed them away, I thought I should still be wearing those clothes. By then, my bump should have really started to stretch out my maternity wear.
To recreate the ‘after’ photo, I needed to dig out the maternity top I wore in the first photo. I liked that top, with the cute print of forest animals. When I took the top out of the storage bag, I stood and looked at it for a few moments. I was struck by the thought that the last time I had worn the top I was proudly pregnant. I could vividly remember wearing it, and feeling Hugo kick and punch inside me.
The last time I had worn the top, I was full of hope, excitement and anticipation about my new arrival. I had no reason to think that my pregnancy would continue to be as straightforward as it had until that point. In a couple of months’ time I would be proudly cuddling my new baby.
Putting the top on for the ‘after’ photo felt strange.
These ‘after’ photos are especially poignant for the empty-armed mothers whose babies were never able to come home from hospital, whether because of a late miscarriage, stillbirth, or neonatal loss – or any other reason.
Taking an ‘after’ image with a framed photo of their baby, or another meaningful memento is often the only option available to us.
Of course, I have many beautiful photos of my skin-to-skin cuddles with Hugo. I treasure every one. I know that other empty-armed mothers are not so fortunate in having such mementoes.
This exercise is more about underlining the point that society in general does not like to think about baby loss – such tragedies do not bear thinking about, for many people. Society’s unwillingness to openly talk about baby loss and share photos means many bereaved parents hide in the shadows.
Empty-armed mothers should be feel free to share photos of their babies, if that is what they want to do. These side-by-side photos should be included in the compilations such as the one in the link above.
It’s another side of motherhood.
A tribute to the babies who live on in our hearts, rather than in our arms.
I would like to open up the invitation to other empty-armed mothers. Help bring baby loss out of the shadows.
Would you like to do a before-and-after photo of your own? If you do, I would love to see it – please share it with me by posting a link in the comments.