Author’s note: I’m a rainbow baby.
Ashley Sargent wanted to create a poetic image to share the stories of women who have suffered miscarriage and loss in an inspiring way.
A newborn and events photographer based in Alabama, Sargent had already began photographing rainbow babies: children born after miscarriage, stillbirth or neonatal death.
"A lot of parents recently have been saying that they want to somehow incorporate that their child is a rainbow baby into their shoot," she told TODAY. “I had this idea for a baby to be adorned with colorful flowers to look like a rainbow. Once I posted that, we had so many mothers that just started commenting on the pictures and started talking about their own rainbow children and it was just like one after another. They all started pouring their hearts out."
And while Sargent hasn’t experienced a miscarriage herself, her own isolating struggle with infertility led her to relate to these women sharing their stories.
"Me and my husband had dealt with infertility for four years,” she said. “I feel like through the struggles I went through, I've been led to spread this message of hope for others.”
Now a mother to 3-year-old Sam, Sargent's initial photo shoots and the subsequent comments sparked an idea to recruit mothers to take a giant rainbow baby photo with their children.
Sargent gathered 40 mothers, dressed in different colors of the rainbow, to pose alongside their rainbow children in a giant field in the neighboring town of Fyffe.
Near the end of the shoot, Sargent surprised the women and had them release balloons to honor their lost children.
“I asked them to take a balloon and remember the children that they had lost and to let go of all the feelings and the pain and the hurt that they went through and to let go of the balloon,” she shared. “It was by far the most emotional time during the session.”
Many of the moms involved with the shoot flooded the comments section of Facebook where Sargent posted an album of the colorful photos with words of support for the project.
“It turned out beautiful," wrote Brittany Tullis Rains. “Beyond the most amazing thing I have ever been a part of!! Thank you for following your heart and letting us be a part of this. It was so inspirational, emotional, and raw. I won’t ever forget it and I hope so many mommas see this and have so much peace and hope.”
In addition to the photos, videographer Britt Burns shot an accompanying video where many of the subjects shared their first-person stories and accounts.
"It was 28 weeks and we had lost our son Sam," Brittany Goble explained in the video. "So it was horrible. My world shattered. I didn't know... I thought it was something I had done, you know?"
“I saw this in my head and I wanted to put it together and we did it and I knew the photo shoot would go viral," Sargent said. "I told the women when they signed up for it, that they had to be willing to let their stories be told and let their voices be heard. But it just wasn't for the purpose of ‘going viral.’ It was for the purpose of speaking out and raising our voices and spreading hope and spreading awareness and just giving love and positivity in such a negative world we’re in right now.”
Above all, Sargent hopes others take away that they're not alone in their struggle.
“It's a very dark journey if you're going through a miscarriage, infertility, anything," she said. “Even though it happens so commonly, it's not a topic you want to talk about because you feel so embarrassed and ashamed and you can feel very lonely within yourself. And so what we wanted to do is just to portray the fact that you're not alone and that we all struggle through pain and whatever it may be.”
“But above all else, we wanted to show that you can overcome.”