Cherie and Hayden Ayrton were excited about expecting twin boys when Cherie received devastating news in December.
The New Zealand couple found out during a sonogram that doctors could not detect a heartbeat for the boy she had already named Johnny, while his twin brother, Tiger, remained healthy.
"My worst nightmare had become my reality,'' Cherie wrote on Love What Matters. "I will always have an empty space in my heart for him."
Doctors did not have an explanation for what happened to Johnny, but told Cherie that the best course of action was to carry the twins to birth to ensure the health of Tiger.
She gave birth on May 2 to both boys. The couple and their three other children, two girls and a boy, said goodbye to Johnny at the hospital, after which he was cremated.
Five days later, Cherie underwent an emotional photo shoot with Sarah Simmons of Charlie Horse Photography, featuring Tiger and the box holding Johnny's ashes.
The photoshoot had been scheduled before Cherie received the tragic news. After Johnny's death, she decided to go forward with the session.
"I realized then that even though Johnny never got to take a breath, he was just as much a member of that family as Tiger was,'' Simmons told TODAY. "So I messaged Cherie and asked her if she wanted to include Johnny in the session somehow, and she said yes, they would love to."
Simmons used bowls to represent that they both shared the same womb. A piece of fabric represented the umbilical cord connecting them.
"I was absolutely blown away,'' Cherie wrote. "It was extremely emotional to see the final product, but I’m so grateful to have such a powerful photo of my two boys together to keep forever."
"It was pretty emotional at the time, but I was really determined to get the image for Cherie and her family,'' Simmons said. "I knew it would be one of the most important images I would take. I just thought how much I would want that if I was in that position."
Johnny's loss was especially difficult because it was the second time it has happened to Cherie. Her 2-year-old daughter had a twin who also died in utero.
She wanted to share her story to help other parents going through a similar situation.
"Writing it all down and sharing it helps me heal, too,'' Cherie told TODAY. "I cry my eyes out while I'm doing it, then once I read it a few times I felt good.
"My hurt is helping others feel less alone, so that makes me happy."