A newborn photo of an infant girl gazing at an empty cradle with a blue blanket and angel wings representing her twin brother who was stillborn has gone viral and the twins’ mom wants it to spread awareness and hope.
“For me, it was important to talk about and not feel so alone,” Heather Bowman, 39, of St. Louis, told TODAY. “Pregnancy loss is a very personal journey.”
A cautious Bowman approached Jessica Young for newborn photos. At the time, she was pregnant with twins, but one, James, had died at 18 weeks, and she worried for the other twin, Leti. But she delivered a healthy girl at 36 weeks. When she and Young arranged the photo shoot, the photographer suggested doing something to honor James.
Bowman felt moved by the thought. It was not the first time that Bowman had a stillborn baby or miscarried a baby and remembering them with photography is important to her.
“They exist. They are my babies,” she said.
Young came up with the staging of the picture after looking at other parents' images after pregnancy loss or miscarriage.
“I knew I wanted to do something special for her,” Young told TODAY. “I really liked the idea of weaving the blankets together … I thought it symbolized the bond between them.”
While Bowman knew that Young was preparing something for James, she burst into tears when she saw it.
“It was so beautiful,” Bowman said.
But then Leti did something amazing: She looked over at James’ cradle.
“She was staring at that spot. It felt like he was watching over her and he’s there with her,” Bowman said. “I am so blessed and lucky to have this moment documented.”
It’s wasn’t easy for Bowman to have Leti. When she was 36, she realized she wanted to have a baby even though she hadn’t found a partner. She reached out to a fertility specialist and started intrauterine insemination (IUI).
“I hadn’t met anybody and I was not willing to sacrifice being a mom for a person I hadn’t met yet,” she said. “I was approaching an age where it wasn’t possible.”
Almost immediately she became pregnant, but then she had a miscarriage. She did another round of IUI and became pregnant with twins. In her second trimester she went into labor and the babies did not survive. She learned she had a unicornuate uterus, where only one side of the uterus develops. It makes it challenging to carry a baby to full term. But she was able to get pregnant again with twins and deliver Leti. Bowman also hopes her story encourages people with fertility problems.
“There are women who are diagnosed and they are very hopeless,” she said. “If you advocate for yourself and ask the right questions and find the right doctor you can achieve your dream and my dream was being a mom."