Lacey Barratt has made a career photographing the experience of childbirth. She’s keen to share the parts of motherhood that aren’t often shared or discussed – the pain, postnatal depression, and the emotions that come with difficult labour.
So when Sarah Jade, 33, discovered that her son, Aksel Jude, had passed away in the womb, she knew she would want Lacey to document the labour. Aksel had died following severe complications with his brain development, but as Sarah was so far along, she still needed to give birth to her stillborn child. The photographer captured the journey from start to finish, from her emotional labour to Aksel’s funeral. Sarah says that the photos have helped her and her husband, Tim, to heal. She sees the images as a way to honour their son’s memory. ‘I wanted a beautiful birth,’ said Sarah. ‘But when we knew what the outcome of the birth would be, I still wanted to capture those moments.
Losing a child is one of the most difficult and emotionally traumatic experiences that a person can go through. Sarah, however, said that the pictures she had taken of Aksel are playing an important role in helping her and her husband heal from their loss.
Sarah explains that going through labour and a funeral for her stillborn son was a way for the whole family to say goodbye. ‘Letting go was the hardest thing we’ve ever had to go through,’ says Sarah. ‘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. ‘The hardest thing is not knowing why this happened to us. Why we had to go through this nightmare.