The loss of a child might seem like an awkward or inappropriate topic, but this photographer is starting the conversation and breaking the stigma.
Photographer Michaela Sustad of Sustad Photography shot 20 parents who lost children. Each of them held up a sign that featured their baby’s name and a photo or keepsake that reminded them of their lost love.
“One of the hardest parts for me in losing a child is getting asked the question, ‘How many kids do you have?’ If I answer four, I feel like I am not acknowledging my son […] If I say, ‘Five, but one is in heaven,’ I get the uncomfortable silence,” said mom Stephanie Patnode, who took part in the project. “I have a son, and his name is Bode!”
Patnode told InsideEdition.com that she discovered she was pregnant with twins in 2010 after struggling with infertility nearly a decade.
At just 14 weeks, her water broke and she was encouraged to terminate her pregnancy. At 23 weeks, her water broke again, and at 26 weeks, she went into labor.
“I woke up to my husband holding Bode, who died 20 minutes after birth. His lungs wouldn’t open and he died in his dad’s arms,” she recalled. “My other twin, Blade, was fighting for his life in the NICU. We almost lost him numerous times his first month of life.”
Thankfully, Blade survived the ordeal.
Jessinda Dahlin, who honored her baby Bristol during the photo shoot, was less lucky when she stopped feeling her baby move during her pregnancy.
Seven months ago, Dahlin was 35 weeks pregnant when she was told her daughter didn’t have a heartbeat and she would have to deliver her stillborn.
“The days get better as we meet others who have faced the same heartbreak we have,” Dahlin said.
Trista Curry, who named her newborn daughters after her late sons, said talking about her loss helped her cope with the grief.
“It’s taboo. There’s family that I’ve mentioned their names [in front of] and they’ve stopped for a second, like, 'Should we talk about them or should we not?'” Curry said. “Bringing up the kids isn’t going to stir up any emotions that will make me any more sad than I already am. Not talking about them or pretending they didn’t exist or not talking about their memories is what hurts even more.”
Nine-year-old Camden and 19-month-old Maxwell died last year in a car accident that severely injured Curry and her daughter Avalon. Three months after the wreck, she found out she was pregnant with twin girls, and named them after her late sons.
“I can’t wait to tell the girls about their brothers,” Curry said. “It’s OK to talk about them and we want to talk about our kids. I’ll talk about Camden and Maxwell to anybody who asks.”