Mother of twin baby photographed with his late brother's ashes speaks out about her heartbreak

Sarah Carty
Senior Lifestyle & Entertainment Producer
A photo of newborn baby Tiger lying next to the ashes of his late brother, Johnny, with the pair connected by a symbolic umbilical cord of white muslin cloth. (Photo: Courtesy of Sarah Simmons)

A heartbroken mother is speaking out after a touching photo of her son, Tiger, posing alongside the ashes of his late twin brother won a major award, saying that while she’s extremely proud, the pain of losing her child will never leave her.

New Zealand mother Cherie Ayrton found out at her five-month ultrasound scan that one of her twin babies, Johnny, sadly passed away in the womb, according to New Zealand website Stuff. She carried him to term and had a stillbirth. Had she not, his twin brother, Tiger, might not have survived.

A photo of Tiger lying next to the ashes of his brother, Johnny — with the pair connected by a symbolic umbilical cord of white muslin cloth — won the top prize in the newborn category at the 2018 Portrait Masters Awards, an international photography show. Wellington-based photographer Sarah Simmons snapped the incredible shot.

Ayrton said while she’s ecstatic for Simmons and is “very proud” of the image, the interest in the photo has brought back a lot of traumatic memories for her.

“It’s been an emotional few days and has brought back a lot of feelings and memories of what I have been through and am still going through,” Ayrton tells Yahoo Lifestyle.

“I’m also very proud and honored that it’s being shared because of Sarah’s amazing talent. I’m so happy for her and her success,” she said. “I love the fact that my son’s memory might help other families get through their own journeys.”

Cherie Ayrton says she believes there needs to be more of a conversation around stillbirths. (Photo: Courtesy of Sarah Simmons)

Ayrton found out at 20-weeks that Johnny had passed, with doctors unable to give her a reason why it happened.

“If I wanted to do testing I could have, but it would have risked me going into labor and losing Tiger too. So, we obviously didn’t do [anything],” she said.

“I had to carry [Johnny] around until the birth. It was a very mind-screwing experience, because we had to watch him slowly breaking down over a TV screen at our ultrasounds,” Ayrton said. “It was horrible. I felt like a temporary coffin, that’s the only way I can explain it.”

Ayrton believes that stillbirths aren’t spoken about enough and said that she’s comforted by the fact that her pain may help others heal.

“I’ve been trying to raise awareness for stillborn loss since, so I’m very happy this beautiful picture is being shared,” she said. “Hopefully my hurt can help others. It’s a lonely journey if no one speaks up.”

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