Snapshots Of A Too Short Life: Understanding Infant Loss


I remember the first time I saw a photograph of a stillborn baby.

It was on one of the pregnancy website forums that I had joined for mothers that all had estimated due dates in April 2007. I was pregnant with my very first child, and the image disturbed and terrified me.

I didn’t understand. The photo weirded me out. It seemed so strange to me that a woman would put a picture of her deceased baby as her profile picture in a pregnancy forum of all places.

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Fast forward to December 2011. I delivered identical twin girls at thirty weeks gestation. They suffered from a disease of the placenta that affects identical twins, Twin to Twin Transfusion Syndrome (TTTS.) One of my beautiful girls passed away two days later.

And I posted a picture of my beautiful daughter in her white gown, taken shortly after she passed away.

I enlarged and printed that picture, framed it, and hung it in my living room for all to see.

Suddenly, I understood. Suddenly, I was part of the “club” of grieving mothers.

Those pictures were no longer disturbing or strange; they were beautiful. I completely got why a mother would post her stillborn baby as her profile picture; that photo captured the few moments that a mother was able to hold her precious baby. It represented the only (or one of only a few) of the images that that mother has to hold through her entire life.

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Because there will be no pictures of first birthday parties, first teeth, trips to the zoo, the first day of school, growing up, high school graduation, weddings, and so forth. There are only those treasured moments when we met, and then said goodbye, to our child. Our hopes, our dreams, our future, gone in an instant.

I understand why it makes people uncomfortable. Death is uncomfortable. It’s difficult to know what to say and do. Seeing a picture of a baby gone from this world captures our greatest fears as parents. I just ask you to remember that that picture is not about you and your feelings. It is about a grieving parent, trying to grasp on to anything that they can; to remind the world to remember their child.

We, grieving mothers, are bonded by a common sadness. A common experience that you have to share to truly understand. But many of us are determined to do what we can to alleviate the pain for any parents new to this “club” we never wanted to join, but paid the highest dues to enter.

About six months after I lost my infant daughter, I began to write and blog about my grief, pain, and life in general. I found and connected with other grieving parents. A whole new world opened up to me. Faces of loss, stories of grief, but most importantly, stories of survival, which have encouraged me and propelled me forward.

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One of the common themes we share, whether our loss was an early miscarriages, late pregnancy, infant loss, or an older child, is that desire to make known that we will always be that child’s mother. Whether we are mothering them in our arms or in our hearts. Hence, the posting of the pictures, that are purely a statement of that mother’s love and devotion to her baby, taken too soon.

To the grieving moms out there: you are always their mother. 

And to the lucky moms who get their children here on earth: The next time you see a mother post a picture of her stillborn baby, or an infant that died shortly after birth, try not to be offended or disgusted. Try to remember that for her, that is all she has.

About the writer


Alexa Bigwarfe is the mother of four beautiful children, three on Earth and one in Heaven. She blogs as "Kat Biggie" at “No Holding Back” which was started primarily as an outlet for her grief after the loss of one of her twin daughters. She can also be followed on Facebook and Twitter @katbiggie. Alexa and 30 other grieving parents recently published a book for grieving mothers, titled Sunshine After the Storm: A Survival Guide for the Grieving Mother. Learn about their Mother's Day Campaign for bereaved mothers, with a goal to raise funds to donate more than 100 books to hospitals and bereavement groups.


Debbie Evans 2 weeks ago

Thank you for sharing and I am so glad you were able to connect with others, who like you are grieving. When my youngest daughter died age 29 days it was way before the internet (1982) and so I had no one to share her short life with. At that time, it was expected for me to bury her and if not quite forget her at least don’t mention her to anyone again and just concentrate on having another baby – oh I got so sick of people asking aren’t you pregnant yet? I am glad the world has changed and you can share your daughter’s life, sadly its to late for me, no one wants to hear of a child dead these 34 years but to me every moment of those 29 days will always be in thoughts xxx

Monique 2 years ago

Thank you for sharing. You expressed what so many who have suffered a loss have felt (and continue to feel). It will be 11 years since my loss on May 3rd. It’s hard to explain such a process, and you did so very eloquently.

Cynthia 2 years ago

Alexa, I too am a member of the Bereaved Moms Club. When I lost Samantha, not only did the idea of a photo freak people out, just the thought of a stillborn baby seemed to send many running. As you know, grieving is the hardest work you’ll ever do. I found solace in writing and published “Love Mom: A Mother’s Journey From Loss to Hope” as a love letter to my girl and to help other bereaved parents in some small way. Thanks for helping readers everywhere have a little more understanding!

Miri F 2 years ago

Thank you for this article. I had twins in 2012, and my lovely daughter struggled to live for nearly six months before she could not hang on anymore due to her heart condition. Since infant and child loss is so taboo in society, I still find myself fumbling sometimes when asked how many children I have. I am a mother to three children, it’s just that one is no longer living.

Karen Johnston-Broadhead 2 years ago

I lost my baby boy at 38 weeks. .. 14 years ago. It takes time. With time, comes peace.

Julie Marden 2 years ago

I am one of those who desperately tried to start a Non-Profit for this very thing. I had 3 miscarriages but my bf lost twin full term babies then two more friends lost their children at 8 months old and 2 years old. To help their grief I wish I could’ve had the photography business up and going I so believe in it after having death around me so much. It’s something tangible I can do!

Sara O’Brien Farmer 2 years ago

I am a member of this club twice over (I lost my 15-month-old daughter Lucy to dilated cardiomyopathy last Mother’s Day and had a missed miscarriage and D&C with baby 3 at 11.5 weeks pregnancy three months after Lucy’s death.)

I have a beautiful 4-year-old boy and am expecting another baby girl this July/August. I respectfully disagree with Scary Mommy’s description that this is a “horrible club”. No one wants to join it for sure, but you meet amazing people who understand and you become a better person for the experience.

My life isn’t horrible and neither is mothering the two kids I lost in addition to the two I have. Losing them was horrible, but brought blessings in its own way. I am a proud mother of four and I wouldn’t change having them for anything, even if that meant I had to let them go so soon.

Michelle Foster 2 years ago

Thank you for these words. It’s a poignant portrayal of why it’s important for mothers to keep their child’s memory alive. I lost my son when he was 30 days old and I am desperate to hold on to him in any way possible. I want to hear people say his name. I want to talk about him. I want him to matter to people. Unfortunately, it’s apparently just too difficult to do. On those shining moments when someone does mention him, it’s joy mixed with devastation, but I’ll take that little bit of joy in there, because the devastation will never go away.

Priscilla 2 years ago

Oh the morning tears. I had a miscarriage 2x since I met my husband. I’ve learned to accept that it is part of nature and they have always been early. I would go ape shit if I lost my child at such a state. You mothers are the strongest people in the world. I know that it is hard and that’s why I know I would never manage it with my history of depression. I never thought the photos to be creepy but it was sad because often even a deceased baby looks so peaceful you have to stop and wondering what God’s plan was. I think he just wants some beautiful babies to raise for himself as angels.

erika 2 years ago

Both of my identical twin daughters were stillborn due to TTTS in July 2008. Thank you for this article. I think about my daughters every day and know just what you mean about how different my perspective is now as a grieving mom.

Melastik Bintang 2 years ago

nice sharing…. =)

TR 2 years ago

The fact you had to remind mothers of children still here on earth, to try and not be offended or disgusted, crushed my heart even more.

Trish 2 years ago

Thank you for sharing this., I am so sorry for your loss.
My motto is Don’t judge – whatever a grieving parent does to remember their baby/child is about them not me or anyone else.

My daughter was born still at 26 wks gestation and though born fully formed her skin was too deteriorated to display her picture.

Kassie Morgan Patterson 2 years ago

on March 18th, 2014 I went to the doctor for my 39 week checkup only to find out that the couldn’t find her heartbeat. they immediately sent us to the hospital for an ultrasound, when we got there we got an ultrasound and they couldn’t find her heartbeat. so they decided to induce labor and on March 19th, 2014 at 5:46 am I gave birth to my stillborn daughter who weighed 6 pounds even and was 19 inches long. it was the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do. I wish that I could say that it gets easier, but it has yet to get easier. the hardest thing I’ve ever had to hear was that my daughter had died. the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do was live every moment since then.

Ashley 2 years ago

It used to be a common tradition in the early days of photography to photograph the deceased. For many it was the only photograph they would ever have taken. It went out of fashion as photography improved, but for child loss it remains an important step in working through the grieving process. My mother still has one cherished photo of the baby that was lost before I was born. It’s a small but important reminder that I had a brother and he looked just like me. My husband has become the son that never was, he’s months older than the one lost. Though it’s not the same, I hope it gives them both a bit of relief.

Anon 2 years ago

I have 3 Angel Babies, I lost them at 19 weeks, 15 weeks and 12 weeks. Therefore they were miscarriages not stillbirths however, the pain and sorrow my husband and I felt was unbearable. And we still can’t talk about the babies we lost. However, I did feel guilty for my body not being able to carry those angels to term. I am grateful that I have a beautiful 2 year old daughter and pregnant with our second daughter (at 21 weeks, high risk and I will not rest until baby is in my arms). I still grieve the loss of the 3 in heaven. Thank you for posting. I just wish I was able to get pictures of them

Jessica 2 years ago

This is so true. Those early photos are all we have and all we will ever have. There’s such a stigma about photos of our lost babies and about sharing the truth behind raw grief. Thank you for writing this Alexa.

Lindsay Cairns 2 years ago

Beautifully written xx

Rose Cook 2 years ago

On march 2nd my daughter Mia arrived early at 20 weeks pregnant, my hubs doesn’t want me to put a picture of her up in the living room. I have hand, foot prints and a scan picture instead. I wish he could see it this way. Touching story x

Dani Noyes 2 years ago

Love Scary Mommy and great to see something like this featured. Having recently gone through this myself, I also blogged about my experience and have found many members of this unfortunate club. Much love and thank you for the reassurance that I’m still his mommy.


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