Powerful Photo of Newborn Connected to His Twin Brother's Ashes Is Beyond Gut-Wrenching

Charlie Horse Photography
Charlie Horse Photography

The loss of a child is sometimes too painful for parents to bear, let alone document. But for Cherie Ayrton, a mom from New Zealand, her tragedy has been immortalized in an award-winning photo. The mom tragically lost one of the twin boys she was carrying when she was five months pregnant, but she still had to carry both boys so that her remaining son would live. After the traumatic and emotional births, Cherie kept her original newborn photo shoot. Her photographer, Sarah Simmons, came up with a powerful way to honor both boys, and the beautiful snap of Cherie's son Tiger posed with his brother Johnny's ashes has now won critical acclaim. 

  • Cherie says that her entire world changed when she went in for her five-month scan, only to learn that one of her twin boys didn't have a heartbeat.

    The mom, who also runs Feather Touch Cosmetic Tattoos, had two daughters already, Charlie-Rose, who is 5 years old, and Frankie-Jane, who was 2 at the time. Cherie tells CafeMom that she still isn't sure why they couldn't find a heartbeat on her son Johnny. 

    "If he was a single birth we could have had testing," she says. "Because it was twins, I would have risked losing Tiger as well if testing was done." 

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  • Cherie carried her stillborn son to term and then delivered both boys on May 2, 2018. 

    Cherie Ayrton
    Cherie Ayrton

    In a photo Cherie shared with us, she shows how painful her son's death was on her whole family. Her daughter Frankie-Jane stares lovingly at her brother Tiger, while Charlie-Rose goes to pieces holding her other brother's ashes. "My little one's heart broke," Cherie says. "She was so excited for twin brothers."

  • Cherie had booked a maternity and newborn photography shoot with Sarah Simmons before Johnny's death but kept the appointment for Tiger.

    Sarah, who owns Charlie Horse Photography, tells us that at first she was going to do the typical newborn session with Tiger, but it was a photo that Sarah came across of Charlie-Rose holding her brother's ashes that inspired her to take the shoot in a different direction.

    "I realized then that even though Johnny never got to take a breath he was just as much a member of that family as Tiger was," she says. "So I messaged Cherie and asked her if she wanted to include Johnny in the session somehow and she said yes they would love to." 

    Sarah says that she racked her brain trying to think of a way to photograph Tiger and Johnny together, but then the idea to photograph them in the same bowl come to her. She wanted "to represent that they both shared the same womb and [I] twisted the fabric around them both like an umbilical cord to show they will always be connected together."

    "It was pretty emotional at the time but I was really determined to get the image for Cherie and her family," she adds. "I knew it would be one of the most important images I would take. I just thought how much I would want that if I was in that position."

  • "When I saw what she had created I burst into tears," Cherie tells us. "It truly is the best thing we could have done."

    Sarah's photograph touched Cherie. "The photo is extremely healing for me and I'm so happy we have one picture of our boys together," she says. 

    And when Sarah asked Cherie if she could submit the photo for the 2018 Portrait Masters Awards, Cherie agreed because she knew "the power in the photo, and I knew that it would touch others hearts just like it touched mine."

    Last week Sarah's incredible photo won silver in the prestigious award ceremon -- an accomplishment that Sarah doesn't just accept professionally. "It means so much to me that Cherie is able to share her story with so many. I know it is resonating with so many [people] and I know Cherie wants other people going through a similar grief to know they are not alone." she tells us. 

    Cherie says she's "very proud" of Sarah and she hopes that others will see the photo and "take some form of relief. I think as mothers (and fathers) we all do a lot have a lot of self-guilt when losing a child. We are the sole protector for our kids. If something was to happened to them we will first blame ourselves."

    But bad things can happen to anyone, she argues. Things such as her son's death are "out of our hands and are not our fault."

    Ultimately, Cherie says, "if I can help make people think that they are not alone -- that we can honor our little people after death and it be OK -- then I'll be a happy lady."

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