For many people, one of the greatest experiences of their lives is becoming a parent. It doesn't matter whether it's for the first time or the third, each pregnancy is different and it is a particularly special time for mothers, who get to feel their child growing in their womb.
Having a child, however, is not without its dangers, and one-in-three pregnancies end in a miscarriage during the first trimester.
The high risk of miscarriage in early pregnancy is the reason why many women refrain from announcing their happy news until they are more than three months along. While the risk of complications after this point is lower, it still exists and in some tragic cases, it can lead to stillbirths.
In fact, it's been estimated that one in every 200 pregnancies will result in a child being born "asleep", as this tragic event is often referred to.
Stillbirths can occur for a variety of reasons such as problems with the placenta, and, in some instances, there is no identifiable cause.
To shed light on the heartbreaking reality of having a stillborn baby, 33-year-old Sarah Jade has shared these photographs of her traumatic labor and birth of her son Aksel Jude. He died when she was 33 weeks pregnant after severe complications with his brain development.
When a baby dies so far along in a pregnancy, a woman must go through labor in the same way as she would with a healthy child.
Knowing that her son was already dead, Sarah decided to contact photographer Lacey Barratt, who specializes in documenting childbirth.
The photographs Lacey went on to take capture Sarah's painful labor as well as her bonding with her son the day after his birth. Aksel's funeral was also documented in the heartbreaking series, which Sarah and her husband Tim, 34, have said helps to honor their son's memory.
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.
In the video below, a brave YouTuber opens up about what it's like to have a stillborn baby:
Sarah, who already has a three-year-old son Arthur, said of Aksel's birth, "I wanted a beautiful birth. But when we knew what the outcome of the birth would be, I still wanted to capture those moments."
"It was traumatic. The worst part was that I was pushing so hard, and Aksel was halfway out but then went back in, and I had to push all over again."
"I just burst out in tears at that moment. It was like my body wanted to push but my heart wanted to keep him inside of me," she revealed. "Getting to hold him after he was out was such an amazing feeling. It really helped us all to be able to see him and hold him."
"I just wanted to soak in those moments with Aksel and embrace him forever. I have never experienced that amount of different emotions at one time. I thought I was going to explode."
"I'll never regret having those photographs taken. It is something for us to hold onto forever," Sarah, who is from Melbourne, Australia, said. "Our whole family saw Aksel and said goodbye. Letting go was the hardest thing we've ever had to go through."
"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."
Doctors discovered that there was a problem with Askel's brain development at Sarah's 20-week scan, and an MRI scan when she was 30 weeks pregnant revealed the devastating severity of the situation.
"Before I had Aksel I was just happy with just having one child. But now I feel so incomplete," Sarah, who gave birth to Askel on February 11, said, "We are just taking it one day at a time and trying to move forward."
Speaking about the importance of these pictures, Lacey said that they serve the powerful purpose of uniting those who have lost a child in this way, breaking the taboo which surrounds stillbirths and giving grieving parents photographic evidence of their child.
"It's so reassuring to go back and look at them and say 'I was holding you. You were real'," Lacey said. "To have that cemented in photographs means you can look back whenever you want to. Every birth matters."
We would like to wish our sincere condolences to Sarah and her family during this extremely difficult time.