New Zealander Cherie Ayrton was pregnant with twin boys, Tiger and Johnny, when she and her husband, Hayden, learned the bad news: during a second-trimester ultrasound, Johnny’s heartbeat was undetectable. The couple was crushed.
Cherie carried both baby boys to full term. Johnny’s remains were cremated, but the couple decided to honor their twins’ enduring connection by having them photographed together. One photo from the shoot was so poignant that it is still making social media waves today.
Losing a baby was a tragedy that had befallen the Ayrtons before. “My youngest daughter was a twin pregnancy too,” Cherie wrote in a story to Love What Matters, “although we found out at our 8-week scan that her twin had no heartbeat.”
Cherie calls Dec. 27, 2017, “the day my heart broke.” The sonographer stopped scanning, turned to the Ayrtons, and apologized; the couple had lost baby Johnny.
The reason for losing Johnny remained a mystery to Cherie. “If he was a single birth we could have had testing,” she told Cafe Mom. “Because it was twins, I would have risked losing Tiger as well if testing was done.”
Cherie carried Tiger and his stillborn twin to full term for the sake of her healthy baby’s survival. Cherie delivered both boys on May 2, 2018. “We cried, we smiled, we loved,” Cherie shared.
The mom had prescheduled a newborn photoshoot with photographer Sarah Simmons of Charlie Horse Photography before Johnny’s death; she kept the appointment for Tiger.
“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,” Sarah told Today. “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.”
Simmons chose her composition to show that the twin boys are still connected.
Tiger was placed in a bowl and gently wrapped in a muslin cloth that extended to a second bowl containing Johnny’s ashes. The bowls represent the womb that the baby boys had shared; the fabric represented the umbilical cord.
“It was pretty emotional at the time,” Simmons told Cafe Mom, “but I was really determined to get the image for Cherie and her family. I knew it would be one of the most important images I would take.”
On Love What Matters, Cherie expressed her satisfaction with the shoot, “I was absolutely blown away. It was extremely emotional to see the final product, but I’m so grateful to have such a powerful photo of my two boys together to keep forever.”
In the months since the shoot, the poignant photo has garnered a huge amount of attention on social media.
“I’ll always feel like I have a piece missing,” Cherie admitted, speaking to People. “But life goes on […] I appreciate life and my gorgeous family even more than ever.”
Simmons asked the Ayrtons whether she could submit the touching photo of Tiger and Johnny for a photography competition, the 2018 Portrait Masters Awards.
The Ayrtons agreed, and the moving photograph took second place at the award ceremony in September of 2018.
Cherie is happy that her baby boys’ photograph is still being shared and is raising awareness of stillbirths. “If I can help make people think that they are not alone, that we can honor our little people after death and it be okay,” she said, “then I’ll be a happy lady.”