Mum’s ‘Empty Photo Project’ captures the pain of child loss to encourage grieving parents to talk more

One mum has created a photo project to highlight that while child loss is a painful, heartbreaking experience, it’s also totally okay to talk about.

Susana Butterworth experienced a stillbirth with her first son in March 2017. Because of this, she wanted to commemorate him in a meaningful and memorable way, and so she started the Empty Photo Project.

"Nothing will ever prepare you for the pain or emptiness of losing a child. A miscarriage is every hope and dream you had for your child being crushed in 6 words. It's crying and cursing in the doctor office. It's leaving your doctors office knowing that your little baby that you tried so hard to conceive is inside you and is no longer alive. Knowing your body failed you. Begging God to bring the life back into your child. Begging him to take you instead. It's him failing you. Its going to a close family member for support and hearing "It was probably retarded" a mere hour after hearing the news, hearing "it's not that big of a deal" while your child is still inside of your womb. It's three days later finally holding your tiny baby boy that you hoped and prayed for, lifeless in your hands. Its going to the emergency room because your bleeding out and going through hell, alone as your husband holds your daughter tight in the waiting room because you didn't want her to potentially watch you die. Its going home to take one last look at your baby's precious lips that look just like his daddy's before you burry him. It's you feeling like everything is all your fault. Watching your husband cry and shake in a way you have never seen before, not even when his father died. Feeling like your husband deserves a woman with a body that wouldn't put him through this pain. It's crying at three a.m because your arms are empty. It's losing it on your baby's due date. Its realizing you won't ever kiss his owies or wipe his tears. You will never sing and dance with him in the kitchen. You won't see him marry the love of his life. It's getting pregnant again and being filled with guilt and worry. It's constantly thinking of your child and wishing you could hold him and love on him. It's knowing that he's safe where he's at and he's well taken care of even if your not able to be the one taking care of him. It's praying to God to hold him tight for you. It's still telling him you love him. Its okay to weep. It's okay to loose it. I lost my child. Mommy and Daddy love you Malachi Eriksen" #emptyphotoproject #childloss #miscarriage #stillbirth #empty #lossofalovedone

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Talking to Huffpost UK, Susana said: ‘I started this project after my firstborn son, Walter sadly passed away.’

As a photographer and artist it felt natural to Susana to make something meaningful out of her heartbreaking experience.

The 23-year-old admitted: ‘I want the viewers of the Empty Photo project to see that child loss hurts, it’s a little scary but it’s ok to face it.’

During her pregnancy, Susana found out that her unborn son had trisomy 18, also known as Edwards syndrome, a rare but serious genetic condition that causes severe medical problems.

"Losing a child is something that nobody wants to talk about. Even myself most of the time, if I’m being honest. I was a little over eighteen years old when I found out I was going to be a mom. I was still a kid trying to figure out who I was and who I wanted to be. I wasn’t sure if I could handle the daily job that is being a mother. I had voices in my ear telling me to take the easy way out. But there was something inside me telling me I could do this. Even if I had to do it on my own. I had the support of a few family members and a couple close friends which made everything seem like it was going to eventually be okay and work itself out. I was just getting used to the idea of being a mother when I received news no parent ever wants to hear. My daughter Sophia Lynn had a neural tube defect which would keep her from being able to survive outside the womb. I was given the options to carry her to term or to be induced for early labor. What kind of choice is that? I didn’t want to make that decision. I wasn’t ready to play God and decide how she would enter and leave this world. But I had to move forward somehow, and the best choice I could think of was to deliver as soon as possible and save her from a difficult full term delivery that would most certainly cause her more harm that good. There was no doubt in the doctors mind that she would struggle for life as soon as she was born and that was something, as her mother, I couldn’t bare to watch. I was scheduled to be induced a couple of days later due to overcrowding at the hospital. I had to carry my daughter in my belly for 3 more days. I can’t even begin to describe the kind of pain I felt in those three days. Knowing those were the last times we’d spend together as mother and daughter. She was still physically attached to me but I had never felt so empty in my entire life. Time seemed to drag on and fly by all at once. I was ready for it all to be over and begging whatever God was listening to just let it all be a bad dream. The day finally came to deliver her and it’s honestly one giant blur. I don’t remember much of the time I spent in the hospital. […] (Continue reading in comments…)

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At 35 weeks’ pregnant she gave birth to her son, on 8 March 2017.

Susana noticed that, during Walter’s funeral, people treated and spoke to her differently.

‘It seemed to me that those around me were patting me emotional oven mitts,’ she said. ‘Most would completely avoid the topic of children, family or my loss in general.’

Emptiness: emp·ti·ness noun 1. The state of containing nothing. This definition hits straight on of my emotional state most the time. I went from creating a life, to mourning it days later. My miscarriage occurred back in November 2016. This was mine and my husbands planned baby; as our first, our amazing son, was a surprise that the Lord knew we needed. My husband and I were gleaming sitting at my first doctor's appointment, knowing that we get to hear and possibly see our baby for the first time. I WAS SO EXCITED; up until our world came crashing down beside us. They couldn't hear a heartbeat; and when they did an ultrasound they couldn't find a baby. My miscarriage was a little different than most. It's called a blighted ovum miscarriage; where I had gotten pregnant, formed a pregnancy sac, but for some odd reason my baby stopped forming early on. I couldn't wrap my head around what was going on; why was it happening to me, to my family? What did I do wrong? If you know me; you'll know i'm research freak. I researched if there's some way I could still be pregnant, why blighted ovums happen, and most importantly why miscarriage happen to women all around. In my case, I read that blighted ovum miscarriages occur when the baby's chromosomes align, and there was something off. Whether it be a mental or physical abnormality, and our bodies stop the baby from forming. From there I felt some sort of ease as I knew that the Lord had a reason behind all this pain we were experiencing. But with that ease I still feel empty. Now that my due date is around the corner (June 5th, 2017); I feel it more and more especially when I see others who were pregnant around the same time as I, get ready to have their babies. I'm so happy for them all, but resentful, and once again empty because I don't get the chance to meet my baby, other than in heaven. […continue reading in comments]

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She shares her work through her Instagram account, and the series has given many women the opportunity to open up about their own experiences, with one saying: ‘Losing a child is something that nobody wants to talk about. Even myself most of the time, if I’m being honest.’

However, Susana explained to the title that starting the Empty Photo Project was to a way to open the conversation about a topic that many shy away from.

‘Those who have lost children can’t heal if they feel alone and have no one to talk to. I created this project to open up the dialogue on child loss because of the stigma.’