This photographer captures joy for parents after baby loss
OF the thousands of photos Natarsha March has taken, there's one that still has her fighting back tears.
It's of a little girl pushing a pram and a newborn baby flanked by two pink teddy bears.
"That one really hurts because of the journey that the family had been through," she said.
They had miscarried baby girls in 2017 and 2018, and decided to honour those lives in the image with two pink teddies.
"The losses of those babies were so close together, by the time their newest little bub arrived, it was a very scary time for them."
The Ferny Hills photographer was named Queensland newborn photographer of the year in 2019, and says of the 100 newborn shoots she does each year, at least a third are 'rainbow' babies - infants born after losing a baby due to miscarriage, stillbirth or neonatal death.
"It would probably surprise people to realise how common it is," she said.
"Not everyone who has experienced a loss wants to document it with a photo, but in my sessions, I would say 30 percent - maybe more - are rainbow babies."
"I think a lot of people do it because it's a way of incorporating all the family members into an image and paying respect to the babies that are here and the babies that are not here."
Not all the images are rainbow themed, with some families asking for something a little different.
"Sometimes families will give me a vague idea, and then sometimes people tell me their story and they'll leave it up to me to show them some examples of what we can do and we can create unique custom story imagery for them," she said.
"Some families will also include items in their family photos. So they might have a special toy that was for baby, or a rattle or a teddy bear that has baby's name and birth date on the paw, so we'll include those in the family photo so that the whole family is in their photo."
"It's a way of incorporating them into your life because they might not be here in body but they'll always be here in spirit."
In another of Natarsha's images, a newborn is blissfully tucked up in a blanket alongside five white tulips.
Each of the flowers represents an unborn sibling that was lost before her.
"That's Evie, and I quietly put those in with her and then told her mother after I'd done the photo that that was what they were there to represent, and it's their favourite photo. She was having a little smile like she knew," Natarsha said.
"That was a really beautiful one that the family love and they've got that printed large in their home."
"I'm a very emotional person, so when we're creating these images, we do shed tears together, and that emotion is a big part of the process. We're creating more than just a classic portrait - we're creating something really sentimental and special for the family."
When the time comes to show the families her work, the experience can be an overwhelming one - for Natarsha as much as her clients.
"Because I show them in person at the studio, I'm actually sitting with them at the time we go through the images, so that can be a really heartwarming moment," she said.
"I often end up in tears myself. It can be very emotional but also very healing. It is such a special honour to be able to create these sorts of images for families."
Apart from creating beautiful photos, Natarsha said she's also gained friends from the process.
"I do find that we have an extra level of friendship that goes beyond them employing me for a job. We end up becoming very good friends, and they often come back every year or so to update their photos, and they incorporate their rainbow babies into their subsequent family photos over time," she said.
"And it's also about bringing awareness. For the families that do choose to share their stories like this, I think it's really empowering for them and for other families that are experiencing this now - it's a sense of community that it's not something to hide."
"It's is personal for your family and your family can be celebrated in its entirety - if and when you're ready to."
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