This Mom’s Angel Baby Photo Shoot Brings Awareness to Infant Loss
Mom Kyrstyn Johnson was grieving the loss of her son to SIDS. For what would have been his first birthday, Johnson created a breathtakingly beautiful "angel baby" photo shoot hoping to spur conversation around infant loss awareness.
Kyrstyn Johnson—a 21-year-old mom from Boise, Idaho—took to Love What Matters to share her personal experience with every parent's most heartbreaking nightmare. Johnson, who was already a mom to two girls named Violet and Lilah, welcomed her son Mayson Michael on August 22, 2017. But just four days before he turned 8 months old, the little boy passed away from Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS).
"[SIDS] doesn’t discriminate and even at almost 8 months old, SIDS took my child, yet we still don’t know why or understand how he could just die," Johnson wrote. "On April 16, 2018, I became an individual that I never thought I’d be, a bereaved parent. That day I became a part of a club that no one would ever want to be a part of. I was forced to become the mother of a child who was taken by SIDS."
Admitting that, upon facing the devastating loss, her mental health took the "heaviest hit," Johnson went on to illustrate her experience of grief. "The stages of grief don’t come in a specific pattern, it’s waves and all over the place," she wrote. "Some days I’m angry, some days depressed. Sometimes I’m able to step away from my shock and accept I need to learn to live again instead of being frozen in grief while time moves forward. I won’t try to say I’m handling this well, but I was given no choice. And that’s what was holding me back from truly grieving because I felt no matter what, nothing was in my control anymore. I sat there and sobbed over how he’d never have a first birthday and get his first cake."
Upon thinking more about what would have been Mayson's first birthday, Johnson landed on the idea of an angel baby shoot. She reached out to Megan Nutter from Lil’Lemon Photography who agreed to work with her on it.
"I felt so out of control in the situation I was dealing with and was hurt he'd never get to celebrate his birthday," Johnson tells Parents.com. "One day, I decided I can have control and will still celebrate him no matter what."
The images came out to be so powerful and breathtaking.
Infant Loss Awareness Month 2020
October is Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month, and October 15 is National Pregnancy and Infant Loss Remembrance Day. Founded in 2002, the movement seeks to promote "honor, celebrate, and remember" babies who have passed away.
Johnson notes that another motivating factor in doing and sharing the breathtaking 'first birthday in heaven" photo shoot was to "end the stigma of miscarriage, still born, infant loss, and child loss," she tells Parents.com. "I want it to stop being taboo, and I want a discussion. ... I want people to actually be there and support these mothers. I want people to recognize how it's impacts our mental health, and we don't have a lot of options to get help unless we can afford it. I want our babies to be remembered. I want conversation on why this is happening and how we as humans can have compassion and actually help someone heal instead of them feeling alone."
Posting the images alongside her story has helped her with her own grieving process, Johnson explains. And beyond that, she's heard from people who have told her that her Love What Matters post inspired them to reach out to other grieving parents and "actually talk to them about their baby and support them in a way they didn't realize they needed."
Ultimately, Johnson hopes the memory of Mayson Michael will spur conversation around infant loss and offer other parents in her position bolstered healing. She shares, "I want to use my son's name to make a difference, because that's the type of soul he is."