Story Behind Viral Photo of Mom With Cystic Fibrosis & Her Baby Is Deeply Inspiring

New mom Mackenzie Bentley-Moult, who battles the genetic disease, was told she would never be able to give birth. Now, she's worked with photographer Tara Ruby to tell her powerful story.
Tara Ruby Photography

December 5, 2018

Georgia-based photographer Tara Ruby is known for her emotionally powerful work. In the past few years, she has gone viral for her photo series of active duty soldier moms breastfeeding and moms breastfeeding in uniform. Now, she's done it again, shooting a stunning image featuring a mom named Mackenzie Bentley-Moult, her newborn, and exactly 65 roses, courtesy Florabelle Flowers & Gifts.

Why 65 roses? Bentley-Moult, 24, has cystic fibrosis (CF), a progressive genetic disorder that causes severe damage to the lungs, digestive system, and other organs in the body. Over time, the disease causes persistent lung infections and limits the ability to breathe.

Bentley-Moult explained to Ruby that back in 1965, a little boy named Richard (Ricky) Weiss came up with the nickname "65 roses" for the disease when he misheard "cystic fibrosis" as 65 roses. Over the years, it has morphed into a term that makes it easier for children with CF to describe their disease.

Bentley-Moult wanted to photograph herself and her baby with this imagery of her disorder because when diagnosed, she was told by doctors that she wouldn't be able to have a baby. They expressed concerns that she would suffer from "not being able to gain/maintain weight, a major decrease in lung function, too much strain on the left side of my heart," Bentley-Moult tells Parents.com.

Yet, through her conception, pregnancy, labor, and delivery, she was able to prove them wrong. "I got very lucky; my experience wasn't what I expected it to be," Bentley-Moult tells Parents.com. "My doctors were very shocked by me, because I stayed so healthy my entire pregnancy and had no issues." 

To mark the empowering experience of welcoming her son, she worked with Ruby to create a breathtaking portrait. "My baby is my miracle baby, so I wanted to be able to show that, like the way IVF moms or rainbow baby moms have," Bentley-Moult says.

Bentley-Moult and Ruby connected on Facebook and then met for coffee to sit and talk. "She's so happy and so energetic," Ruby shares. "We hit it off pretty much right away. We started talking about CF; I didn't know anything about it."

"[I said], 'We have to figure out how to put it into your newborn session!'" Ruby shares. She worked with the Chamber of Commerce to connect with Florabelle Flowers & Gifts to get the 65 roses, which are purple, as that's the official color of CF. 64 of the roses are laid out around Bentley-Moult, and one was placed in her son's hand. After the shoot, Bentley-Moult "took the roses home and made shadow boxes...to keep the story going."

It's the drive to tell a moving story like Bentley-Moult's that Ruby says so aware of in her work these days. "It's not about 'shooting and going on my way.' I want to capture a story in a picture, not just the image."

And once she captures an emotional story in her photography, she aims to send an important message. Ruby tells Parents.com she hopes her "65 Roses" shoot will "inspire moms. Even if they don't have CF, maybe they are being told they could never have a baby, or that they couldn't breastfeed, and they'll be inspired by Mackenzie. I think this is a story other moms need to hear."

As she noted in her Facebook post of the stunning image, "Stories like theirs prove that when you dream and believe ... anything is possible."



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