When you look at Britt Harris and her brand new daughter, Christian, you see a happy new mama and a beautiful little baby. What you don't see is the loss they've suffered. Harris was just six weeks pregnant when she learned her husband, Army Specialist Christopher Michael Harris, was killed while serving in Afghanistan last August.
Chris didn't get to watch his wife's bump grow, or be there for her birth, but thanks to a military mama who is also a talented photographer, he was a big part of little Christian's first photoshoot. The images have gone viral, and now the whole world is seeing the man Harris and her daughter are missing. The photos are a reminder of the beauty that can come from mothers supporting mothers, shot by a fellow military mom as Harris and her mother-in-law drew strength from each other.
“It was emotional," Photographer Natasha Price Sewell tells Motherly, adding that Britt and her mother-in-law are amazing women. “I am also a military spouse. I cannot imagine the pain and loss Britt has experienced."
A mother of three boys herself, Price Sewell was honored to incorporate Chris into Christian's newborn photos, and to share the experience with two generations of moms.
“I loved having my mother-in-law there," Harris tells Motherly. I think having her so involved helps with her healing process as well as mine and allows us to continue to strengthen our bond."
It's a bond built on their shared love for Chris, a man Harris describes as “the guy everyone wanted to be friends with," and a man excited to be a dad.
She told her late husband that she was expecting before he passed, but his death came before she knew whether they were expecting a son or daughter. When Harris later found out the gender of their baby, she sent pink confetti cannons to her husband's fellow troops overseas, and the resulting video of their gender reveal also went viral. Harris says she can't wait to show Christian (who was named in honor of her late father) the famous video when she's older.
“I think it will make her feel so special. I am going to show her how much love and respect she and her father were given and how so many strangers were rooting for her all along," she says.
Later on in her pregnancy, on her first wedding anniversary, Harris returned to the beautiful spot along the French Broad River in Asheville, North Carolina, where she and Chris had made their wedding vows. Another photographer/mom, Erin Pinehurst of Pinehurst Photography—a close friend of Price Sewell's, according to Harris—helped the grieving mom-to-be feel beautiful in a maternity gown and shot stunning photos of the bump Chris never got to see grow.
The women who captured these beautiful moments are just a few of those who have helped Harris as she's moved forward in these last few months, and Harris says she has one piece of advice for other moms who are greeting motherhood while saying goodbye to a loved one: “You get back up."
It's hard to do, but it gets a little easier when you have the support of your fellow moms.
“You stand as tall and graceful as possible and you do whatever it takes to keep moving forward because I promise someone out there is looking up to you. You are an inspiration to others whether you believe that or not," says Harris.
In her case, that someone looking up is little Christian. At just three weeks old, she doesn't understand it all yet, but one day she'll look back on these pictures and hear the story of the day her mother, her father's mother and other mothers came together to make sure she could have a photo with her father.