After years of planning her fertility journey as a single mom, Heather Bowman was thrilled to learn that she was expecting twins, but she was also scared. Her twin pregnancy came after multiple pregnancy losses, including a previous twin pregnancy, and a diagnosis of unicornuate uterus, a rare uterus malformation.
So when Bowman's doctors couldn't find a heartbeat for one of the babies at her 17-week ultrasound, Bowman was devastated. Her son's heart was no longer beating, but his sister's was, and so Bowman rallied herself for the rest of the pregnancy.
When her daughter Leti was born, Bowman opened up about her losses to photographer Jessica Young, who had been recommended by a friend. Young came up with an idea for Leti's newborn photo shoot that honors her brother James' place in her journey. When Bowman arrived and saw what Young had planned for the shoot, she "lost it," she tells Motherly.
"All Leti could do was look over to where her brother would have been, and I couldn't help but feel he was lying there, letting her know he was there and that he is always with her," says Bowman.
"She smiled quite a few times while looking in his direction. So this photo means the world to me, I will cherish it forever and I cannot wait to tell her the story of how she came to be and how her brothers and sister watch over her day and night," the new mom explains.
When Young shared the image online, suddenly Bowman's little girl was going viral. It's something Bowman never even thought of the day of the shoot, but now that it has happened she is very grateful that she "can possibly provide hope, positivity, and a voice for others in a similar situation as mine."
As Bowman explains, "the subject of loss itself makes one feel so alone because this topic is usually very taboo. It is amazing how many women I know came out of the nowhere when I first talked about my miscarriage and then loss of my twins, telling me they had gone through something similar."
She wants other mothers who have suffered pregnancy and infant loss to understand that they don't have to be alone in their pain. "On top of [the taboo of loss], women with my uterine malformation feel even lonelier because what you read on the internet is so negative," Bowman explains, adding that every day more women are seeking out other women with unicornuate uterus in social media groups and forums, and she is grateful that this viral photo can be a guiding light leading other mamas to a supportive online community, and give mothers with hope for a successful pregnancy.
"When you are in the dark, it is very hard to see the light but in order to get to the other side of hell, you have to go through it. I have gotten to the other side and I hope others can see that they can as well," she tells Motherly.
It's a beautiful photo, and a beautiful message.
Congratulations on your twins, mama. Both of them.