The Story of Hope

PhotographerMatthieu Zellweger
PrizeHonorable Mention
Entry Description

Stillbirths can happen unpredictably, causing pain not only to parents, but also to people around them. In the face of such unspeakable – and often unexplained - sorrow, each individual must find a way to live with the experience of stillbirth. This is the story of Hope. Hope was a little girl suffering a severe genetic anomaly. At 22 weeks into the pregnancy, her parents were informed that she would not be viable and, two weeks later, the birth was induced. This series accompanies Hope’s parents during the last evening of the pregnancy, the day of the birth and Hope’s funeral, a month later. The photographs take us into the strongest moments of this pathway, and show the sorrow of the parents, as well as the support they received during these trying times.

Story

Hope. Now is the time to meet you. A few more minutes? Hours? It does not matter. What matters is that we will meet you today, dear daughter. Yet we know that our encounter and the beautiful moments of your birth will be soiled by sorrow. We were ready. We had expected your sweet appearance with so much happiness. The powers that be decided otherwise. We will never know why, nor will we know if there was anything to fight about. Genetic anomaly, they said, multiple malformations. Not viable. At the end of the day, the jargon and the diagnosis matter so little. Your existence, Hope, your oh so short existence made us parents for life. Whatever your looks, size or body shape may be, you will forever be our firstborn daughter. We love you, Hope. *** At the start of year 2016 The Lancet published the Ending Preventable Stillbirths Series highlighting the global burden of stillbirths, and their psychosocial cost. In the images shown here I have tried to capture more personal aspects of stillbirths. Stillbirths can happen unpredictably to anyone, anywhere, causing pain not only to parents, but also to families, healthcare professionals and people around them. In the face of such unspeakable – and often unexplained - sorrow, each individual must find a way to live with the experience of stillbirth. Some talk. Some grieve in silence. Some join groups where feelings can be shared, such as the weekly meeting for bereaved mothers at Ste-Anne Hospital in Paris, France, which participated in this project. Affected families can also increasingly count on bereavement professionals. One example is the remarkable work done by Lydia Baker in St-Helier, Sutton, UK. Rooted in empathy, caring presence, and dialogue, this support can help individuals address the trauma and strong feelings to find a way to reconstruct their lives. Despite the common features to the ordeal, mourning is a lonesome path. As time goes by, the acute pain subsides, appetite for life grows again, albeit in a different hue, and the acceptance of contradictory emotions allows affected individuals to regain happiness, while recognising that their stillborn children will forever walk alongside them. Here is one of these personal stories, the story of Hope, a little girl born at 24 weeks of pregnancy as a consequence of a severe genetic anomaly.