Sometimes the most beautiful things can come from the ashes of pain and heartbreak.
That’s what Hayden and Cherie Ayrton have discovered.
The New Zealand couple already had two beautiful little girls and decided to try for a third. They were hoping this one would be a boy, but more than anything they just wanted a healthy little baby.
When Cherie found out she was expecting, she knew immediately that she was pregnant with twins.
“I had this strong feeling,” she said. “My younger sisters are twins and I have a set of twin cousins, so twins run strong in our family.”
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Sure enough, when she went in for her scan, there were two tiny heartbreats flashing on the screen.
The Ayrtons were overjoyed, but also a little nervous. Their younger daughter had been a twin too, but they found out at their 8-week scan that her twin had no heartbeat. They decided to keep the news of these twins quiet until they were out of the “danger zone.”
Anxious and expectant, Cherie went in for another scan at 14 weeks and was delighted to learn that both of the twins – boys! – were happy and healthy.
“Our Sonographer told us they were the healthiest twins she had ever scanned!” Cherie recalled. “They were both growing beautifully and they were pretty much the exact same size as each other… As you can imagine, the excitement was unreal. Two boys to complete our little family! How lucky were we! Two healthy babies growing so perfectly.”
Cherie, who runs a cosmetics business, decided to announce the happy news on her Facebook and Instagram pages to let her many clients know that she would soon be taking maternity leave. She and Hayden set to work getting ready for the birth of their sons, eagerly anticipating their arrival.
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But then, something happened that knocked the wind out of them.
“As my pregnancy progressed, I felt healthy,” Cherie said. “Nothing was out of the ordinary. We booked our 5-month anatomy scan, which happened to land two days after Christmas. We were excited and counting down the days to see their little faces and beating hearts again.
“On Christmas day I remember saying to my sister that I felt like something was wrong. I don’t know what it was, just a worry I had. I said to her I hoped they were both ok and I became nervous about the scan.
“A week or so prior, I remember waking up and saying to my husband I felt like my tummy had shrunk. He looked at me and agreed. Although we didn’t think much of it at the time, I shrugged it off as my morning tum! My tummy was always a lot smaller in the mornings.
“Scan day came along. December 27, 2018. The day my heart broke. Our sonographer started scanning. She said she was going to work on one twin at a time. She started on Tiger. He was measuring perfectly. Healthy, heart beating beautifully, wriggling around up on the screen.
“She then moved over to start scanning Johnny. Her whole face dropped, and her eyes looked sad. I could tell straight away something wasn’t right. She went on to ask me questions like, ‘Is this an IVF pregnancy? How have you been feeling? How did your last scan go? I replied with, ‘No it’s not an IVF pregnancy, what’s wrong?’ Something is wrong
“She stopped scanning and said to us, ‘I’m so sorry.’ Three words that completely broke my heart and changed my life forever. Johnny’s heartbeat was undetectable, and he was measuring slightly smaller than Tiger. My worst nightmare had become my reality.”
The whole family was in the room, excited about seeing the boys. When the sonographer told them Johnny’s heart had stopped beating, Cherie curled up on the bed and broke down.
“I had to try to stay brave for my 5-year-old. But in turn, it was the opposite. She stayed brave for me,” Cherie remembered. “I felt her little heartbreak. She was so looking forward to having little brothers. But all her little mind was worried about was me. My husband’s heart broke. Our lives were changed that day. The worst day of my entire life.”
Doctors couldn’t tell the family why Johnny didn’t make it. The important thing now was to make sure Tiger stayed healthy until it was time for him to be born.
Cherie shared the heartbreaking news with all of her followers so they would know what had happened and she wouldn’t have to field so many questions. Then she began the agonizing process of waiting.
“Over the next 4 months I was scanned every two weeks,” she said. “I had to slowly watch my son break down. First, his little eyes, nose and beautiful lips became harder to see. Then his tiny fingers and tiny toes started to look like they were fusing together. Finally, it got to the point where he lost all of his features.
“It was torture. I dreaded every single scan because I was scared of what I was going to see next. But on the other hand, I couldn’t wait until my next scan was booked so I could see him, and see his brother. Make sure Tiger was ok.
“Feelings of great sadness for my son, mixed with extreme happiness for my healthy growing baby, was a complete mind screw. I felt like a temporary coffin. Just waiting for the day to get him out so I could grieve. But then never wanting to give birth, because I knew once he was out he was gone forever. It was me keeping him here. My body. My womb. My broken heart.”
On May 2, 2018, Cherie gave birth to her sons.
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👶🏼 Tiger James Johnny Ayrton Born 2.26pm weighing 6p6oz 👼🏼 Johnny James Tiger Ayrton Born with wings On Wednesday 2nd May we welcomed our two beautiful boys into the world. Our little family is now complete 💕💕💕 Although this is not what we were hoping for, we feel so blessed and are absolutely in love with our wee man 😍 Thank you Hayden for being by my side every step of our journey. I couldn’t have done this without you. I love you with all my heart 💓😘 “You were born silent, perfect and beautiful. Still loved. Still missed. Still remembered. Everyday. Stillborn. But still born.” 🦋
“We cried, we smiled, we loved, and we enjoyed one night with our two boys together and family surrounding us,” she said.
The family decided to have Johnny’s body cremated. He was taken over to the funeral home the next morning.
“On May 7 we picked up Johnny’s ashes and took him home,” Cherie said. “The sense of relief for me was huge. But my heart was still shattered. I felt empty. I had my beautiful new baby, but there should have been two. Why did this horrible thing happen to us? It wasn’t fair. It’s still not fair.”
A short time later, Cherie got a message from Sarah Simmons of Charlie Horse Photography, who had done her maternity shoot. She said she had an idea for capturing both of the boys together and asked Cherie if she would be willing to bring Johnny’s ashes to the shoot.
Intrigued, Cherie decided to go along with it and see what Sarah’s vision was. The final result was stunning.
“When Sarah sent me the photo she created, I was absolutely blown away,” Cherie said. “It was extremely emotional to see the final product, but I’m so grateful to have such a powerful photo of my two boys together to keep forever.”
Sarah had used a cloth to represent an umbilical cord, joining the boys together like they were in the womb – and will be forever, even if not physically.
Since Sarah shared the poignant photo on her page it has gone viral, and Cherie is happy that it has.
“I’m so proud and honored to see my son’s picture everywhere,” she said. “The more we can all talk about stillbirth and child loss, the more others will share their journeys, and, in turn, more people will have support in the future.
“I love the fact my son’s memory might help other families get through their own journeys. Since losing Johnny I’ve been trying to raise awareness on my personal Instagram page @cherie_ayrton, and the outcry in other women going through similar experiences is huge. In sharing my son’s story, hopefully, my hurt can help others heal. It’s a lonely journey if no one speaks up.
“I will always feel like I have something missing, and that’s my son. Johnny James Tiger Ayrton. I want people to speak his name. I want him to be acknowledged. He was created. I carried him. I birthed him. I love him. I am his Mother, and I will always have an empty space in my heart for him. My life is forever changed. This is my reality, I hope and pray it will never be any of yours.”
Were you touched by the way they honored Johnny’s life with this beautiful and poignant photo? Then share it!