Babies born still: The birth of an Angel Leia

Photographer Belle Verdiglione took this powerful photograph of parents Andrea and Franz with their stillborn baby girl Leia. The photograph was awarded 1st place in the Babies Born Still category at the 2019 Australian College of Midwives Birth Photography Awards.
Photographer Belle Verdiglione

woman giving birth to a stillborn by belle verdiglione

Photograph by Belle Verdiglione

Leia was delivered stillborn at 23 weeks after an infection spread to Andrea’s bloodstream. Leia was tiny, 635g and 28cm. Andrea described it to a journalist as a beautiful birth.

Andrea stayed with Leia in hospital for three days, giving the family time to hold her and say their goodbyes. In those days she spent time learning to crochet, lovingly creating a colourful jellyfish that would be cremated with her baby. Crocheting was her therapy, a ritual to focus her grief.

She has since continued to crochet jellyfish for babies in NICU and families around the world, also honours Leia through photography: “After coming home from hospital, I wanted to honour her memory and short life, and also do something for myself  — create something I’m passionate about. That’s when I decided to pick up my long neglected hobby photography again. Photography is my therapy, so I’m only shooting what I’m passionate about and what makes me happy.”

Photography as therapy

Photography is a therapeutic tool for many families that experience stillbirths, premature births or have children with serious and terminal illnesses.

Photographer Belle Verdiglione had worked as a birth photographer for some time, but Leia’s birth was the first time she witnessed a baby ‘born sleeping’. She says that Leia’s birth forever changed her. She now volunteers with Hearfelt, an organisation that arranges professional photographers to work with grieving families.

Belle explains: “While I have close friends and family members who have experienced miscarriage and stillbirth, the stigma and silence that surrounds these families is deafening. I feel like we haven't moved with the times with this topic, it is still very much taboo, something to be hidden in the shadows, not talked about and for the families to grieve in silence. In an age where social media is very much a part of our everyday lives, stillbirth and infant loss is not visible.”

Improving Visibility

Photography is a way of making that grief and loss visible, celebrating the memory of their baby, and sharing their pain with others. The Australian College of Midwives Birth Photography Award for Babies Born Still is an acknowledgement of the incredible power sharing that memory can have.

At Nurse & Midwife Support, we thank Belle, Andrea, and Franz for sharing their story and beautiful photograph with us. Opening up the conversation around still birth and the challenging moments of being a midwife is really important.

If you have a story you’d like to tell, or would like a hand in debriefing, you can call us on 1800 667 877 or email us.