Miscarriage and Stillbirth

Grieving Mum uses Saline Bath to Capture Stunning Photos of Angel Baby

Disclaimer: This story is about pregnancy loss and miscarriages and contains images that may be triggering to some.

“I’m so sorry.”

Three of the most heartbreaking words any doctor or midwife can say to an expecting mother. Three words that countless women hear, followed by the news that the baby growing that was inside is no longer growing.

Christi Nelson was told that her baby was gone at a routine 20-week checkup. Thanks to photographer and friend, Heathyr Harkins, Christi found a way to honour her angel baby – through a saline bath.

mum central
Source: Christi Nelson

Now Christi’s story and images are helping other grieving parents find their own beautiful way to say goodbye and honour their angels.

Baby Noa

In 2021, Christi and James Nelson discovered they were pregnant with their sixth child. Both Christi and James were in their 40s and, after three miscarriages in the past, the couple was understandably nervous about the pregnancy.

They opted for early DNA testing to verify the gender and named their little girl Noa, which means “motion” or “movement”.

At 17 weeks Christi began to feel her daughter’s very light kicks inside.

 I was SURE I was feeling movement but it wasn’t as strong as I expected it to be. It wasn’t getting stronger. “

There is no heartbeat. Your baby is gone. 

At the 20 week checkup, Christi and James were told that her suspicions were right. The midwife was unable to find a heartbeat on the doppler and Christi was sent across town for an ultrasound.

Moments ticked by and we were still staring at the screen with no movement whatsoever. Finally I asked, “Are you getting a heart rate?” She said, “Actually, no. There’s bloodflow to the placenta but there’s no bloodflow to the baby. I’m so sorry.”

My world stopped. A few moments ago I thought I was half way through my pregnancy and now it was completely over. My baby was gone.”

Christi had hoped that she would be able to birth her baby at home, in her own time, like she had her previous miscarriages. But she was told this wasn’t possible. It was simply too risky.

I knew I needed to honor the life of my baby and deliver her naturally. I needed to see her, hold her, and take pictures of her. Having a D&C to remove her like a waste product was not an option for me.”

Christi spent two days searching for a doctor that would help her deliver Noa naturally and found one an hour and a half away. Her induction was scheduled for 1 October 2021.

Beautiful at first sight

She also contacted Heathyr Harkins, from House of Hopes, a photography company that volunteers to take photos of babies born too soon. Heathyr would meet her at the hospital.

On the day of the induction, Christi woke early with an idea.

I had read a miscarriage testimony of a woman who said she could see her baby’s details so much better when she put him in water. I didn’t know what this meant, exactly, because the woman shared no pictures.

On the way to the hospital, I texted Heathyr and asked if she would be willing to photograph our baby underwater. Not only did she agree, she spent a large portion of her day shopping around for a suitable tank to bring in to the hospital to implement my idea.”

Noa Analee was born at 9:55pm October 1, 2021. She was 8.5 inches long and weighed 3.6 oz. She was absolutely beautiful at first sight.

baby saline bath
Source: House of Hopes

Christi held her daughter for a few moments before they needed to take her away to stitch Christi up. She didn’t get Noa back for 30 or 45 minutes and already her little body had deteriorated significantly.

Her skin was drying out. Her frail body was collapsing under the weight of gravity. Her skin color was darkening to an unnatural tone.

I could no longer see the beautiful girl I saw at first. She was quickly becoming unidentifiable.”

Heathyr worked swiftly to set up the saline bath for Noa and placed her inside.

saline bath miscarriage baby
Source: House of Hopes

As Christi writes,

The moment we placed her in the saline water, it was magical. Her flat little nose wasn’t flat anymore. Her ears popped up. Her body looked like a perfect little 18 week baby in utero. Her fingers and toes separated gently.

Touching her and holding her under the water felt safe and comfortable instead of feeling like we were going to damage her delicate body beyond repair.” 

saline bath
Source: House of Hopes

Time stood still

As Heathry snapped photos, Christi was able to memorise every little detail of her daughter in the saline bath.

Time stood still. We decided to leave her in the saline overnight in hopes that we could show the kids in person the next day.

When I woke up a few hours later, I was pleasantly surprised to see she looked even better than she had before.

Her skin tone was not as red and some of the peeling skin had dissolved away. Over the next 24 hours, we were able to take hundreds of pictures and have many precious moments with our children.

She looked so beautiful and peaceful, like a tiny little sleeping baby. I knew what my baby looked like and now I could remember it forever. Finally, I was at peace and ready to say goodbye.”

Christi and James have since laid her to rest. However, the stunning photos of Noa will remain with them forever.

mum central
Source: Christi Nelson

As Christi so beautifully shares on Love What Matters (US spelling remains in place):

When I see [a] picture of Noa now, I realize it is more important than just a stunning picture of my baby girl. It is hope for future moms who desperately want to know what their ‘angel baby’ really looked like and share it with others.

 It is a rare and wonderful glimpse into the secret world of the womb. It is proof of the personhood of all unborn children.

I hope by being vulnerable and sharing Noa’s story, more women will one day have beautiful pictures of their ‘angel babies.’ I want it to be the expectation instead of the exception.

If pictures of these precious little ones will no longer be considered hideous and hidden away, but instead will be shared openly by every mama who feels the urge to do so, then Noa will have started a movement and lived up to the meaning of her name.”

What to read next

Avatar of Jenna Galley

Born and raised in Canada, Jenna now lives in Far North Queensland with her tribe. When the mum-of-three is not writing, you can find her floating in the pool, watching princess movies, frolicking on the beach, bouncing her baby to sleep or nagging her older kids to put on their pants.

1 Comment

  1. Avatar of Horsik Amy

    As I am writing this, crying , I think this is so beautiful beyond words can ever, ever express. God Bless.

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