They are images of loss and hope – taken just 11 months apart.
In the first, a distraught Andrea Sommer cradles her baby girl Leia, who has been delivered stillborn at 23 weeks .
Her husband Franz does his best to comfort his wife, but their despair is palpable.
In the next image, Franz tenderly holds his newborn son Jesse, who weighs just 1.17kg and is attached to breathing apparatus after also being born premature at 26 weeks.
In less than a year, Andrea and Franz have experienced the agony of a losing a child to the joy of holding a new baby.
Perth mum Andrea Sommer is comforted by her husband Franz after tiny Leia was stillborn
Franz tenderly holds Jesse to his chest after being born at just 26 weeks and weighing 1.17kg
Jesse is now five months old and thriving. He tandem feeds with his four-year-old brother Jamie.
Theirs is a powerful story that highlights both the fragility and wonder of life.
But it is a story that Andrea and Franz, from Perth in Western Australia, want to be told.
Jesse is now five months old and thriving. He tandem feeds with his four-year-old brother Jamie
THE HEARTBREAK OF LOSS
Andrea was just 22 weeks pregnant with her second child when her waters broke suddenly in March 2018.
She was rushed to hospital but an infection set in a week later.
‘I knew straight away. I was cold and shivery and at first I tried to ignore it but I knew I was going to lose her. I called my husband and said you need to come,’ she said.
As the infection spread to her bloodstream, doctors began the induction.
Andrea barely had time to think about what was happening.
After a 10-hour labour the doctor announced he could see a foot – Leia was coming out breech.
‘I had one big push and she was born. It was a beautiful birth,’ Andrea says with tears welling up in her eyes.
‘She was already gone. It was easier that way.’
‘They handed her straight to me. She was tiny, 635g and 28cm. She was beautiful.’
Andrea holds Leia and is comforted by her mother alongside the crochet jellyfish that was cremated with her
Andrea spent three days in hospital with Leia: ‘It was good to have that time to hold her and say our goodbyes’
Andrea stayed in the hospital for three days recovering and spending time with Leia, who was kept on ice.
‘It was good to have that time to hold her and say our goodbyes. The second day was the hardest, when it sank in. It is all the dreams you had. You imagine your family growing, but your dreams die.’
Andrea said coming home from the hospital after losing Leia was also incredibly hard.
‘One minute you are pregnant and then you see people again, but you don’t have a baby. People don’t know what to say. I told people they could ask questions and that we might start crying, but that is okay, she explains.’
During her stay in hospital Andrea learnt to crochet. The first thing she made was a little colourful jellyfish, which she says reminded her of an umbilical cord. Crocheting became her therapy after Leia’s death.
That first little jellyfish was cremated with Leia five days after she was born.
Just five months after Leia’s birth Andrea discovered she was pregnant again. But after losing one baby it was hard to relax and connect with her new one and each week was filled with anxiety.
Last photo taken of Andrea while pregnant with Jesse – just 3.5 hours before he was born
‘Pregnancy after loss is not fun because you know things can go so wrong. You expect something bad to happen,’ she said.
‘I held back from connecting to my unborn child and it was a feeling as if you’re holding your breath the whole time. I was very apprehensive. It was definitely nerve wracking.
After we reached the 23/24 mark, I felt we could relax a bit, until the 18th of February.’
The family were in Margaret River for a wedding when Andrea was 26 weeks pregnant and while there Andrea had professional pregnancy photos taken before they were due to return to Perth the next day.
‘I started feeling a bit funny; lower back pain and strong kicks during the photos. At 5pm we called the midwife who told us to drive straight to the regional hospital,’ she said.
During the 20-minute drive to the small Busselton Hospital nearby, Andrea tried to remain calm but contractions were now four minutes apart.
Busselton was ill-equipped to deliver a premature baby and told her she would need to be flown to Perth.
‘They called everyone who had anything to do with birth in Busselton and phoned King Edward Hospital who immediately got a team ready to fly down,’ she said.
Before Andrea knew it there was a team of about 20 people in the room.
Contractions became intense and at 7:51pm after two pushes little Jesse was born breech weighing just 1170g and 37cm long.
Andrea holds Jesse, who weighed just 1.17kg after being born at 26 weeks
Jesse spent 77 days in hospital watched carefully by his father Franz in NICU
‘They put him in a plastic bag. I only saw him for a few seconds, but he was crying straightaway and they told me he was fine.’
But there was no time to celebrate as a midwife began to tug on the umbilical cord, Andrea had to tell her it was attached to scar tissue left from Leia.
Andrea started bleeding and was rushed off to Bunbury Hospital while Franz and Jesse were flown to King Edward Hospital in Perth.
‘I had a last glimpse of Jesse before they wheeled me out. I remember the surgeon saying, ‘okay we are going to try to get it (the placenta) out but if we can’t we will have to do life-saving surgery’.’
‘It all felt unreal and I was exhausted. I couldn’t believe that we were going through it again,’ she said.
‘I started crying when I saw him,’ Andrea said. ‘It was surreal and heartbreaking seeing him there with all the lights and tubes’
Doctors were able to get the placenta out without operating and the next day Andrea sat in the car expressing colostrum for her little baby as she drove back to Perth to meet him.
‘I started crying when I saw him. It was surreal and heartbreaking seeing him there with all the lights and tubes,’ Andrea said.
Jesse, now five months, is a healthy baby who shows no side-effects from being born premature
Big brother Jamie proudly holds Jesse, who is now five months old
Jesse spent 77 days in the hospital but has no long-term issues.
Andrea continued to express milk for him as well as donate it to the milk bank.
She also continued to crotchet jellyfish for other mums with babies in NICU as well as sending them to families around Australia and the world for her project called Leia’s Legacy.
The jellyfish can be bought from Leia’s Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/LeiasLegacy/
Five months on from Jesse’s birth, Andrea says she wanted share what it was like to have another child after a loss.
In this picture Jamie holds a box with Leia’s ashes surrounded by the rest of the family
Andrea continues to crotchet jellyfish for other mums with babies in NICU as well as sending them to families around Australia and the world