The story of baby Jake

A film + photo session with the Duyn Family in Brisbane, Australia

Remembering baby Jake ~ the loss of an identical twin in utero

I began chatting with Alix online and she shared her story with me about her pregnancy in her early 20’s and the loss, her and partner Johnny faced, when they lost one of their identical twin boys in late pregnancy. I was so touched by her story, her incredible outlook on life and the way that she mothers her children, that I really wanted to do a Frames of Hope session with her and Johnny and to share this incredibly hard and hopeful story. 

One of the most memorable moments during this session was when I was talking to her son Johnny, who is her twin boy growing up without his twin brother Jake. I spoke to him about how it’s amazing that every time he looks in the mirror he is an exact reflection of his brother and how special it is to know exactly what he would of looked like in this life. He had a moment of realisation as if he hadn’t thought about the fact that his brother was in fact identical to himself and when he looks at himself in the mirror he can actually see his brother Jake and what he looked like. It was a beautiful moment. 

At this session I made a film and took photos. The film is a beautiful story of the love and laughter in this home despite the loss of their sweet boy. 

Thank you so much for sharing your incredible story. May the memory of your beautiful boy Jake live on forever in your home and hearts xx 

The Duyn Family

Remembering Baby Jake

PLAY FILM

Tell us a little about who you are, your family and where you call home ~

I’m a mum to three beautiful children and a wife to an amazing husband. Our little family of five live in southeast Brisbane, in a quiet little suburb with our fur baby, Rocky. We like to go riding (dirtbikes) on weekends or spending time by our pool. I have a passion for photography and have recently started my own photography business, Johke Photography

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Please tell us about your pregnancy with twin boys and how it all unfolded ~ 

At the tender age of 21, my husband and I found out I was pregnant. We were both excited, scared and surprised all at the same time. It wasn’t long before the morning sickness started and I found myself running to the bathroom throughout the day. At 11 weeks, I started to bleed quite heavily. As soon as I saw the blood I panicked and went into a bit of shock. I knew this wasn’t a good sign and couldn’t help but think the worst. I called my mum and she drove me to the hospital for a scan to check what was going on. My husband met us there and we were taken into the room for an ultrasound.

I was so nervous, I didn’t know what to expect. The sonographer started and went on to say “Alix, you have not one healthy heartbeat but two! You are having twins.” Twins! Another surprise that we were not expecting! We were told we would need to be transferred to the Brisbane hospital for closer monitoring as our babies were identical.

From here on in, my pregnancy was classed as high risk. The early months were smooth sailing, apart from the morning sickness. We made it to 18 weeks before hitting a speed bump in the pregnancy. My cervix was shortening and I needed to have surgery to prevent early labour. This all went well and the boys were growing nicely. I was now on bed rest and having scans once to twice a week. They were all routine scans, monitoring the babies’ growth and any signs for Twin to Twin Transfusion Syndrome (TTTS) – where the blood from the placenta flows unevenly between the babies. We were sitting on the border line for this, but there was no surgery needed at this stage.

I remember going into a scan one day with my mum and we were chatting to a lady who was headed into NICU. She commented on my small belly and my mum explained how there were two babies in there. The lady went on to tell us how she had recently given birth to identical twin girls and how sadly one of them did not make it. She expressed her caution towards me, telling me that it is not an easy road. At the time I felt heartbroken for this mother but thought that would never happen to me!

As time passed, my belly grew and so did our babies. Everything was on track. We had been taken through the NICU for a tour and discussed going into early labour. We started getting excited with the thought that our baby boys would be earth side within a couple of months. It was at 28 weeks that our path changed and our hearts broke.

The day it all changed ~ 

On the 5th of January 2009, my sister drove me into the hospital with her two children for a routine scan. We walked in and I climbed onto the bed like usual. My doctor asked how I was and went on to start the ultrasound. I looked at the screen and instantly I knew. I was confused and hoping this was a mistake with the screen. He then told me that he could only find one heartbeat and that our baby had passed away. In that very moment I broke down.

I had no idea what or why this was happening. I felt fine, I had no pains, the babies had been kicking- there was no warning sign for this. My husband met me at the hospital shortly after. We were sent home to rest, and returned the next day for follow up appointments and checks. We were told that the pregnancy would be considered a singleton now and the monitoring wouldn’t be as regular until baby was bigger.

I felt a little betrayed by this – I had two babies in my belly but it wasn’t a twin pregnancy anymore? I was scared and frustrated that the monitoring wasn’t as regular too. At 32 weeks I started to bleed badly and was admitted to hospital for a week before our babies were born. They were born via emergency C-section.

Frames of Hope Gold Coast Family Photographer

What have been the hardest moments that you faced and how did you get through them?

It’s the little things that have been the hardest. In the beginning it was all of the “why’s and what if’s”. When I was pregnant I would imagine our boys together, playing, growing up having each other as best friends. Those moments you imagine for the future are just as hard to let go of. I think time has been the biggest healer for us. Although our hearts have always been torn, it is hard not to look at our beautiful son and feel ever so grateful.

How has this experience impacted you as a family? 

We have always talked about Jake to our children and told them about his life in my belly. We talk to them about how he and his brother would “play’ together, kicking and dancing in my belly. I think this has helped us grieve as a family. We will sometimes bring his keepsakes out and talk about how tiny he was and what he might have been like.

What was it like during those weeks that you had to carry your beautiful boy and then give birth to him when you knew that he had passed away?

There was a moment during my pregnancy, the week before I gave birth, when I was admitted to hospital and put on bed rest as we awaited their arrival. The lady I shared a room with was also pregnant with twins, two healthy babies, almost full term and ready to pop. I felt so defeated and ashamed that my body had let us down. It was hard seeing and hearing about other twins.

Just the word twin made me feel upset. The same question going through my mind was always Why us? I cried. It was weeks of crying and praying for a miracle. A miracle that the doctors got it wrong and that this was all a mistake. I was worried every second of every day. I was on edge about every little kick, jab and pain. I had given in to the fact that everything was out of my control and a plan was already set in place for us and our future. What a cruel twist in this game we call life.

Our support system was amazing and really helped us get through. We mourned for a long time, our grief was torn. Torn between feeling grateful and happy for our baby that was still growing inside me and yet heartbroken at the same time. We still had to buy the essentials, a cot, pram and car seat etc. For so long we had in our minds that we would be buying double of everything and now it was only one. How do you put on a smile and get excited about buying for one baby when there are two in your belly?

What was the birth of your boys like?

My birth was rushed and emotional. I was already in hospital when I woke one morning and was told that I’d be having our babies today. I was taken to theater for an emergency C-section. It didn’t matter to me how I gave birth, I just needed and wanted them out. I felt like my body failed me and they would be safer earth side.

Our first born was Johnny, weighing 1.5kg. He didn’t cry when he was pulled out- not one peep. All I wanted to know was that he was OK. He was taken to NICU and would stay there for 5 weeks before we brought him home.

Once he was out of my belly, I knew what was coming. Most of this is a blur. It was very clinical with little to no words spoken. My heart ached, knowing that I was now giving birth to our stillborn baby. Tears rolled down my face, I shivered, feeling sick to my stomach, worrying about what was next for us and our babies? I didn’t get to see or hold him until the second day and when I did, it was hard to distinguish his tiny features. He only weighed 500 grams and was so tiny. The nurses were able to get his little footprint for us and this is something we treasure dearly.

How has this experience shaped you and changed your outlook on life?

I have always been a believer that everything happens for a reason. Although this has been hard to understand why us, it has definitely impacted our outlook on life. It puts everything into perspective, to not take even the smallest of things for granted.

How do you incorporate and honour your little ones life now? 

We had Jake cremated once he was born and have kept his special box at home with us ever since. We did this so that our children could hold their brother, especially when they were little. It gave them a better understanding of who Jake was and that he was apart of our family. Even now, the boys will often get his special box and give him goodnight kisses and hugs. When we are ready, we will spread his ashes together as a family.

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About Frames of Hope ~

Frames of Hope is a project run by Photographer and Social Worker, Bec Zacher, it is a project that aims to preserve incredible stories through gifting photo sessions to families facing great struggles and those that have walked through them. These families are gifted a professional photo shoot and given the opportunity to share their story so that their voice is heard and their story has a platform to encourage and inspire others. You can read more about Frames of Hope here, support this project and nominate a family for a Frames of Hope session.

Please take a moment to share this story so that others facing similar challenges can be encouraged and inspired. x

Bec Zacher ~ www.becazcher.com // @beczacherphoto

CONTACT

GET IN TOUCH WITH ALIX ~

Head to www.johke.com to check out Alix's work or connect with Alix on Instagram @alix_johke
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