I love looking at other people’s maternity photos. They weren’t really a “thing” when I was pregnant with my daughter, and since my sons joined our family through adoption, a maternity photo shoot didn’t apply to us.
Yet, even though we didn’t take maternity photos, scrolling through Facebook and Instagram and seeing images of other families’ special moments during the late days of pregnancy makes me smile. Capturing that anticipation of wonderful things (albeit sleep-deprived wonderful things) around the corner is a lovely tradition and allows extended family and friends to share more fully in those sweet little moments.
But sometimes, the happily-ever-after birth story doesn’t turn out the way we expect it to.
Stephanie Maynetto-Jackson’s maternity photos are breathtakingly gorgeous and gut-wrenching, all at the same time. The mother is beautiful and blooming, but her joy and anticipation are tinged with sorrow. Maynetto-Jackson lost her 28-year-old husband Stuart in a tragic motorcycle accident when she was just 18 weeks pregnant with their second son.
“We were two weeks away from finding out whether we were prepping for a baby girl or a baby boy,” Maynetto-Jackson tells Babble.
Stuart, a decorated Army veteran, was killed unexpectedly by a truck who failed to yield. They were a vibrant, happy young family with everything to look forward to when the bottom dropped out of their life. Maynetto-Jackson described the sudden death of her husband as “our world coming to a screeching halt.”
No one likes to imagine what the grief of losing their partner feels like. That level of “what if” isn’t something most of us like to think about — but to deal with this kind of sorrow while carrying a new life? My heart hurts just hearing about it.
However, Stephanie Maynetto-Jackson is a strong, courageous, badass woman. In addition to being a wife and mom, she’s also an Army veteran herself. When it came time to think about maternity photos, she decided to go about it in a truly unique way that would honor, celebrate, and include her late husband by digitally adding him to the pictures.
Maynetto-Jackson gives all the credit to Stuart for the idea.
“Stuart studied graphic arts at the Art Institute of Atlanta and was the creative one in our relationship,” Maynetto-Jackson tells Babble. “He actually photoshopped my mom into a photo of my dad and our older son Dominic as a joke to play on my dad, so I knew it was possible.”
She also mentions wanting both of her sons to have maternity photos to look upon as they grow up.
“I want the boys to be able to cherish these final photos of their father and it helps them visualize what I will be explaining to them for years to come — that Stuart is always there with us,” she says.
These poignant photos do what all maternity photos do — capture a moment in time that accompanies the birth story — but they also serve as a beautiful tribute to a man who left his family too soon.
Stuart II, SJ for short, entered the world on May 17th. Maynetto-Jackson describes her labor and delivery experience as “going through every emotion possible,” but maintains the strong belief that Stuart remains alongside his family. The situation is unimaginably heartbreaking, but this young mother’s courage and the way she’s committed to sharing her story is beautiful and unselfish.
When asked what inspired her to share her personal story with others, Stephanie Maynetto-Jackson tells Babble:
“When Stuart was taken from us in December, I truly wanted to get the justice he deserved because he was hit by a truck that failed to yield, emergency services didn’t provide the proper life saving measures, and the hospital gave up on him so quickly,” she says. “Then I realized that … spreading hate or raising two young boys in that shadow would not only negatively impact our family, but it would consume us.”
Maynetto-Jackson says that she instead decided to share their love story to celebrate Stuart’s life.
“I want people to understand that we can lose those we love at any moment and we cannot take them for granted,” she says.
So what began as a way to honor her husband and preserve his memory has now turned into an inspiration for others — and a reminder that life doesn’t come with guarantees.
“I have learned to make the decision daily to move forward,” Maynetto-Jackson tells Babble. “There are many days I don’t feel like doing anything, but when I see my children, I see Stuart looking back at me and I know what he would have wanted for them. I struggle each and every day with facing our reality, but I have faith that together, we will continue to get through this.”
h/t: Love What Matters