A powerful photo series is highlighting the anguish of infertility. Las Vegas photographer Abbie Fox captured stunning images of local optician Victoria Hamilton to illustrate the painful journeys they’ve followed in their personal lives.
Both women have struggled with infertility. Fox had a miscarriage last March after two healthy pregnancies and births and was eventually diagnosed with PCOS, which dashed her dream of having four children.
“We have two amazing children and after this last year I have sort of given up the idea of having another child,” Fox told HuffPost. “It just wasn’t meant to be. While I only had one miscarriage, the pain will be carried with me forever.”
Hamilton and her husband have struggled to conceive for almost four years and experienced multiple very early miscarriages. After seeing a few doctors and receiving different diagnoses, she developed severe anxiety and started having panic attacks and ultimately decided to take a break from fertility procedures.
After following Fox’s photography work for years, Hamilton approached her about doing a photo series related to infertility to raise awareness around the issue and make other women feel less alone.
“I have been very open with my infertility struggle,” she said. “I have been blessed to have met some amazing women along my journey who were struggling to get pregnant. They since have all gone on to have children. It’s a very lonely feeling. Not fitting in. Not being taken seriously or forgotten because you don’t have kids. People don’t understand.”
Hamilton has tried to educate people on Facebook, but decided photography would be an even more powerful way to express how she feels.
Fox’s photos of Hamilton use symbolic imagery, like a tornado background. “When Vikki first asked me to do this session, I wrote down all the emotions I’ve gone through since the miscarriage,” Fox told HuffPost. “The only thing that I could think of to describe all of the emotions was a tornado. There are so many emotions, ups and downs. Sometimes I could find myself sitting on the couch in a trance and I literally felt that my heart was twisting.”
The butterfly image was also the photographer’s idea. “Shortly after I lost the baby, I started seeing butterflies everywhere and for whatever reason I started associating them with the baby,” she said. “Every time I see one now I smile. I feel like it is God’s way of showing me everything will be OK.”
Another symbol in the photo series was the poppy ― a flower with a powerful meaning for Hamilton and the namesake of her blog, “Beyond the Poppyseed.” In her very first blog post, she wrote about the significance.
“A poppy is an annual plant that flowers between May and August. It’s seeds can lay dormant in the ground for a long time (like my eggs apparently). If the ground is disturbed, the seeds will germinate and the poppies will grow. This is what happened in Belgium and France after World War I. So, the poppies represent the war aspect of my anxiety and infertility.
The poppyseed also represents life and loss.
For those that have ever downloaded some sort of period tracker/pregnancy app, you will know that they count your pregnancy from day one of your last menstrual period. By week four, around the same time that your period is usually due, “baby is the size of a poppyseed.”
I have seen this 40 times since we started trying to conceive in 2013, and I have yet to get beyond the poppyseed.”
During the photo shoot, Hamilton wore a red tutu skirt to represent a poppy.
Another symbol was a rainbow, which represents Hamilton’s hope for a rainbow baby after the storm of infertility.
The infertility photo shoot experience was an emotionally challenging experience for the photographer.
“I cried many times during the session, and actually had to stop editing a few times with the tornado picture because it is hard to edit through tears,” Fox told HuffPost, adding that she felt in her heart how much the photos would mean to Vikki and other women.
“There is a lot of shame in infertility, and until you have gone through it, you just can’t understand,” she added. “Before I lost a baby I didn’t understand, now I do. I wanted to help open up the communication about it. Women tend to be embarrassed. They blame themselves and don’t want to talk about it. They think they must be doing something wrong. When I talk to women about it these are all feelings they have.”
Hamilton described the experience as an “emotional release.” She hopes people who see the photos and read about the meaning develop a better understanding of what women in her position are going through.
“Hug your babies tight,” said Hamilton. “The next time you have a bad day, remember we would give anything to have a bad day with children. Also, remember how hard baby showers and Mother’s Day is for people going through infertility.”
She continued, “It’s hard to be invited to events, but it’s harder to not be invited. Invite us to events, but let us say no without feeling bad. Pregnancy announcements are best done through a private message before posting on social media so it gives us time to process and grieve. Of course we’re happy for you, but it’s really hard because it’s not us.”