Metro-East Living

Belleville photographer brings memory of lost twin to life for a grieving mother

Belleville photographer Jessica Young takes photos you can see and feel.

In her studio, the mom of two creates scenes for resting babies while she captures their innocence. A recent photo by Young captured the heart of a St. Louis mother experiencing both joy and grief after giving birth to twins.

“I looked at it and I just lost it,” Heather Bowman said. “It couldn’t have been more perfect.”

Since February, that photo has been shared almost 4,000 times and more than 7,500 people have reacted to it on Facebook. It shows Bowman’s newborn daughter Leti swaddled in a pink blanket. She’s lying next to a pair of angels wings that represent her twin, James. He died in the womb weeks before Leti was born.

Both babies were delivered by C-section at 36 weeks.

“It was a huge relief getting her here, and knowing she was strong little fighter,” Bowman said after a morning feeding March 26. “She’s six weeks today.”

Jessica Young’s love for the job spills over into each photo session, and a recent photo by Young captured the heart of a St. Louis mother experiencing both joy and grief after giving birth to twins. Courtesy of Jessica Young Jessica Young Photography

Bowman was overcome with emotion when she saw the photo that honored her son James.

“When we put (Leti) down, she immediately looked over at him where he should have been. It just shows that he was there with us.”

That photo now hangs above the changing table in Leti’s room.

It’s a bittersweet reminder of the ups and downs women experience during pregnancy, Young said. After miscarrying twice before, Bowman learned that she had a rare uterine malformation called “unicornuate uterus.”

That means she only has half a uterus, one fallopian tube and a single ovary.

Heather Bowman of St. Louis recently shared her pregnancy journey with Provided

“My journey has been a long one,” she told POPSUGAR in an article released March 26. “As I was approaching 36, I was still single and my dream was to always be a mom. I was not willing to sacrifice becoming a mother because I had not found a husband yet.”

Young was touched by Bowman’s story, and empathized with her experience. She’d lost a baby in recent years, and searched for ways to honor the child who “never came to be.”

“When I lost my baby, it took me a while and I was trying to find something to help me remember that loss,” Young said. “I feel like having something you can look at makes you feel like that baby is not forgotten.”

Jessica Young is a Southern Illinois photographer and a naive of Granite City. Courtesy of Jessica Young Jessica Young Photography

Both women said they never expected the photo to go viral, but have happily shared its touching back story. Young plans to continue work at her studio and through an organizations of volunteers called On Angels’ Wings. The group celebrates life by taking photos for families who have children with a terminal diagnosis.

“I just really want to be able to create things for people that they can cherish forever,” Young said Tuesday. “That’s really important to me. “

For more information on On Angels’ Wings, call 417-834-3670.

Cara Anthony covers restaurants and retail for the Belleville News-Democrat, where she works to answer readers’ questions about restaurant openings, business closures and the best new dishes in the metro-east. She attended Althoff Catholic High School in Belleville and grew up in East St. Louis.
Support my work with a digital subscription