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8 Women, All 8 Months Pregnant After Hurricane Matthew Gather for Photo Shoot: ‘The First Ray of Sunshine After a Storm’

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Cassie Clayshulte Photography

After mass destruction in their hometowns, these eight moms are experiencing the joys of pregnancy.

Cassie Clayshulte, a photographer for Coastal Carolina Hospital in Hardeeville, South Carolina, said she found out about a surge of pregnancies after Hurricane Matthew, which devastated parts of the state last October.

I have noticed that after major events like hurricanes and power outages, I always see a surge in newborn clients,” Clayshulte says in a statement obtained by PEOPLE. “I knew that 9 months after Hurricane Matthew would be a busy time for me.”

The category 5 Atlantic hurricane caused massive destruction, including 47 deaths in the U.S. when it hit. However, the storm also brought a silver lining — as evidenced by the eight women Clayshulte gathered together who got pregnant around the time of the storm, and will be welcoming their “miracle” babies soon.

“If it weren’t for Matthew, these eight couples wouldn’t be expecting these little miracles,” says Clayshulte. “Some of these couples had trouble conceiving, experienced difficult previous pregnancies, and even had to undergo several rounds of fertility treatments to become pregnant. This storm destroyed trees and property and our area’s tourism industry took a big hit, but the storm helped these couples create something even more beautiful and these stunning mommies-to-be are living proof.”

The photographer wanted to do something to incorporate the hurricane damage that still exists near Hardeeville while also illustrating “that beautiful things always come from not so beautiful things.”

So, she gathered the eight moms — all dressed in blue, white and purple gowns — for a photoshoot near the sea.

I hoped that those who were stranded out of town and those who had no home to return to might see these images as a beacon of hope,” says Clayshulte. “The first ray of sunshine after a storm.”

Cassie Clayshulte Photography

Each of the eight women have stories of heartache and joy during the hurricane — from being forced to evacuate to infertility issues to the happiness of a first-time pregnancy.

“We had decided to leave it in God’s hands if it was the right time for us or not [to get pregnant] and I guess he thought it was,” said one mother from Beaufort, South Carolina. 

After trying for a year and a half, it was our first month on fertility medication, and it worked!” said a mom from Bluffton. 

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“I feel babies always come at a time when they are most needed. When he is born, I feel he will fill a hole in our lives we didn’t even know was missing. I’m so eager and excited to meet him,” said another mom from Bluffton.

Cassie Clayshulte Photography

The moms can’t wait to welcome their bundles of joy — and now they have special photographs to commemorate the bittersweet time when their miracle babies were conceived.

When Hurricane Matthew first struck our small town, I was inspired to do something special for those parents who gave birth during the mandatory evacuation,” says Clayshulte. “I felt the call to show those in our area that something beautiful could come from something devastating.”