Warning: This story contains graphic images.
When Chelsea Karr, of Ashby, Massachusetts, learned she was pregnant in January 2018, the grieving mother knew she wanted to celebrate the new life by honoring the baby she lost just months earlier.
Back in June 2017, Karr, 29, found out she was pregnant with a little girl, who she and her husband, 28-year-old Hollis Brodmerkle, planned to name Chloe. But the couple was devastated when, at just 24 weeks in October of that year, doctors said that Karr had a concealed placental abruption — in which her placenta detached from the wall of her uterus — and the baby did not survive.
“When I found out I had lost her, I blacked out. It felt like my world just went numb. I couldn’t even cry,” Karr tells PEOPLE. “I just felt like I had to puke and I wouldn’t wish this pain on anyone. It was like my whole world just stopped and went black. I couldn’t talk, I couldn’t cry, I couldn’t do anything. I just laid there. It felt like a part of me died right then and there.”
Just 12 hours later, Karr delivered the baby and held the little girl’s body in her arms for as long as she could before she and her husband had to say goodbye.
“It really hit me that I was no longer pregnant and she was gone. When they took her away I just broke down and I couldn’t stop crying,” Karr says. “Holding her, having her in my arms even though she was so small and she was gone, it kind of brought some peace to me. She just looked so perfect and so peaceful.”
The parents, who share a 3-year-old son, Oliver, left the hospital devastated, and struggled to cope with the difficult loss.
So, it was a shock to the couple when, just over two months later, Karr learned she was pregnant again. Despite the good news, Karr says she and Brodmerkle wouldn’t let themselves get too excited about the new pregnancy.
“I was terrified. I knew my body physically would fully heal but emotionally I was not expecting it at all. I was still so broken from losing Chloe… Those feelings haven’t gone away. It’s always in the back of my head. Like, at night-time that’s when I get [post traumatic stress disorder] from what happened and almost every single night I get terrified that I’m gonna lose this baby.”
Karr, a photographer, waited until she was 33 weeks pregnant to share the news with friends, and she made the announcement in an extra special way. She celebrated the new baby while honoring the one she lost in a rainbow photo shoot.
In one shot from the powerful photo series, Karr holds her belly with colorful clouds of smoke behind her.
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“My main goal with losing Chloe is to keep her spirit alive and spread awareness that pregnancy loss happens,” she tells PEOPLE of the photo. “I wanted to do something extravagant and with a bang that, ‘This is my rainbow baby because I had such a traumatic loss.’ I wanted to do something that you never see, I thought it was so bold and so much of a punch. And that’s how I feel pregnancy after a loss is.”
The striking photo has garnered attention from social media users everywhere. And Karr, who first shared her story with Love What Matters, says the outpouring of support has warmed her heart.
“It’s been so cool that my daughter’s story is being so heard,” the mom of two tells PEOPLE. “I’ve had so many other women reach out to me saying how my story has touched them, and how they never talked about their loss. It’s such a taboo thing. It makes me feel so good that I’m helping so many women feel less alone and feel more open to talking about their loss. It’s made me feel so good and Chloe, I know she would be so proud.”