Rifqah’s story is one of survival and hope. She is a breast cancer surviver and fighter. Her son is a beautiful miracle in their lives and a testament of hope. And their birth story is one that left everyone in shock and adrenaline pumping. This was the fastest birth of my career.
She had experienced some contractions earlier in the day but thought it realistically could still be days away from meeting baby. She mentally settled in for the long haul. Just before 2pm I got the call that her waters had broken. We decided to wait until she was checked at the hospital before I came as it could still be very early and my presence could slow down her birth (I generally come in active labour). I had this funny feeling things would be speeding up so I got ready to go as soon as I hung up. I didn’t think it would be THIS fast though. I decided since I was 25 minutes away and this was downtown, I would just get in the car and start heading in that direction, purely on intuition. I thought, you never take chances with a second baby, they sometimes like to hurry. As soon as I start the car, her husband calls to say she’s already 6cm!
I drive downtown and soon encounter streets closed down all around the hospital for a marathon. I struggle to get to the right detour street and then find parking. As I parked the car, he calls to say I need to run, this baby is coming NOW. I grabbed my gear out of the backseat and bolted like a madwoman. I ran in the room at 2:40 pm just before her doctor ran in aswell. Pulled out my camera and adjusted all my settings from muscle memory.
It made me think I’m glad I waited until I really practiced my skills as a birth photographer (and photographer in general) before doing this professionally. Because in moments like these, thinking of your code of conduct requirements plus ISO/Shutter speeds/focal points/etc while literally shooting with in seconds of walking into an unfamiliar space that is sacred for your client…. it requires you to draw upon a well of experience even when your heart is racing.
Started shooting as fast as possible to get some before shots. Jibra’eel was bornat 2:50 pm, 10 minutes after I walked in the room.
Welcome to the world a miracle son for a family that has weathered the storms of life. Thank you for trusting me with telling your story in imagery and permission to share it. I don’t take that lightly.
Many thanks to the team at Netcare Christiaan Barnard for their welcoming of me as the first birth photographer ever in their hospital. Especially to Dr. Basson who understood how important photos were to her patient and Dr. Edelstein who was on-call for Rifqah and didn’t deny her this even in the rush of the moment. Neither were photographed but their impeccable care was there.