Birth and Life ~ Love and Loss

This is a tough post to write (and my longest!)~ I’ve been meaning to do it for so long but I just haven’t gotten my mind around to do it. Its hard. I know I have to do it. Life is like this ~ its up and down and its tough lessons to learn and its a lot of joy and also a lot of sadness. There’s life and there’s death and we will all at some point have to come to terms with this. However when people die so young its a lot harder to accept the morality of life.  I have  seen the passing of loved ones a few times in my line of work . I cannot separate the two. I cannot just close my briefcase and walk away. ( I actually don’t own a briefcase ~ but you get the point).

You see we love to hear the happy stories, the birth stories and the newborn stories ~ but what about the stories when we lose someone we love ~ no one wants to hear about babies dying ~ but those babies need to have their short stories told. Their short lives have big impacts on those left behind.

So this is for the souls I have photographed over the years that have now passed over to another dimension.

Shannon is one of those women that has the gentlest of souls and the patience of a saint. We met through my daughter’s school as she was a teacher there and she is also a midwife in training. We did her pregnancy shoot ~ which was probably one of my most personal favourite pregnancy shoots, because she totally trusted me with the shoot ~ she let me creatively style the shoot and just followed the prompts ~ a total natural beauty and pregnancy just made her glow (yes, it does sound cliché ~ but she did look like a pregnancy goddess!). You can see the pregnancy shoot here.

A few days before she gave birth we also made a pregnancy cast of her belly (which in hindsight she almost didn’t get round to doing, but I’m so glad she did!). I was asked by Shannon to photograph the birth and on a Sunday morning I got the call to come over ~ I remember feeling so excited!

I have asked Shannon for permission to write this ~ and she was only to happy for me to do this. Perhaps one day when she is ready she will give her own version.  I want to honour this beautiful baby and hope it will help other mommies going through this.

Shannon birthed beautifully, in water and she was strong and powerful and she had the labour she really wanted. Surrounded by her mom, her best friend, her doula and her midwife ~ and then myself.  All of us women together in this room.  All the little baby things were ready ~ the crib, the baby clothes, the changing table. The room was beautifully decorated.

When the midwife arrived she checked and the baby did not have a heartbeat. She knew from the way the baby felt that this little one would be a stillborn.

Many asked me how I could continue photographing ~ and at one point I did not know if it was right to even do so.  But her midwife, Sue King~ also a friend of mine, put it wisely ~ “You have to continue ~ Shannon will need these to heal”. It was tough ~ so very hard to be surrounded by such raw, vulnerable emotions. From the moment Shannon laboured to when this precious baby was announced stillborn and laid in her arms, to when she was bathed and dressed by her grandmother, I kept on documenting the birth and death of Skyla.

I cannot quite describe the moment where there were five women huddled around Skyla and we were all in tears ~ dare I say, it was almost one of the most sacred moments to have had ~ along with attending a birth, there is a fine line between life and death ~ they are both the start of life, or the start of eternity (or re-incarnation if you believe that)…I would like to believe that the images speak the words we cannot speak for the loss of this beautiful life.

In honour of Skyla

shan1 shan2 shan3 shan4 shan5“Lullabye (Goodnight, My Angel)” by Billy Joel

Goodnight, my angel
Time to close your eyes
And save these questions for another day
I think I know what you’ve been asking me
I think you know what I’ve been trying to say
I promised I would never leave you
And you should always know
Wherever you may go
No matter where you are
I never will be far awayGoodnight, my angel
Now it’s time to sleep
And still so many things I want to say
Remember all the songs you sang for me
When we went sailing on an emerald bay
And like a boat out on the ocean
I’m rocking you to sleep
The water’s dark
And deep inside this ancient heart
You’ll always be a part of meGoodnight, my angel
Now it’s time to dream
And dream how wonderful your life will be
Someday your child may cry
And if you sing this lullabye
Then in your heart
There will always be a part of meSomeday we’ll all be gone
But lullabyes go on and on…
They never die
That’s how you
And I
Will be

In honour of Declan du Toit

Declan was the very first birth I attended seven years ago as a trainee Doula ~ His parents were friends of ours and I was so honoured I was allowed to be at the birth of this beautiful boy!

Declan du Toit was born on June 14 June 2008 at 10 am – a gorgeous blonde bundle. Mom and Dad, Gillian and Daryl, were thrilled to bits and took him home to begin their new exciting adventure as parents.

Life can throw curve balls when you least expect it….

At 10 days old, Declan, was diagnosed with a a malignant tumor which appeared to be growing from the back of his eye. And so his – and Gill and Daryl’s – tough journey towards full health began.

After an 8 month battle including chemo, radiation and surgery, Declan passed away on 8 February 2009. His parents have been beyond amazing ~ All Hands On Dec Friends was set up as a result of their son Declan. You can help so may other children like Declan ~ please  read the journey this little angel had to endure here.

These photos were taken very shortly before he passed away ~ Declan will always hold a special place in my heart ~


 In honour of Mikey

This is a story about a family that truly touched me ~ this stunning family with two little children in tow, came to me for an outdoor shoot in a forest ~ What struck me about this family was their love (as with most families I photograph) ~ but this little boy, Mikey was so affectionate towards his younger sister (his Irish twin as his mom Karen explained it) ~ the shoot was fun and then as most photo shoots go, you don’t hear from each other until the next photo shoot is needed ~ I got a call from Karen to tell me that Mikey had passed away in a tragic, freak accident ~ a few kids sitting on a hammock and the support wall it was attached to fell down and fell only on Mikey and his sister ~ all the other children were unscathed. Tragically Mikey passed away and his sister Amy was in hospital.  Amy luckily recovered and is healthy.

After a period of time, Karen was looking for a surrogate to have a baby brother or sister for Amy ~ and I feel so honoured to have played a small little speck in this beautiful story ~ as a Doula I was able to connect her with a surrogate mother and they now have a beautiful little boy ~ their strength is so amazing and inspiring ~  they have set up a library in honour of Mikey in Doornkop, Soweto ~  if you ever have any books or any other material  to donate ~ please contact me personally and I will give you their details for donations! Mike would be ecstatic to see this happening in his honour. The many children of the creche and three nearby schools will soon be able to share in his passion for books, reading and learning.mikey

In honour of Johan

As I am literally writing this, a client of mine is saying  goodbye to her husband at his memorial service. I heard a few days ago that he passed away after a short illness of cancer. I have photographed this beautiful family for more than three years now ~ Johan is the father of two beautiful boys, Divan and Luan and you can see their photo sessions from pregnancy here and here. Their newborn session can be seen here and here. It is a beautiful thing to see a family grow.


The last photo shoot was done a year ago and not long after Johan was diagnosed with cancer. May he rest in peace ~ I am happy that there are photographs with beautiful memories with their daddy…

So love your people today and the day after. Forgive, get off your cell ~ spend time together. And make sure you take photos ~ lots and lots of them ~ so your story is told.

“We never lose our loved ones.They accompany us; they don’t disappear from our lives. We are merely in different rooms.”
                                              ― Paulo Coelho