These past few months I have been blessed with a myriad opportunities to visit babies and I refer to times like this as baby season. It is like debutant season but with babies, which is even better- it is my time to shine. Mama Jean (the head nun) and I went to visit the new baby on Friday. Since he won’t have a name until he is at least eight days old I will just call him Baby. When I met him he was two days old and absolutely adorable. His mother is deaf and doesn’t speak so I worried the visit might be a little awkward but Baby’s grandma was vocal enough to compensate. I was able to hold him while Mama Jean and the grandma talked and there was some sort of interrogation, in broken sign language, because Mama Jean wanted to know the identity of Baby’s father. We eventually found a pen so Chantal, the girl, could write down the name of the father for Mama Jean. I was happy to have the baby and not be involved in this particular discussion! It turns out that some boy named Joe is the father but according to Mama Jean he is the type of boy who “visits many girls but never stays long.” Luckily Baby’s grandparents have come around to the idea, they apparently struggled to accept the situation at first, and they have decided to allow Chantal and Baby to live with them.
The grandma requested I take a photograph of Chantal and her baby and I was happy to oblige. I got a few shots before it was time to feed Baby and that seemed like an appropriate time to stash away the camera. When I started packing it into my bag the grandma started frantically asking me to continue while motioning to her daughter’s chest. I am 100% supportive of breastfeeding but I am not entirely comfortable photographing a stranger doing this, but they seemed really eager so I agreed. In no time at all Chantal’s shirt was off, grandma had stepped in as the hands-on lactation consultant, and I was at the side of the bed documenting the entire feeding process. After a while, when I felt I had a sufficiently captured the moment, I put my camera away before the woman in active labor could request a photo shoot as well. We visited with the grandma for a few more minutes, I spent some time greeting the other new mothers and holding their babies, and then we headed on our way.
Visiting the maternity center has become somewhat of a hobby for me. I know the guards now so I can just walk into the compound whenever I want to check out the baby situation. It is socially acceptable to just walk up to the mother’s bed and pull back the blankets to see the new baby. If you want to hold the baby you are not even required to ask (although I still do) so you can just reach down and pick him/her up. I think I may have some boundary issues when I return home after two years of this type of behavior.
Here are a few recent shots of my students- after 6 months of being pretty guarded they are finally starting to really open up and it has been so fun to see their different personalities!