What's Really Happening in This Hospital Photo?

“What’s really going on in this photo? We see a mother contentedly kissing her newborn, yes. But that’s not the whole truth. Just four hours earlier, after a grinding forty-hour labour that ended with an emergency forceps delivery, I gave birth to my sweet daughter. My tailbone shattered and now, post-epidural, is so painful that I can barely stand. But I do, because the photographer, who has a contract with the hospital and does the rounds pitching shoots to new parents, asks me to. 
I tell myself that I should have ‘proper’ photos of us together, mother and daughter, both newly created. I try my best to look ‘motherly,’ whatever the hell that means. I have no idea. But I’ve seen these types of photos before, on friends’ mantelpieces and on Instagram. So I act the part and try to emulate the state of maternal bliss I tell myself I should be feeling. But, really, I’m on tenterhooks waiting for the results from a blood test that means my daughter’s wellbeing is at risk if it comes back positive. I’m worried about getting her to latch in this all-important window of time for breastfeeding, about which I’ve heard so much yet know so little. I had prepared diligently to give birth, but not for what happens afterwards. 
I desperately need to pee but I’m exhausted and terrified by the thought of more pain. Hot rivers of blood run down both my legs, so I try to keep them closed as I shuffle into position. I’m engulfed by shock and new love and confusion and adrenalin and I want to cry. But I also want a picture I can frame and show my child when she’s older. 
So I take directions from the photographer and perform ‘mother’ in the moment I should have perhaps just allowed myself to be one, vulnerable and divided, alone with my wonderful family of three, astonished and grateful that Neva and I made it to the other side alive. This photograph is my reminder to protect and honor what is real and raw and human, which can so often be obscured when we behave as we think we ‘should’. Screw should. My advice is to take photos of the most candid moments too, as those hasty cellphone snaps might end up being the ones you treasure most.” — Mia, Nyssa Co-Founder