Holy Family Maternity Hospital, Palestine, 2012.

In 2012 I was asked by an NGO to visit The Holy Family Hospital in Bethlehem, Palestine, where they run a maternity hospital aimed mainly at premature and problematic births. In doing so I broke down many cultural barriers. Being a male for one. Being a non family-member two. And being present at such an intimate stage of a woman's life. Culturally men are never present at births in Palestine. Both Muslim and Christian Palestinians usually have just their mother-in-law present at a birth because once married a woman becomes the responsibility of the husband's family. Having broken down many barriers with the culturally sensitive staff I then also gained the trust of several families who had women giving birth at the hospital. The resulting pictures helped to illustrate a report aimed at fundraising for the vital work which sees women travel hundreds of miles to have their babies at Holy Family. Families are means tested and asked to pay what is considered a 'fair donation' to the cost of their births. This enables women from all backgrounds access to the donor-funded state of the art equipment which the hospital has. Critically, for some women who come from desperately poor backgrounds, this gives them a completely free maternity service which they otherwise wouldn't have.

The building and grounds of the Holy Family Hospital in Bethlehem offer an oasis of calm and tranquility in the sometimes chaotic world that exists beyond the walls of the compound.
An expectant mother having a scan.
A mother gets a precious few minutes to have physical contact with her prematurely born baby.
Staff from The Holy Family take mobile clinics to remote areas of Palestine including to desert nomads who rely on the hospital for all their pre and ante natal care.
Portrait of nomadic lady who is expecting her fourth child. all three previous deliveries were made at Holy Family.
An expectant mother walks alongside the Israeli Westbank Barrier between Palestine and Israel on her way to a check-up at Holy Family.
Trainee midwives from both Muslim and Christian backgrounds attend a morning meeting before heading onto the labour wards to assist with births.
The hospital's surgical team prepare to operate on a lady who has ovarian cysts.
A newborn feels the first sensation of having her hair brushed.
The joy of mother and baby locking eyes for the first time.
Mother looks on anxiously as her newborn has his throat cleared with a suction tube so he can breath.
A doctor checks the heart of a tiny premature baby still covered in the 'lanugo' hair which is normally shed by a foetus at around 7-8 months from gestation.
Portrait of a mother proudly holding her newborn baby.
Two ladies in the latter stages of labour are encouraged and guided through their breathing exercises by a midwife and a mother-in-law.
Lady goes into a contraction shortly before entering the final stages of labour.
New-Born baby has his first checks and injections just after having his chord cut.
Midwife holds healthy/crying baby after tying the umbilical chord before presenting the baby to the mother.
Mother (still in pain) is presented with her baby as proud/amused mother-in-law looks on.
Baby delivered by caesarian section enters the world.
Baby born by caesarian section. The baby is covered in vernix, a waxy substance which served to protect the baby in several ways.

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