Entire books have been written on the subject of the meaning of life and legacy, so to attempt to scratch the surface of such a multi-faceted subject in a blog post is a futile effort. People pursue great feats in order to be remembered for years to come. Daredevils risk their lives so they can have a documented moment of fame in this world. I believe, however, that I may have a very simple approach to life... one who's affirmation I have seen over and over in the delivery room at the birth of every baby we document and photograph. Every single life is a ripple that starts with a small baby finger and grows into mighty waves that moves the tides of the lives of families and nations.

A patient once sat in my office, flat on the floor, rocking Kelly, my therapy dog - a big German Sheppard with a tiny heart who reacted to peoples emotions everywhere she went. Kelly sat patiently until the woman stopped crying. The reason for the tears? A miscarriage of a baby girl, a loss she had not mourned in years and that had finally consumed her until she couldn't cope with the ache in her heart any longer. A couple of years later she was the owner of a business named after her daughter that makes maternity clothes for expecting mothers.

We often get the question - usually asked in almost a whisper as new parents protectively hold their newborn: "do you ever photograph still borns?" I do. It is not something people want to think about. Our work is mostly about celebrating families, welcoming a new baby into the world, and even though we have seen our share of scary moments when the situation gets very serious in hospital, we rarely see a baby die.

One Monday afternoon my phone rang. Glancing at the caller ID I smiled and answered with "hey, who is in labour?" It has been a long standing practice between Dr Joubert and me. He doesn't phone to talk about the weather. Someone is usually in labour or going to be in theatre very soon. I have gotten into the habit of grabbing my gear and heading for the door even as I answer his calls. He sounded hesitant. "You can say no if you want to... " he started. I frowned.

"Ok... what's up?" I asked.

He sighed. He asked if a certain patient had contacted me for photos of her baby's birth. I smiled and confirmed. She was due to have her c-section the next week.

"I just did an ultrasound", he said, "there is no heartbeat."

My stomach turned and I closed my eyes. "Are you sure?" I asked stupidly. Could he have missed it somehow?

"I checked multiple times. There is nothing."

"Wow... ok... so you are removing the baby?" I asked, knowing what was coming.

"Yes, like I said, you can say no, but would you be willing to take a few photos? It is all they will have of the baby."

We discussed some details about the procedure and what he had in mind and I agreed to be there the next day to give the grieving parents at least something to hold on to as they leave the hospital with empty arms.

The next morning I went to the hospital for a photo session I would never forget. We retrieved the baby's body from the theatre complex and went to a quiet room to photograph and dress the remains of a baby that never got to breathe a single breath. He was perfect. Wonderfully made. He looked and felt like he was sleeping. I photographed as much as I could and then went with dr Joubert as he handed the baby to his father to say goodbye.

If you have read this far, it is probably because you have experienced a loss of your own at one stage of another. The truth is that all of us will at some stage lose someone close to us until it is finally our turn to die. It is a morbid picture, but it is the truth. So why talk about it? Because it matters. Your miscarriage changed the way you saw life... it changed you. And right there is the ripple. How we see the pain of others with more empathy and understanding. Every single life, no matter how small, matters.

I look in the eyes of my children and there the world of possibilities lie. They are adventurous and bright-eyed, innocent beings that are learning how to navigate this world. We want the best for them and we will give our lives to protect them. I am forever changed by them. And there is the ripple.

A new dad is standing in the hallway of the hospital looking at his new baby through the nursery window. He has just gone on daddy duty and he will retire from service the day he dies. He will keep guard over the new life entrusted to him because, to him, it is the most precious thing he will ever own. And there is the ripple.

Jean-Luc is one year old. At his birthday party a whole crowd of people are gathered who worried and celebrated and prayed when he was born 10 weeks early. There was hardly a dry eye in the room. He made it. And there is the ripple.

Miané spent 8 gruelling weeks in NICU with a lung disease that would stay with her for the rest of her life. Time and time again her parents were told that she would probably not survive the night. Time and time again she pulled through until one day, she was discharged and is now 10 years old with little more than a sniff or a cough from time to time. She is one of the most vivacious young girls I know. Her laughter is contagious and it rings through the house and everywhere she goes. There is the ripple.

Every life matters. We are forever changed by the people we meet and the pictures we take. I love photographing the moment lovers become parents. The moment the pebble falls in the lake and the ripples start to change the face of the water. Happy tears. Big smiles. Small cries. Tiny ripples. And so we do what we love doing - we photograph new families in the making, we capture the moments when everything change and when lives are forever transposed. We relish it, we smile at the light on the baby's skin, the glow in the dad's eyes and we notice how the small ripple is changing even us as photographers.

Isaiah 60:22 "the least one shall become a thousand, and the small one a strong nation".

We pray our next adventure with you is a happy one


Charlotte and Lizelle