For the past several weeks News 3 has brought you stories of health care workers in hospitals who are on the front lines battling COVID-19.
But there’s one subset of that group you probably haven’t thought of…the staff in labor and delivery at our local hospitals. This story focuses on them through the eyes of a unique participant in the process, the birth photographer.
That’s what Neely Ker-Fox of Columbus, Georgia does for a living. She’s as comfortable with a camera in her hand as a baby is with a bottle. Neely started taking pictures of newborns over ten years ago.
She says, “Back then it didn’t even have a name, but people now know it as Fresh 48.” It’s capturing the first 48 hours of a newborn’s life before they head home from the hospital.
Neely admits there are two things that were really hard to overcome when she first got started. “One was convincing women to let me do this. That it wasn’t going to be National Geographic…that it was going to be done very beautifully and tastefully and powerfully. But the second side of that equation was being allowed to be in a medical space where you’ve got privacy rights and medical procedures happening.”
Neely says she wouldn’t be able to capture those priceless newborn moments without first having won the trust of the doctors, nurses, and anesthesiologists who allow her to share their space. Of course, Neely also has to have the consent of the hospitals. The St. Francis-Emory labor and delivery area even has some of Neely’s photography displayed on their walls.
But COVID-19 has inflicted quite a financial blow to Neely’s livelihood. “I’ve been sheltering in place for the last 60 days. I’ve unfortunately had to refund clients and refund future clients. But aside from the financial side of it, it’s just been really hard not being able to be there physically for them (mothers).”
The message Neely wants everyone to understand is…there IS somebody there for these precious mothers who are giving birth without having their family there to support them.
“When they don’t have their mother there, the nurses are stepping into that place,” says Neely. “They are putting themselves in harm’s way to give these moms the physical reassurance and love on them and help them get through this.”
Neely says this is nothing new. She has watched these women during normal times step up and really love on these moms. She adds, “We are so blessed in our community at both hospitals. I’ve had the pleasure of working with their phenomenal staff. I just want the nurses and staff and OB’s and midwives to get the credit they deserve for the jobs they’re doing.”
Neely’s birth photography has been featured in both national and international publications. Just last week three of her images appeared in a one-minute commercial produced by Facebook as a tribute to mothers giving birth during the coronavirus crisis. At the time of this posting, the commercial had over 41 million views.
To watch the commercial, click on this link: https://www.facebook.com/watch/?v=3285266804841617