Monday, 3 November 2014


This is a library photograph.

I'm in a large London hospital with my producer/camera man friend filming footage to go with the interviews for this NHS film we're making. 

I already have an interview in the bag with a nurse who works in a neonatal ward with premature babies, so I need some footage to go with it. 

The Comms lady from the hospital says she will ask in the neonatal high dependency ward if we can film in there. We need to get a parent's permission to film a baby, of course. 

A mother gives her permission and so we wash our hands, again, and use the alcohol rub, again, and leave our bags and coats in the nurses' office. 

Quietly we enter the ward and in hushed tones we chat to the new mother, who stands smiling in her fluffy blue dressing gown, while we film her tiny premature baby as he kicks his sausage-pink legs in his incubator. A nurse is taking a blood sample from the baby and we get some good shots, but it's a shame he is so distressed in all of them. 

"I have another mother who has given her permission," says the Comms lady, "her baby will soon be transferring to a hospice". 

"A hospice? Oh no," I say, "we really don't need to intrude upon that particular mother and child, thank you, but that's fine". 

But the Comms lady insists, "Really, the mother has said yes, she wants you to film".

What I see next is without doubt the saddest thing I have ever witnessed first-hand: a baby struggling for his life. He can't swallow. His mother uses tiny suction pipes to syphon away his saliva. The trainee midwife standing by the mother explains that she has been caring for him herself, 24 hours a day. She hasn't left his bedside.

We film the baby and the mother and the young trainee midwife who is with her. All the shots are close ups (the motif for the film is close ups of nurses hands). 

The baby's mother is very young. She wears a headscarf. She is pretty. She has big, dark eyes that hold more pain than I have ever seen. She looks straight at me when I ask the baby's name and smiles when she tells me. Smiles. 

After we have moved away I ask if we have a good clear shot of that mother and child that we might be able to give to her to keep. My camera-man friend says that we don't, so I send him back to film something we can give her. It's the least we can do.

I will never forget the scene by that bedside. The quiet tenderness. The love that mother had for her baby. That beautiful smile.

Love E x


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