When I first met up with the wonderful Cherie from RMH Monash I warned her I was a crier and there was every possibility I'd be a soggy mess talking to families. But I managed not to cry once at the house which for people that know me personally is an achievement.
In the second week she told me about Nathan and his family. She said Nathan had a horrible run of misdiagnosis and his family had spent months in the house before he was finally well enough to go home. She described his parents as lovely and said that Erin's mum, Debbie, was fantastic.
On the first day I introduced myself but felt like I sort of bombarded them with my fumbling spiel about what I was doing in the house. That night I felt like I had missed the mark and had been pushy and rude something I avoid. The next day I sat in the kitchen and Debbie sat down with a coffee. We started talking and before I knew I looked at the clock and two hours had passed. She is a fascinating, kind and wonderful woman who had arrived in Australia shortly after Nathan's early arrival of 24 weeks and now almost a year later was going home to Texas at the end of that week. Her daughter Erin came and sat with us and I felt slightly trepadatious after my chat the day before. But then Erin started talking. She told me the full story of Nathan- a baby she and her husband had so desperately wanted, born so early, expected not to make it, time spent in NICU, ICU and the wards. Misdiagnosis, stress and pain. She opened up so completely to me that I think she even surprised herself, with tears rolling down her cheeks recounting what she had been through. Her sharing that story was incredible as was the next day when I met Nathan, a bubbly, chubby baby who was so different from the images I had seen on her iPhone of the months he was in hospital.
Each of the families I photographed have filled out an interview about their children and their time in the house. It was the best way we could think of having people share their own stories beside the photos when eventually exhibit the work. Erin and Lance's is so eloquent when I read it a week later, in the privacy of my study, tears ran down my cheeks too.