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Heart-wrenching photo of mum separated from newborn shows reality of giving birth during coronavirus pandemic

Marie Claire Dorking
·3-min read
The image on the left, showing mum, Ali Harris kissing her son through a PPE screen, was shortlisted for a photography award. (Caters)
The image on the left, showing mum, Ali Harris kissing her son through a PPE screen, was shortlisted for a photography award. (Caters)

A powerful image of a mum separated from her newborn by a PPE screen, has been named as one of the defining images of lockdown, by a panel of judges, including the Duchess of Cambridge.

The photo, entitled First Kiss, shows new mum Ali Harris, 34, and baby, Indy, sharing their first cuddle with a plastic sheet between them.

The special moment was captured by Ali's husband Leigh, 33, and has since been causing a buzz for highlighting the sometimes heart-wrenching reality of giving birth in a pandemic.

The couple’s photo has now been shared around the world and attracted messages of support from strangers.

Read more: Twin babies defy the odds to survive after pregnant mum put into a 10 day coma due to coronavirus

The powerful image was shortlisted for a photography competition by a panel including the Duchess of Cambridge. (Caters)
The powerful image was shortlisted for a photography competition by a panel including the Duchess of Cambridge. (Caters)

When Ali, a photographer from Lincoln, learned she was pregnant in August 2019, she did not expect to have such a different pregnancy and birth to that of her previous children, but when COVID-19 started spreading across the UK everything changed.

The couple found themselves unable to attend appointments together and unable to even leave the house to celebrate their new addition to the family.

Read more: Women share stories of going through labour alone as petition calls for change to birth partner restrictions

“As soon as the virus started to get really big we knew Indy’s birth was going to be different,” Ali explained.

“We have two other children so we were ready for our third, but everything changed pretty swiftly.

“We couldn’t go to appointments together which was really tough because we both rely on each other for support in anything that we do.”

Watch: Mum gave birth while intubated for COVID-19

Though Ali knew giving birth would involve PPE and include her wearing a face mask, she says looking at her son through the screen was an odd experience.

“We opted for the clear screen so that we could see the birth, but it still felt strange looking at him through it,” she said.

“But of course, I was glad it was there, and I was so happy to just see Indy because whether we have to wear PPE or not It was always going to be a special moment.

“With our last two children we filmed the birth but this time were told we couldn’t, so Leigh just snapped loads of pictures and that’s how we ended up with the image.”

The couple welcomed their newborn, Indy, in May, during the pandemic. (Caters)
The couple welcomed their newborn, Indy, in May, during the pandemic. (Caters)

At first the couple didn’t realise the significance of the photo, but looking back they saw how incredible it was as a representation of giving birth during the pandemic.

“We didn’t think anything of it initially, but on second glance we realised just how stark it was, and how much it represented the time we’re all currently living in,” Ali added.

The incredible photo has since been selected as one of 100 images that define the UK lockdown.

“The image is just the icing on the cake, we’re thrilled we have that moment on camera and seeing all the PPE is a real reminder of the world we’re currently in,” said Leigh.

Read more: Nurse gives birth in car as husband drives them to hospital at 70mph

Baby Indy's arrival was different to his two older siblings. (Caters)
Baby Indy's arrival was different to his two older siblings. (Caters)

Ali added: “We are so thrilled that we have an image of our first moment together and when you notice the PPE surrounding us you realise how poignant the image is.

“We were worried Indy wouldn’t have a special birth with family doting on him and everyone meeting him, but now we realise he’ll have the best story to tell out of all three of them.”

Additional reporting Caters

Watch: Duchess of Cambridge meets with families who have suffered baby loss.