2 April 2013


I am furious at Johan.

I am angry because he got to go see the twins in the NICU yesterday.  Not me, the baby nurse.  That would be far too logical.  No, Johan was the one forced to don a gown, three shoe covers (one for his head), and a mask - all under the hateful glances of nurses furious at his accidental breaking of visiting hours rules.  Johan was the one who got to take photos of the chubbier-than-we-expected twins in their separate plastic incubators.  Johan got to offer halting congratulations to Landu, Mupwa's exhausted wife - who I'm sure was less than pleased with her husband for randomly bringing a near-stranger with a camera into a crazy stressful moment of their lives.  

It is so not fun to be one week postpartum.  Especially, I imagine, when NICU is involved.

I'm so mad.  And Jealous.  With a capital "J." 

However, the good news is that Johan was there because he was giving the family a ride home from that hospital joint - a couple of weeks earlier than expected.  Which, of course, meant more financial stress for Mupwa in the short term - but better in the long term.  He was freaking out. Landu was freaking out.  The house isn't ready for two babies!  We need to rearrange the furniture!  

Meanwhile, the twins slept soundly in what Johan described as a completely silent nursery.  

Mupwa I.

I grilled him for details:  Silent?  Completely silent?  Surely there were beeping monitors!  Whispering nurses.  Mewing babies.  Alarms?   Nope.  He swore that the click of his phone camera and the crackle of his gown were the loudest noises in a room ringed with silent babies in boxes.   He didn't see any eerie blue lights, hear any beeping alerts, or notice the sigh of a ventilator.  He added that he was so unbelievably nervous and uncomfortable that his own pulse was crazy loud.  The combination of a very displeased hospital staff and the unexpected role change from chauffeur to major life event photographer just about did him in.

But not quite.  He still managed to take these beautiful, sort of haunting photographs of life inside a Congolese NICU.

It's possible that Katherine and Miriam are among only a very few Kinshasa babies who have had their portraits taken while still ensconced behind hospital walls, tucked away in donated baby compartments.  A few other images exist, but not many.  

*I had a chat with Mupwa about if he was comfortable with me writing about his babies and putting photographs of them on the Internet.  After telling me that he actually got stopped on the street a few weeks ago and asked if he was "Papa Mupwa who builds Tikki Torches," he said he hoped the "whole world would share in [his] joy this way."  One of the ideas behind Mama Congo is to have a place to record "stories of mamas, stories of families, stories of life."  This is a perfect example of a story that we get to tell.


  1. Wishing health and happiness and joy to Landu and Mupwa and their beautiful little ones, from Harrisonburg, Virginia. (and could MamaCongo tell us by what means the hospital decided to let Mamas and babies finally leave?)

  2. Haunting photos, indeed. Go Johan!

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