Family portraits of babies disabled by Zika

For a brief moment, the mothers put aside their search for hard-to-find drugs needed to prevent their babies from having seizures, or the uncomfortable stares directed at their children, who were born with small heads because of a Zika virus infection in the womb.

Against a black cloth and looking at an instant camera, the women drew their little ones close to their cheeks and smiled. They were just like any other moms getting the first formal photographs of their babies.

Along with financial and health worries, these families also face the social stigma of raising a disabled child, which they say is even more pronounced in the poverty-stricken northeastern region of Brazil where they live.

"Some moms feel like they have to hide their children who are disabled. Not me. I am showing her to the world. What is beautiful must be seen by everyone," said Angelica Pereira, mother of 1-year-old Luiza Beatriz.

Amid doctors' appointments, physical therapy and regular tests, these mothers have hardly found the time to take portraits with their children.


Video by Renata Brito


Associated Press photographer Felipe Dana has followed these babies from hospitals to their cribs, from brain exams to bath time. After several interviews and assignments with the mothers, he wanted to capture their pride for their children, using instant film so they could immediately see and keep the photographs. Dana gave the women the prints but preserved the negatives, later bleaching and scanning them so they mirrored the images the mothers took home.

While being photographed, some mothers brought their child close to their chest and others raised him or her into the air while kissing the baby's nose or forehead. They relaxed as Dana made animated voices to get their babies to look at the camera.

The women seemed anxious as they stood by a table, waiting the 90 seconds needed for the instant film to develop so they could see the resulting image. Dana peeled apart the negative and put the film prints on the table. The light on the foreheads and shoulders of the mothers and babies jumped out. The women stared at the photos, reading the expressions in their children's eyes and finding some of the babies smiled.


In this Sept. 26, 2016 photo, Angelica Pereira holds a instant film photo of her and her daughter Luiza, who was born with microcephaly, one of many serious medical problems that can be caused by congenital Zika syndrome, in Santa Cruz do Capibaribe, Pernambuco state, Brazil. For a brief moment, mothers with 1-year-old babies with microcephaly, forgot about getting that hard-to-find drug needed to prevent their babies from having seizures or the uncomfortable stares directed at their children born with small heads because of a Zika virus infection in the womb. Instead they were just like any other moms getting the first formal photographs of their babies. (AP Photo/Felipe Dana)

 

In this Sept. 29, 2016 photo made from a negative recovered from instant film, Jusikelly da Silva poses for a photo with her daughter Luhandra, who was born with microcephaly, one of many serious medical problems that can be caused by congenital Zika syndrome, in Recife, Pernambuco state, Brazil. Silva says she is desperate to get a brain scan for Luhandra, who was sitting up and eating solid foods before a seizure several months ago left her virtually motionless. (AP Photo/Felipe Dana)

 

In this Sept. 27, 2016 photo made from a negative recovered from instant film, Solange Ferreira holds her 1-year-old son Jose Wesley Campos, who was born with microcephaly, one of many serious medical problems that can be caused by congenital Zika syndrome, as they pose for a photo in Bonito, Pernambuco state, Brazil. The boy came to be known as the "bucket baby" because of a Dec. 23, 2015 photograph of him in a bucket filled with water to help him calm down. The image became emblematic of Brazil's Zika epidemic amid a surge of babies being born with unusually small heads in the country's northeast. (AP Photo/Felipe Dana)

 

In this Sept. 26, 2016 photo made from a negative recovered from instant film, Angelica Pereira kisses her daughter Luiza, who was born with microcephaly, one of many serious medical problems that can be caused by congenital Zika syndrome, during a portrait session in Santa Cruz do Capibaribe, Pernambuco state, Brazil. "We are always chasing something. We have to drop everything else, all our chores, our homes," said the 21-year-old. "There are so many of us with children with special needs. (The government) is forgetting about that." (AP Photo/Felipe Dana)

 

In this Sept. 29, 2016 photo made from a negative recovered from instant film, Vanessa dos Santos poses with her son, Enzo, who was born with microcephaly, one of many serious medical problems that can be caused by congenital Zika syndrome, in Recife, Pernambuco state, Brazil. Santos is one of the few mothers who lives within walking distance of a rehabilitation center. Enzo is eating well and gaining weight, but he has to take medication twice a day to control convulsions and still has difficulties with movements, especially in his hands. (AP Photo/Felipe Dana)

 

In this Sept. 29, 2016 photo made from a negative recovered from instant film, Rozilene Ferreira poses with her 1-year-old son, Arthur Conceicao, who was born with microcephaly, one of many serious medical problems that can be caused by congenital Zika syndrome, in Recife, Pernambuco state, Brazil. A year after a spike in the number of newborns with the defect known as microcephaly, Brazilian doctors and researchers have seen many of the babies develop swallowing difficulties, epileptic seizures and vision and hearing problems. (AP Photo/Felipe Dana)

 

In this Sept. 27, 2016 photo made from a negative recovered from instant film, Elisson Campos poses with his 1-year-old brother, Jose Wesley Campos, who was born with microcephaly, one of many serious medical problems that can be caused by congenital Zika syndrome, in Bonito, Pernambuco state, Brazil. Elisson is very close to his baby brother and loves to hold him in his arms. (AP Photo/Felipe Dana)

 

In this Sept. 29, 2016 photo made from a negative recovered from instant film, Diana Felix and Carlos Alberto Dias, pose with their son, Ezequiel, who was born with microcephaly, one of many serious medical problems that can be caused by congenital Zika syndrome, in Recife, Pernambuco state, Brazil. Dias stopped working to help Felix care for their four children. Sometimes he accompanies her to Ezequiel's therapy sessions and medical appointments, which can be as often as five times a week. (AP Photo/Felipe Dana)

 

In this Sept. 29, 2016 photo made from a negative recovered from instant film, Daniele Ferreira dos Santos holds her son Juan Pedro, who was born with microcephaly, one of many serious medical problems that can be caused by congenital Zika syndrome, as they pose for a photo in Recife, Pernambuco state, Brazil. Santos is helped by her mother and older daughter, who often take turns caring for Juan Pedro. His father left the house a few weeks after he was born. (AP Photo/Felipe Dana)

 

In this Sept. 29, 2016 photo made from a negative recovered from instant film, Rosana Alves holds her daughter Luana, who was born with microcephaly, one of many serious medical problems that can be caused by congenital Zika syndrome, as they pose for a photo in Recife, Pernambuco state, Brazil. Alves has three daughters and has left work to take care of Luana, who is equipped with specially designed leg braces to help position her feet. (AP Photo/Felipe Dana)

 

In this Sept. 29, 2016 photo made from a negative recovered from instant film, Tatiane do Nascimento holds her son Willamis Silva, who was born with microcephaly, one of many serious medical problems that can be caused by congenital Zika syndrome, as they pose for a photo in Recife, Pernambuco state, Brazil. Willamis was having swallowing problems and not gaining weight so a feeding tube was introduced, which in less than a month he pulled out a couple of times. Barbosa, who has two other children, says she used to take Williamis daily to the hospital or physical therapy, but now they are going two or three times a week. (AP Photo/Felipe Dana)

 


Text from AP news story, AP Photos: Family portraits of babies disabled by Zika

Associated Press video journalist Renata Brito and AP photographer Felipe Dana contributed to this story.

Photos by Felipe Dana

Video By Renata Brito

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