Passing seven billion

December 2, 2011

By Jorge Silva

It was during my eternal search for unique moments to capture that I was witness to the most spectacular and magical event – the arrival of a new life.

The United Nations announced the pending birth of the planet’s inhabitant number 7,000,000 for October 31, and that gave me the chance to work on a series of photos that became the most emotional and satisfying of my career.

The moment a baby is born is doubtless one of the most intimate and special in the life of a woman and her family, and sharing that intimacy as a privileged observer was sensational. To live that experience without having become a father yet was even more moving.

All emotions came to the surface during the birthing. The most intense pain together with the most tender caresses and great joy, all played together during the demonstration of tireless work and strength of the medical staff. They were images of the efforts necessary to give birth, and the struggle for integral health.

Inside the maternity services in Caracas I focused my story on the contrasting visions of the public health system called Barrio Adentro (Into the Shantytowns) run by doctors from the Cuban mission in Guatire, in the slums of Caracas, and that of the Aquamater Clinic, a private hospital specializing in underwater birthing in Caracas’ wealthier east.

In Aquamater births take time. I followed their work throughout the entire process, sometimes for more than ten hours under dim light and the music of choice of the mother-to-be. I photographed prenatal courses and practice sessions submerged in water. I was awoken at 4 am one day as a couple prepared for the real thing.

In contrast with Aquamater, it only took a few minutes at the Guatire maternity ward to witness the first mother giving birth, followed by another and another. The work there was nonstop, 24 hours a day, in a dozen birthing rooms that seemed like the stages for a ballet of synchronized blue robes.

Venezuela, with its nearly 30 million inhabitants, has taken on the goal of reducing infant mortality to 10.43 per thousand before 2015. In 1990 the mortality rate for children under five was 31.30. In 2010 it had already dropped to 15.98.

The fact that the world’s population has reached seven billion, without taking into account when and how we’re all born, should make us all reflect on the multiple challenges that we face as human beings on Earth. Each day life expectancy grows longer, but so does the gap between rich and poor, the threats to the environment, and the challenges of providing enough food and potable water to the world’s population.

I want to thank the mothers who gave birth, their husbands and companions, and the doctors and nurses with whom I shared this experience. Their efforts to protect life and health earned my maximum admiration and respect.


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I remember when I was born. I was so shocked, I didn’t speak for almost a year.

Posted by tee1766 | Report as abusive

I agree that childbirth is a wonderful experience. Everyone who wishes to do so, should have one baby and treasure that experience… but not more.

Posted by breezinthru | Report as abusive