I met Katie in late 2011 when I was working on another series based around mothers. Then 20 years old, she was a single mother to Jaylen, an 11 month old baby boy who was born with Gastroschisis, a birth defect that results in a hole in a foetus’ abdominal wall through which the digestive system protrudes. . Most children born with the deformity will have surgery upon birth and be sent home within a matter of weeks. When Jaylen was born he became the most extreme case the hospital has ever seen. As a result he spent the first 19 months of his life in hospital with Katie mothering him from beside his hospital bed. Having a seriously ill child is most parents worst nightmare but for Katie it is compounded by her being a young single mother. Her parents live over an hour out of Melbourne so Katie has been forced to move into commission housing close to the hospital so Jaylen can have access to the care he needs. He is connected to a machine that feeds him directly into his stomach for 17 hours a day, and receives a speciality nutrition compound that bypasses his digestive system by being connected to a line that enters into through his vein.Katie cannot work or study, her days are filled with appointments and the administration of Jaylen’s medical care.
At the time of writing, Jaylen has been home for 2 months with Katie now responsible for his medical care from home. He is now 3.5 years old. In a time where so many women are judged by societal expectations of what mother should be, Katie quietly battles through on her own with dignity, being the strongest person she can be for her son. I am proud to be able to shine a light on this extraordinary woman’s story.
Images from this series have been nominated for The National Portrait Prize, PDN magazine's daily emerging photographer and the 8th annual black and white spider awards. Part of the series was exhibited in the 2014 HeadOn Photo Festival