Saturday is pregnancy portrait day in scenic Rio. It’s 6:30 in the morning, and Tim and I are accompanying Flora and João to the Jardim Botânico, or Botanical Garden. The garden at the foot of Corcovado Mountain, with the iconic Art Deco statue of Christ the Redeemer, is among Rio’s most popular places for photography, and soon will be crowded with people and cameras, many having traveled from other cities in Brazil.
When Flora and João learned she was pregnant, they were ecstatically happy. And, like most Brazilians, they immediately booked a photographer to capture their pregnancy. Rafa had taken the wedding pictures a year ago at Ipanema Beach, and is best known in Rio for her stunning full-color images of natural landscapes and native cultures. Being Rio’s Favorite Broadcaster has its perks for Flora, and her request for an early morning photo shoot before the gardens opened to the public was granted. But being a well-known TV personality also means that she’s easily recognized, so we’re riding in a chauffeur driven bulletproof Mercedes SUV, with tinted windows of course, along with Flora’s bodyguard and personal assistant.
Flora, who looks like she’s about to go into labor, flashes her signature smile and pats her bump.
“Wow!” I said admiringly, as we all walk up the Avenue of Royal Palms to meet Rafa at the Fountain of the Muses. “You look radiant!”
“How do you feel?”
“Good but a little tired. The babies started kicking up a storm and kept me up last night.”
“Ahh, the joys of pregnancy!”
We’d met Rafa at Flora and João’s wedding last year, and visited her gallery earlier in the week. Her stunningly beautiful images on exhibit are a visual treat. They capture the women’s essence and glow of being pregnant, as well as the joy and love in their eyes awaiting the birth of their child.
“Bom dia, good morning,” said Rafa, smiling. “Shall we go over this morning’s shots; I expect to be done within the hour.”
Calm and serene Flora is standing alone by the pond, tilting her head back and looking up at the piercing blue sky. She’s wearing cropped tight fitting peach colored Vera Wang leggings, a Belgian ivory lace top open to show off her tanned tummy, and Manolo lace-up sandals.
Rafa looks at the images on her computer and nods approval. Then she asks João to walk over and stand by Flora, and put his hands around her midriff. Flora smiles, looks down at her bare tummy and puts her hands over João’s. The last image is not staged — a tender moment embracing and looking into each others eyes by the pond in the quiet and serenely exotic garden.
As soon as the shoot is over, Rafa shares her computer images with Flora and João, and we all walk back to the waiting car at the entrance. Opening time is an hour away, but photographers with their heavily pregnant clients, dressed very much like Flora, are waiting for the gates to open, to capture their own loving and tender family moments to celebrate their pregnancy.
Even though the majority of Brazilian women are persuaded by their doctor to deliver by caesarean section, Flora told her obstetrician that she wanted a natural birth. When she and João return to the clinic after her water breaks, Rafa will be there during labor and delivery, capturing precious moments — the birth of their babies and the new parents tears of joy.
As the twins chosen godparents, Tim and I will also be at the clinic with our dear friends as they welcome their new little bundles of joy into the world.