"Due to the nature of this pregnancy" - Erin's Story

My first pregnancy was a dream. We weren’t even sure that I would be able to have a baby due to health issues, but after 41 weeks and 4 days, I was holding my beautiful baby girl in my arms. I ended up having an unplanned, unassisted home birth because when my daughter decided she was ready, she was ready! Everything about my pregnancy and birth felt natural, and I was left with a sense that my body was doing exactly what it was meant to do every step of the way.

When my daughter was just over a year old, I became pregnant. Again, we were surprised and excited. I trusted my body and the pregnancy. We had a dating ultrasound at 8 weeks, and I heard my precious child’s heartbeat for the first time. I didn’t know it would be the only time. At my 15 week appointment, the midwife explained away being unable to find the heartbeat as something not to become anxious about…and I wasn’t. I was given the option of an ultrasound or coming in a few days later to try again. I chose to come back in and try again. After all, the chances of a miscarriage after already finding a healthy heartbeat are slim, right? But the second appointment went much like the first, and I was off for an ultrasound. The news that came was heartbreaking. I received a phone call from my midwife on the way home to tell me that not only was the baby dead but that the doctor saw some kind of ‘mass’ in my uterus. This was the first time I heard the words ‘molar pregnancy.’

I was referred to a clinic at the women’s hospital for additional testing and ultrasounds. I wasn’t prepared for any of this. My first pregnancy had given me this false sense of security, and now I felt that my body had betrayed me. How did I not know that something was wrong? If there was something wrong, why hadn’t I miscarried already? The loss was devastating.

Over the next couple of weeks, the phrase, “Due to the nature of this pregnancy…,” was repeated over and over again to me. For the ‘mass’ that was referred to in the ultrasound was actually the placenta. In a partial molar pregnancy, the cells of the placenta are considered precancerous. The first doctor I saw explained that the abnormal growth of the placenta steals the nutrition from the baby. I was told the baby had most likely died around 13 weeks, and that the placenta was now 5-6 times the size it should have been and would continue growing. The abnormally growing placenta caused elevated hCG levels and was why I still ‘felt’ pregnant. I never experienced any of the symptoms common with a molar pregnancy. There was an urgency to get the placenta out. I was told that the longer it stayed in, the greater the chances were that it would become cancerous and spread outside of my uterus.

“Due to the nature of this pregnancy…,” signified a shift that had taken place. My care was no longer centered around the loss of my baby. Instead, it had shifted to mitigating the cancer risk. I know the fear my loved ones felt when the word ‘cancer’ was spoken, and I had a 1.5 year old to consider, as well. Everyone wanted that placenta out as soon as possible…except me. Until just days before, I thought I had a growing baby inside of me. I still felt it there. I couldn’t let it go so quickly. I wanted to give my body a little longer to do what I felt it should have done already.

There are added risks of naturally miscarrying a molar pregnancy. The abnormal growth of the placenta makes it highly vascularized and increases the chance of a hemorrhage. Also, any retained pieces of the placenta can increase the risk of cancer growing and spreading outside of the uterus. After two weeks, I couldn’t put it off any longer. I found myself checking into the labor and delivery department for a D & C alongside women in labor. I laid in a hospital bed waiting for hours and listened to brand new babies cry with their first breaths. I watched people walk quickly by excited to meet the newest members of their families. All of this while I was struggling to say goodbye. The next several months were spent doing weekly then monthly blood tests to insure that everything was returning to ‘normal’ in my body. Normal meant no cancer. Normal also meant no baby.

My story somehow became one about cancer instead of about the loss of a child. No healthcare provider every spoke to me about my baby’s gender or even about his or her remains. It all became very medical. Even when I speak about it, I find myself explaining what a partial molar pregnancy is instead of speaking about my loss and grief…like a coping mechanism of sorts, I suppose. Lab work and doctors’ appointments are easier to talk about than deep, heart wrenching pain and hurt. It has deeply affected me. I am a different person because of it. At times, I feel guilty about feeling sadness and loss when maybe I should just be happy that I don’t have cancer.

I think ‘death’ makes a lot of us awkward. I learned this when my father died when I was fifteen. Everyone is so concerned about saying the right thing or the wrong thing that most of the time it just gets weird. Since we were past the first trimester and had seen the heartbeat, we had felt comfortable beginning to tell our friends and family about the pregnancy. When we learned of the miscarriage, I relied on my husband and my mother to tell people. I couldn’t handle the awkwardness of people not knowing what to say to me. I allowed the rarity of a partial molar pregnancy to isolate me—to make me feel like no one knew what I was going through. What has become apparent to me through this is that each mother and father’s experience with the loss of a child is so personal that the circumstances don’t tend to matter as much—what comforts one, doesn’t another; what wounds one, doesn’t another. We can’t expect others to feel or think or say exactly what we need them to. I think that we should recognize that, most of the time, they are speaking in love and in an effort to comfort us…or in the very least, they are not seeking to purposely hurt us. So what should people do? For me, the acknowledgement of my babies’ lives is what I have found to be the most meaningful. The acknowledgement that they were human beings that are loved and missed.

Since the partial molar pregnancy, I have lost another baby early in pregnancy and given birth to my double rainbow baby. My losses have changed me. I find myself battling fears that I never knew existed. But in spite of this, I choose joy. I know that choosing joy each day doesn’t make my losses any less significant. I can love my life and still miss my babies. I am so grateful for a faith in Christ that promises me joy, hope, and love. I am grateful for two amazing children to hold in my arms, and the comfort that one day I will hold two more. 

*The 2 white roses in the photos represent the babies that Erin lost. 

Welcoming Ilia..

Christina is such a remarkable friend, mother, wife and all-around person. She's been in full support of my photography & doula endeavour from the start and promoted my "services" every opportunity that she got. Her generous heart extends way past me - she's this way with everyone! So, when it was her turn to welcome a new baby, I knew that this was my opportunity to give back. (even just a little) And when you give, you receive! I received mentorship from the greatest of mentors, I got to witness tenacity on a whole new level, I got see how much "you can do this" and "I believe in you" can change someone's outcome in the best of ways and I got to share this incredibly beautiful experience with my sweet friend. I'm SO extremely grateful for this experience. 

Damien's birth - August 3rd, 2016

Damien's birth will FOREVER stand out in my mind as being one of the most moving experiences of my life! The drive, dedication, hard work and motivation that went into bringing Damien earth-side moved me to tears. I was so inspired by this Mamma! This was birth without fear on a whole new level! The best part about this birth is that Damien and I share a birthday. I'm so grateful for this experience and to have met this remarkable family.

Vancouver Maternity Session with Mylène & Dave

I was thrilled when Mylène asked me to be her doula and photographer! Both her and her husband Dave are world travellers. They’ve visited and lived in many different parts of the world but their journey together started in the beautiful city of Vancouver. For their maternity session, it was important to both Mylène and Dave that their love for Vancouver be evident in the photos. They wanted to have shots of places they frequent such as the Olympic Village, Gastown, Lions Gate Bridge, Stanley Park and finally sunset photos at English Bay. I was slightly nervous about this photo session initially because we had to move from one place to the next rather quickly to ensure that we reached English Bay on time for the sunset. This photo-shoot ended up being one of my favorite sessions thus far! I loved the thrill of having to move from one place to the next so quickly. I also enjoyed the dynamism of the session itself. The different lighting and landscapes put my skills and creativity to the test on a whole new level. I look forward to being present at their birth – not just as their doula but also their photographer.

June 18, 2016 - The most beautiful home-birth

What a great way to start my weekend! I captured the beautiful, loving birth of this precious little girl. Her mamma worked so hard to bring her earth side! This mamma was surrounded by an amazing birth team which consisted of her midwife, doula, daughter (co-doula), her husband, and her best friend. The strength, love, determination that this mamma had moved me to tears! I was so inspired! I'm so grateful that I was able to capture this birth. 

What a great way to start my weekend! I captured the beautiful, loving birth of this precious little girl. Her mamma worked so hard to bring her earth side! This mamma was surrounded by an amazing birth team which consisted of her midwife, doula, daughter (co-doula), her husband, and her best friend. The strength, love, determination that this mamma had moved me to tears! I was so inspired! I'm so grateful that I was able to capture this birth. 

Sweet Nova's Newborn Session

Wow, I cannot say enough good things about my experience with this family! I feel so honoured that they invited me to be their doula and also capture their journey through pregnancy, birth and the newborn stage. Nova had the sweetest and most gentle entrance into this world - surrounded by SO MUCH LOVE. Even though our chapter together has come to an end - this family truly left a lasting impression. Their kindness and grace was unlike anything I've ever witnessed before.  

Nova's newborn session was a great conclusion to this extraordinary adventure. What made it even more special were the grandma's! The entire session was filled with laughter and love! I just love being able to capture the pure joy, love and emotions. It's the real and raw moments in life that mean the most and what makes for the best photography. 

Thank you Nicole and Steve! With much love and gratitude always!

May 1, 2016 - Atilano Family

Today I had the honour of taking photos of the Atilano Family. I was really nervous about this photoshoot as it was something so extraordinarily special to this family that I was afraid to mess it up. A year ago, Mrs. Atilano (Stephanie) gave birth to twins.  Both boys fought hard to live.  "Julien" fought for 3 days before he sadly passed away. With the twins' 1st birthday coming up, Stephanie wanted a family photoshoot to celebrate Rémy's birthday and also capture the memory of Julien. Such a remarkable family! This story was so near and dear to my heart as I've lost two babies of my own... I hope I was able to live up to their expectations. 

April 3rd - Maternity Session with Nicole

I just love everything about this family! It was the perfect day for indoor photography! Not ideal for outdoor but we made it work! Capturing the photos with Nicole and her daughter was my favorite part about this session. A true bond between mother and daughter! I look forward to capturing the birth and newborn memories of this baby. Such a remarkable journey!

March 17, 2016 - The most beautiful hospital birth.

February 23, 2016 - I met with a Mamma, already 37.5 weeks pregnant who was considering hiring a birth photographer for her 2nd birth. I wasn't hopeful at first because I thought that most people interested will hire a birth photographer earlier on in their pregnancy. Luckily I was wrong!  She went into labour 2 days after hiring me! Talk about timing! I arrived at BC Women's Hospital at 4am and baby was born at 9:40am. This mamma pushed her baby out like such a champion! She was surrounded by an incredible support system. At some point, in every birth that I've attended thus far, there comes a point where the mamma says "I can't do this". I'm always so inspired when the turning point happens and the mamma pushes a baby out with so much love and strength! I love my job so very much!

February 20th, 2016 - Optimal Fetal Positioning Workshop

I had the privilege of being invited to take photos at the "Optimal Fetal Positioning Workshop" that was presented by the amazing team at Ridge Meadows Doula Services and Dr. Zehra Gajic from Maple Ridge Wellness Centre. This workshop was held to teach pregnant women a few techniques on how to get their baby into the most ideal position for birth. I found the workshop to be extremely informative and a must for all pregnant women out there! The same team will be hosting another workshop on April 9th at 1pm.

Michelle's Adoption Story - 38 Years Later

I’m kick-starting 2016 with a beautiful story about courage, gratitude and compassion. My amazing friend and fellow doula Michelle Tyliakos from "Crowning Glory Doula" decided at the age of 38 to find her birth mother. I’m so grateful that she invited me into her home to capture their first meeting. It was an evening filled with tears, beautiful conversation and tons of laughter.  Click here to read her story.

November 14, 2015 - Newborn session with Philippa June

It was such a pleasant surprise when Katie asked me to take newborn photos of sweet Philippa. It felt like a full circle experience as I had already captured Katie's pregnancy, blessing-way and birth. The drive to Squamish was beautiful as always. I stopped at a quaint little coffee store on route called "Galileo Coffee Company". The view of the ocean and the mountains from inside the coffee shop was just breathtaking! I was welcomed with open arms into Katie's home where we did the photo-shoot. It was such a beautiful and natural experience. I will forever be grateful to this family.  

October 27, 2015 - Keyon's Birth

Capturing the birth of Keyon was an amazing experience. His birth was long and hard but this mamma persevered and delivered Keyon au natural. Dad was there every step of the way with Grandma close by at all times. Mamma was surrounded by unwavering love, support and encouragement the entire time. This experience was reaffirmation on the importance of having a strong birth team with you. Click here to watch the full birth story.