North Vancouver Birth Lifestyle Photographer | A Blessing of Lux {Light}

{Lux} : the SI unit of illuminance and luminous emittance, a standardized model of human visual brightness perception (wikipedia). Simply, Lux is Light.

Last month, I've been incredibly fortunate to be added to the group of photographers at Canuck Place hospice, photographing families that have requested this service during end-of-life care. Doing this has impacted my life in ways I have not imagined; for one, I am always humbled by the family's strength and grateful for the days that I have together with my family. Despite the emotionally intensive nature of this role, it is so rewarding to know I am able to contribute to a family's life in a meaningful way.

Hours after my first session with one of the families at Canuck Place, I received an email from a couple from Saskatchewan. Chantel and Steve are expecting their first baby, a girl. Chantel is 38 weeks along and in Vancouver to deliver her baby because she has been diagnosed with a congenital diaphragmatic hernia. Once out of womb, the medical team will be putting their baby on a ventilator and intubated, but is uncertain about how long she will survive. They would like to have someone capture the birth and first moments of her, particularly before medical intervention began, and asked if I would be available. As I read this email, I felt a rush of emotion and the overwhelming feeling that I needed to do this for them.

On March 12, I anxiously await their message for me to meet them at the hospital. Chantel was admitted to the hospital that afternoon for induction and later that night around 10:30pm, Steve sent a message informing me that her waters have broken and that she's dilated at 2cm. It was time to head to the hospital. When I arrived, I met them in their delivery room. The uncertainty of their baby's health aside, Chantel and Steve presented as first-time parents, anxious and eager to meet their baby girl. We talked about where they are from, how they met, and how family is so important to them. The attending nurse suggested for Chantel to take a walk around, to help progress the labour along. The wireless fetal heart rate monitor would not cooperate reliably so it would just be a quick jaunt around the nurses' station and back. The contractions are coming, albeit erratically, and Chantel is getting tired. As she sat on the bed, breathing through one wave of contraction, Steve was right there, solidly planted alongside her with every breath.

Chantel explained the details of the structural information of her baby girl's anatomy. She has an underdeveloped left lung, and her abdominal contents have moved into its place, and her heart shifted over to the right side. As the nurse is trying out different fetal heart rate monitors that still refuse to perform, one thing is for certain - this little girl has got a strong heart beat. We all share a laugh in her strength. It's almost 2am and rest is prescribed for Chantel. I wait in the hallway for the next doctor's check-in to see how far her labour's progressed. At 4am, it has stalled at 2 cm, so I headed home.

The next morning, I arranged for childcare (I am so grateful for friends and family that support me so unconditionally for this!). Chantel had been given more oxytocin and is now at 7cm. However, in the early afternoon, the labour has not progressed as anticipated, so a caesarean section is recommended for her. I got to the hospital at 2:30pm and found Steve, sitting outside the OR dressed in scrubs, waiting to be called in. March 13, 2:58pm, Steve follows the OR nurse in to meet his baby girl and I stay, await. Moments later, the nurse comes out with Steve's phone and walks to his and Chantel's families who are waiting in the hallway. She shares the first image of their new addition with them and they are overcome with joy - a real cheerleading squad!

Finally, it was time for baby girl to make her appearance. The medical team and Steve brings her out from the OR and en route to the Neonatal ICU, I take some quick photographs of her. After a few moments, Steve comes back to tell me I am permitted in the NICU ward to continue documenting his baby girl's first moments of life. It was a sight to behold: specialists, technicians, and nursing staff acting very quickly to give this baby the medical support she needs. Busy hands and movement around the room but in the most calm and confident manner. 3:30pm: Baby Hruska weighs in at 3840 g. Chantel, you are a baby growing machine! She is beautiful, head round, body plump. Steve mentioned she had a little cry when she was first delivered out of womb. The x-ray machine arrived and it was time for his little girl to be intubated so we left NICU and waited in the family room.

For the hour that I spent with their family, the intensity of their love for Chantel and Steve, and their new baby was so evident to me. Their optimistic perspectives only brought added strength. They showed me the little bunny stuffy and a beautiful knitted blanket that Kim had worked on for her niece. On it, are the letters "LUX", the name chosen for this baby girl. They joke about the conversion of metric to pounds and ounces for her birth weight (8 pounds 7 ounces). Steve's aunt and his mother recounted the time when Steve was infected with meningitis as an infant. His situation was so dire, but with his aunt's persistence (she's was the neonatal nurse at the hospital), they were able to pull him out of danger - he was a miracle baby. I was so moved by that story and I can see that his family is channeling that hope for his little girl too.

Someone comes by the room to let us know Chantel is out of the OR and is now ready to see her baby girl. The family, with bright smiles on their faces, went to see Chantel as she came through, congratulations in hand and hugs. Her mom holds her hand tight and gives her a kiss on her head, sharing the joy and anxiety with her.

As I stand there, watching Chantel get moved beside her baby girl, I get teary. Steve is holding her hand and she reached out with the other to touch Lux for the first time. She motions for Steve to go to the other side of Lux so that they can enjoy this reunion together. Her hand rubs Lux's feet and toes while his fingers are linked to her little fingers. Ten fingers and ten very tickle toes, chubby rolls, great size and length, surrounded by two parents who are in love with their baby girl. Everything else melts away, just for that moment. Lux is light, a special and blessed light from God, and she has illuminated their life.

At the time of this post, Lux is still in NICU and the doctors are working on the best approach for her surgery. Chantel and Steve, thank you so much for reaching out to ask me to do this. Your strength is unparalleled and I am reminded of how beautiful and pure love can be through your eyes. We will be thinking of your family often.