My Miscarriage Story

Did you know that today (October 15th) is National Pregnancy and Infant Loss Remembrance Day?

In October 1988, President Ronald Reagan said, “When a child loses his parent, they are called an orphan. When a spouse loses her or his partner, they are called a widow or widower. When parents lose their child, there isn’t a word to describe them. This month recognizes the loss so many parents experience across the United States and around the world. It is also meant to inform and provide resources for parents who have lost children due to miscarriage, ectopic pregnancy, molar pregnancy, stillbirths, birth defects, SIDS, and other causes.”

Research studies vary, but it has been reported that anywhere from 10-25% of pregnancies end in miscarriage. But that number is likely double, since most miscarriages happen in the first 12 weeks of pregnancy, when many women don't even realize that they are pregnant yet. So if you really think about it, miscarriage is almost as common as pregnancy. And yet, there is a stigma with miscarriage. It's a silent and lonely grief. You feel like a failure because you feel like your body has let you down. You feel like you must have done something wrong for this to happen. You are scared because you don't know if your miscarriage is a fluke or indicative of a bigger problem. I know because it happened to me. 

Almost 6 years ago to the day, I learned that we were pregnant with our second child. With one healthy pregnancy under my belt, I was confident there was little to nothing to worry about. Our daughter Madeline, a sweet, smart, energetic toddler, had entered the world exactly on her due date and at almost ten pounds. Hers was a trouble-free pregnancy. Growing a child was something I could do well, or so I thought. Because I had such a good pregnancy the first time, and got pregnant so easily this time, I told everyone. Immediately. I didn't want to have to go through the annoying ritual of hiding it for 12 weeks this time. 

But this pregnancy was different right off the bat. I had no symptoms. Zero. Whereas with my first pregnancy I had sore, tender breasts and was sick as a dog almost immediately. But my friends and family kept telling me that every pregnancy is different, so I tried to believe that everything was fine. But I knew something was wrong. A few weeks later my husband Aaron and I had our first doctors appointment to confirm the pregnancy. During the ultrasound, the tech saw two embryos! We were having twins! But she said that one was looking small and wanted the doctor to take a more in depth look. So she asked us to go back to the waiting room until the doctor was free. So for the next 15 minutes, Aaron and I laughed at the thought of having two babies and all that would entail -- two cribs, two car seats, a new car that could fit all 3 of our kids! And I started to think, "That's why I didn't have any symptoms...because this pregnancy really was different...there were two babies in there, not just one!" 

When the doctor brought us in for the second ultrasound, she told us that we had what looked like a "vanishing twin"--which occurs when a twin or multiple disappears in the uterus during pregnancy as a result of a miscarriage of one twin or multiple. So we were down one baby. She told us that the other baby looked very small, about 5 weeks old (I was 8 weeks pregnant). Then she dealt the final blow and told us that because the baby was so small, she couldn't see a heartbeat and that this most likely meant that I would miscarry in the coming days. Then she sent us home. 

The next day I was in a meeting at work when I started to bleed. I went to the bathroom in the middle of the meeting and passed some tissue/clots. I thought that this might be the baby, but I couldn't tell and I didn't know what to do (because it didn't occur to me to ask my doctor what happens if I miscarry in the toilet)...so I flushed the toilet. And I definitely remember thinking, "I wonder if I just flushed my baby down the toilet." And then I tried to compose myself and I went back to my meeting. Can you imagine? When we say that women are strong and fierce and brave, this is why. In the face of extreme loss and grief...we fix our mascara and walk back into the meeting.

On the way home from work I called Aaron and asked him to meet me at the ER. I was bleeding a lot at that point and just didn't know what to do and didn't know what to expect. I was scared. The next few hours (or days, if I'm being honest) were a blur. I remember bleeding on the floor in the hospital room. I remember the doctor giving me an exam to confirm the miscarriage, but I don't remember if he had to do a D&C. I remember walking to the bathroom and taking a seat on the floor in my hospital gown in front of the nurse's station because I was about to faint. I remember calling my mom on the way home and just sobbing. I remember feeling empty and alone even though I was surrounded by people who loved me. And I remember wondering if I would ever get over the grief and be happy again. 

When I was in the ER, the doctor told me that I could start trying to get pregnant after my next period. When I went my doctor for a follow up visit a few days later, I asked her when I could start trying again and she said 3-4 months. Confused, I told her what the ER doctor had said and she responded with, "Technically, he's right...but we like you to wait so that we can get a better sense of your cycles again." I was PISSED. The only thing in the world I wanted was to know if I could have another child. And the other way to know that was to try. So for them to give me different medical guidelines for administrative purposes (at least that's how I viewed it) was too much. This practice was also unaware that my visit was a miscarriage follow up visit and treated it like I had passed a kidney stone and not a baby...so I left that appointment and immediately found a new, midwifery-based practice. It was the best decision I made!

About 2 weeks later I got my period, and 2 weeks after that I found out I was pregnant again. <3  Six years later I of course still wonder what might have been, but then I also look at my sweet Nora (who's now five) and realize I wouldn't have her if I hadn't have had my miscarriage. She's my rainbow baby. She's my miracle. 

Do you have a miscarriage story? If so, share it and let other women who are going through it know that they're not alone.

xoxo, Nicole

What to wear: 9 Tips for Picture Perfect Outfits

It’s that time of year again! Ahhhh, family photos. If you’re like most moms, this is a bittersweet experience for you. You LOVE family photos because HELLO, you’re a mom and as such you are in ZERO pictures with your kids (unless it’s a hideous selfie with your best workout gear and no makeup on). So this is your one chance each year to get dolled up, take your hair out of that messy bun and look good in those pics with your kids!

The bitter part is trying to plan it. I see you. Rummaging through your closet and scrolling through Pinterest for hours on end. Panicking because not only do you have to plan YOUR outfit…but you have to plan outfits for your entire family. It can be super overwhelming, but I’ve got some tips and tricks to hopefully make the process easier and help you create a cohesive look.

Once you book a session with me, I’ll send you over to my Pinterest page for some wardrobe inspiration. But while you are looking through and gathering ideas, you should consider a few things:

Location?

WHERE are you having the shoot? Indoors? Outdoors? At a park? Downtown in an urban setting? What will the colors be like in the background of the photos? The picture I posted above was taken at the gorgeous Marvin Efird Park in the spring, so mama knew that she wanted to compliment the natural scenery around them while adding a pop of color to highlight the season.

Vibe?

How do you want the pictures to feel? Classic. Rustic. Boho. Formal. Formal. Relaxed. Whimsical. Moody. This session was taken in the spring to celebrate their little girl turning two. So it was a celebratory occasion, but mama didn’t want balloons and streamers. She wanted something she could hang on her wall that also reminded her of when her baby was 2, so a neutral, timeless palette that matched the season is was what she went for. I love how she kept it casual, but with just a bit of flare with her dress/shoe combination and the birthday girl’s sweet dress.

Season?

Winter. Spring. Summer. Fall. I always tell my clients to make sure their wardrobe matches the season, especially if outside because you want to make sure you and your gang aren’t freezing or sweating like you just ran a marathon. Obviously, this can be a little difficult in Charlotte, where it is currently October and 95 degrees! So for pictures in those in between seasons, consider wearing layers that can easily be removed if needed.

Colors?

Blog Post Pics-5.jpg

To kick things off, here are some sample clothing boards and color palettes to jump-start you as you plan your family’s clothing. For fall, I’m loving warm tones like maroon, burnt orange, and mustard! Keep scrolling for more general clothing tips below the boards.

I designed these for a family of four in order to cover options for women, men, boys, and girls – but I just wanted to add that I think families are beautiful no matter what form they take. The color palettes below will totally work whether you’ve got two people in your family, six people in your family, two moms, or two dads (and girls don’t have to wear dresses, either – I just included lots because I love them!) If you get stuck figuring out how to use these sets for your own crew, please feel free to reach out! I love helping my clients plan their wardrobes! ♥

Pro Tips

1. Okay, so here’s my #1 pro tip – plan everyone’s outfit around your own. You heard me girl! You took the initiative to plan this darn session, so make sure YOU look good and worry about everyone else after that. You want to be confident in these pictures, so choose an outfit that YOU feel good in. One that makes you feel like you could strut down a runway or get double takes during a night out on the town! Mama looked GOOD in that dress in the pic above, and she KNEW it. (And did you see the shoes?? Swoon!) You never want your outfit to be an afterthought AND it will make the process so much easier if you have a starting point.

2. Don’t get too matchy-matchy. Add in various textures, colors that mesh well with one another, and don’t be afraid to have one person wear a plaid and another wear a pattern…as long as they’re complimentary!

3. Basic isn’t a bad thing. Spice up basic pieces with layers (cardigans, layered button-up, sweater, scarf). Old Navy actually has some amazing examples on their site right now of how layering adds some dynamic touches.

4. Avoid super bold patterns. You want to look at the picture and notice your expressions and the vibe, not that super bold Hawaiian floral tee and neon pants your husband is rocking.

5. Make sure the men avoid white socks, specifically when wearing pants. It just draws the eyes right there!

6. Some of my fave places to shop for basics… Old Navy, H&M, Zara, and Target.

7. Make sure whatever outfits you choose, they are YOU. Going to be honest here, I don’t think I’d ever do some super formal shoot with a frilly dress and a suit. It’s not us. The last thing you want is to feel uncomfortable during the photos, so make sure your personalities and vibes are also a part of your decision-making when planning.

8. Fave places to get dresses for myself, Joyfolie, Lulus, K|LA, and Vestique (the latter two are local Charlotte boutiques and so cute!).

9. Lay the outfits out on the floor and see how they mesh.

So there you have it. Your very own “How to take the stress out of wardrobe planning when trying to plan family sessions” handbook. Have some tips?! Share them with me!!

xoxo, Nicole

Birth Photography: A Father's Perspective

dad encouraging mom through birth contraction

You might remember Bruce from my last blog post—he and his wife Alyssa had a touching story that’s worth the read if you haven’t read it already! He’s a wonderful husband and father, and was an amazing birth partner for his wife on the night of their son Killian’s birth. When I met Bruce he was so honest and open and kind. I knew if I was ever going to get a husband’s honest perspective on birth photography, I would have my best shot with Bruce! So after a few weeks had gone by after the birth of Killian, I reached out to Bruce to see if he would be willing to answer a few questions for me. He of course said yes, as I knew he would (even with his hands full with a new baby!). Here is Bruce’s perspective and words of advice for all you dads who may be on the fence about birth photography.

Who had the idea to hire a birth photographer, you or your wife? If it was your wife, what did you think when she first mentioned it to you? It was Alyssa’s idea, and I was all for it! She had shown me other photos from couples who had them professionally done, and I thought they were very well done and in good taste.

Did you have any reservations prior to the birth about having a birth photographer there? If so, what were they? I didn’t have any reservations at all, but then again, I’m a very open person.

Now that you have been through it and have your birth story gallery, what is your perspective on birth photography? Would you do it again? My perspective on birth photography is nothing but positive. I felt like you were extremely professional, gave us plenty of space, and were still able to capture once-in-a-lifetime moments that we will cherish forever. I would absolutely do it again (although I’m pretty sure we are probably done for good, haha!) without question. We had some moments on film because of her mom, but I feel the photos really brought out the true essence of the moment. Huge fan of the black and white photos, and the overall angles and editing were brilliant.

dad holding helping mom through birth contraction
dad emotional as wife labors during birth

What advice would you give to other dads who might be on the fence about birth photography? My advice to other dads would be this: This is literally a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, and if you have the chance to capture it on film, to look back and cherish it for years to come, why wouldn’t you? The photographs we have of that night contain every single emotion on the spectrum, from unexplainable pain to unbridled joy, and I love them all. (Also, maybe get in a few extra sets of sit-ups before the due date 😉.)

dad emotional at the birth of his son

A Story of Gratitude & Redemption - Alyssa's Birth Story

Killian's birth was an emotional one! More emotional than any birth I have had the pleasure of documenting! It all began when I met Bruce, Alyssa, and Vallory during our initial consultation and heard their back story. They were so excited for this baby and to have their story captured for a number of reasons. First, Bruce told me that due to some unfortunate circumstances, he wasn't at Vallory's birth and was so excited to be at this one and to be able to support Alyssa. Second, they were excited to have Vallory (age 6) at the birth to witness her sibling being brought into the world. Third, there was some postpartum trauma, which added another level to the emotion of the night!

You can read Alyssa's birth story in her own words below.

Killian's Birth Story
7 lbs, 15 oz
Saturday, April 20th 2019 @1:50am

Labor
Labor began on a rainy evening on Good Friday. I had gone in to have my membranes swept earlier that day. Afterwards, we went to Discovery Place in Charlotte, and were watching a movie in the IMAX Theatre when I began to have early labor signs and downloaded a contraction app to help me track them. We tried to figure out if we should stay in Charlotte or go home to Indian Trail- we called my midwife and she said to go home and rest. It felt ominous outside to me as we headed home while my contractions got more intense and real. My mind started going more inward to sustain the process and I knew it wouldn't be long because Vallory came fast! We were home for maybe 2 hours and I knew it was time to go to Baby + Co! Bruce started to get more excited/nervous and we were all nervously laughing because we knew it was going to be a LONG night. Little did we know how long it would be with my postpartum complications!

Delivery
Both of my births were unmedicated, but my first birth with Vallory was in a hospital setting, so I was excited to be in a beautiful birth center. The different setting really made a big difference in how our delivery felt. My midwife was so supportive and calm. I also loved that we chose to have Vallory there, as her presence was sweet and kept a light energy in the room that I needed. And seeing her expressions as her brother was being born was priceless. What I remember most when I think back to my birth is Bruce being my strength when I felt I had run out. I remember gripping him and feeling at the end of myself, but him being there for me gave me a feeling of joy and hope and excitement for this new chapter together. It really helped me push through (no pun intended)! Killian was born at 1:50am Saturday morning. All I could think about wow beautiful he was! He felt so warm and sweet. I was admittedly anxious and wanted to make sure he was okay, but he looked right at us when he emerged from the water like he was so happy to meet us. <3

Postpartum
After Killian was born, I had a bad hemorrhage due to placenta accreta and required a blood transfusion. That was definitely not in our plan. The trauma was difficult to work through, so I felt worn out all the time, breastfeeding was/is a challenge and painful...basically everything was harder this second time around. But this baby was our redemption child for our marriage. I think it almost makes sense as we have struggled so much to become a family again, that this process wouldn’t be easy either- but just as worth it. It almost took my life and surviving it has left me which such an extra layer of gratitude for my life and my family. I’m so, so happy to be here and experience life with the people I love, as well as be able to care for my new baby, because at one point my mind wondered who would take care of him if I was gone. But he's here, we are all healthy and happy, and my family is complete!

Thomas Fresh 48 & Lifestyle Newborn Session | Charlotte Birth Photographer

One of the perks of my job is that I get to watch my client’s families grow. I met Amy, Scott and Emma last fall when they hired me to do a family session. When I found out Amy was pregnant, I suggested we schedule the session as far out as we could so that we could do a combo family/maternity session. It would also give us time to let the foliage peak. I loved this session because I felt like I got to really capture the essence of this family — close knit, laid back, and fun!

I was pleasantly surprised (and honored!) when Amy reached out close to her due date to ask if I would do a Fresh 48 and Lifestyle Newborn session for them. That’s where I met brand new little miss Sadie and this new close knit family of FOUR! I can’t wait to work with this family in the future so I can see them grow some more!