This week for Feature Friday, I am shining a spot light on the lovely Jana Josue MacLaren. Jana and I both worked at the same school in Vancouver where she taught humanities and I taught math. The school was pretty small, so it was impossible to not know each other. But we didn’t reeeeeaaalllly know each other until around three years of working together.
We had what we called “basketball practice” every now and then, which was really when the employees would meet up for an impromptu drink at the local pub. Since I lived a short 15 minute walk away from work and the pub, Keenan would generally meet up for “basketball practice” as well. I remember Keenan and I chatted with Jana one time about the NBA – yes, actual basketball – and that might have been the start of Jana and I actually becoming close. Thanks Keenan! Oh and thanks sports! But enough about my recallings of Jana. On to the good stuff. 🙂
Jana was born and raised in Vancouver, British Columbia. She is proudly Filipino, and in fact her parents immigrated from the Philippines to Calgary, Alberta. They eventually made their way to Vancouver, which is where Jana grew up. She does still have lots of family in Calgary, so I do get to see her occasionally when she comes to visit. Thank gawd!!
Speaking of Jana’s family in Calgary – her cousin, Rick, hosts my most favorite of favorite events (pre-COVID) called Rewind. Rick and several other people DJ early 90s and 2000s hip hop, reggae and r&b. It is literally the highlight of my year! Rick also DJed Jana’s wedding and it was off. the. chain! Maybe it’s because Filipinos know how to throw down or because Rick is just that good. Either way, I am obsessed!
Jana is one of those people, like myself, who always knew what they wanted to do for a career. Again like Jana, we knew our calling was to teach. So Jana went to the University of British Columbia for a degree in history and then again to UBC for her Bachelors of Education. For my American friends – in order to teach in Canada you have to complete a separate degree to obtain your Bachelors of Education. This is a two year program, and your undergrad degree is how you typically determine your teaching specialization. So for Jana, her undergrad was in history and then her B.Ed. allowed her to then teach history. After graduation she worked at BrainBoost Education for several years teaching humanities, which is where we met.
As a creative outlet, Jana picked up photography. She tried other things when she was younger, but eventually came to the conclusion that painting and drawing were not for her. She simply just was not good at either! Gotta love that honest inner self reflection, hey? Fortunately for her, and for those who get to view her work, she is damn good at photography. She started it as just a hobby, but it then turned into her side hustle. If you are a teacher, you definitely know the necessity that is a side hustle. Gotta bring in that chedda’ some how, am I right?
In Jana’s words, “It all kind of culminated in a perfect storm moment” where the question was posed to her asking what she would do if there were no restrictions or limitations and it could be anything in the world. She answered that she would choose to do photography full time. It was a realization moment for her where she just thought, “Why the heck not?!” Granted her inner dialogue was probably not as southern as I am making it sound. Lol!
While the idea of photography seemed exciting and like her new calling, the burn out that often comes with teaching was also pushing her even more in that direction. Jana mentioned not having the capacity to be able to love all of the people she taught, which is one thing that led to her burn out. I think that is such an important thought to share because as teachers, you want to give your all to every single student. And if you think about it, that’s almost impossible to do no matter how big your heart is. So props to Jana for recognizing this hardship in teaching and being honest about it.
With a leap of faith and lots of bravery, Jana decided to quit teaching and start her own photography company. She loves photographing people and capturing the small moments, and does so in a light and airy style. We discussed pricing for her clients, which she admitted is one of the hardest parts of owning her own business. She is seeking the help of a business coach (and highly recommends this for anyone in her position), and wants to implement a socialist pay scale. This means she would charge more or less based off of the clients income. She said it beautifully that, “just because you make less money doesn’t mean you don’t deserve photos of your family.”
I also asked Jana what is it like to be a female and own your own business. She said that it’s just like anything else – it’s harder as a woman. She had an experience where someone she tangentially knew was haggling her prices down by $50. She couldn’t help but wonder if he would try haggling for lower prices if she were a man instead. She also does not like the idea that is built into society where in order to be a good business woman, you have to act like a man with masculine energy. Like, why can’t women still have their feminine energy and their emotions and still be just as successful as their male counterparts?
When I asked Jana her passions and hobbies outside of photography, she didn’t skip a beat and confidently answered, “Beyoncé”. Haha! Like yeah girl! Preach!!!! She also enjoys reading and baking. In fact, she typically bakes once a week and cinnamon buns with icing are at the top of the list for her favorite baked dessert. Can I just say if you don’t like icing on your cinnamon buns, are you even human?!?! Just sayin’… She is baking her way through the book called Dessert Person by Claire Saffitz. Jana finds the skill of baking requires an insane amount of control and precision, which is something that was becoming more and more of a fleeting thought once COVID hit.
In order to stay feeling sane and more like herself, she also takes baths a few times a week. She does the whole shebang of setting up candles, using bubble bath, turns the heater on and has a glass of wine. The interesting part of this though is that Jana does not take her phone or computer or book to the tub with her. She literally just sits in the bath for some quiet time. This is something that her therapist suggested that has been very grounding for her. She realized that she is always filling her life with outer things (music, books, tv, etc.), but this allows her to just calmly rest with her own thoughts.
Jana openly shared that she has worked with a therapist for a year and a half. She started therapy because that feeling of burn out was slowly creeping back up with photography. Jana realized that this was a pattern in her life, so she wanted to seek help to resolve it. This is also around the time that Jana and her husband decided to start trying for a family. Jana knew that if she didn’t find some coping strategies for the burn out before a baby came, then things could spiral out of control very quickly. I greatly admire her reflection and willingness to seek help during a moment like this.
Speaking of starting a family, Jana and her husband, Mike, started casually trying for a baby last fall. Fortunately they got pregnant fairly quickly and easily! Everything started normal and they went for their first ultrasound a bit early, but per their doctor’s suggestion. A sack was seen in the ultrasound, but no baby. Perhaps they had just gone too early, and were told to come back in two weeks when they would be around 9 weeks along.
The doctors told Jana and Mike to not worry, but Jana knew something felt different. While Mike tried to be supportive and calm Jana down, she just simply could no longer feel the baby anymore. Call it mother’s intuition.
She then went back for the second ultrasound – alone again due to COVID – and the doctor told her it wasn’t going to be a viable pregnancy, but they couldn’t tell her any more information. Jana would have to wait until her family doctor phoned her. Fortunately, her family doctor phoned within 24 hours. She explained that there was a baby there, and it had been too early to see it at the first ultrasound. But sadly, the baby just didn’t make it. Jana had a miscarriage.
Her doctor urged her to take a week off work to have time to get through this loss. She also referred Jana to BC Women’s who would phone every few days to see how she was feeling and how much blood she had lost. Thankfully, since Jana is a business owner, she was able to take a bit of time off.
As an aside, did you know that there is no relief for a miscarriage? There is paid bereavement time when someone dies, but nothing for a miscarriage. Women are expected to show up to work as if nothing happened. Jana believes this is because there aren’t enough women in government. And basically because men cannot imagine what it feels like to be in that position. Like they physically cannot even experience a miscarriage and let alone relate to the physical demands that come along with it. Plainly, there is a disconnect between gender that is just inevitable.
At the time of the second ultrasound, Jana had not passed the baby yet. However, the very next day is when the bleeding started. She began experiencing something similar to a normal period. Then one of the women from BC Women’s said to her, “It’s gonna get a lot worse before it gets better.” And worse it did get. Jana said she had some of the most painful cramps she’s ever experienced for two days straight. In total Jana bled for a week, and intensely for 4 or 5 days. The only thing that provided her any relief during this time was Netflix and Dawson’s Creek. And maybe her husband’s cooking – Jana always brags about Mike’s cooking.
Unfortunately, it continued to get worse for Jana when she started to bleed too much and had to go to the emergency room to be monitored. Again, Mike had to stay in the car and she had to do this alone due to COVID. Obviously death is the worst thing to come from the pandemic, but so many experiences have been lost and hardships suffered through alone because of it. Jana mentioned that she gets very upset when people don’t take COVID seriously because it prohibits things like being able to have your partner with you during hard times like this. It broke my heart to hear her say she had to experience the hardest part of her miscarriage alone while her husband sat outside in their car.
In terms of support, Jana had a great team of people behind her. But ultimately, how do you support someone through something like this? Jana mentioned that people didn’t know what to say or do for her and similarly, she didn’t know what to tell them or how to guide them to help her either. It was basically just a shitty situation that she had to get through, in some ways, on her own.
In closing, Jana has been thinking a lot about how to deal with miscarriage and how to support the mother. The main thing she would suggest is to listen and validate the person. We have a tendency to say things like, “at least it was only six weeks along” or “at least you conceived easily” or “at least… etc. etc.,” which does not make the mother feel any better. Statements like these diminish feelings and the hardship that someone is going through. It’s already challenging enough and isn’t fair to have to defend yourself in those moments. She also notes that it is okay to acknowledge the baby with statements like, “I know you really loved them.” These sentiments really helped Jana and provided her with comfort. And, lastly, Jana added for people to please not bring up the “just try again!” comments because um, rude! Just let the mother be in the moment and support them where they are.
When I was speaking with Jana, I noted how well spoken and educated she is. But also, how passionate she is about her beliefs and the wellbeing of others. If only I could take the little snippets of thoughts Jana shared and have them on sticky notes posted all around my house. I feel like my perspective on life would greatly increase. I am forever grateful for Jana sharing her story about teaching, photography, therapy and her miscarriage. She is a gem, y’all, and I am lucky to know her.
If you or someone you know might be a good fit for Feature Friday, please leave a comment below or DM me on Instagram. As always, thanks for reading and happy day!