Sleep and a Baby

Ah. Sleep. Five letters, a short word, but it’s undoubtedly a central topic to new parents happiness (and sanity). I don’t have any sleeping advice other than the age old “sleep when the baby sleeps” (which I did and it is amazing advice), but I do want to share my experience with our sleep and our now (almost) 8 month old. If you follow me on Instagram, a lot of my posts lately are centred around sleep, and getting Alba a good sleep. I’m obsessed right now, and for good reasons.

** Before I share our experience, I do want to preface with this – you know your baby, and do what works best for you and your family. I am not a medical professional, and if you have any questions regarding sleep and safe sleep, please ask your paediatrician.**

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We’ve been blessed with a good sleeper since Alba was born (or maybe I’m wearing rose tinted glasses and I’m not remembering properly). It’s not often that I was completely sleep deprived where I felt like I could cry. Of course I’ve experienced it, but not constantly throughout her newborn stage. Most often if she was upset or awake, we could figure out the why of it.

By a “good sleeper”, I mean relatively to what I’ve seen/heard other babies do in my limited experience with babies. In my mind, she’s a good sleeper.

That all being said, she was a good sleeper based on our various soothing techniques. One being swaddling, the other one being her pacifier.

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Before I discuss our experience and reasons for a pacifier, I do want to share a little about where Alba sleeps. My original plan was for her to be in the bassinet beside us but it turns out I’m mush when it comes to my kid (figures). I am much happier when she is attached to me. She would also sleep happier/longer with me near (she has a good sniffer and she knows when her favorite person isn’t close). Also, she had reflux which made sleeping trickier when she was tiny (poor thing had an upset tummy and hated being flat on her back). All of this boils down to bed-sharing. It varies (more on that later) now but the fact remains that when I am sleeping, she is sleeping near me. Maybe it’s a cultural thing, but it’s all I’ve known and almost everyone I know does it. We did choose it though, and I’ve loved it. I love cuddling her. I am ready to take steps away from it though.

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So, we introduced the pacifier when Alba was a newborn. From my understanding, there is some controversy with pacifiers (like everything else that pertains to child-rearing), with the main opinion that I’ve found being “they don’t need that.” We introduced one anyway and the main reason being was that I read that it can help reduce SIDs. Now, there are drawbacks to the pacifier, one being related to use past toddlerhood and oral development, and the other being a sleeping crutch that can be backbreaking in itself if it falls out. But, I thought I would face those head on later when the time came and that it was worth it if it would help prevent Alba from dying in her sleep. I don’t mean to sound so blasé about it, and I thought of using a euphemism but that fact of the matter is, I do look a lot at ways I can actively prevent Alba’s death. When it comes to sleeping situations I look at all the hazards. In fact, that’s my main life goal now as her mother, so why beat around the bush about it. Morbid, I know, but I find sticking my head in the sand isn’t the way I parent. Since Alba was premature, she was a higher risk for SIDs so I figured if her paci would help in even just the smallest way to help prevent it, sign us up!

(Please, please, please bear in mind that that this doesn’t mean I think that YOUR child will succumb to SIDs if you don’t introduce the pacifier, that is not my intention for you to think that. I am just giving you a peek into my mind that is always in overdrive when it comes to Alba, and how I convinced myself that she needed one. There’s enough crazy parenting advice out there that I don’t want to muck up the waters with my own. I’ve gotten enough “I don’t do what you do, I’m such a bad parent” comments that I was hesitant to write this post, because that is not my opinion nor my intention when I share. My opinion is DO WHAT WORKS BEST for your family, for your mental health, and for your baby.).

And of course the other reason I wanted Alba to have a pacifier was because I didn’t want to be one. It’s true, they do not need pacifiers, so that opinion is more of a fact, but it also doesn’t hurt her the way it seems to be implied when people tell me she doesn’t need her soother (which we lovingly refer to as “Sue Sue” by the way).

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So, the pacifier was introduced with gusto from me for my personal reasons stated above and at first she didn’t care too much for it. Eventually it became a wonderful sleep association for her and also a cue to me on if she was tired so it definitely opened some communication doors for us.

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I look at months 2-5 as Alba’s sleeping pinnacle. This is the time I look back on with stars in my eyes. She wasn’t eating as much at night, and she could fall asleep when I’d put her down awake (so long as she had Sue Sue with her), and she could nap anywhere. I would gush to my husband, “I can’t believe our dream baby.” At this time we were putting her down in her pack and play and then pulling her into bed with us a few hours later at her first feed. It was good times. Then husband left to work when Alba was 5 months old for 2.5 months and that made for a LOT of cuddle time with just me and Alba. It was a beautiful thing too. At the time it was glorious as well. During his time away, I stopped using the pack and play, Alba also started rolling so we stopped swaddling. Alba’s dad came home and of course we wanted our evenings back to binge on Grey’s Anatomy and enjoy each other’s company. I was a fool to think she’d go back to her old ways because she was not having any of the pack n play anymore. So it was the three of us, all the time. I started thinking to myself “is this how it’s going to be until she goes to kindergarten?!” “What about baby number 2?!” On top of that, Alba had started to “comfort nurse” and it’s become a sleep association for her.

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Insert the crib. I figured she’d like it a little better than her pack n play, and I do want to transition to sleeping in there full time eventually. Also, since she started rolling I just can’t handle leaving her on the bed unsupervised. The livingroom/kitchen is so far from our room that even if she did fall I wouldn’t hear her cry. She also rolls fast. I also invested in a decent baby monitor.

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My first goal was to get her to nap in the crib and now at nearly 8 months, all her naps are in there. I’ll admit its a delicate dance to get her to sleep in there (timing her naps properly, making sure she’s well fed and drowsy enough, not overtired) but its working out well for us. Night time, she is still with us.

As she moves more and more, I do feel like the time of bed-sharing is coming to an end for us. I think sleep is so important and I do believe that once we figure it out, she will sleep better and longer at night in her crib (she doesn’t wake up at night but we do what feels like a bazillion dream feeding sessions which is disrupting her sleep and my sleep). Not only that, I was a terrible sleeper my whole life and I needed my mom to sleep. I can’t sleep alone. I spent all of 8th grade in her room on the floor, and maybe a part of me wants to prevent that with Alba. Now as we transition her out. I am faced with questions like introducing a lovey, taking away her pacifier (so I don’t have to wake up to put it back in), what is the best consistent bed time routine for her, will I ever fall asleep again if she’s not next to me? All of which I will have to make decisions about soon.

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For some people bedsharing/cosleeping is the best choice ever and it works well for some families well into toddlerhood (or later). It can be a great choice for a family when done safely. Personally, for us, and for Alba, I think it’s a good idea to give her the tools to sleep better on her own. Also, its not selfish for mama’s and papa’s to take care of themselves and Alba just seems to be needing more dream feeds the more time passes and this mama needs a good nights sleep. So mama friends, give me your tips, advice, experiences on how you got baby out of your bed? Maybe something that worked for you will work for us. I am currently reading Precious Little Sleep by Alexis Dubief and it has been an amazing resource so far. Highly recommend.

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*These sleeping pictures are just that, pictures. Some are styled and some are how she fell asleep (with her bunny) and ALL are supervised. When baby is sleeping unsupervised, there should be nothing that creates an entrapment hazards. No blankets, pillows, stuffies. No dangling cords or anything within reach of the crib. No bonnets, headbands, hats. Proper sleep clothes. When I leave Alba in her crib, she only gets her soother in there with her.

 – claudine bull

Making Connections

One of my favorite things about becoming a photographer are the amazing people I’ve been privileged enough to meet and work with. In 2011 is when I started facing my fear of strangers and meeting people and started to network and make connections. These connections still hold and 6 years later I am so happy to have made the leap all those years ago.

I remember when I first started “putting myself out there” and setting up photoshoots in my Edmonton apartment I would get extreme anxiety before people would come over. I would think of many ways to cancel. It took all of my willpower not to. I know, it’s flaky, and not cool, but I was seriously terrified. I was scared of people, and scared of not producing images that I liked (or that they liked). It may be a touch of social anxiety, or who knows what. That all being said, I am so glad I silenced those fears.

Since then my photography has evolved much more. My style has changed, as has my subjects (hello Alba). I still treasure the experience I gained that year, and the people, of course. These were all before I had an iPhone or Instagram account! Time is a crazy fast thing. Here are a couple of shots from some of my favorite photoshoots that year.

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MUA (above 6 images): Saige Arcand

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Model above: Julie Laflamme

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MUA: Angela Gray

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MUA: Starrly Gladue

Model: Jennifer Calliou

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Model: Roseanne Supernault

I find that the more I write for Tea & Bannock, and the more I explore myself and my journey, I am able to discuss and acknowledge uncomfortable pieces of myself. I am well aware that I have a bit of an anxious personality (my wonderful, understanding husband, and my close family members who are with me every day like my mom and sister are well aware of it), and that its okay. The best part is, as humans we can evolve and change and grow. It’s marvellous and I’m 10 times less scared of meeting new people now than when I was 21 with a fancy new camera.

Becoming a Maker

Last year, while I was pregnant with my daughter, I had specific things that I envisioned her having, and one of those was bonnets. I just loved seeing babies in bonnets. Unfortunately, I could only every find bonnets for $25-$50 CAD in the style that I liked. To put it simply, they were something I couldn’t afford (especially since I wanted her to have one for every outfit – ha!). Finally I couldn’t stand not having any for her so I bought myself a sewing machine and taught myself how to use it. I figured if I could learn how to sew then I could save some money. I am so glad that I bought that sewing machine because it has become a small part of me.

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Now, I can’t even count how many bonnets I’ve made (okay, I probably could, if I took some time to). I’ve altered the pattern (what feels like) a million times to get the fit I like on my daughter’s round head. When she was newborn I had to redo the pattern to get a small enough bonnet for her little head and as she grows I continue altering. Recently I gave away five of Alba’s bonnets to someone who needed them more than her, the great part is I am easily making more for her to replace the five that we gave away. It’s not costing me much financially as a lot of the fabrics I use are given to me in the form of old sheets (thanks mama!).

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Crocheted pixie hats and mittens for my daughter.

Recently I’ve also started delving into other projects. I’ve sewn some skirts/dresses for my daughter and myself, as well as taught myself to crochet. I can make things. A lot of these are beginner projects but I hope to make her some heirloom pieces that she can give to her children or that I can keep for any other children I may have.

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A pinafore dress and bunny bonnet I made for Alba’s first Easter.

 

The best part of all of this isn’t the money I am saving learning how to make things (instead of buy), nor is it the possibility that my grand-children will get to wear these clothes, instead it’s that I am spending time on me. Myself. While I was pregnant, one of the things I worried about was my identity. Who would I be after my daughter was born? Mother is such a beautiful title, and it is a part of my core, I was made to be Alba’s Mother, but I am more than her Mother. I am still Claudine, someone who wasn’t a mom for the past 27 years and as I navigate through my motherhood story I am trying to keep a grasp on that.  I’ve read and heard about drowning in parenthood and that hasn’t happened to me (yet, I’m sure it will come at some point). I’ve heard that the days are long, that it’s monotonous, and I think (for me) that hasn’t happened because (when I can) I take the time to just do “me” things. It’s therapeutic. I love being a Mom, and I think one of the reasons I love it is because I try to have balance and spend time on myself, especially in these wonderful early days when I’m with her literally 24/7. So, when Alba sleeps, I like to make things (or do something that I enjoy). I think this makes me a better mama, a happier mama, and I truly wish I could stay home with her forever because I am enjoying every single day.

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It’s not always easy. Sometimes I have to sew on the floor because she’s napping on the couch and I want to be in the same room as her. Another time I sewed on the floor in the basement because everywhere else in the house someone was sleeping and I didn’t want to wake anyone up but I really wanted to finish my project. To say I love it is a little bit of an understatement.

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Alba wearing the same bonnet in both images. On the right image we are bother wearing skirts that I made. 

 

Since Alba joined my life just a short 5 months ago, I have become slightly terrified of becoming an empty nester in the future (yes, I think about things like that), but at least I’ll have my sewing machine with me (*insert laughing emoticon).

Journey to Motherhood (with a Birth Story)

Mid-February. We are curled up on the couch with comforters and coffee. By “we,” I mean my daughter and I. She is napping and I am writing. Surreal, I have a daughter. I am a mother.

In June, I did a blog post discussing me being pregnant (and my various thoughts on it), and announced that my husband and I were expecting our first child after Christmas. My baby arrived over a month early. I want to share why she arrived early and my experience with having the healthiest pregnancy turn high-risk (with me getting hospitalized at 35 weeks and having baby a week later), in hopes that others can relate to or just learn something from our story.

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The majority of my pregnancy was “quiet”, or as quiet as a pregnancy can be. I had next to no symptoms. No nausea, Braxton Hicks contractions, heartburn (yup, I have a bald baby!), or much swelling. I had an anterior placenta so kicks were even harder to feel. If I didn’t have a baby bump and get a positive pregnancy test so early I could have been one of those ladies who doesn’t even know she’s pregnant until she was 5 or 6 months. I did feel tired and get occasional headaches and leg cramps but, up until the end, it was a pretty uneventful pregnancy. I was grateful, because I didn’t exactly enjoy being pregnant.

Do not mistake my lack of loving the experience the wrong way. I was so happy to be pregnant, and that I was having a baby, but I really wanted it to be over already, and to be on the other side of pregnancy. And now that I am on the other side, I have to say I don’t feel any differently. I’m not one of those ladies that misses my bump or can’t wait to be pregnant again. It was an anxious, long eight months for me. Maybe it was the lack of kicks, maybe it’s just my slightly neurotic personality (ha), or maybe it’s just normal and people don’t talk about it often, but I couldn’t shake the feeling of that “something is wrong.” It was such a mental battle throughout my pregnancy. Despite gaining weight right on track, feeling pretty good, and having normal healthy OB appointments, I was so worried all the time that I would miscarry or have a stillbirth. It happens. I felt so guilty for not revelling in my experience, especially since I wanted to be pregnant for so long, and I know so many women who suffer from infertility. I kept thinking, “how dare I not enjoy this experience 100%.”

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Like I said above, I had an anterior placenta. I didn’t feel my baby kick until I was 23-24 weeks pregnant. I remember being at work when I was around 22 weeks pregnant, with my little bump, and a coworker asked “so you must feel her kick all the time.” Um, no. When finding out that I didn’t feel anything, not even a flutter she got this super worried look on her face and notified me that I should feel something by now. Cue panicked call to my OB to notify them that I hadn’t felt a kick yet. The nurse assured me that it could be awhile before I feel any kicks and that my placenta was in the front so it wasn’t anything to worry about until I was 28 weeks.  I even got an ultrasound the next day and sure enough, baby was kicking away and I didn’t feel a thing.

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Pregnancy isn’t a set in stone, must follow “this template” experience. Every pregnancy is different, as I was learning. My anterior placenta acted like a squishy cushion between me and my baby. It made it really hard to feel (and see) movement from her throughout my pregnancy. It caused me to visit the ER in a panic a couple of times in my third trimester because she didn’t kick x amount of times in x hours. I felt like a crazy lady! Was I normal? Everyone talks so much about the physical discomforts of pregnancy. That was what I was expecting (which didn’t really happen for me). The throwing up, the swelling, the waddling (okay, I definitely waddled). Women talk about that. What isn’t talked about is the mental health aspect of it which made me feel so much more isolated and wrong. I felt guilty for my unborn baby that I was worrying so much. Because I didn’t feel normal I didn’t talk about it much with anyone. Even when I was hospitalized with health complications I STILL didn’t talk about how worried sick I was.

On Monday November 7, 2016, (I was 33 weeks pregnant*) I went to my regular OB appointment and my healthy pregnancy started to take another turn. I had borderline high blood pressure which the doctors informed me is a symptom of pre-eclampsia. They ordered for blood tests and urine tests to see how my organs were functioning. They wanted me to know that I was high-risk for developing pre-eclampsia. Pre-eclampsia is a “pregnancy disease.” The only way to “cure” it is to get the baby out ASAP. It is characterized by high blood pressure which can affect the mom’s organs as well as the baby’s placenta. If left untreated, it can turn into eclampsia which can result in death. My mom had pre-eclampsia with all four of her pregnancies. I was born at 31 weeks gestation, my brother at 33 weeks. She almost died. We weren’t taking this lightly and I went home with a blood pressure monitor and religiously checked my blood pressure. My OB appointments were increased. I was terrified.

*Just a quick aside. My doctors and I went with different due dates. They had my official due date as January 2, 2017, based on my first ultrasound. I went with December 24 as I felt this was more accurate, based on LMP, conception, and my gut mama feeling. That, and baby was always measuring really big at the rest of my (many) ultrasounds. This matters, as it affects induction schedules, and the “premieness” of a baby.*

IMG_9067.JPGI got a call from my OB office on Thursday asking me to come in the next day. They wanted to see how I was progressing, and to check my blood pressure. If everything looked good they would post-pone my next appointment. I was feeling positive that everything must be looking good on my blood tests.

Friday, November 18, 2016. I drove myself to my appointment (50 mins), I thought it would be a quick in and out and then my plans were to head over to my mom’s house to prepare for my baby shower that was the next day. My husband was at work. All I could think about was getting out of my 9:00 am appointment quickly so I could go decorate. I was excited. I was also excited to take my 35 week bump picture the next day, what would I wear?  My bump was getting big and my clothing options were limited. Was baby kicking enough? I wonder who will all come to the shower. I was itchy last night, I should tell my doctor. My mind kept going back and forth between my appointment and the baby shower.

My blood pressure was higher than ever at this appointment. We also did a test because of my itchiness for another pregnancy disease called cholestasis (which has itchiness as one of the only symptom). I was disappointed. The doctor ordered more blood tests, and an ultrasound for that day at 2:00 pm to do a biophysical profile  and NST (non-stress test) on the baby and make sure she was doing good in there. Okay, I guess I’ll have to decorate in the evening. I did my blood tests and waited around for my ultrasound. The ultrasound was neat, baby looked great, and we got a 3D look. Baby was measuring at about 6lbs.

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The nurse informed me that the doctor would come talk to be about my results and that I could wait in the hospital room that my non-stress test was in. The doctor didn’t make it in until after 6 pm. She came in, informed me that my urine and blood pressure indicate that I do indeed have pre-eclampsia. I may need to be induced that night and they were transferring me to the Royal Alexandra Hospital 3 hours away via ambulance to be admitted there, as they did not have the proper NICU facilities to handle a 33 week premie (as they thought I wasn’t as far along as I thought I was). We got steroid shots to get the baby’s lungs to develop more. I was shocked, scared, nervous, unprepared. I guess we were postponing the baby shower! All my “plans” for the birth were thrown out the window. I wouldn’t know what it would be like to have contractions start at home, or have my water break and rush to the hospital.  I was terrified but also excited to meet my baby.

New doctors, another ultrasound, and a new hospital. My new doctors agreed with me that my original due date was wrong and instead I was given a due date of December 21, 2016. This is almost 2 weeks further along than my previous doctors thought! They also decided that because my blood pressure went down and baby was doing great that I would just stay there to be monitored until it was time to have baby. That was good news. The bad news was that my tests came back for cholestasis and I did indeed have it. Another reason to monitor me and baby throughout each day.

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I had a team of liver specialists visit me daily. The goal was to keep baby in as long as possible until it became too hostile for baby. They informed me that because I had cholestasis there was a chance that my baby could be stillborn. I was heartbroken. Terrified. All my greatest fears. Stillborn. Every day I had multiple blood tests, and urine tests to check my bile acid levels (the liver does not function properly because of the cholestasis). Multiple medications (which increased a tri-fold in the time I was there) to keep my bile acids down and keep the baby in me as long as possible. My arms were bruised from so many needles. Non-stress tests every morning and before bed to make sure the baby was doing well. Non-stress tests if she doesn’t kick enough. During a non-stress test they strap on monitors to my belly that show if there are contractions and also record the baby’s heart rate. It tells us how much she’s moving. They have expectations for what a baby should be doing in utero. Too high of a heart rate, too low of a heart rate, or not enough movement (heart rate accelerations) and they may make the decision that the baby is too “stressed” and would preform an emergency C-section. Some non-stress tests would take a bit longer because the baby would be sleeping and I would have to drink some really ice cold water to get her to wake up. Mostly they were all good and reassuring. I wished that I could be strapped to the monitor the entire time, to ease my anxiety.

Despite it being a fairly quiet stay, and grateful that I was so far along, I couldn’t shake my fear. Every night I cried. I wanted my baby out now. I know inside is good but I didn’t want her to die in me. Every morning when my OB would visit me I’d hope that it would be induction day. My sister Nicole visited me every day and kept me sane. We watched Grey’s Anatomy and she brought me junk food. She is amazing.

November 23, 2016. My 27th birthday. Still in the hospital. I did get a pass to go out for supper with my family. It was exhausting. I bought some tiny newborn clothes for my little baby that I would be meeting soon. I felt so unprepared! I had nothing that would fit a 6 pound baby. I was expecting a 10 pounder (like my husband was). The next day before bed my nurse informed me that my acid levels were really high. I may get induced really soon! My doctor would decide in the morning. I was so excited (but also scared of what the high acid levels meant).

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November 25, 2016. Possibly induction day! I woke up feeling so positive. Usually my doctor visits at 9:00 am, after breakfast. I waited, and waited. Finally at noon another doctor visited me. I didn’t recognize her. She informed me that my doctor was sick but that I would be getting induced that day anyway. We just had to wait for some space to clear up. I was elated! I messaged my husband that it was almost baby time and to get to Edmonton after work. The doctor said induction can take days so I told him to finish his shift and to not rush.

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Right after finding out I was being induced I took a shower and took my last mirror bump selfie.

Finally at 5:00pm I was induced (using foley bulb and cervidil). My mom was with me. She brought me food and we waited. Still so excited. The nurses informed me (again) that it could be days, and it could take 36 hours for the cervidil to get me to start dilating and contractions started. Husband arrived. It got late and I tried to convince him to go sleep at the hotel. Nothing would be happening that night. He insisted on staying with me.

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November 26, 2016.

1:00 am. I woke up. I had a back ache. Annoying. I wanted to try get rest before my contractions started. Back ache kept coming (and going). I decided to go walk, maybe that would help. I noticed a rhythm to my back ache and started timing it. The nurse noticed me walking around and asked me what was wrong. I told her I had a back ache and that it kept coming every two minutes. She informed me that I very well might be contracting and they hooked me up to the machine and sure enough the contractions were lasting about 30 seconds every two minutes. 2:30 am, they checked and I was 3 cm dilated. The pain started to really be (what I thought was) painful. I cried. They gave me a little morphine and that took the edge off and I slept until the pain woke me up again at 5:00 am. I texted family member and gave them updates.

6:00 am I felt a huge POP. I knew my water broke, but there was no water. I sat up, called for my nurse. Shifted a bit, and then there was water flowing out. A LOT of water. How exciting! This show was finally moving! They checked me again and I was still only 3 cm. How disappointing. But still, water! I thought it would take days! Lucky my husband stayed with me.

This is when things really started to get painful. Right after my water broke the contractions were faster, lasting longer, and more painful. I moaned and groaned and cried through them. No more texting or looking at my phone. I asked for the epidural almost immediately. They moved me upstairs to wait for a delivery room.

7:30 am. The pain was unbelievable. Breathe. Where is my epidural? The anesthesiologist was in surgery so it would be awhile before he could get to me. They checked me and I was 5cm dilated.

8:00 am. I finally arrived in my delivery room. The pain is making me crazy. I shake the bed, I cry. I don’t want to be talked to or touched. Where is my epidural? I want relief. I screamed. I’m sure the entire floor could hear me. I was one of those ladies from the movies. My nurse informed me that it could take hours to get to 10 cm. I tried to mentally prepare myself for a marathon, but the pain was very overwhelming. All in my back. Wasn’t my uterus in the front? I kept thinking.

8:30am. 2 hours after my water broke they finally checked me again. 9 cm. I couldn’t believe it. Wasn’t this supposed to take hours? The nurse then informed me it was too late for an epidural. My heart sunk. The pain was so unbearable. She gave me fentonyl to take the edge off. It helped a little, but made me feel so loopy.

9:00 am. Epidural man came! The relief was almost immediate. I could breathe. I could talk to my mom and husband without snapping at them.

10:00 am. I was 10 cm! But, the epidural was too strong. I couldn’t feel anything and they wanted it to wear off a little so I could push.

10:53 am. Finally, time to start pushing. My nurse again informed me that it could be a few hours of pushing. Every contraction I had to attempt to push for 10 seconds, 3 times. My husband and mom were the counters. They didn’t count in sync. At the time it wasn’t very funny but looking back I can’t help but giggle. Pushing was exhausting in its own way. Branden would wipe my brow and leave a cool cloth on it (which would fall and cover my eyes while I pushed, again, not funny at the time, hilarious now). My sister arrived to help coach me to push. “I can see her head, Claudine! She has black hair,” Nicole told me excitedly. Doctors flooded in because she was almost here. NICU came in on standby because she was a 36 week premature baby.

11:23 am. With the loudest, most indignant cry – my daughter was born. NICU left immediately because her lungs were so strong. Her papa cut the cord and up she came to my chest. What a gift. Surreal.

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Alba Mae Bull weighed 6lb 3oz and was 19.5 inches long. Perfect. Healthy. She is mine and I am hers. I am a Mother.

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Alba is now 3 months old. I am so excited to share my experiences as a mother in my future posts. It’s wonderful, messy, terrifying, and the best role I’ve ever had.

 – claudine bull

Finding Motivation

I still remember clearly all the things I would do “when I got pregnant”. One of the main things I was so positive I would do is stay really active and have a fit pregnancy à la Ashley Horner. Then I got pregnant. My reality is that I am definitely not having that fit-excercise-often-do-daily-prenatal-yoga pregnancy that I thought I would have. Maybe I was naive but I think the truth of it is that pregnancy is just something crazy that I couldn’t have prepared for.

I walked a bit in my first trimester, and did maybe a handful of light weightlifting workouts. I remember thinking, “oh, in my second trimester I’ll get into a better routine because I’ll have tons more energy!” Well, I am nearly 20 weeks pregnant and although I have a little bit more energy, I still am loving the nap life.

Am I disappointed? Definitely. I feel like we aren’t allowed to talk about it because baby’s are truly a huge blessing, and pregnancy is such a gift, but watching my body change is so much harder than I thought it would be. I had this idealized “perfect” pregnancy in my brain where I would be all belly and then BAM first trimester I gained 10 pounds, and a lot of it was on my belly, but other places too. I have cellulite on my legs and I am so used to having muscular, toned legs. I’ve gained weight on my back, which was a huge surprise to me. Of course I love what my body is doing, growing and nourishing a little baby girl, and my pregnancy has been so easy when I compare it to stories I’ve heard, but a large part of me wished I had maintained a better workout routine throughout these last 4.5 months of being pregnant.

The main reason I didn’t workout as much as I originally planned (okay, maybe the second reason, because fatigue is real) was fear. I’m a little sad to admit but fear has coloured a bit of this pregnancy, and maybe because it’s my first, but I have all these fears that swim around in my brain. In part it’s due to people’s voices, and I really need to learn how to shut my ears. One of the first things people usually say to me is “you aren’t still lifting weights, are you?” or “you stopped working out, right?” In fact, when I was two months pregnant I picked up a bag a flour and someone was so shocked and told me to put it down right away because I shouldn’t lift anything. I so understand. My body feels so different. It feels like I’m breaking from the inside, my insides are stretching and my ligaments are loosening. Sometimes just getting out of bed the wrong way makes me feel like I’m going to bust my underbelly open. The wrong movement could very likely hurt us, and I am so aware of the physical limits of this new body. It’s new, it’s amazing, its uncomfortable, and it’s sobering, because there’s so much more stretching and growing that’s in my future.

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In order to prepare for growing this baby, labour, and post-partum I’ve decided, despite the little ridiculous voice of fear in the back of my head that whispers, “don’t move or you’ll hurt the baby,” to get into a decent workout routine, and find that motivation to get this body moving. I really don’t like the culture of fear that surrounds pregnancy, or at least my pregnancy because I don’t know what it’s like for other women. This past week I got into my garage and just got moving. Lightly, slowly, with lots of breaks, and let me tell you, it feels AMAZING. I am healthy, not high risk, and I was in the best shape of my entire life before I got pregnant, so as long as I do recommended exercises with proper form then there is no reason for me to not stay active. I am finding my motivation, for myself, and for this baby.

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I post often on my Instagram (that I made to document my weightlifting journey) @claudine_bull. I post tons of progress belly shots and clips from workouts. Feel free to follow along. 🙂 The following is a short clip from this past week doing some light back squats:

Film-lover, Kind of

Many years ago I was exposed to a photographer who loved to capture his family using film (Nate Kaiser). Since then I have had a deep love for film cameras (especially medium format) and photographs. Maybe it was nostalgia, or maybe they’re just straight up beautiful images.

Fast forward a few years and I definitely fell hard for the Pentax 6×7 camera. I needed it. I got lucky and someone was selling one on kijiji. Somehow, I managed to cough up some extra money and purchase it (tough when you’re a student). My joy was uncontainable. It was my new baby.

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Me and my baby, taken not on film.

Well, let’s just say it was short-lived. I still have that baby, but our relationship is in tatters and I am so ready to renew it. Film is patience, and work, and did I mention patience? The first time I developed my film, the place didn’t have a scanner for it, so I did it the poor mans way and backlit it, took a picture with my 50mm (yikes) and put it onto my computer. Not ideal, and the images were terrible. To develop my 2nd roll of film it took THREE buses to get to the one place that I could find that would develop and scan it. Two hours. Then I had to wait a day or two to get my roll back. My third option was to mail it away and wait for it to come back and on top of that it costs a lot of money.

So, again, short lived relationship. I’m posting this as a public promise to myself that I will pull out that beautiful camera again and start using it more. It really forced me to THINK about each precious shot, and then in turn treasure them.

Here are some of the images from that 2nd roll of film. I still love all of the pictures so much.

Film is beautiful.

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Regarding my Uterus

This post is going to be quite personal and long, just a warning 😉

On June 19, 2016 (Father’s Day of this year) I announced my pregnancy on social media. It will be my husband and I’s first child. What an exciting time of my life, for sure! We told my family on Mother’s Day, and my husband’s family the following weekend. Our sweet little baby is due shortly after Christmas (around New Year’s 2017). I did get a few “finally!”s after I announced the news and it reminded me of something that had been on my mind during these first three months of my pregnancy.

First, I want to start off with saying that I do realize and understand that for the most part people are well-meaning with good intentions. I also realize as my body becomes more publicly pregnant, people will feel free to share their well-meaning advice and comments more openly. I am trying to mentally prepare myself.

Ever since I was 20, I had been asked the question, “when are you and Branden having kids?” (I’ll be 27 when our baby is born). The question popped up more frequently as the years went on. The question itself is innocent enough. I get it, babies are so beautiful, wonderful, and exciting. Everyone loves babies, as they should. The problem was, after awhile I felt so much pressure and guilt  and thought that I SHOULD BE PREGNANT RIGHT NOW, even though (until this year) I didn’t really want to be. [Quick side note: as soon as we decided we were ready to have kids that turned into I WANT TO BE PREGNANT RIGHT NOW, naturally.]

I will admit, there was definitely peak in when I felt the most pressure to become pregnant, and it was when I moved home from Edmonton to the reserve. When I lived in Edmonton, almost all my friends my age were not at that point in their lives of getting married and expanding their families. When I got home, everyone had babies and I didn’t and I often heard from these beautiful people the age old question of when I was getting knocked up. I felt like it was a club of mothers. Mother’s are amazing. There’s no doubt about that. But it’s okay to choose to not be a mother if that is your path.

Women are also beautiful, sacred and powerful beings, and mother and woman are not synonymous nor do they have to be.

I can’t help but feel some resentment for my adult years that I wasn’t a mother. I wish I had been able to enjoy it more without the pressure. There are so many reasons why people may not have children at a time.  Perhaps a relationship (or lack of), or they are going through painful fertility issues and either are having trouble getting pregnant, or are losing their little loves through miscarriage(s). Maybe they just don’t want kids at that time of their lives, they have other things they want to focus on. Whatever the reason, I am very aware of it and it breaks my heart how unaware others are of it. It wouldn’t have been so bad at all if I was able to answer with “maybe next year,” and it was left at that. More often than I care to admit I was given sage advice such as “the clock is ticking,” “don’t wait too long,” “you’re getting old.” Or being asked with incredulity in their voice, “what are you waiting for?”

My least favourite was being told that I won’t be able to have babies because I work out too much, or I’m too skinny, or I needed to gain weight before getting pregnant (of course all not true).

Basically, the advice I was getting throughout my 20s was this: “get pregnant right now because you might not be able to tomorrow.” And it stung, and it sucked, and of course it has riddled me with so many unnecessary fears about my body and what it could do (or not do). I just wanted to yell out to people to leave me and my body alone and that if and when my husband and I both decided to have children, then it is our business, and only ours.

My uterus is mine, as if every other woman’s. What I do with it or what it chooses to do is my business.

I didn’t want the reason for my husband and I to deciding to have children to be “because we were young and fertile.” I really wanted to to be a decision we made without outside influence and pressure, and something that we felt was right for us at that time in our lives. A deep fear was created because it seemed everyone was getting pregnant, either planned or unplanned. I’m going to be honest and say our birth control methods weren’t 100% great and it made me wonder how so many people could get pregnant “accidentally” (I hate that word for little unplanned miracle babies) but we never did. Did it mean we were infertile?! Ridiculous but it seriously ran through my head and I even brought it up to my husband. Ha, silly me, but the culture of fear is there and it exists for young women.

I was lucky and my husband was never one to pressure me and beg me for children. He let me enjoy my passions and pursue whatever I wanted to pursue at anytime, be it weightlifting, photography, computer science – he seriously he rocks. We often talked about children, and hashed out pseudo-plans, daydreamed, etc., but until this year it just never felt like the right time, and I respected that about him and he respected that about me. We were in no rush to grow up, despite being together for over 9 years. It has been so beautiful and wonderful to grow together. To focus on ourselves and building our relationship to what it is. Seriously, it has never felt better and I love that man more deeply than ever.

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12 Weeks Pregnant – more of a food baby belly than a baby belly.

March of this year rolled around and suddenly we were both ready. Maybe it was the Banff mountain air, or my new job that was inspiring us. Whatever our reasons, now was the time we were ready to start trying to grow our family and we were blessed right away. I am sad that I did get an, “Oh! So you CAN have kids, I thought you were broken” comment after I announced my pregnancy. It made me so sad and reminded me of what I had been fighting in my mind these past few years.

It reminds me that people will always have opinions and pre-conceived ideas about what I should and shouldn’t do with my body. Not only my uterus, but every aspect of it. And it’s something many women face.

I will try remind myself that people just love us and love babies and they truly mean no harm, but folks, please try put yourselves into other people’s shoes and try think of things from their perspective. It may be a little enlightening. Please don’t misread my resentment. It is solely geared towards opinion and some unchecked comments by a few that I needed to be pregnant for the past 7 years “or else” mentality. I love mothers and babies and seeing people sharing their pregnancies. In fact, I soaked it right up these past few years. I love seeing beautiful women sharing their stories with their lovely children and their challenges and triumphs. I L-O-V-E it <3.

I do hope to share more of my pregnancy journey on the blog. My due date is January 2, 2017, and I hope I can add a pregnant nehiyaw woman’s insight to this beautiful space of ours. 

 – claudine bull