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).

Yellowknife known as Sǫ̀mbak’è (money place)

I daydream a lot about the North.

Perhaps it is because of all the stories my dad has told me about when he worked up there in his twenties. My dad still has a beautiful hand-made parka which he bought when he was up North. It has got to be at least 40 years old. From what I can remember, he worked on a ship, spending time in Tuktoyaktuk, Inuvik, Yellowknife, Hay River, and many other places in the territories. Even though my dad denies it, I’m pretty sure that I’ve got some half-siblings somewhere up North (good thing my dad doesn’t do the internet and to my aunties out there who read this – shhhh). It was a time in his youth when he had money, no wife, and their was lots of work up in the territories during the 60s. For example, the mining industry near Yellowknife was thriving.

It looks as though someone took their finger and dug it into the earth and drew that river.

It could be that I am drawn to the North because of the stories my friend Elaine shared with me during our time at the University of Victoria. She’s from Fort McPherson. She told me about the caribou, geese, and life on the Peel River. And for a short while, my son and her nephew were pen pals. Adorable. We need to start that up again.

Images of life up there were almost entirely conceivable after watching Ice Lake Rebels, Arctic Air and Ice Road Truckers. Ha. Joking. No, it was Shawna, Caroline, and Shayla’s images from their home communities which drew me to take my family to Yellowknife for Spring Break. I know – even Shawna’s mom thought we were a bit strange spending our Spring Break up North. But with friends and family living up there and the chance to show my West Coast babies a REAL winter, we did it. And all of us southerners fell in love with the North. We fell hard. Honestly, how could you not? So much sunshine and no need to worry about slathering the kids with sunscreen because you are layered upon layer with clothing to stay warm. No heat stroke. It was wonderful.

-10C is better for my family than 30C.

We got to stay on a houseboat with a couple of those Ice Lake Rebels, Stephan and Allyce, at Vee Lake. What’s up with all these reality shows? We drove on ice roads. We went snowmobiling. We made snow forts and demolished snow forts, we saw the Aurora Borealis while we felt our hands and feet freezing. My sons adopted a new uncle.  We got snowed in, learned a bit about kite skiing and we learned our most valuable lesson – you must remember to plug in your vehicle when it is -30C overnight. Whoops. Wait, the valuable lesson I took from staying on their houseboat was how much we waste water and electricity in our homes on the grid. My kids loved not having to wash their hands after every time they used the compost toilet with the pee and poo hole. Don’t worry, I was there reminding them about the hand sanitizer.

Houseboat at Vee Lake.

Isn’t that snow so pretty?

This kid isn’t tired of me taking his photos all the time, yet.

He loves having a mom as a photographer.

I googled how to take photos of Northern Lights and this was my first image. I was so excited that I forgot to lower my ISO and adjust my shutter speed.

We woke up around 1am to see the Aurora Borealis and let me tell you it was freeeezing cold. I couldn’t stop clicking my shutter release because the lights were moving quickly. It was beautiful.

Meet Dora the dog.

Afterwards, we stayed with my husband’s cousin and his lovely family. They invited us into their home and we are will be forever grateful for their hospitality. I gave them the option to throw us out if we were out of hand but they actually kept us around. At their home, we got to watch the cousins bond with each other which was a memorable experience for all. I also earned my aunty pin: sent kid out into freezing temperature with rubber boots and those silly stretchy mittens (she had me convinced that all her other gear was wet and she’d be okay), woke toddler up from afternoon nap by walking into her room and banging open the door and abruptly turning on the lights, forgot to change toddlers poopy bum, listened to the kids talk non stop about poo, took lots of pictures, bruised up my knees crawling after baby in the kid tunnels at the ice castle and tried to earn trust from the sweet & spicy niece who wouldn’t have anything to do with me until I came home with a beaded pink necklace. Then she told me we were best friends. I knew the pink beads would work. Our family took us to see the Northern Heritage Centre where the kids ran through and spent most of the visit trying on homemade “Northern style” clothing. I went shopping for some Northern wear for myself at Weaver & Devore and Just Furs. Let me just mention here that I can still smell the smoked moose hide and feel the soft seal skin on my skin. My husband and I went on a date to the Salvation Army Thrift Store where I saw an old man wearing beautiful beaded moccasins with galoshes as he spoke to his wife in their language. I found a stylish mustard coloured sweater vest and my husband bought some Stephen King books. We then went for a walk though the mall which was a good representation of the changes in the North. Afterwards we walked holding mittened hands to do some t-shirt shopping at the family owned Erasmus Apparel. Best date yet because honestly we don’t get many (dates, that is). Our last couple of days were spent going to Aurora Village where we did touristy things like being instructed on how to roast a marshmallow by an Australian tour guide, drank hot chocolate in a teepee, tobogganed down a man made hill, and went for a lovely dog sled ride while listening to my kids complain about the dogs farting.

Our cousins and Brody’s wall of drawings.

Those moccasins with all that moose hair tufting!

Look there is a moose and you can even see the drool.

Astum, Astum!

My husband never gets tired of me asking him to pose for another photo.

This snowcastle was impressive. To see more photos you can read Caroline’s blog post from last year’s Snowking’s festival. They change the design every year.

We loved every moment about our trip up North. It went by so quickly that Shawna and I had the good intentions of collaborating on something but the only thing we collaborated on was attending a Booty exercise class (yassss did we ever burn it while looking like monkeys) and then talking about parenting and photography over a cup of hot cocoa with a peppermint tea bag. Shawna and I hadn’t seen each other since we finished our diplomas in photography at Western Academy in Victoria, BC. Back then she was fresh out of high school (perhaps not that fresh) and I was already pregnant with my second son. Over the years, I’ve thoroughly enjoyed seeing her grow as a photographer but also as a young woman and now mother. All these connections are so important for the growth of my young family and for me, as an artist, friend, mother and aunty.

Look – it’s the talented and lovely Shawna McLeod.

These are a few more stories about the North, that I can add to my daydreams for years to come. While my children can share their own stories about that time we went to Yellowknife for Spring Break.

We miss you.

*In the Dogrib language, the city is known as Sǫ̀mbak’è (Sawm-ba Kay) (money place)

-Amanda Laliberte

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

As the sun spends less time in the sky

Our summer is nearing its end, and I find myself reflecting on our second year in Alert Bay. My family loves it here, especially these long warm vacation days spent sleeping in, playing in the woods, slipping and sliding, and building forts on the beach.  Despite this, I must say this is one mama who is looking forward to getting some good back to school routines started again.

When we went for a dip in the freezing ocean and I made you go first.

When we went for a dip in the freezing ocean and I made you go first.

The day my dad took the kids fishing.

The day my dad took the kids fishing.

That time the Rockefeller and his sailing entourage were in Alert Bay.

That time the Rockefeller and his sailing entourage were in Alert Bay.


That time we made a zombie movie with our friends which was directed by my seven year old son. (Here you can watch our trailer that I made with imovie which was incredibly easy! Anyone with imovie I encourage you to try making movies with the program. This was made using the SCARY trailer template.)

That time we went for a walk in the woods and I made you guys pose for me. Again and again.

That time we went for a walk in the woods and I made you guys pose for me. Again and again.

The morning we got to ride on top of a fire truck and throw candy to the kids and adults at the annual Seafest parade.

The morning we got to ride on top of a fire truck and throw candy to the kids and adults at the annual Seafest parade.

The afternoon when we saw a pod of killer whales.

The afternoon when we saw a pod of killer whales.

The day my husband got a selfie with Evan Adams. Whoops, that didn’t happen in Alert Bay but I am so excited about it that I had to share. Matching doctors.

The day my husband got a selfie with Evan Adams. Whoops, that didn’t happen in Alert Bay but I am so excited about it that I had to share. Matching doctors.

Another day when we saw another bloody cruise ship.

Another day when we saw another cruise ship.

And another.

And another.

The night we ended the day with a beach fire.

The night we ended the day with a beach fire.

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:

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

Indigenous Summer, YXE Edition

 

While I don’t consider Saskatoon my home – that will always be the North – I am raising my daughter here, and I’m showing her the best that YXE has to offer. It’s been in part inspired by my friend Melody (a talented photographer based on the West Coast) – she makes it a point to bring her children outside, daily, for hours. She entrenches them in their traditions, language, culture and community, and I adore it.

So a few months ago, I started that with Aerie, but our own version. I wanted Aerie to go outside and to explore, to see the city, to see nature, to eat different foods, and to have fun with me.

Raising a Dene daughter on Treaty 6 Territory (Cree/Nehiyawak) is something that’s not far from my mind. I’m often pleased by the amount of brown faces I see in the crowd, I’m extremely happy with how culturally diverse her daycare is, and I love the fact that we can find cultural support within and around Saskatoon, aside from our own families, if we need it. These are things that are important to me, as raising her as an Urban Indigenous is a lot more tricky now that we aren’t on our traditional lands.

So, to share with her, I teach her where we are, within Indigenous context. I feel we should always try to acknowledge whose land we are guests on, and it’s my job to teach my child that as well.

So we begin with walks. We cross the Train Bridge (Saskatoon being called the “City of Bridges” – this is just one of the seven bridges Saskatoon has. And we look upon the river, and I tell her what the river is called in Cree – kisiskāciwani-sīpiy – meaning “swift flowing river.”

She sounds it out slowly. It’s a game to her, matching the longer flowing syllables. She speaks Cree as slowly and clumsily as I do, but we try.

Once she has mastered the word, we move on, and she skips down the bridge, singing “sipiiiyyyy sippiiyyyy sippiiyyyy” off-tune and loudly. I smile.

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A few days later, we drawl down to the sandbars. She runs and plays, emerging muddy but happy. The next day, I show my Dad some of the images, and he shakes his head. He’s not happy with me.

“Your Grandpa, he wouldn’t like this,” Dad starts. He’s talking slow and deep, and the hair on my arms start to rise. My Grandpa has long passed, but if Dad starts dropping Indigenous Knowledge on me, I’m gonna listen. “He wouldn’t like this. He would say the river is like a snake – sand shifts and moves, and it’s fast and quick. You never let your child play on the banks of a river.”

Well then.

We are never going on the riverbanks again.

*laughing cry face*

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Saskatoon has been developing their downtown riverbank sections for some time now, and I finally took Aerie down there. This Victoria Bridge was demolished a year ago, or so, and Aerie was staring at it real hard, confused.

We walked in the waterpark area, which hasn’t been turned on yet, and I showed Aerie the Batoche section, and showed her where Mama (Grandma) had grown up, not far down the river. We sat in the sun as I told her stories of hay bales, riding bareback on ponies, and running after the truck when my Grandpa would drive off in the fields. She laughed, nodded, and asked, real serious – “is this where I go jigging?”

Yes, baby. yes.

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We generally end our days at the park. Aerie has learned the hard way not to chase geese, she knows which parks are her favourites, and she knows the Cree and Dene words for “come here!”

We sit beside each other on the bench, watching the sunset. “How do you say that in Dene?” she asks.

“I don’t know how to say sunset in Dene, but the sun is sa,” I tell her. She says it loudly, pointing the sun. I laugh at how her voice makes the other kids turn to look at us.

“And in Cree?” she asks.

I quickly check my Cree Online Dictionary App (you know it!) and show her – “pahkisimon.” 

She sounds it out again, slowly.

Then she looks at me. “I know how to say sun in Spanish – sol.” Then off she runs.

Damn Dora.

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 – tenille campbell