Thursday, March 29, 2012

Post-Kid Kitchen: Gluten-free Beanballs

Pasta Twirl

It's rare for Westley to eat dinner with Rob and me these days. I always offer him some of what I've made, but he almost always says he's not hungry. Sometimes he'll ask for a bedtime snack—he can have any fruit or any vegetable we have in the house—and sometimes he'll save his appetite for breakfast.

I like to let people be in charge of their own stomachs as much as possible, but I miss having Westley at the dinner table with us. When I asked him to help me plan dinner recently, he requested spaghetti and meatballs. Easy, I thought. I might even get him to eat some beans this way! (I honestly do not remember the last time my child willingly and knowingly ate a bean. And they used to be among his favorite foods!)

I always want to call vegan meatballs "meatless balls," which sounds just awful. I've heard them called "neatballs," which is just too...no. Calling them beanballs isn't much better, but at least it's accurate. I get points for accuracy, right?

This recipe was inspired by the Spaghetti and Beanballs recipe in Veganomicon. I've changed enough ingredients that it's practically a new recipe, but I like to give credit where credit is due. And when something awesome comes out of my kitchen (spoiler alert: these were awesome), Isa Chandra Moskowitz was probably involved on some level.

Gluten-free Beanballs
Makes 28

1 1/2 cups cooked black beans
1 1/2 cups cooked chickpeas
2 Tbsp coconut aminos, or gluten-free tamari
2 Tbsp ketchup
3 Tbsp olive oil, divided
2 cloves garlic, minced or pressed
1/2 cup cooked quinoa
1/4 cup tapioca flour
1/4 cup gluten-free all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp oregano
1/2 tsp xanthan gum
1/2 tsp salt (optional)
1/3 cup marinara sauce

Preheat your oven to 375 F.

Mash black beans and chickpeas in a large mixing bowl until everything is good and mashed, but still recognizable as beans.

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Add the coconut aminos, ketchup, 2 tablespoons of olive oil, garlic, quinoa, tapioca flour, gluten-free all-purpose flour, oregano, xanthan gum, and salt. Mix everything up really well (you might want to use your hands for this). Roll the mixture into scant tablespoon-size balls. A cookie scoop is ideal for this. Err on the small side, as smaller yields a better proportion of crispy outside to smooth inside.

Grease a rimmed baking sheet with olive oil, add your beanballs, and drizzle a little more oil over them. These things will absorb oil like little sponges, so if you're concerned about them being too fatty, use a spray bottle of oil for this step. Bake 15 minutes, flip them carefully, and bake 15 minutes more.

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When the beanballs are nicely browned, remove them from the oven and pour 1/3 cup of marinara sauce over them. Flip them around so they're basically coated, and bake another 5 minutes. Serve with pasta (Westley's favorite is "long noodles") and marinara.

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Rob and I absolutely adored these. Unfortunately, Westley was not impressed. He told me that they looked all right, but they didn't taste "normal." (He's a fan of Nate's Meatless Meatballs. I'd hoped to win him over with beans, but I can't say I'm surprised.) Fortunately, the leftover beanballs were delicious in salad the next day.

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Wednesday, March 28, 2012

It Made Sense in My Head

I've heard mothers say that when they're depressed, their children (and sometimes also partners) are their salvation. Because children are so precious. Their children and partners can still make these depressed mothers smile, even if it's only for a moment.

This is not my experience.

Over the weekend, I felt myself sliding into depression, and as far as I could tell, Rob and Westley were the reason. As life shifted from feeling basically okay to oppressive and awful, looking at my partner and child, or just hearing their voices, made things worse. This was their fault, and if they weren't here, I would be fine. By yesterday afternoon, I was especially angry with Westley for getting in the way of my suicide fantasy.

"I would jump off the Aurora Bridge, but I'd have to find someone to come watch the kid while I did it," I told Rob last night. "Now that you're home—" I couldn't stop myself from laughing then.

He narrowed his eyes. "I guess that's funny..."

I think it's kind of wonderfully twisted, what my mind comes up with when depressed. I'm fascinated and entertained by the mental gymnastics, by what seems logical, what makes sense.

On Monday, I was so physically and emotionally tired that I was sure I couldn't drive. I was truly afraid to get in the car and try to go anywhere with Westley, because I was certain my eyes would junk out on me and I would crash horribly. I tried to compensate for being a useless mother by working hard at my housewife "job." Somehow, this seemed like the right thing to do. I cleaned out cupboards, moved furniture, reorganized part of the garage, weeded. I did much more bending and stretching than a pregnant person with chronic pain should be doing. By the end of the day, my back hurt so badly that even the smallest movement was difficult.

When Rob woke me up the next morning, yesterday morning, and I staggered out of bed exhausted and in pain, I hit a wall. I actually pulled back my arm and slammed my hand into the side of the kitchen. I hated the house and everyone in it, and this wall-hitting was the only reasonable course of action.

What's most fascinating, however, is that I feel ever-so-slightly better today, and nothing has changed. When Westley came to say goodnight to me last night and I hugged and kissed him, I hated him slightly less, but it's hard to hate him when he's pajama-clad and off to bed and very chipper about the whole process. I barely slept last night, curled on the daybed with all the wrong pillows. I woke up to the sound of the kitty meowing, and then Rob and Westley talking about the baby. (Westley wants to make sure she has a name "before she gets here.") I still didn't want to engage with any of them, but the loathing was not nearly at yesterday's levels.

My partner and child, on whom I tend to blame my depression, have absolutely nothing to do with it. I have absolutely nothing to do with it. It's truly all in my head. My mental state can spiral downward and then lift itself back up without any help from me. It's like digestion. I do nothing conscious about it, but the process keeps going. I can shift from feeling mildly suicidal and hating everyone to feeling somewhat better about the world and my situation in it, all without so much as a good night's sleep.

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Monday, March 26, 2012

Nineteen Weeks

Nineteen Weeks

This week it finally hit me: I'm totally pregnant!

I had been thinking about this kind of mythic future labor and delivery, and baby, but over the past several days I've realized the realness of it all. I'm almost at the half-way point! And there is STUFF to FIGURE OUT, you guys!

I've been poring over books and blogs, trying to jog my memory on how to get the baby out (exercises for labor, here we go!) and what to do with her once she's here. Almost four-and-a-half years later, I have almost no recollection of what caring for a newborn entails. I remember the breastfeeding, the swaddling, and the despair. The second time around, I hope to do it without the despair.

After several trips to the attic, most of our baby gear has reemerged. I'm still missing a few things, but everything crucial is here. As I wash and fold Westley's old clothes, I cannot believe how many pairs of pajamas there are. Based on our stash, you'd think that was all he wore for the first two years of his life! This new babe is set for sleepwear! I'm just not sure where to put it all.

Some days it seems as though there's barely room for the three of us in our little house; I can't imagine what it will be like when it's the four of us. Westley has been adamant that the baby's crib go in his room—which I'm totally down with except that Westley's room is teeny and already filled with a huge bookshelf and a rocker and about 78 gazillion stuffed animals. I've thought a few times about trying to make a proper nursery (!!!) out of the playroom. I'd hate to lose the option of a playroom, but it's currently more of a storage area for Westley's toys when they're not spread all over the living room. Either arrangement would require some clever rearrangement, to say the least.

Nineteen Weeks

The news has started to come out. Westley spilled the beans at preschool, so almost all of the co-op parents know about my pregnancy. And last Thursday, some of Rob's extended family was visiting from Alaska and he shared the news with them.

Everyone's first question, complete with knit brows, is "How are you feeling?" which always makes me feel like I've been diagnosed with some rare, incurable disease. The answer is fine, I feel fine and they're oh so relieved, heaving a huge sigh. A huge weight has been lifted.

I really do feel fine, most days. I get Braxton-Hicks contractions almost every time I stand in the kitchen, which is interesting. I feel lousy if I eat too much fat in one meal, or when I roll over in the night and my stomach muscles practically squeak they stretch so tight. I can't just roll, in fact. I do this weird, push-up/plank hybrid (half-asleep, in the middle of the night) to turn over. It's not a problem per se, but it's going to get worse before it gets better.

Fortunately, I'm still able to sleep comfortably in my usual position, 3/4 of the way on my stomach, with one leg pulled up. I can even manage without a bathroom trip most nights. Yesterday morning, however, I got up to pee at 1:00 AM, and when I crawled back in bed, the baby was ready to par-TAY! I'm trying to get back to sleep, and she's down there: thump...thump...thump...steeeee-retch...thump.

I feel a little baby movement every day now. It's a few light taps every now and then, usually 15 minutes after I eat, but most of the time it feels like she's arching her back or slowly rolling over.

In addition to Westley's hand-me-downs, baby girl already has a little thrifted wardrobe of her own, including a 12-month size navy blue sailor dress that just I couldn't resist. She also received her first present this week—from her big brother. Westley came home from a visit with my parents cheekily holding something behind his back.

"I have a surprise for you."

And beaming, he handed me a little plush ladybug with a rattle inside. He had picked it out himself. "Do you think the baby will like it?"

"It's perfect, buddy. I think she'll love it."

Nineteen Weeks

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Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Adventures in Mid-Pregnancy Ultrasound

My cervix is doing famously. I know you were wondering, so I thought I'd mention it first thing. And "famously," by the way, was Dr. K.'s description, which makes it the correct medical terminology in this situation.

Ultrasound

The baby appears to be doing well too, but today's check was all about me and my parts. Two weeks ago, the ultrasound showed a leetle teeny bit of placenta previa. My placenta was right up against my cervix, but not covering the internal os. (This might explain the bleeding I had in my first trimester.) The word previa is in quotation marks in my chart. Dr. K. was not at all worried, though she mentioned that if my placenta stayed low-lying, it could be a cause for concern.

Today—good news!—the placenta had scooted a little further away from my cervix. I expect it will continue to move up, up, and away as my uterus grows. Also, I've been talking to it and picturing it climbing the uterine wall like an octopus. Which makes me officially an insane person. And my cervix is still closed and very long.

I feel like I should start bragging about the length of my cervix.

Ultrasound

I'm a little embarrassed to admit that I'm really beginning to enjoy these bi-weekly check-ups. When I began my ultrasound adventures two months ago, the idea of having to go in every two weeks to have my cervix checked sounded a little intimidating. It definitely didn't seem to jive with the midwifery model of care that I love so dearly! Fortunately, I lucked out and ended up being seen by an incredible perinatologist who may just be a midwife in disguise. I love knowing that if my placenta previa-in-quotation-marks doesn't resolve itself, the future of my maternity care isn't a mystery. I already know and trust a fantastic doctor!

But mostly, I just love looking in on my baby. I'm not great at interpreting ultrasound images, but she was noticeably bigger today than she was two weeks ago. She was also in pike position again, with her knees up by her nose. Perhaps she knows I'm thinking about another waterbirth, and she's working on her diving skills.

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Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Talking About Miscarriage

Today is the spring equinox. It is also the anniversary of my miscarriage.

For a year, I have found myself talking about miscarriage over and over again. For one thing, like birth and other body dramas, the experience of pregnancy loss seems to benefit from the act of storytelling. For another thing, when you have a four-year-old child, one of the only topics of conversation with other adults seems to be, "Are you guys thinking of having another?"

And instead of just saying, "Yes, we're thinking about it," like a normal person might, I always launched into the whole saga of how I miscarried in March, and how awful that was, and how long it's taken to get my health back on track.

People were, for the most part, very supportive—if a little taken aback. But the secret that I uncovered in opening up about my experience was that miscarriage is one of those things that no one talks about, but everyone really wants to talk about once someone else brings it up! Almost everyone I spoke to received my story by sharing one of their own—and it wasn't just friends and relatives who opened up about their losses. One of the first things I learned about a new acquaintance was that she had a miscarriage between her two children. A friend's mother nodded sadly and said, "I had one. It's hard." The nurse who cared for me in the ER had two.

I now know more than I ever imagined I would about pregnancy loss, both the science of it and the psychic fallout surrounding it. And I'm grateful to that knowledge for making me a more balanced human being (and equinoxes are all about balance), but I still wish I could have learned the lesson without the loss. Especially now that I'm pregnant again.

I wish I could go back to the not-quite-blissful ignorance of my pregnancy with Westley. It wasn't so much that I believed nothing could go wrong—I worried plenty! But I bought into the lie we tell women about reproduction, that if I ate my protein and took my supplements and did my exercise, everything would be fine. And everything was pretty much fine. Not because I "got it right," but because most of the time in pregnancy, everything is fine.

Now, even though I've cleared several "risk hurdles" and I know that the odds of everything being fine are very much in my favor, I feel like something could go wrong at any minute. I didn't feel "safe" at 12 weeks, and I imagine I won't feel safe at 26 weeks.

Beth, my midwife, said the kindest thing to me when I saw her last month. I told her I was feeling so overcome by terror, it was like I was possessed. "You'll worry," Beth said, in her wonderful Middle Way tone. "With mine, I didn't stop worrying until 37 weeks." She wanted a home birth, and any time after 37 weeks would be OK for the baby to come and be born at home. "So you worry until you pass the 12-week mark and the risk for miscarriage goes down, and then you worry until viability at 24 weeks..."

Or you worry about how you'll feel when crocuses and daffodils start coming up and you remember that a year ago at this time, you thought you'd never be whole again.

In other words, there's always a reason to worry. This entire process is a mystery. Nothing is certain in this crazy Spring process of trying to make more of ourselves—except that, when it comes to reproduction, nature can be kind of wasteful. And very uncaring. Healthy pregnancy and pregnancy loss are both realities of nature, but nature doesn't give a fuck about your feelings.

So we need to keep talking about miscarriage.

Close up

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Film Festival: 'Monsters, Inc.'

A year and a half after I first terrified Westley with Monsters, Inc., I decided it was probably safe to try again. The opening scene is still pretty scary to him, even though the red-eyed monster isn't really all that monstrous, and the screaming child is actually a robotic simulation. Unfortunately, I now find the main plot point so disturbing I can barely watch what was once my favorite Pixar film.

I think I've mentioned before that after Westley was born, I couldn't approach any media involving babies or children the same way. As he gets older, I seem to be getting even more sensitive. When a story involves a two-year-old, for example, I now remember what it was like to have a two-year-old. And if that two-year-old is in peril? I can't deal with it.

The major plot device in Monsters, Inc. just happens to be a child. We only ever know her as "Boo," and she's probably between two-and-a-half and three years old. One evening she walks through her closet door and into the monster world, where she spends the next 36 hours or so. The film makes it very clear that the "human world" works exactly how we human viewers would assume. There are visual references to time zones, talk of "the Eastern Seaboard," and time passes in both worlds equally. In other words, the monster world isn't Narnia. You don't step through a magic closet door and you're gone for hours, but when you go back home only about 30 seconds have passed. No, when Boo spends an hour in the monster world, that's an hour she's missing from her bedroom.

Let's break that down a little, shall we? This is a toddler we're talking about. A toddler who disappears out of her bedroom in the middle of the night—without a trace! And she's gone for about A DAY AND A HALF!

Last summer, when Westley was three and a half, he and I got separated at the zoo for about 45 seconds. In my panic, that 45 seconds felt like 45 minutes, at least. If Westley vanished from his room at night—even if he reappeared, unharmed, a day later—I would probably lose my mind completely.

Now, watching Monsters, Inc., all I can think about is that poor little girl's parents. I can no longer focus on any of the monster antics and Pixar cleverness. Even the fact that the movie is not only fictional but entirely computer-generated can't distract me from the idea that somewhere in this film's universe, a family is desperately searching for their daughter.

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Monday, March 19, 2012

Eighteen Weeks

Eighteen Weeks

A strange phenomenon occurs every week when Rob and I step outside to take pictures. The natural light conspires with the camera to make me look completely ghostly. The first round of today's photos were so washed out that my face disappeared entirely. Tweaking the camera settings helps a little, but a "good" shot is mostly a matter of luck. And sometimes luck strikes when I'm scowling.

Last week I came down with a cold that really took the wind out of my sails. As opposed to one of those newfangled, invigorating colds. I've said it before, but there ought to be some law of the Universe ensuring that anyone caring for babies and young children would be immune to all illness. Like how pregnant and nursing women are excused from fasting during Lent.

There has been one positive aspect to this minor illness, however. Since I can't simply mask my cold symptoms with drugs, I have to tune in more closely to my body's signals regarding nutrition. When I feel my blood sugar levels starting to wane, I have to stop and ask, What would my body most like to eat? The answer often turns out to be something immunity-boosting: muesli, a fresh orange, miso soup with lots of garlic, a baked sweet potato, mushrooms. On Friday, my body asked for a pound of raw tomatoes for lunch. That meal and a mug of chamomile tea got me through a couple hours of yard work! This cold is giving me a crash-course in mindful eating.

Westley continues to be a very enthusiastic about his future role, assuring us that he "won't mess with the baby when she comes." He wants to carry her, and has asked several times if he can give her a bottle. He also desperately wants to be able to put his hand on my belly and feel her kick, but it's too soon for that. In fact, I'm not even sure the little movements I notice from time to time are the baby. (I assume they are, though I rarely get "kicked." The movement is more like the pulling you feel when the person sleeping next to you stretches or rolls over and takes the blankets with her.)

Eighteen Weeks

I also came down with the Spring Cleaning bug this week, which has manifested primarily as the intense desire to throw things away NOW! Yesterday Rob and I bagged up about a half-ton of unused clothing to be donated. I scrutinize the objects cluttering up our living space and wonder, Why do we even have this? If doing so were more trivial and completely up to me, I would replace our decrepit couch with a truckload of colorful floor pillows.

In the early stages of throwing away and donating, I discovered a box of clothes from my pregnancy with Westley. (I'm always tempted to say "Westley's pregnancy," but that sounds wrong.) Most of it was awful: button-front shirts and black maternity dress slacks that I'd worn to my office job, and cheap, teeny-boppery T-shirts I'd worn on weekends. Those things went directly into the "donate" pile, but I also unearthed the two maternity dresses that saw me through right up 'til the end. I cringed a little at the idea of wearing them again—especially the blue one, which, along with a pair of size Large tights and a sweater I stole from Rob, was the only thing that fit by 39 weeks. (I'm wearing that dress it in one of the few pictures I have of myself pregnant with Westley. I also wore it postpartum, and even slept in it a few times.)

Even though I wasn't excited by the sight of them, I washed the dresses and added them to my closet and assessed my wardrobe. As much as I like the idea of a brand-new pregnancy wardrobe, I already have quite a few stretchy and flowy things at my disposal. The budget-conscious part of me was especially intrigued by the possibility of making it through the rest of this pregnancy without buying anything else for myself.

I still haven't purchased anything for the baby, but I just started knitting a little cotton blanket.

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Friday, March 16, 2012

My Touchstone

When I was 19, visited Touchstone Farm and Yoga Center in Easthampton, MA twice. Once was for an evening of Circle Dance and once was for a weekend retreat. I honestly don't remember which came first, though it doesn't really matter. Touchstone's effect on me was the same.

village plan

Touchstone Farm was like no place I'd ever seen. It resembled the hippie communes of my imagination, but its simplicity and eclectic beauty amazed me. The Dancing Barn was where the dancers gathered, and also where a group of us college students stayed overnight for our retreat. Its floor was covered with oriental rugs which overlapped in places to give a kaleidoscopic wall-to-wall carpet effect. Every object, ornamental and useful, had a handmade feel to it. Even the piano looked as though someone had managed—somehow, through hard work and love—to build it from scratch. The kitchen, where we giggled and scrambled tofu with tomatoes for breakfast, featured a hand-written sign: "If you set no-kill traps, please remember to check them often so the creatures inside may not suffer."

I walked the outdoor labyrinth and made sun tea. I wondered how the farm could feel so planned (as all places that harvest plants must be) and still remain so wild. At night, I swam in the pond. I slipped into a kind of relaxation I haven't achieved since. Touchstone is the one place I've ever felt that my physical appearance wasn't being scrutinized. My body didn't matter except for its ability to work, dance, hold hands. Relief is not strong enough a word.

And I never went back.

Touchstone Farm was just a little too far from where I was living to reach without access to a car. And I was not yet in a place where I felt I could reach out and find like-minded strangers who might want to, say, share a van to Easthampton. I thought about the farm often, though...until, gradually, I stopped thinking about it.

About a year ago, I began listening again to the one CD of Circle Dance music I have from Touchstone. Recently, when all sound and noise started to irritate me, I found I could still listen to Anja and Shakur singing. The vibration of Touchstone is in the music—it eases me into work-dance-hold-hands mode—but listening is not the same as being there. I miss the energy, the faces, the voices of these wanderers and mystics who are not really from anywhere except for a bit of a German or Irish or Boston accent. They say "hahmahny" for "harmony."

For weeks I was fantasizing about going back. It seemed like an especially ideal place to be pregnant—which is a strange thought, I admit, considering that Touchstone's inhabitants lead an almost monastic existence. I saw myself wearing blanket-sweater hybrids over flowy dresses, harvesting organic herbs, walking the outdoor labyrinth every day. This vision started to seem realistic and achievable—I knew Touchstone hosted various summer retreats and work programs—and then I saw what was really going on. I didn't want a retreat, I wanted to escape.

As I felt myself becoming more rooted to this life—and nothing roots one like a baby—part of me tried to rebel. I wanted to pull away from my current reality, leave my partner and child and car and garden that needs weeding and floor that needs sweeping so that I could go weed someone else's garden, sweep someone else's floor. And even more than a physical departure, I wanted to travel back in time, to the Touchstone Farm I experienced ten years ago. If only time were more fluid, I could truly escape—to the self I was ten years ago, when living forever in "a community of hermits who happen to like people" (as they often refer to themselves) was a more realistic possibility.

Even if I were to visit Touchstone Farm of today, my garden and my floor and my relationships would be waiting when I got back.

* * *
The Touchstone Farms I knew in those few days is gone. Watching D.S. Fine's 2008 documentary, Touchstone: Dancing with Angels (which had its premiere screening four years ago today, interestingly enough), I learned that a building inspection prompted the farm and center to close. Handmade kitchens in converted barns aren't easily brought up to code.

The entire film is available online.

The community rose up around Touchstone, and the farm and center was reborn. But it shook me right out of my escape-retreat fantasy to realize that such a powerful, magical place could die in the first place.

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Thursday, March 15, 2012

Cold: Being and Having A

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Earlier this week, our furnace quit working. I'd like to think that with the Spring Equinox just a few days away, things would start feeling a little warmer, but it snowed (briefly) on Tuesday. Heating the house is still very non-optional.

I spent a few days being very thankful for space heaters, furry boots, afghans, and a child who claims he is never, ever cold. The furnace is now up and working again, and currently sitting at the top of my list of Things I Vow Not to Take For Granted.

Also on that list? A partner who can stay home when I'm sick.

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Having a cold while pregnant is ridiculous. All of the suggested "remedies"—sleep with your head elevated, drink lots of clear liquids, take a warm shower—are things you were probably going to to anyway. And not wanting to eat anything is suddenly accompanied by guilt to the tune of "You're starving your baby!"

Rob has made sure that my tea mug is always full, and that when I do show some interest in food (miso soup with mushrooms, please) it's in front of me in a matter of minutes. He's kept Westley fed, clothed, and entertained, giving me the entire day to rest. Rob's total willingness to pick up the slack for me today reminded me of the incredible way he powered through the unpleasantness of my first trimester. I really don't know how he does it. Or why he didn't run away screaming years ago. The minute I feel even the tiniest bit better, I owe Rob about four months' worth of favors.

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Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Clothing Time

Westley's Baby Duds

Yesterday I ventured up into the attic and retrieved a musty-smelling box labeled BABY. I unpacked it directly into the washing machine with Charlie's Soap and white vinegar. This morning, I pulled everything out of the dryer and looked it over.

I was surprised by how not sentimental I felt about the doll-sized T-shirts and sleepers and one pieces. I had thought I would get pulled under by a wave of, Aww, wook at da wittle outfits! Instead, looking through the clothes was just surreal. Handling an impossibly small pair of blue and white footy pajamas, it struck me that while there is no way Westley was ever this tiny, I somehow remember dressing him in it!

Westley's Baby Duds

I was also a bit surprised by just how few things there were: maybe four apple boxes of Westley's things altogether, from newborn to now, one for each year. When we moved, I was pretty ruthless about donating unused clothes and housewares, but I didn't know I'd been quite so selective about the baby clothes. Then again, Westley didn't have many clothes that were truly special and worth saving. He wore a lot of white one pieces and plain knit pants in his first year, and neither of those things is leaving the planet any time soon, should we decide that our next baby absolutely must have a similar wardrobe.

One thing did make me feel especially sentimental, though. I might even have said, "Aww!" Packed up with the size Newborn diaper covers and leftover home birth kit supplies was a big stack of flannel swaddling blankets. Westley's clothing almost didn't matter for his first few months, as he was always, always, ALWAYS swaddled. I'm pretty sure Rob's parents didn't see the baby's arms and legs until he was six weeks old.

When I packed up Westley's baby clothes, it was with the thought that some day another baby might come along and wear these same hand-knit hats and teensy, ridiculous socks. As I launder and sort these soon-to-be hand-me-downs, it repeatedly strikes me that there really is going to be another baby. And she already has a tiny wardrobe with swaddling blankets and footy pajamas and those crazy little sleep gowns with the elastic at the bottom.

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Film Festival: 'The Bridge'

The Bridge

I'm not sure why I decided to watch The Bridge, Eric Steel's 2006 documentary about suicide, by myself in the middle of the night while Rob was out of town and I was feeling vulnerable. It doesn't sound like the wisest of ideas. In fact, when I got the "item on hold" notification from my local library, I was tempted to take the DVD right back to the circulation desk. No, thanks. Changed my mind.

I'm glad I hung onto it.

The Bridge is the result of one year's filming of the Golden Gate Bridge, documenting a number of suicides (about one every 15 days), as well as interviews with some of the victims' families, acquaintances, and witnesses. I thought it would be disturbing to watch—and perhaps a touch triggering—but it wasn't. It was mostly just fascinating. And deeply sad.

What I found especially interesting were the reactions of the friends and relatives of the suicide victims. Many people seemed to approach their loved ones' suicides in the same way we might think about someone's death from terminal illness: we always knew this day would come. Though no two victims were very similar, mental illness was a recurring theme in their stories. Sadly, many of the interviewees seemed to treat their friends' and relatives' diagnoses as likely death sentences.

More disturbing to me than any of the footage of people jumping from the bridge (each ending with a heart-rending splash) was one father's reaction to the death of his 21-year-old son. This man behaved as though it was his son's destiny to spend his final living moments falling 75 mph towards the water. He almost had a smile on his face, as though to say, "Oh, well. Life goes on for the rest of us." I'm sure it was this man's grief speaking, but I was still deeply saddened by his tone, and struck by the notion that this father had, in a way, just given up on his son.

Of course, what can be done?

What can be done is an issue The Bridge doesn't touch. It's a beautiful documentary with this one really glaring flaw. There are no interviews with mental health professionals or suicide experts of any kind. Kevin Hines, who survived his jump from the bridge in 2000, is featured in the film—but his work with suicide prevention programs and his campaign to have suicide barriers erected on the Golden Gate Bridge are never mentioned. It's a strange omission, given how powerful Kevin's story is. Instead of stepping or leaping off the bridge, as most people do, Kevin vaulted over the four-foot railing like a hurdle. He recalls, "The second my hands left that railing, I said, 'I don't want to die.'"

That is as close to talking about the importance of suicide prevention as The Bridge ever really comes. Consequently, it's easy to come away from the film feeling with the sense that nobody cares.

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Monday, March 12, 2012

Seventeen Weeks

Seventeen Weeks
Seventeen weeks and so smirky.

A few people I barely know have sidled up to me in a way that says, So...? What's going on? And I'm very inclined to feign innocence or play dumb. "I don't know what you could possibly mean!" It seems weird to flat-out lie, though. Especially when I know I'll see these people again and it will be increasingly obvious that I'm not just getting fatter.

I'm completely surprised that anyone has noticed enough to up-sidle. I certainly wouldn't say anything, wouldn't even insinuate anything, even to a close friend, unless it looked like she was going to give birth tomorrow. And probably not even then! While I'm starting to look reasonably pregnant in leggings and a tank top, I'm certainly not that pregnant. When I'm dressed for a day of preschool and errands I'm just a heavier version of my normal self. Maybe I'm giving off a pregnancy vibe.

Most of the time I feel like my non-pregnant self, except for being very tired. The fatigue is unbelievable! One week on a soy-free diet and I'm still exhausted. I'm going to give the food experiment more time, but the next step is to up my physical activity, which sounds torturous. I can hear my body crying out for free weights, and I Just. Don't. Want to. But more muscle equals more energy, with the added advantages of making a person look better and sleep better. So. Free weights. And lunges.

I'm still able to sleep on my stomach, which is wonderful. Sleeping is not yet a problem, though I'm sometimes awoken by the terrible urge to empty my bladder and drink a 24-ounce cup of water at the same time! This is something I remember vividly from my pregnancy with Westley—drinking while peeing—and it's one of the only things the two seem to have in common.

Since finding out that this baby is a girl (I have lady parts up in my lady parts!) I have become obsessed with names. More so than usual. I name-shop even when I'm not gestating, so having an excellent reason to think about names and their sounds and meanings and how they flow together has made me into a complete manic. I've been a little snippy with Rob over what to call our daughter because for some reason known only to my hormone-ridden brain, I feel like we need to figure it out RIGHT NOW. And I justify my name-craziness by reflecting that this is very possibly the most important decision a parent ever makes for her child. We better not fuck this up!

The trick is to find a name we both love that is meaningful, not too common but not so bizarre that it doesn't seem like a person's name, something that sounds good with Rob's last name, something that will fit a tiny baby and a little girl and an older girl and a young adult and a middle-aged woman and an old woman...

Oh my God, some day my daughter will be an old woman!

(Have I told you about the time I burst into tears while holding two-day-old Westley, and when Rob asked me what the matter was, in my completely abject state I somehow managed to say, "Someday he will grow up and be an old man and die!"? Yeah, that happened.)

The truth is that we chose our daughter's name years go, when I turned to Rob in the back row of the movie theater with the vegan cookies at the concession stand and said, "You know what would be a great name for a girl?" Since then, I've heard the name a few times on local playgrounds, and I sometimes bemoan its increasing popularity. And then I remind myself that nothing is original. Certainly not a name that Rob and I might come up with and seriously consider for our child. And then I cry because that was my little girl's name, and how dare some other little girl have it, too?

Rob stands by it. I still love the name, but I'm suddenly uncertain because I can't believe that it could actually belong to someone in my life. That she's really real.

Seventeen Weeks

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Sunday, March 11, 2012

Epiblogue: Post-Kid Kitchen: Smooth(ie) Operator

I've been messing around with Sunwarrior Protein for a few days now, and I think I may have found a way to choke it down make it work for me. The key, as I suspected, is bananas and peanut butter.

Protein Shake

Peanut-Butter-Banana Protein Shake, Version 2.0
Serves 1

In a blender combine:
2 scoops Sunwarrior Raw Vegan Protein (Natural)
1 Tbsp natural peanut butter
1 medium (5-ounce) banana
1 cup unsweetened vanilla almond milk
4 ice cubes

One shake provides: 406 calories, 13.5 grams fat, 43.4 grams carbohydrates, and 40.5 grams protein!

Sorry for the bold-italic, but I was surprised. And pleased. Do you know how much easier it is to get your 100 grams of protein a day when you have 40 of them for breakfast? Much easier!

How does it taste, you're wondering. Sadly, not great. Still pretty protein-powdery. But I think I'll get used to it. (There was a bit of a taste-bud learning curve with the hemp protein powder, too.) The ice seems to help offset the health-foodiness of it, and bring it ever-so-slightly closer to milkshake territory. I'm sure sweetened non-dairy milk or agave (or both) would make it better, though even more calorie-dense.

Drinking one of these things first thing in the morning after my obligatory 24-ounce glass of water totally makes me feel like a bodybuilder. (In a way, I am one.)

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Friday, March 9, 2012

Westley Wants to Know

Window

"When the baby comes, can I hold her?"

Of course you can.

"I hope she won't be all wet. Will a doctor or nurse dry her off?"

The midwives will probably dry her off and wrap her up.

"Can I help you cut the cord?"

Well, that depends on what time the baby's born. Some babies come in the middle of the night.

"What will she look like?"

We don't really know. I think she'll probably look a lot like you looked as a baby.

"What games do babies play?"

Really little babies mostly eat and sleep and poop. But older babies like peek-a-boo, and they like things that rattle, and they like it when you show them a toy and then hide it behind your back. They like 'baby exercise,' and they like 'toes in the toaster'—

"What's 'toes in the toaster'?"

[Rob demonstrates with Westley's feet; we both chant.] "Toes in the toaster, toes in the toaster, toes in the toaster...POP UP!"

"What's the baby's name going to be?"

We're working on that.

"It should be something pretty."

.....................................

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Who Grows There?

Westley stood firm from the day we told him I was pregnant. "We know it's a girl."

Bailey, the ultrasound technician, was equally sure. "That's definitely a girl."

Ultrasound
Ultrasound
The baby's legs were straight up by her face. She was working on her jack knife dive.

Yesterday I spent approximately eight hours repeatedly looking up at Rob to marvel, "We're going to have a daughter." It seems very surreal to have it presented as a sure thing, even though I dreamed twice that the baby was a girl. (I guess I knew, too.)

Ultrasound
Curled in a ball.

Ultrasound
Ultrasound

The baby is perfectly healthy, and extremely flexible. She spent the entire appointment either stretched out in a forward bend or curled up tight. She's also enormous: "Whoa! Seven ounces!" Bailey exclaimed after crunching the numbers. (Fetuses at this stage are usually in the 4 1/2- to 5-ounce range. Ultrasounds aren't known for their accuracy in measuring fetal weight. But still.)

I am also perfectly healthy. My cervix is all right, uptight, out of sight. Dr. K went back and forth as to whether I should come back to be checked in two weeks or four. "Everything looked so good today..." she trailed off. She finally decided to err on the side of caution.

I don't mind. I'll get to see my little girl again in two weeks.

* * *

When I told Westley that he was right, the baby is for sure a girl, he said, "Good, good!"

And then he clapped his hands and literally jumped up and down before running off to play.

.....................................

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Post-Kid Kitchen: Smooth(ie) Operator

Hemp Protein Shake

I hate being a vegan cliche, but when I get serious about keeping soy out of my gluten-free plant-based diet, I have to be extra diligent about getting enough protein. Beans, quinoa, amaranth, nuts, seeds, and vegetables are all staples of my high-protein regime. But I also like having a super-quick option that I can whip up between stepping off the elliptical and picking Westley up from preschool. Enter protein powder.

My go-to protein powder is Living Harvest Organic Hemp Protein Powder (I gave up on ever making Naturade's Soy-Free Veg Protein Booster taste bearable). It tastes nutty, a little bitter, and definitely "health-foody." It took some getting used to, but I've found it goes really well with smoothies that include nut butter. Oh, but it's not pretty.

Hemp Protein Shake

Peanut Butter-Banana Protein Shake
Serves 1

In a blender, combine:
4 Tbsp Living Harvest Hemp Protein (Organic Original Formula)
1 Tbsp natural peanut butter (I like Whole Foods' 365 brand)
1 medium ripe banana
1 cup water or non-dairy milk

(I don't typically include nutrition information for my recipes, but with a protein powder shake, knowing that you're getting good nutrition is the whole point.) When blended with water, one shake provides:

Calories: 356
Total fat: 11.5 g
Saturated fat: 1.4 g
Sodium: 47 mg
Total carb: 40.9 g
Fiber: 8.7 g
Protein: 27.6 g
Vitamin A: 2%
Vitamin C: 21%
Calcium: 11%
Iron: 49%

When I started researching gluten- and soy-free vegan protein powders online, it seemed like everyone was raving about Sunwarrior. Bodybuilders in particular seem to be big fans, and if anyone knows about quality protein, it's bodybuilders! Sunwarrior protein was also supposedly very smooth—which my go-to hemp protein powder is definitely not. Grainy protein powder was doable in a nut-butter shake, but not in a fruit smoothie.

I finally broke down and bought a bag of Sunwarrior Protein (it's not cheap!), and tried it for the first time this morning.

Strawberry Mango Protein Shake

Strawberry-Mango Protein Smoothie
Serves 1

In a blender combine:
1 scoop Sunwarrior Raw Vegan Protein (Natural)
9 large strawberries, frozen
1 1/2 cups mango chunks, frozen
1 Tbsp unrefined, organic coconut oil
1 cup water, coconut water, or non-dairy milk

When blended with water, one smoothie provides:

Calories: 403
Total fat: 16.2 g
Saturated fat: 12.2 g
Sodium: 64 mg
Total carb: 57.5 g
Fiber: 8.7g
Protein: 19.4g
Vitamin A: 38%
Vitamin C: 273%
Calcium: 14%
Iron: 25%

Unfortunately, I thought Sunwarrior protein tasted similar to the awful Soy-Free Veg stuff, at least when blended with fruit. The smoothie was fine (and filling) but not something I'm excited about making again. I'm going to give this protein powder a try in my standard nut-butter-and-banana concoction, perhaps with a little vanilla extract thrown in for good measure. When in doubt, make your protein shake taste as much like a milkshake as possible!

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Monday, March 5, 2012

Sixteen Weeks

Sixteen Weeks
Sixteen Weeks

Westley was standing in the doorway, watching. "Why are you always taking pictures of Mommy?"

Rob explained that we were documenting my belly as it grows. Except that when I looked at the pictures, it didn't seem to be growing much at all. Which is impossible, according to my reflection (and the scale).

"Why do I look so much bigger in the mirror than I do when you photograph me?"

Rob hypothesized that it was something about the way I was standing. Or maybe I just think it looks bigger in the mirror because I stand closer to it than I do to the camera.

"But standing closer would just make everything look bigger. Maybe it's a trick of the light?"

Rob's eyes flashed wickedly. "It's a vampire belly that doesn't show up in photos!"

But then it wouldn't show up in the mirror either.

I took the camera into the bedroom.

Sixteen Weeks [Mirror]
BANG!

Sixteen Weeks [Mirror]
POW!

Sixteen Weeks [Mirror]
ZAP!

Whether it's obvious in photos or not, I feel like I exploded outwards over the weekend. It's getting harder to hold my belly in when I'm standing and walking, though I continue to try. Gotta keep that core engaged!

Beans and I made up this week. Sweet Hallelujah! I plowed through two recipes from Joanna Vaught's Yellow Rose Greatest HitsThree Bean Salad and, appropriately, Hot Mama Salad—and it was glorious. Except for all the raw onion, which I now know to go easy on. I also have a huge sweet tooth for the first time in my life. I'm trying to keep my sugar consumption to a minimum, but I've still managed to eat more desserts in the past week than I usually eat in a month.

My unpleasant symptoms are mostly gone. I sometimes get a little nauseated an hour or two after eating, but a few stalks of celery or some cucumber takes care of it. My breasts are still sore enough that hugging anyone requires a bit of planning and some careful positioning. The only thing that's still a real challenge is the fatigue. I feel exhausted much of the time, despite getting adequate rest, eating regularly, drinking plenty of water, consuming 75-100 grams of protein daily, and exercising at least four times a week. I'm not anemic and my thyroid is fine, which makes me wonder if my soy sensitivity might be the issue.

I was beginning to reintroduce soy to my diet when I found out I was pregnant. I felt fine eating a serving or two of tofu or tempeh each week. As the early-pregnancy nausea wore off and my appetite improved, that serving or two of soy products turned into four or more. Some women with food sensitivities find they feel better and can tolerate a wider variety of foods while pregnant. For others, the opposite seems to be true, and sensitivities and intolerances become more pronounced. Based on my current symptoms and my experience with a piece of wheat-free (but not gluten-free) vegan carrot cake a little while ago, I think I might be in the latter group. Starting today, I'm back on a soy-free diet.

My next ultrasound is scheduled for Wednesday, and it will officially kick off the series of "regular cervical checks" that Dr. K recommended when I first saw her a lifetime six weeks ago. I'm fairly confident that my cervix is cooperating, and really just looking forward to spying on this baby again.

.....................................

Sunday, March 4, 2012

When the Mourning Comes

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You were calling it terror, this feeling that creeps up on you in the night. The strong sense that Something could be very wrong. The next appointment will bring bad news.

You wanted it to be terror, but it's not. It is frightening though, because it breaks down intuition. There is no trusting your gut any more, because your gut is suddenly split in two, and half of it is telling you loudly, firmly, that everything is doomed. That the worst is yet to come.

That feeling is grief. It's all the mourning that hasn't happened yet. Because you don't do all of your grieving at once—you couldn't possibly—the pieces you still need to acknowledge sometimes catch you unaware. It's shocking to be face-to-face with grief when you weren't expecting it. Because you feel over what happened. Or like you should feel over it. Never mind that your grandmother and her sister are in their eighties and nineties and still mourn the babies they lost.

Your wounds are fading to scars, but even scars can sting and itch years after the injury. Healing is different for everyone. It takes you as long as it takes you.

Mourning what was will not curse what is. It is safe to open up when grief knocks on your door. Let it in, listen to it. It won't stay forever.

It probably won't even stay the night.

.....................................

Friday, March 2, 2012

Six Essentials for the First Six Weeks

Swaddle

I tend to think most baby gear is ridiculous. In fact, I really have trouble understanding people who claim that babies require a lot of stuff. I suppose this argument hinges in part on your definitions of "require" and "a lot," but babies don't absolutely need their wipes warmed.

Even though I'm firmly in the "less is more" camp, there are a handful of things I cannot imagine not having during the newborn period.

(Note: This is NOT a sponsored post. I have no relationship with any of these products or companies except that I genuinely enjoy them.)

1. Swaddle blankets.

Zonked
Two days old, bad ass swaddle.

Swaddle blankets must not be confused with receiving blankets. They're NOT the same thing! Swaddle blankets are wonderful squares of amazingosity! Receiving blankets, on the other hand, are bullshit.

Westley's collection of colorful swaddles came from a wonderful local shop, Birth and Beyond. If your local cool-hip-and-groovy baby boutique doesn't carry swaddle blankets, look for Aden & Anais swaddle blankets. They're beautiful, but more importantly, HUGE. A whopping 47 inches square! This is crucial for getting a good, snug wrap that stays put while still being comfy for your little one.

2. A nursing pillow.

Pillow


Some women can breastfeed comfortably without a nursing pillow. I am not one of those women. My body is all torso, which might have something to do with it. In any case, I could not have succeeded at breastfeeding without my Nurture Nest. What I especially like about this particular pillow is that it's bigger and fatter than the ever-popular Boppy.

P.S. Nursing pillows aren't just for nursing.

Proud Papa

3. Thirsties diaper covers.

Covers

I didn't actually have Thirsties cloth diaper covers when Westley was a newborn, but I wish I had! Of all the diaper covers I tried, Thristies were by far the easiest to care for, had the best fit for my long-and-not-too-chubby baby, and lasted the longest. Our size Large covers, which Westley still uses at night, have lasted over two years! The colors aren't as vibrant as they once were, but the covers still get the job done.

4. Ergo baby carrier.


Carrier

There are tons of wraps, slings, and carriers out there, but the Ergo is easily the best baby (and toddler, and kid) carrier I've found. It's strong, comfortable to wear, doesn't require an engineering degree to get on and off, and friendly to most body types!

5. Melinda G nursing bras.

Nursing

Why are there so many shitty nursing bras? Breastfeeding deserves better! It was a revelation when I found a nursing bra I didn't dread wearing. The Melinda G T-shirt underwire nursing bra is exactly like a bra I'd wear in my usual, non-lactating state. It's supportive without looking like bridge engineers designed it. I still sometimes sleep in this bra.

6. Perineal care supplies.

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These things are not really "baby gear" per se, but they were definitely essential! I've written before about Lunapads and how awesome they are, but I really was glad to have them after Westley's birth. I didn't bleed a whole lot, and I found that the maxi and long Lunapads I normally use at night were enough for me. But Lunapads also offers a postpartum kit! Sitting on soft cotton flannel is a thousand times nicer than icky plastic postpartum pads, especially when you're swollen.

Speaking of swelling, do NOT underestimate the peri bottle's magical properties!

Peri

A peri bottle came with my home birth kit, and I would hope that hospitals send new mothers home with them, because this thing is wonderful. If your home birth kit or hospital doesn't hook you up, Lunapads has peri bottles for sale. A nice spray of warm water was the only way I could convince my swollen, freaked-out neither regions to relax enough to pee in the first few days postpartum. Later, the peri bottle was useful for hemorrhoid care. (Moral of the story: don't push so hard next time, if you can help it.)

Also, I couldn't go anywhere without my donut pillow for a while.
Donut
I hear the jury is still out on whether these little inflatable rings actually promote healing or hinder it, but mine helped me sit comfortably for those initial long nursing sessions. I think I even took it to Mass on Christmas Eve. It certainly didn't make things worse, and I didn't become a donut pillow addict or anything (hiding it around the house, lying about how often I'm using it, using it to escape), so I'm calling it an essential.

Bonus: BabyBjorn BabySitter.

This lightweight little seat was a wonderful place to plunk the baby down while I showered, dressed myself, or prepared a meal—but not in the first six weeks. Westley received it as a Christmas present from my parents, and at three weeks old, he was a little small for it.

Bouncy Seat
Rock out with your (too big) socks out.

.....................................

Thursday, March 1, 2012

"Are you planning another home birth?"

Center for Birth

We've still only told our parents and a few close friends (and the WHOLE INTERNET!) that I'm pregnant, but everyone wants to know the same thing. The first thing three of the four expectant grandparents asked was, "Are you planning another home birth?"

Yes.

Well, sort of.

Westley's birth was technically a home birth, but because we'd moved into the apartment a mere six (or was it four?) weeks before he made his entrance in an inflatable tub in the kitchen, the space didn't really feel like home. Westley had a "house birth."

It wasn't the experience I'd hoped for. Nothing about it felt "homey." I was extremely uncomfortable. I couldn't seem to get the privacy I craved. The tub was not warm enough or full enough, but I didn't feel like I could say anything about it. In the end, I truly couldn't say anything. But I can't imagine myself having a baby in any other setting.

Almost.

Between my last pregnancy and this one, my midwives moved their practice into the new Center for Birth in Seattle. When I learned that there was a new birth center in town, I was glad (because I believe in getting normal birth the hell out of the hospital!) but I didn't really sit up and take notice. And then I saw pictures.

Center for Birth
Center for Birth
All photos by Barry Smith, shamelessly stolen from Center for Birth's Facebook page
(so I can drool over them whenever the mood strikes).

I want to move in to one of those bathtubs. They're bigger than my dining table! And the whole space just seems so serene. We've been living in our current house for almost two-and-a-half years; it certainly feels like a home, but it's not very serene.

I flirted with the idea of having a baby at the Center for Birth for several weeks before mentioning it to Rob. "It just looks so nice! And our house is so crazy!"

He gave me the What do you expect? We have a four-year-old, a kitty, and no sense of interior design look. And then he reminded me of something small, but very important: "For the whole drive home, the baby has to be in the car seat instead of being on mom."

"Hmm." I pictured myself riding home in the back of the car a few hours after giving birth, petting my newborn with one hand. Then I flashed on all the things I'd considered when choosing a home birth for Westley. Tub-depth and room decor weren't even on the list. Not being separated from my baby, even by a five-point harness system, in those early hours was one of my top three reasons for giving birth at home. "What do you think?"

Rob shrugged. "I'm all for a home birth."

So, yes. We're definitely planning another home birth.

.....................................