Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Some random thoughts on being supported

Tomorrow, I will be exactly 18 weeks pregnant.  Almost halfway.  Sometimes it feels like I've been pregnant forever, other times I feel like the next time I blink I'll be in labor.  Even this far in, I still get nauseated at night if I don't take Diclegis(miracle drug!).  While this has physically been my hardest pregnancy, overall it's been my easiest.  I am so much better at asking for what I need, and Aaron is so much better at giving it.  Do you ever do that thing where some small thing happens or doesn't happen, and you immediately start telling yourself stories about it?  I am really, really good at telling myself stories, and a lot of the time they turn out not to be true.  I used to tell myself that I didn't need help while pregnant(or really, with most things), and if Aaron didn't help me in the exact right way that I wanted, I would tell myself stories about how he didn't love me and he was so insensitive.  I was so afraid of being seen as needy that I was constantly trying not to have any needs.  Then one day, my wise therapist asked me this question: how do you think Aaron would feel if you looked him in the eye and said "I don't need you for anything."  Whoa.  I don't want to be in a relationship like that.

That's not to say that the journey to getting in touch with my needs and allowing my husband to support me has been smooth sailing.  My therapist told me that sometimes, the thing that rocks the boat most in a relationship is when one person begins to have healthier standards for relationship.  Even though you are becoming a more whole person, you are suddenly totally changing things up on your partner.  The way you relate to each other has to change in order to accommodate the new, expanded definition of relationship, and change can be hard.

Aaron and I have had so many conversations about needs this pregnancy.  Some of those conversations have been inspiring and amazing, and a lot of them have been hard, confusing and uncomfortable.  One thing I have learned to trust about my husband is how committed he is to understanding me, and while that certainly doesn't guarantee that he's going to achieve that on the first try(or second or twentieth), I know that he will keep showing up until he does.  I love that about him.  One of the stories I used to tell myself was that if I was too needy, Aaron would quit showing up.  I don't even know what I would have to do to him to really get him to not show up.  He is the showing up-est husband I know.  I read some birth horror stories the other night about husbands going out to buy video games while their wives were dilated 9cm, or husbands who fell asleep while their laboring wives were out in the car waiting to be driven to the hospital.  I loathe the husband-bashing game and don't find it helpful, but I read things like that and I think "those couples have a lot to learn about how to support one another."  Someone would have to put a gun to Aaron's head to keep him away from me if I was in labor, and even then, Aaron would find a way to get to me.

Did you know that having continuous support from just one person(whether it's a doula, husband, mother, friend) reduces a laboring woman's chance of a c-section by 30%?  Think about that for a minute.  What that means is that there are non-medical reasons a woman might end up with a c-section.  Labor can be long and hard, but being well-supported can totally shift how a woman experiences it.  I'm not saying that all women who need c-sections do so because they didn't have good labor support, but I am saying that having good labor support drastically increases the chance that a woman won't need a c-section.

It's sometimes hard to practice what I preach, because leaning into support, trusting that it's there, takes a lot of vulnerability.  I do just fine in labor, because labor is so overtly and obviously work that I don't bother judging myself for needing support.  But being pregnant is work too, and mothering and married life and really, just being human; it all takes work.  My problem is that I get really self-critical and tell myself stories, like "What you're doing isn't so hard; you have two healthy kids and a nice husband, what could you possibly need support for?"  Well, all of it, really.  Just because life is good doesn't mean it isn't also incredibly hard sometimes.  Likewise, just because something requires a lot of hard work doesn't mean it isn't really, really good.  My experience of most of the best things in life is that they are both: marriage, sex, pregnancy, childbirth, parenting.  All a lot of work, all deeply good.

I still have a long ways to go in the self-compassion department, but I've made huge strides in being kinder to myself.  One of the big things that helped me move toward that shift was hearing someone say that children don't practice self-care based on how well their parents take care of them, they practice self-care based on how well they see their parents practice their own self-care.  Want your kids to be forgiving of themselves when they screw up?  Let them see you practice forgiving yourself when you screw up.  Want them to be strong advocates for themselves in relationship?  Let them see you be a strong advocate for yourself in relationship.  Want them to know they deserve to be really well taken care of?  Let them see you take really good care of yourself.  Want them to have healthy boundaries around toxic people?  Let them see you have healthy boundaries around toxic people.  Want them to be open to receiving support when they need it?  Let them see you practice receiving support when you need it.

I think part of this automatic suspicion/judgment of our own needs comes from the fear that if we get what we want, it will make turn us into selfish people.  Think of a laboring woman; does feeling respected, loved, heard, and supported turn her into a selfish person?  Not by a long shot; it enables her to get in touch with that which is best in her, and to do really, really hard work.  It's true of non-laboring women to, and not just women, but human beings in general.  I think my son Matteas put it best: looking out the window into the forest behind our house, he mused that people are a lot like trees.  When I asked what he meant, he said "When we get what we need, we grow."  Amen little teacher, amen.

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Back in the Saddle Again

It's hard to know where to start after a nearly three-year hiatus.  Life got really busy there for a while, and I realized that I don't like blogging about things I haven't figured out yet.  I plan to talk about it all someday, but the short version is that my kids and my marriage needed absolutely all of my attention.  We find ourselves in a different season of life these days, so different that we even decided to have another baby.  I'm nine weeks and four days pregnant today(11 weeks 4 days if you count like the doctors), and I want to start keeping some records about this pregnancy.  It's been so different from my pregnancies with the boys in every possible way, and I want to remember.

First and foremost, we planned this pregnancy.  Aaron has always wanted at least four kids, but after having the boys I honestly felt like I could never do it again.  Not the pregnancy or birth part, the intensity part.  I felt like kind of a wimp sometimes, but then people(including my sisters) would tell me that my oldest child was more work than all five of their children put together, and I found that reassuring.  I didn't stress or agonize over having "only" two kids, because our days were so full-on all the time that there really wasn't room for anything else.  I felt like I was living on the front lines and I could only deal with what was in front of me right that minute, and the idea of taking on more of anything seemed absolutely impossible.  In the words of Jim Gaffigan, "just imagine you're drowning, and then someone hands you a baby."

Well, I don't feel like I'm drowning anymore.  I spent a lot of time figuring out what Jack needed to flourish, and while it literally took years of appointments and therapies and trial-and-error, we finally have a protocol more or less dialed in for him and I'm thrilled to report that he's doing a pretty good job of winning at life.  As things started improving for Jack and we were able to lower the DEFCON level of daily life, Aaron and I started talking about the possibility of another baby.  I kept thinking that if we ever had another baby, I would wait until I really really wanted one.  So we talked about it and I waited for Baby Fever to strike, and I even considered becoming a doula because I like supporting women and babies so much, but I kept waiting and no Baby Fever was forthcoming.  I still don't have it, and that's okay.  I'm just not a Baby Fever person.

What I do have is a desire for a bigger family, and there's no getting around the fact that to have a bigger family, you have to make some babies.  I don't regret the break.  Jack will be 10 and Matteas will be a few weeks shy of 8 by the time this baby is born, which is a pretty big gap.  I can't imagine going through what we've been through the past few years with a baby to take care of, and a pregnancy at almost any other time would have felt really overwhelming.  Now, I feel prepared and happy.  Joyful.  I did not feel like that with my first two pregnancies, and even though I love my boys more than anything in life, I'm so grateful for the opportunity to experience such a well-supported pregnancy this time around.  I had to skip a lot of the fun stuff with my first pregnancy, and this feels kind of like a do-over only better because now I'm older and wiser.  I've been buying myself cozy sweaters and leggings, taking naps when I need them, appreciating the fact that Aaron does the dishes every night, and taking long baths while reading pregnancy magazines(which, by the way, have vastly improved in the eight years since I've been pregnant).  With the recent and miraculous addition of Diclegis to my self-care regimen, I'm not even nauseated anymore.  Sleepy, but not nauseous.

So that's where life is at right now.  I have my first appointment with my midwives on Monday, which is one of my favorite parts of being pregnant.  Very soon I hope to have a more substantial baby bump, so that I actually look pregnant and not like I have a tiny beer belly.  People get more excited about baby bumps than beer bellies.

Friday, August 17, 2012


 This Fourth of July, we took the boys to a firework show.  They loved it.
 I also took them swimming at the same beach I went to almost every day of the summer when I was their age.  It smells exactly the same.
 We ate meat on sticks.
 I said goodbye to the family that's lived next door to my parents for 18 years.  They are good people.
 We had Sibling Brunch, which is sometimes Sibling Dinner instead. 
 We met our friends' beautiful son.
 We went to a wedding.
And Matteas turned five, which is old enough to light your own candle.  I'm glad there is a little Summer left to fill with barbecues, cocktails, and fans in the windows.  I'm not ready for Fall.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Crazy-ass Diet, Challenge: Eggs

 Well, I made it: fourteen days without wheat, corn, dairy, eggs, caffeine, alcohol, yeast, soy, or citrus.  I didn't cheat; not once, not even a little.  Today when I woke up and realized that today is the day I get to do a food challenge, I immediately decided I wanted to make muffins. 

Making muffins without wheat can be tricky, and making muffins without wheat or eggs is damn near impossible.  Avoiding dairy is the easy part, as coconut oil can be used in baked goods instead of butter with a fair amount of reliability.  So this morning I made a batch of muffins with grated apples, lots of cinnamon and nutmeg, and some pretty stinking delicious honey coconut spread.  Maybe it's my deprived taste buds being easily stimulated by any amount of sugar, but to me these were the perfect breakfast muffin: not too sweet, hearty but not heavy.  The boys loved them.  If you leave out the brown sugar topping, these muffins are SCD compliant.

Almond and Apple Muffins with Honey Coconut 'Butter'

2 1/2 cups almond flour
1 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
2 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. nutmeg
3 eggs
1/3 cup apple sauce
1 tsp. vanilla
1/3 cup coconut oil, melted and cooled slightly
1/4 honey
2 apples, grated
Brown sugar for sprinkling(optional)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and line a muffin pan with muffin papers.

In a large bowl, combine the almond flour, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, and nutmeg and whisk until well blended.

In a small mixing bowl, whisk the eggs well.  Add the apple sauce, vanilla, coconut oil, honey and grated apples.  Add egg mixture to almond flour mixture and mix until thoroughly blended.  Divide between twelve muffin papers.  If using, sprinkle a few pinches of brown sugar over the top of each muffin.

Bake for 20 minutes, until tops are golden brown and a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean.  Let the muffins cool at least five minutes before serving.

Honey Coconut 'Butter'

1 TBS coconut oil, melted
2 tsp. honey
Pinch of sea salt

Blend all ingredients and season to taste.  I like it salty.  You can use it warm, but it takes on a buttery texture if you let it cool to room temperature.  Store any leftovers in the fridge in a sealed contained.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Crazy-ass Diet, Day 6

I'm super excited to be on day six of this experiment, because tomorrow that means I'm halfway through the hardest part!  I'm already planning carefully what recipes I want to use for my challenges, which can be kind of tricky because you have to isolate a single potential allergen.  For example, you can't use bread for a wheat challenge because it also contains yeast.  During an egg challenge, you can't cook scrambled eggs in butter because then you'd be introducing dairy as well.  Aaron mentioned looking forward to Caprese salad last night, and I find myself fantasizing about the texture of mozzarella.  So milky and smooth...

Aside from coffee, what I miss the most on this diet is variety of texture.  Nuts and raw vegetables have a different kind of crunch than the shattering kind of crunch you get from biting into a tortilla chip or a crouton; six days of meat and lettuce and you really start to notice. 

Yesterday my energy level was really feeling the lack of complex carbohydrates and I really wanted to work in the garden, so I made some roasted sweet potatoes to go with my lunch.  While I was at it I roasted a second chicken breast to save for later; I can't emphasize enough the importance of having ready-made protein on hand while doing this kind of diet.  It would be easy to fail simply out of desperation, so if you're trying something like this make sure you have plenty of food on hand that you can actually eat.

Oven Roasted Chicken and Sweet Potatoes
1 bone-in skin-on chicken breast
1 medium or two small sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into chunks
1 clove garlic, minced
2 tsp. fresh rosemary, minced
Olive oil
Salt and pepper

Preheat the oven to 400. 

Toss the sweet potatoes with a good drizzle of olive oil, salt and pepper, and half the garlic and rosemary.  Arrange flat in a roasting pan large enough to accomodate all the potatoes and the chicken breast without crowding. 

Place the chicken breast, skin side up, in the pan with the potatoes and season with olive oil, salt and pepper, and the rest of the garlic and rosemary. 

Roast everything together for 30-40 minutes, until the chicken breast registers 160 degrees on an instant-read theremometer.  If the potatoes need longer, remove the chicken to a plate and cover gently with foil.

Friday, May 4, 2012

Crazy-ass Diet, Day 2

 I thought the hardest part of this diet would be giving up coffee, and I was right.  I've never been a morning person, but now they just seem downright pointless; something to get through in order to get to something better, like lunch.  It's been super tricky trying to come up with things that both Jack and I can eat so that I'm not making two separate dishes for every single meal, and although coconut aminos aren't SCD legal I'm cutting corners a tiny bit so I don't go crazy.  I served this chicken to the boys with cucumbers and clementines on the side, and put it into a salad for me.  It was so good, I ate it for lunch two days in a row and will probably have it again today.  It tastes like a really light spring roll.

Honey Teriyaki Chicken

Four boneless, skinless chicken thighs, sliced into 1" thick strips
1 tsp. fresh ginger, grated
2 tsp. coconut aminos
1 tsp. honey
1 clove garlic, minced
Oil for pan

Drizzle a large non-stick frying pan with a little oil over medium-high heat.  Use a pan large enough that the chicken won't crowd, or it will steam and not brown nicely.

When the chicken is brown on one side, turn the strips over, add the grated ginger and cook until chicken is almost cooked through. 

Add the coconut aminos and honey and stir to coat the chicken, then let it cook without moving it around for a few minutes so the honey caramelizes a little. 

When the chicken is cooked through, add the garlic and cook for 30-40 seconds, stirring constantly so the garlic doesn't burn.

Serve over mixed greens with sliced cucumber, carrots, chopped cilantro and green onion or chives, and toss with rice wine vinaigrette.  If you're not on a crazy-ass elimination diet, squeeze a wedge of lime over the top.  Bean sprouts would also be delicious.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Here We Go

We are now fully embarked on our search for food allergies/the source of Jack's abdominal discomfort.  For Jack, I decided to put him on the Specific Carbohydrate Diet because he's had stomach upset and digestive problems(read: diarrhea) for the past four weeks.  You can read more about his diet here if you're interested, but the short of it is that it eliminates all sugar and starch except for honey and fruit.  No grains, potatoes, corn, or milk(aged cheese and clarified butter are okay).  It's challenging to feed a growing boy this way, but we're learning and after only a few days we're seeing an improvement in his digestion(read: less diarrhea). 

I'm doing a more severe version of the diet, as I suspect that I might be allergic to eggs and dairy. Today was meant to be my first day without coffee, but Aaron and I went out for cocktails last night and I'm such a light weight when it comes to alcohol that after two drinks I need a little help waking up this morning. Avoiding caffeine had better do wonders for my PMS, because I have serious concerns about my coping abilities sans caffeine and dairy. I have a plan, which I'm calling Alternative Pleasures. Coffee is what gets me out of bed in the morning, and not much happens in our day until I'm well into my second cup of piping hot legal drugs laced with half and half. I've been through enough dietary changes to know that I'm going to need a way to replace not just the foods I used to eat, but the pleasure I derived from them. Coffee was my way of front-loading my day with pleasure, and starting tomorrow that will be gone. I imagine I'll get up tomorrow morning and sit on the couch, holding an empty mug that is slowly being filled my tears. I don't handle deprivation well.

That's where Alternative Pleasures comes in. I'm going to start planning bribes for myself, like buying myself a novel(fiction even!) or new art supplies, something that will inspire me to get out of bed and put one foot in front of the other. Really, nothing motivates me quite like coffee, so I'm not sure how this is going to go. Also, I might not have any extra cash for things like books and paints because I'm currently giving all of my money to Whole Foods. I'm also not very good at the whole wait-and-see approach to healing, mostly because it's hard not to be able to offer my son instant relief but also because I don't want all this effort and expense to be for nothing(read: ongoing diarrhea).

So just what are we eating? The short answer is meat, fruit and vegetables with the occasional almond meal confection. I had thought that I would come up with all kinds of crazy recipes during this experiment, but it feels kind of fraudulent to call something a recipe that is really just "eating these foods at the same time."

We have, however, stumbled upon some easy combinations that both boys love which are precious to me because we're doing this diet as a family.  Food is about so much more than just eating, and I don't want Jack to feel isolated in his deprivation.  So we all eat our cheeseburgers with a knife and fork instead of a bun, any bread in the house has been banished to the freezer, and I make one Specific Carbohydrate compliant dinner for everyone to share. 

So far, the biggest challenge has been breakfast.  Jack wakes up hungry, and doesn't like eggs first thing in the morning.  His breakfasts now alternate between a banana with peanut butter, and homemade Lara Bars. 
These are just equal parts nuts(almonds, cashews, pecans, or any combination) and dates, sometimes with other flavors(cinnamon, ginger) added.  So far, Jack's favorite is almond and peanut butter.  The resulting paste needs to be refrigerated in order to make cutting it into a bar shape, so I usually resort to rolling them into balls.  In either ball or bar form, there is no way around the final product looking like poop.  Embrace your inner toddler.

Homemade Lara Bars

1 cup toasted almonds
1 cup pitted dates
1/4-1/3 cup peanut butter(optional)
Pinch of salt

After the nuts have cooled, pulse them briefly in a food processor fitted with a blade attachment.  You don't want to turn them into nut butter, so pulse in small bursts until you get a consistency you like.  Remove the chopped nuts to a mixing bowl.

Blend the dates, salt and peanut butter in the food processor until a chunky paste forms.  Add the date paste to the chopped nuts, mix with your hands, and form into balls.