Thursday, September 4, 2014


I am recently engaged in learning to meal plan effectively.  Coming home from a long day of work and then deciding what to have for dinner and realizing everything we might make that could pass for a real meal requires thawing and cooking is the worst.

Second worst is actually having ideas and realizing we're missing one key ingredient for each option.

Tied for second worst is when I have lots of ideas that all involve milk or cream.  My husband is lactose intolerant and baby can't quite handle cow milk proteins yet so that makes me dairy-restricted as well for now.

After too many hangry nights and the grown-up decision to eat more vegetables, I decided to start meal planning.  It takes a bit of effort and I'm kind of lazy, but so far so delicious.  Sometimes the meals take just as much effort to execute as before, but pre-deciding what to eat and knowing all ingredients are on hand is half the battle.  With those two things taken care of, and I'm much more willing to make the meal.  

It's also satisfying to realize we aren't wasting food like we used to.  Not like it happened a ton.  My husband is a rock star at eating leftovers, but we used to partially eat something then the rest ended up in the fridge and eventually going bad because it didn't go with anything else.  Now everything we buy, particularly fresh perishables, has a plan and gets used up in time.

I realize these things I'm learning are all things people who meal plan tell you are great about meal planning, but it's one of those things you still just have to do to realize and appreciate the benefits for yourself.  Having babies is like that too.

I decided from the start I should blog about all this because I've been anemic on the blog ideas lately. Meal-planning leads to blog-planning.  How appropriate. 

When I remembered, I took pictures:

Ginger salmon with sauteed veggies and bacon
Pesto pasta with chicken and sauteed asparagus. I made the pesto myself!
Pork empanadas with quinoa and black beans
Ham and bean soup improvised from the broth leftover from slow cooking pork for the empanadas
Mini meatloaf, homemade mashed potatoes, and corn on the cob
Hamburger and homemade sweet potato fries
Fish tacos (except all we had were giant tortillas so more like fish burritos)
Meals not pictured include Waldorf salad, chicken fingers and onion rings (I've been on a deep frying kick), panini, french toast, tikka marsala, pulled pork sandwiches, and pizza (our dairy splurge when we can't help ourselves; my pizza is amazing).  

Most of the things we make take 30 minutes or less.  The most time intensive dishes are probably pizza and the empanadas. The latter has a particularly long prep period including slow cooking the pork and assembling the empanadas.  Actual cook time is like 25 minutes tops.  They can be made and frozen for later cooking, and one batch is big enough for 2-3 meals for us.  And I usually cook 4 lbs of pork at a time and use it for other dishes too.

I've also been planning healthier snacks to take to work or have on hand at home.  We've been enjoying lots of carrots and hummus, applesauce, and granola bars.  Baby girl is starting solids in earnest soon.  I want her to eat what we eat, so we better eat what I want her to eat.

Most of my recipes and improvisation inspiration comes from  If you want a particular recipe for anything seen or mentioned above, let me know.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Back to work

I went back to work when Pepper was 8 weeks old.  The first day was awful.  I could not think straight.  I did not want to be there.  I forgot words and made a mess of training the new office employee.  Things weren't much better at home with her dad.

I happened to have a follow up appointment at the birth clinic that day and I completely lost it as soon as the nurse (who was the attending nurse at Pepper's delivery) took me back to a room and asked me how I was doing.  Then the midwife came in and asked the same thing and I started bawling all over again.  I cried through most of the appointment.  Bless their hearts; they just hugged me and let me cry it out.

Pepper was at home with her dad while I was at work.  She was most determined to not eat from a bottle or take a pacifier, so when she wasn't sleeping she was crying and hungry except when my husband brought her to me at lunch to feed her.  He was pretty frazzled by the time I got home.  I was frazzled from holding back guilt tears from knowing she was hungry and upset all day.  Baby was frazzled from wondering why her routine was so jacked up when we'd had such a good thing going.

Thankfully, I am on a part time schedule, so I had the next day off where we were able to recover emotionally and physically.  The next two work days went much better.  Since my husband was in the middle of his last weeks of school, I took her with me to work those days so he could finish school projects.  Having her with me all day was wonderful.  She stayed happy and fed and I was way more productive knowing she was happy and fed.

The second week of work I had her with me half the time so my husband could take his finals.  She still wouldn't take a bottle so the time she did spend hanging out with Dad was still fraught with frustration, but we all managed to survive.

The next two weeks, school was finally over and his new internship hadn't started yet, so her daddy stayed with her all week but said heck with the bottle feeding attempts and brought her to me for every feeding.  Happiness reigned all around.  After that, his full time summer internship started and I took her to work every day.

Thankfully I work in a small office for an private employer who'd rather accommodate than lose me.  Everyone else is a parent too so they are understanding.  I've been back to work about three months now.  Pepper is getting bigger and more social so sometimes it's hard to give her the interaction she needs to stay content.  I'm learning to make myself step away from the paid work to give her my undivided attention when she starts acting out which helps her mood, and my coworkers will take her for me when she's fussy and I need to get on a phone call or finish an urgent email.  Or they take her just because.  Everyone likes to get in baby time with her every day.

I love having a part time schedule.  I don't choose to work for the sake of working, but since I do need to work for now it's lovely only working every other day.  Reduced hours, a smaller work load, and additional competent office employees have done wonders for bringing down my stress levels.  I'm not forgetting to eat and drink, I'm leaving on time at the end of the day, I'm getting in regular exercise on my off days, and overall I'm just feeling happier.

The tentative plan is to only work through the next semester when my husband can go back to full time work.  To that end, I'm busy training my replacements and teaching customers to do without me.  I've done good work at this job, but I'm ready to give all my attention to family life.

She likes to keep an eye on what's going on.

Improvising a way to keep baby sitting up while freeing both my hands to work

Tummy time is hard.

Office selfie

She found her thumbs.

Saturday, May 3, 2014

I get it now

One thing I think parents soon forget after having a child is what it was like to be childless.  In particular, they don't remember what they didn't know.  I'm close enough to the transition that I still have a self-awareness of the evolution from childless person to a parent.

When I was childless, there were lots of parent-things I never understood.  How can they not be grossed out by spit and poop and stuff?  Why do they talk about the kid(s) all the time?  Who cares about percentiles?  What do people do with babies?  What is it about kids that makes parents so clingy?  Why did that mom just post 5 practically identical pictures of her kid with the caption "I just couldn't pick my favorite one!"  Is it just me or are they all of the exact same thing?  Am I heartless?

Being told "Oh, just wait till you have kids" or "It's the best" or "Having kids changes everything" never satisfactorily explained any of it.

I don't dislike children, but wasn't ever one to get really excited over them and want to babysit and stuff.  I enjoy meeting and interacting with small relatives and such, but it's great to turn them back over to the parents when I was tired of them.  I guess I never really knew what to do with them.

I had these thoughts amid planning to have a child of my own. There were several times during pregnancy I'd get freaked out and ask my husband "What am I going to do with a baby?!  I don't know what to do with a baby!"  Despite that, I always wanted a family of my own.  My decision to procreate was based entirely on faith that God wants us to have families, so He'd make sure everything worked out OK.

You know how God makes things work out with babies?  One word: HORMONES.

Hormones are amazing!

I don't know how they do it, but they do their job well.  They help rewire the parent brain, actually physically change the brain, to turn people into parents.  How cool is that?!  You don't even have to be the one to actually birth the child to get the hit.  They affect the father or any other primary caregiver.

Hormones are the reason parents love a child as soon as it's in their arms.  They're the reason parents love the spit and poop and strange noises.  It's the reason I don't need entertainment beyond staring at my baby's face for longer than I want to admit, thrilled every time her expression changes.

Knowing my affection for my child is chemically based doesn't diminish the sensation at all for me.  It's still a miracle to me that humans developed this way, I'm grateful for it!  I couldn't conceive of any other way to totally and effectively overcome my inherent tendencies.  I still don't particularly care about other people's kids, but I'm totally enraptured with my own and that's what matters. Hormones are evolutionary essential.

I was so relieved to find the transformation-- the miraculous obsession-- happened to me that I saw in others.  I get it now.  I get the pride in burps and toots and poops and grunts and sneezes. I get the whining about how fast a baby grows and changes.  I get the sheer and surging joy that just happens and I don't want it to ever stop even when things are hard.  These are unexplainable sensations, so no wonder any attempt to try isn't meaningful to childless people.  One really can't understand them till the glorious hormones wash over and work their transformative magic.

This makes me wonder if more people would decide to have children if they could experience a preview of those feelings.  But then if they did, they'd be deprived of the exercise of faith needed to fully commit to the entire experience: the exhaustion and poop as well as the joy.

To the childless out there: be patient with twitterpated parents.  In a real sense, they cannot help it, and it's a good sign that nature is doing it's job to make sure that little baby is well cared for.  If you really want to understand, try it out yourself.  If you don't, just secretly block them from your Facebook feed and no hard feelings.


Baby's first day to church. She's wearing the adorable bunny outfit given
to her by our friend Rose.  The hat has long ears but they're laid back.
Russian accents abounded in our home.

Friday, April 18, 2014

Why I Used a Midwife and Birth Center

I want to provide some information about the care model I followed because some people are curious, some are misinformed, and I want to provide feedback to anyone else considering a similar option.  This is a long post, so proceed at your own interest.

After a lot of research and education both on my own and during my formal university education, I decided before I was ever married or pregnant that a birth center model would provide me the type of care I wanted through pregnancy and delivery as long as I remained healthy, normal, and low-risk.  I feel blessed that I happened to move somewhere that allowed this choice.

My daughter was born at Mountain Midwifery Center (MMC), an out-of-hospital birth center, attended by certified nurse midwife (CNM) and registered nurse (RN).  CNMs are specialists who are medically trained first as RNs, then complete several additional years of graduate or post-grad schooling and clinical training in gynecology, midwifery, and newborn care.  In hospital settings they often attend births individually or in tandem with an OB.  They are distinguished from direct-entry midwives who are not required to receive prior nursing or doctor training and learn through self-study, apprenticeship, or a private midwifery school.

I wanted to use a CNM for primary prenatal care because for normal, low-risk pregnancies, midwifery care is associated with lower intervention rates, lower mortality and morbidity associated with interventions, fewer recovery complications, and increased positive outcomes when compared with other models of care (such as OB, family doctor, etc).  Using a nurse midwife was important to me because I still wanted someone with general medical training.  Birth centers are associated with the similar positive outcomes.

Since I was healthy and low-risk, it seemed like a no-brainer to me to go the CNM care route.  I figured if my pregnancy wasn't risky, why use the people who specialize in risky?  Its like if I have healthy teeth and gums, why have a periodontist clean my teeth when a hygienist will do just fine (and for cheaper too)?

CNMs perform all the same tests and screenings a doctor would.  They can identify abnormality that will put you outside their scope of care and they have a high interest in doing so. MMC only accepts patients with normal, healthy pregnancies.  Any number of circumstances can result in "risking out", or being referred to hospital care.  They want everyone to be properly cared for, even it means patients must be sent elsewhere.

As their website says, MMC is "an education-intensive program of care".  In addition to qualifying physically, MMC requires all mothers AND their partners to complete classes covering breastfeeding, newborn care, natural childbirth, and expectations for labor and delivery at  MMC.  If you don't do the classes, you have to go elsewhere.  We spent nearly 20 hours in medically-based, researched-backed classes taught by RNs, CNMs, board certified lactation consultants and educators, certified childcare educators, and a research director with a PhD of molecular biology. (All of the teachers held two or more of those titles).  The classes were invaluable for helping us feel prepared for labor, delivery, and postpartum.

Midwives can attend births in a hospital, but I wanted to use MMC because of its flexibility with supporting labor and delivery.  You can labor and birth standing up, kneeing down, squatting, using a yoga ball, hanging onto a sling, sitting on a stool, lying on your side, sitting in a tub of water... basically any position is encouraged if it feels good and helps you progress except reclining on your back with your feet up. Labor tends to be shorter and more effective when the mother feels safe and comfortable in her environment, and when she is able to maneuver in ways that open the pelvis.

One other way MMC helps women feel safe and comfortable is making sure all patients have at least one prenatal appointment with every midwife and clinic nurse.  You don't know who will be on call when you go into labor, and they don't want you to have any strangers at the birth.  And if more than one woman is in labor and may deliver close together, they call in the next on call midwife and nurse so every woman has at least two attending personnel taking care of them.  There is never any "Stop pushing! Wait for the [whoever is supposed to be helping]!"

Nurses use external monitors for tracking mother and baby's vitals which allows mothers freedom of movement.  And thank goodness!  I couldn't take a contraction sitting or lying down.  I could only handle it if I was on my feet and bent over the bed into a pile of pillows moaning.  In retrospect, even if I'd expected to have an epidural in a hospital, my labor was so fast and strong that I never could have stayed in the position required to insert a catheter!  Good thing I'd mentally prepared to do without it in advance.  I think it makes a difference in perceived and actual tolerance.

And do without anesthesia I did.  Not because I was particularly brave, or crazy, masochistic, or virtuous, but because the birth center doesn't employ an anesthesiologist.  Of course they have emergency medication and equipment, oxygen, etc., but as far as medication for comfort you have to go to the hospital for that. I was OK with going the natural route because I'm not comfortable with the risks and side effects of epidurals on the mother or the baby (yes, it does affect the baby), and the other interventions it necessarily precipitates.  For me, the option seemed better reserved for an emergent complication.

If in the course of labor and delivery a mother needs to be transferred to a hospital because of an unforseen complication, or the mother simply decided she wanted anesthesia after all, the supporting hospital Swedish Medical Center is literally around the corner.  MMC has a fantastic relationship with the labor and delivery staff, and all MMC patients have to preregister with Swedish to streamline admission in the event of an unplanned transfer.

MMC's statistics speak for themselves.  Their rate of transfer to the hospital for any reason (both emergent [i.e. placental retention, excessive hemorrhage] and non-emergent [mainly for anesthesia]) is around 12%, and their overall c-section rate is around 6%.  For comparison, Colorado's hospital c-section rate is 30%-40%. The statistics can't be directly compared since it pits normal, low-risk pregnancies against all risk categories, but the chance of ending up with a c-section is still much lower for a low risk pregnancy when delivering at the birth center than at a hospital due to the lower rate of intervention.

Like I said in my last post, delivering a child was the hardest thing I've ever done.  But even though it hurt and I did not enjoy it like some people reportedly do, I don't regret choosing this route.  I felt safe, healthy, educated, and well cared for throughout my entire pregnancy, labor, and delivery.  We were released to go home 5 hours postpartum to rest and recover in the comfort and privacy of our home, fully trained to monitor and care for our child and recognize signs of abnormality requiring immediate medical attention.  Six weeks later, I'm fit as a fiddle and my daughter is a model of infant growth and development.

Heaven knows how many people implied or outright told me I was crazy, or uninformed, or weird, or irrational for using a midwife and/or a birth center.  I'd never had a baby before.  I don't know what I'll want when it comes down to it.  I will for sure be crying for anesthesia, blah, blah, blah.... spare me.  I trusted myself and my capabilities so I was not assuaged by discouragement though I was hurt sometimes when people I respected tried to undermine or dismiss my plan.  I kept in mind that all advice is autobiographical, and someone else's experience did not have to be predictive of my experience.

God bless the women who did the opposite of the people above-- who told me I was strong and could do it.  They didn't sugarcoat the guts it would take, but they also reinforced my confidence.  It meant a lot to me to feel understood and empowered.  It also helped to talk to or read about women who had the same plan as me but ended up with induction or c-section because of special need.  Their stories helped diffuse my anxiety and helped me feel OK if things didn't turn out the way I wanted.

Yes, birthing carries risk, but not everyone carries the same risks.  I was fortunate to be low risk and have the low-intervention birth experience I wanted.  If that is a possibility for you too, consider it!  And if you want it, you can do it!  Be strong and informed and don't fear.  The default is success, not failure.  If it wasn't so, Homo sapiens would not still be around.

Whatever your situation, plan for the birth you want and need, then surround yourself with people who support it.  Pregnancy is full of enough anxiety that you don't need to add to it by fraternizing with downers.

Now, a treat for those of you who made it through the whole post:

Gassy smiles

First trip to the park!

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

The Spice of Life

As I approached 40 weeks, I was convinced baby wasn't going to arrive for at least another week.  They told us the average first time mom goes 10 days overdue, so I just prepared for that circumstance.  I felt like my pre-labor symptoms were diminishing instead of increasing so physically it felt like baby would hold out a bit longer.  I told myself and everyone else I was shooting for March 14 because I thought Pi Day would be an awesome birthday.

I went to my 40 week prenatal appointment by myself.  My husband usually came to appointments with me, but missed this one because he flew to Utah for the day to attend his best friend's wedding.  I convinced him the baby wasn't going to come on the due date and I was right.  Once he was home, mentally I let go and thought "OK, we're set.  It can happen any time now."  The mind has a lot more to do with when labor starts than a lot of people give credit.  

The next day I decided I needed to walk because I hadn't been very active my last trimester and it would be good for my circulation.  I made plans with a friend to go get ice cream in the afternoon while my husband was at work.  We slowly walked around the Highland neighborhood near downtown.  Then we went and picked up my husband when we was home from work and went out to eat at a local pizzeria.  

An hour after we got home, my water broke.

Two hours later, my contractions began in earnest. 

After about four hours of laboring at home, I slipped unknowingly into transition.   I threw up my pizza and my husband called the midwife concerned about my hydration.  She told him to bring me in immediately. 

Twenty minutes later, we arrived to the birth center.  I was checked and I believe the midwife's exact words were "your cervix is gone".  I could start pushing. 

Just under two hours and many pushes later, we introduced our baby girl to the world.

Birthing a human was the hardest thing I've ever done.  I love my baby and I'm glad she's with us, but it was not enjoyable getting her here.  I didn't have any complications or anything during labor and delivery, quite the contrary, but dang if it didn't take every ounce of fortitude I had to stick it out.  However, I don't regret any of my birth experience.  While it hurt, at the same time I felt empowered afterward in a way I've never felt before.  I know I'm tougher than I used to be, and that's worth a lot.

We took a few days to settle on her name.  I still mostly call her Baby because I call all babies "Baby", just like I call all cats "Kitty" and all dogs "Pooch", but legally she is Pepper Lee.  Now, enjoy our obsession: 

Heading home.  Those clothes did not fit at all.  The hat kept falling over her eyes

One day

Two days

Baby's first staring contest.  She won.

5 days. First family picture.  It just sort of slipped our mind to do one any sooner.

First shower

Almost 2 weeks
3 weeks.  Don't be fooled by Blue Steel.  It means she's filling a diaper.

Shout out to follower Sarah who correctly identified the book (Anne's House of Dreams) alluded to in the previous post.  Honorable mentions to Lara and Benji for correctly associating it with Anne Shirley.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

The New Roommate

A certain young lady has arrived here.  She hasn't brought much luggage with her, but she evidently means to stay.*

*Anyone who correctly identifies the allusion gets my utmost respect and a mention on the blog

Saturday, March 8, 2014

40 weeks

When I studied abroad in Jerusalem, my Old Testament teacher explained how numbers in the Bible often had more symbolic meaning than literal.  The point I remember most vividly was that the number 40 didn't always mean 40, but usually meant "a lot", or in most contexts "a long time".  Forty days, forty nights... who knows how long the rain actually fell?  A long time, that's all that matters.

In human gestation, forty is used pretty much the same way.  It's a fairly arbitrary measure as well because nobody can actually know exactly how long the baby's been a thing to be, health providers give such a wide definition to full term, and babies vary so widely in growth that size is really not a reliable measure of time.  You can never really know how long the kid's been cooking when it comes out.  When you hit "forty" weeks, it just means you've been pregnant a long time.

I've been pregnant a long time.

But there is a shockingly close end in sight.  Child delivery has been one of those things, like getting married or graduating from college, that other people seemed to do a lot of and I imagined I'd probably do in the future but it was so far removed from my known world that I had no frame of reference to guide me in how it would be like when it happened.  Now here I am on the veritable brink.  Once again, life as I know it is about to shift and change forever in a moment.

Everyone keeps saying how things will change, yada yada yada.  DUH.  That is not useful knowledge.  I've really enjoyed our required classes through the birth center that gave me facts: this is the range of normal in a baby, this is not.  This is how you take care of normal, this is how you remedy not normal.  They didn't bother telling us life will be different; they know we know life will be different.  We're the ones who made the decision to change it.

Admittedly, we cannot know exactly how it will be for us till it happens, but we'll learn what works for us and manage all right.

Lots of people from work have more of less demanded I share baby news upon its arrival.  I've been more or less non-committal because probably the last people I'll make a priority to share with among my circle of acquaintance will be the accountant of the tenant who uses our downtown garage.  They must not think about what they are really asking of new parents, but I don't want to be rude and point it out so, well, pointedly.

We'll share as we have news, then inclination and energy to spread it.  I'm sure you understand, faithful readership.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Schrödinger's cat, my birthday, and baby things. It doesn't have to make sense.

Schrödinger's cat is a thought experiment. To dumb it down, Austrian physicist Schrödinger presents a scenario where a cat may be alive or dead, depending on an earlier random event.  Until you observe the cat to actually see whether it is alive or dead, you have to assume it's simultaneously alive and dead.

We didn't find out if our baby is a boy or girl.  It doesn't bother me at all because until baby comes out and we can see if it's a boy or girl, we get to assume it's both a boy and a girl and have all the fun of anticipating both for 9 months.  Our baby is Schrödinger's cat.

We really have no indication of whether baby is a boy or girl.  No feelings, dreams, inclinations, or preferences sway us one way or another.  We really just want a healthy baby.  We're prepared for both and will be happy with either. I'm really glad I don't get to pick.  I have a hard enough time deciding what to eat for lunch.  BTW, we think all the tips, tricks, and old wives tales for guessing are BS, so don't even go there.

I'm at 37.5 weeks, so baby is full term and may show up anytime between now and Spring Break.  Five weeks is a huge margin for normal delivery timing. It's 12.5% of the length of an average pregnancy.  It boggles my mind.  Baby is all ready to go.  S/he's been head down since about 19 weeks and dropped over 2 weeks ago if my bladder is a reliable indicator.  This is my husband's child for sure. He's always prepared for everything well in advance.  Even if his exit isn't for miles he'll get in the right hand lane even if traffic is slower there just to be ready.  He joked last week that baby simply identified the exit and got in the right lane early.  I laughed so hard from the truth of the statement I almost coughed up a lung.

I've been so sick the last couple weeks.  I was doing so well and then bam!  Worst cold of my life.  All those things people say about how miserable it is to be sick and pregnant are all true.  Comes on easier, stronger, and stays around longer.  Not cool.  My only consolation is supposing that all this coughing has helped strengthen my sorry abdominal muscles and will aid in delivery.  I'm happy to report I'm finally feeling much better.

I was sick over my birthday this year.  Which is fine because per usual, my husband had to work that night.  Not like I would have spent my evening any different if he hadn't.  I've pretty much spent the last 10 evenings on the couch watching the Olympics, blowing my nose, and getting up to pee during every commercial break and/or special athlete highlight. I did get to have a little fun. We went out to breakfast (I had bacon pancakes.  BACON PANCAKES.) after a morning prenatal appointment, my coworker brought me cake and flowers at work, and I got a email birthday greeting from my local dentist.

Don't ask me how old I am. I legitimately can't remember most of the time and having a birthday just complicated it.
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