Monday, December 8, 2014

Eat your Veggies!

Being a new mom has dramatically cut into my free time. Big surprise. Every teenager alive has heard this warning from their parents as a psychological birth control. A mallet beating against the anvil of hormones telling them to get naked. Well, teenager or not, it's not a lie. Baby NEEDS me---constantly.

I actually want to hold him all the time, but I eventually DO have to put him down to do things like, you know, bath my stinky parts and maybe feed my calorie-burning inferno, milk-making body. (By the way, TMI: it impossible to NOT feel like a dairy cow while pumping.)

I digress.

My point is that with limited, baby nap times of about 20 minutes during the day, I need quick, nutritious meals that will help me keep up milk production and feel half-way alive. Cue the veggies, please!

We know the benefits. We've been knocked over the head by campaign after campaign touting the cancer-fighting, super hero phytochemicals: chlorophyll, beta-carotene, various amino acids that make up B vitamins, mono-saturated fats, tannins, antioxidants, etc. Of course, to benefit from these chemicals, we actually have to eat them, and prepare them for maximum absorption. Most people think the most healthful way to eat veggies is in their raw state, which is not necessarily always true.

It is good to eat some this way, but flash cooking them, either by blanching or sauteing, denatures many nutrients, making them easier to absorb. If you want to know which ones, take a nutrition class. I loved the one I took at UNT and learned that balance and temperance is the key to a healthful diet and state of being.

Also at UNT, I took a class entitled Stress Reduction Through Movement. Doesn't that sound happy? We actually covered some nutrition information as well. For information regarding overall health and well-being, I recommend the acronym NEWSTART. Click the link. Your adrenal glands will thank you.

Okay, enough diatribe. Onward to the recipe!

I've realized since being with my husband, that many people are intimidated by the thought of cooking vegetables. No, they don't taste like cupcakes and often, many people overcook them, resulting in mushy, nearly tasteless, wanna-be baby food. To those people, or to the seasoned cook searching for a quick, healthy recipe, I give you Stoven Veggies!

The concept is broad and can involve countless permutations and ingredients. This is one example.

Stoven Veggies

You'll need:
1 large russet potato, diced 
2-3 Tbs olive oil
1-2 cloves of garlic, peeled and minced
3 large leaves of kale or 2 handfuls of fresh spinach
2 small radishes or 1 small beet, diced
pinch of salt
pinch of pepper
1/2 tsp dried basil
1/3 cup shredded smoked mozzerella or 1/3 cup shredded parmesan (I'm a cheese hound, so I do both)
Optional: a few stems of fresh parsley
1.)Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees F. 
2.) In a small cast-iron or anodized aluminum pan (I have this one), heat the garlic in the oil, on medium heat until tender.   
3.) Add potatoes and agitate until all pieces are coated in oil.
4.) Add radishes or beet pieces. Repeat motion. Saute until pieces are slightly tender.
5.) Add greens and toss.
6.) Add seasonings. Toss.
7.) Add cheese and place on center rack in the oven. Serve hot when cheese has melted and slightly browns.

This is a very versatile recipe. Basically, you need : oil base, starch, greens, seasonings, and cheese. Mix, heat, serve. Prep time should not exceed 10 minutes, neither should cook time. Happy sauteing!

Babies Are Constant Surprises

Growing up, I always knew I wanted a kid. How? I wasn't sure about that part. I wasn't sure I could find a peer with whom I could live permanently. My obscene disregard of the clock and need to have solitary time on a regular basis aren't the most traditionally appealing traits in a woman.  Still, eventually, I wanted an offspring. I thought maybe an adoption would work or a foster child or sperm donor and IVF---or maybe I would just get knocked up after a one-nighter and never tell the guy. Who knows?

Well, I did end up finding a mate whom I could love and tolerate, and he me. When the subject of children arose between us, we'd always imagine a kid who could walk, talk, and throw a ball. We completely skipped imagining the baby stage and I especially never thought about the pregnancy part. We were rudely awakened in March of 2013. I hastily paced our tiny bathroom for half an hour while re-checking the pee stick every 30 seconds. Shock was the dominant emotion, mixed with equal parts joy and terror. Holy God, I am going to be responsible for this kid's soul, its life---AND I have to grow it. My body is going to be destroyed... My thoughts went round and round in circles like this for weeks. My husband was overjoyed, but his concerns were different from mine, mostly financial. He suddenly had the manly provider mentality.

Needless to say, we've survived thus far, but not without some bumps, both wonderful and miserable. This is a list of the most unexpected things I encountered through this whole process. If you are thinking about starting a family, male or female, feel free to consider these 10 things. Heads up, my details are very honest, so be forewarned.

#1  Earliest Symptoms of Pregnancy

Most books and websites list early symptoms as nausea, headaches, sore breasts, etc. as the earliest indicators. These were true at some point during the first trimester, but I had an inkling that my oven was occupied during the third and fourth weeks-before pregnancy tests are accurate-because my temperature was higher than usual and I was thirsty. The temp change wasn't readable, but when my husband would snuggle up to me during those early weeks, my body heat would make him break a sweat, when I would feel perfectly comfortable. Now, when I say I was thirsty, I was THIRSTY. Constantly. Stand-under-a-waterfall-and-gulp thirsty. Toujours. Point being that you will have your own signs. If your body feels off, it probably is.

#2 Puking

I have a strong aversion to vomit. Whether it be me or someone else, I will vacate the premises and sprint two blocks if I have a suspicion of someone retching. That being said, I was not looking forward to morning sickness. The first few weeks, I just had an unpleasant thud of nausea hitting the back of my throat all day. However, when week six arrived, I was camped out on the foot of my bed, that was conveniently 4 steps from my toilet. Twenty weeks and two ER trips for dehydration later, I only had a few waves of nausea and  some heartburn that hit me during the rest of the pregnancy. Most women don't suffer this badly, but for the lucky 2% (including the lovely Duchess of Cambridge) who suffer from hyperemesis gravidarum, pregnancy is anything but pleasant, and can result in being life-threatening.

Seriously, at 10 weeks,  I was standing next to my best friend, being the maid of honor, as she was GETTING MARRIED and I couldn't hold my cookies. I got dizzy and had to run back down the aisle to the bathroom to avoid complete and utter mortification. I still tried to hide under the table for the duration of the reception.  

#3 Feeling baby move is like glitter-bubbles and rainbows

When I first felt the baby move, and was sure it was the baby and not gas, I giggled stupidly to myself for an hour. You will feel as if all is well and you are actually pregnant. There is much doubt before this. One just feels sick and dying in the weeks before this sensation. During the second trimester, the baby moving feels like someone is tickling your belly from underneath your skin. It's sensational and happy. The last trimester feels like a mongoose in a burlap sack, but you are terrified if you go too long without feeling said mongoose move.

#4 Friendships shift

Friends who don't have kids will either jump on your pregnancy bandwagon and you'll feel as if you've started some trend-train headed for Hollywood, or they will become so disinterested in your bodily function and excuses to not go out, that they will become acquaintances. Don't fault them for this. They have no way to understand how your complete world has shifted and that you have absolutely ZERO control over any of it.

#5 Being healthy is crap

Not really. Not in the sense you're thinking. When I fell pregnant, I was 116.2 lbs, running 2-3 miles a day, was a total yoga rat, and my diet would have made any Food Inc. nutritionist proud. None of this mattered. It didn't matter how much I took care of my body, I had an high-risk stamp on my medical charts throughout my pregnancy thanks to HG, severe anemia, and obstetric cholestasis---none of which I could improve through diet and exercise. I had to give in and take medications, stay on modified bed-rest, and be induced 3 weeks early because of these issues. If you suffer from pregnancy complications, remember it's not your fault. I spent a lot of time feeling guilty about taking nausea meds (that are usually given to chemo patients) and other prescriptions, because I'm a naturalist. I had a complete meltdown to my doctor one day, crying, "I swear I'm not negligent! I just can't stop throwing up!" and "I feel like every time I take a pill, I'm chopping off one of its fingers!" She assured me, these drugs don't work like this. They're safer than letting the conditions run their course. Drugs = better than severe dehydration. Got it.

#6 You will want an ultrasound every week

Reading about the size of your baby as compared to something from the produce aisle every week is not enough. Depending on your doctor, you may have an US during you initial visit, your 8th, 20th, 32nd, and 36th weeks. During the initial visit, the baby isn't usually visible, but the amniotic sack is. Read: jellybean. 8th week: gummy bear. The print-out of that gummy bear will help you mentally withstand the rest of your morning sickness or HG. It has a heartbeat and may even wiggle around. My gummy bear looked like he was dancing rhythmically. I finally believed I was pregnant.

#7 Gender disappointment

Like postpartum depression, gender disappointment is rarely discussed. My husband and I were sure we were having a girl, and when the tech told us, "It's a boy! He's not shy!" My reaction was happy that he was healthy so far, but strangely jarred and sad that it wasn't a girl. All of my daydreams of the baby had revolved around pink nursery accoutrements, taking her to tea rooms, theatre, American Girl dolls, and all of the things I did as a child. I felt so guilty that I wasn't simply overjoyed to have a baby at all---a healthy baby at that! Once I worked through the guilt and realized that I wasn't alone in feeling like this, I began to feel happy about all of the boy things I would get to do with him. It took me a few days, but I realized that I could still take him to the theatre and museums and hunting and a tea room, he would just learn the male social construct. He would be my date and wear tiny little suits and learn manners. I can teach him to be a well-rounded gentleman and an appreciator of art, science, tea, and taxidermy---just like his father. Now I can't imagine not having him and I'm sooo excited about raising a boy!

#8 Between pregnancy, L&D, and recovery, which was most pleasant?

Drum roll please... labor and delivery was easiest and most enjoyable of the three. This does NOT apply to everyone and I certainly didn't expect it myself. Due to my complications, I went into early labor twice, but was able to stop it at home. Those labor pains though, began ripening and dilating my cervix. I went into true labor the night before my induction, but needed pitocin and my water broken the next morning. I opted for an epidural before these, but was at a 5 with very little pain. The contractions were more uncomfortable than anything. With the epidural and all of the induction aids, I progressed to a 10 while receiving visitors and talking with my sister and husband. The nurse came to check me and said, "Okay, time to start pushing!" That was a surprise! It progressed, and though exhausting, it was exciting. I hadn't daydreamed about too many good things related to an infant, but the finality of the pregnancy being over was my main motivation in pushing. The relief that followed is one of the sweetest sensations I've ever experienced (being taken care of in the hospital for 3 days was really nice too).

#9 The Feels

Oh wow, was I so NOT prepared for the feelings part. I've always been a bit of a hard-ass. I can tell you exactly one movie (The Christmas Shoes) and one book (Where the Red Fern Grows) that have made me cry. Relationships? I always end them. Falling in love? It takes me a looooong time. It took me 4 years and living together for 3, to decide that I wanted to marry my husband. I assumed that it might take me a few months to warm up to this parasite that had made me so, incredibly miserable for the better part of a year. Nope. As soon as I saw him, I burst into tears (where previously, through the whole labor, there were none). A mixture of relief, joy, pure love, some worry (the nurses had to take him away to pink up), and emotions for which there are no words crashed upon me in an enormous, happy, fluffy avalanche.

#10 Baby Bliss

This may come as a surprise to many people, but I had a hard time imagining the happy, goofy-in-love part of the baby coming out. I had visions of a screaming, pooping, hungry, infant that pop culture has turned into a mainstay of Hollywood comedy. I knew sex was going to be on hold, I figured breastfeeding would be difficult, basically all things that are glass-half empty about having a baby. Even Baby Blues were imagined more than any happiness and contentment about this little larvae. Quite the opposite happened after the delivery. I was exhausted and in a considerable amount of pain from the tearing and packing, but I had an overwhelming sense of well-being. Aside from some emotional sensitivity the first few days home from the hospital that was directly related to some nursing issues, I was in Heaven. Imagine my delight at changing a diaper at 2:30 AM, and smiling dumbly to myself. Staring for hours at my sleeping little parcel wasn't long enough. Hearing him cry physically pains me. Seeing him smile or learning how to grasp makes me giddy.

Ultimately, of all my grand academic and recreational accomplishments, they pale terribly in comparison to the pride and joy I feel of growing this little human. I am a mother, struck deeply in love.

For all of the mamas out there, what was unexpected for you? For all who want children later, what do you imagine motherhood to be like?