Sunday, November 20, 2016

Taking Baby Steps Healing (+ Jambalaya Recipe)

"Taking Baby Steps" an ironic title to a post, I know, but its irony is fitting. 
Yesterday marked the day I would've been 20 weeks (I promptly deleted my "dates" from my calendar.) But there is was- my half way through my pregnancy note, a sad reminder of where I wish I was, how pregnant I would be, instead of planning on leaving work before the school year ended I am sitting here grading papers... it hits hard, again, that this is permanent. That this happened to me. That 'expecting' is no longer my reality. The baby boy I held is gone. No growing belly, no nursery to get ready, no sleepless nights due to an infant in my immediate future. I realized looking at that date, before I started crying, that I made it several days without crying. A baby step for me and I know the time between crying/thinking about what happened will become longer as more time passes. I am back at work, back in the gym, back to Saturday nights of wine and cheese with Matt and most of the time now I feel "normal."  
But do you know what else I feel? 
I feel like going on three weeks now I am sure my friends are wondering why I still bring it up. I feel the need to hide my tears from my husband who has tried his best to make me feel better. I don't want him to feel bad that I am still hurting despite everything. I feel like my anger towards this situation should be subsiding and it's not. I feel like my milk should finally fucking stop because there is no baby to feed. I feel like I need to do something with the one baby outfit (grey, fuzzy pjs with little dogs) I bought still hanging in the closet waiting for the baby that now isn't coming. I feel like the jealousy I have towards pregnant women or a post with someone and their newborn should go away. I feel the need to be bulletproof, to be the adjectives people have described me as... I am inspiring, tough, strong, and brave. But can I be honest?  I am still really, really sad. I still feel emptiness, heartbroken, and like the plan I had has been shattered. 
Finally, with the honesty of the last two posts and this one, I feel like this needs to be my last post on losing baby boy- for now. Moving forward doesn't mean forgetting- it just means letting the tears fall when they come, being kind to myself when I am having a hard day, holding my little girl and my Matt just a little tighter, and being positive about my future. Thank you all for your continued support. Xoxo

But what's a post without a recipe? Here is my take on my mom's jambalaya. A favorite growing up and now in our house. All the meat, all the carbs. 


(serves 10-12)
- 2 Tbsp Oil
- 1 Large Onion, finely chopped
- 2 Cloves Garlic, minced
- 2 Bell Peppers, chopped* (optional- I didn't have any!)
- 2 tsp Salt
- 1 tsp Cayenne Pepper
- 4-5 Chicken Sausage Links (andouille, chorizo, etc.), halved and cut into bite-sized pieces
- 1.5lbs Boneless, skinless Chicken Breasts, cut into 1/2" pieces
- 1/2-3/4 lb Cooked Ham, cubed
- 2 Dried Bay Leaves
- 3 Cups White Rice
- 6 Cups Chicken Stock
- Fresh Green Onion, optional

1. In a large dutch oven, over medium heat, drizzle in the oil and add the onion and garlic (and peppers if you are using them.) Saute until they are soft- 5-7 min. 

2. Add the seasonings and chicken. Cook until it is browning, it doesn't need to be cooked through. About 5-7 minutes. 
3. Add the ham, sausage ... stir....

...add rice. Cook 2 minutes. 

Add the stock, bay leaves and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to a simmer, cover, and cook 25-30 minutes until the liquid is absorbed and the rice is cooked. Sprinkle with onion and serve!

Monday, November 14, 2016

Check-in and Fall Recipes!

It is exactly two weeks since I lost baby boy. The first week was up and down. I am incredibly grateful for the letters, texts, calls, messages, and thoughts after sharing my story. I am fully aware that some won't understand- my previous self wouldn't- some (more than I thought) have gone through something similar and everything inbetween. I have gone back to work and gone back into the gym. I am trying to find my new "normal" and I truly feel that I am forever changed. My priorities moving forward are different. My good friend sent me a letter that said, "Situations like this will change you. The only thing you can choose is if you change for the better." I can only choose to change for the better- I have a little one still watching my moves and how I react to this will affect her as well. I don't have a choice but to be a parent, do I want to wear sweat pants and cry in a ball until I feel better some days? Absolutely. But that won't change my reality and I need to move forward. I am someone who wants to try again immediately upon failure and I feel like this was a failure. I am having the hardest time getting over the fact that this wasn't my fault, it was no one's fault. My baby's heart stopped because of nothing but crap luck basically. That's hard to take. I still blame myself- go through everything I did or didn't do- I know myself and I know I probably won't have closure until I have a healthy baby in my arms.

My second week I feel like mentally has been harder. We got his ashes and I cried for a while after that- the entire situation has me still fairly angry and bitter. Even though I am back in the gym (yay!), I am struggling and feeling defeated there too. I know when you have a baby you make sacrifices and physically will lose some strength and endurance. I was prepared for that. It is hitting me hard that I lost strength/endurance on top of not having a baby. It feels like a waste. I lost him and then lost again. I have some amazing friends who are keeping me positive when I want to cry. I realize I can "get it back," but it is more that I lost it in the first place for what seems like no reason now. 

But here I am... starting slow, but glad I'm back- a WOD of 30 muscle ups for time turned into 10 rds of 5 C2B/5 ring dips. Week 3- crying a lot less, trying to be more positive, and when I'm healed we can try for a baby again. In the meantime, it's time to start training! My set-back is my opportunity for a comeback.

As I try to get everything back together physically, Matt and I are getting our diets back on track as well. I have been cooking up a storm... here is what meal prep looked like this week: 

- Sweet Potatoes- roasted at 425 degrees for 20ish min, on parchment lined sheets, tossed in avocado oil (high smoke point), garlic salt, black pepper and paprika 
- Baked Chicken- baked at 375 degrees for 25-30 min, drizzled with olive oil and sprinkled with salt and pepper
- Stir-fried veggies- purchased at Costco in the frozen section... amazing! Green beans, broccoli, snap peppers, peppers, onion, water chestnuts. Stir-fried in a wok with a drizzle of oil.  
- Oikos Triple- zero Vanilla Yogurt and pomegranate seeds
- White Rice
- Sausage, Egg and Potato Bake- 1 lb sausage (browned and crumbled in a pan), 12 eggs, 1 cup milk, 8oz Frozen, Shredded potatoes (ie: simply potatoes), salt and pepper- In a greased 9"x13" glass dish- spread out the potatoes. Top with sausage. Whisk milk, eggs, salt and pepper- pour on top. Wrap in tin foil and bake at 350 degrees for 1 hour. 

For lunch I am having vegetables, 1/2 cup rice, 1/2 chicken breast, 1 tbsp peanut butter, and soy sauce. Matt is having the same except more of everything and sweet potatoes too. :)

I also am having a sweet tooth for no reason so I made a pumpkin bundt cake and my take on a ginger snap! 

Pumpkin Bundt Cake

- 2.5 Cups Coconut Sugar (or brown sugar)
- 1 Cup Melted Butter (one stick)
- 3 eggs
- 3 Cups Flour
- 2 tsp Baking Soda
- 2 tsp Pumpkin Pie Spice
- 1 tsp Cinnamon
- 1/2 tsp Salt
- 1 15-oz Can Solid Pumpkin- puree (NOT pumpkin pie filling)

Preheat Oven to 350 degrees
1. Combine the sugar and butter in a large bowl or stand mixer. Cream with a hand-beater or the mixer. Add eggs, one at a time, mixing between each addition. 
2. Whisk the dry ingredients together. Add 1/3 of the mixture to the liquid, beat, add 1/2 can pumpkin, beat, add another 1/3 flour, beat... until both pumpkin and flour are added and well combined. 
3. Grease a bundt pan. Bake 60 minutes until a toothpick inserted comes out clean. Let it cool completely before removing. 


(makes 12-14 cookies)

- 3/4 Cup Almond Butter (or other nut butter)
- 3/4 Cup Coconut Sugar (or brown sugar)
- 1 Egg
- 3 tsp Ground Ginger
- 1 tsp Cinnamon
- 1 tsp Vanilla
- Pinch of Salt

Preheat Oven to 400 degrees.
1. In a food processor, combine the coconut sugar and spices. Pulse until fine. 
2. Add the egg and almond butter. Run the food processor until a "ball" forms. Take out the blade. Using a tablespoon, roll the dough into balls and place them on a parchment lined cookie sheet. 

Press down slightly until they are 1/4" thick. Bake 10-12 minutes. Let them cool completely before eating. 

Nutrition Facts
Servings 13.0
Amount Per Serving
calories 137
% Daily Value *
Total Fat 8 g12 %
Saturated Fat 2 g8 %
Monounsaturated Fat 4 g
Polyunsaturated Fat 2 g
Trans Fat 0 g
Cholesterol 14 mg5 %
Sodium 17 mg1 %
Potassium 12 mg0 %
Total Carbohydrate 15 g5 %
Dietary Fiber 2 g8 %
Sugars 12 g
Protein 4 g8 %
Vitamin A0 %
Vitamin C0 %
Calcium4 %
Iron4 %
* The Percent Daily Values are based on a 2,000 calorie diet, so your values may change depending on your calorie needs. The values here may not be 100% accurate because the recipes have not been professionally evaluated nor have they been evaluated by the U.S. FDA.

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

The Early Loss of Baby #2

Sometimes life isn't fair, it just sucks. There's no better explanation. You could give me the cliche phrases of "everything happens for a reason" and "it wasn't meant to be" etc. but you know what? Sometimes it doesn't happen for a reason, sometimes there is absolutely no explanation for the cruel things that happen in life... just like we don't try to put an explanation on all the happy times. This is one of those times. 
I went back and forth deciding whether or not to share- after all it's personal, I have students that read this, and it's still very fresh- but after some thinking, since that's all I have done for days laying in a hospital bed hoping to win the lottery chance that would win me the miracle of life for my baby, I decided to share because this is seemingly more common that one would think and maybe it will help in healing. Although this is not everyone's story or feelings- this is my story. This is how I feel. If you would've asked me prior to pregnancy about losing a child at 16 weeks I probably would've been not as empathetic just out of ignorance. It's only 16 weeks, it's not viable outside of you, it's still just a fetus technically, so why so attached? 

The Story:

The whole last 7 days have felt like a bad dream I can't shake. There was no bleeding, there were no cramps, there was nothing before last week that gave Matt and me any indication anything was wrong. We were in the second trimester, 15+ weeks, supposedly "in the clear" as far as miscarriage- I had started to feel little flutters, heartbeat at last check was good. Everything was as it should be. 
Monday- flew home from LA, landing at 7am and was exhausted. Went to the gym for a quick workout, but wasn't feeling great (headache, etc.) and chalked it up to just being overly tired. Picked up Charlie from school and everyone went to bed early.
Tuesday- went into work but could hardly function. I was having a fever (sweats and chills), a horrible headache and body aches. Oh boy- the flu- I thought.  I went home from work after two hours to nap...

And the nightmare begins...

I got up from my nap and a gush of fluid came out, I thought it was incredibly odd, but during pregnancy I feel like you leak things all the time so I chalked it up to that and being sick. I didn't have cramps and it wasn't clear like amniotic fluid so that honestly didn't even register, so I cleaned myself up and tried to go on with my day even though I still felt terrible. 
Wednesday- I attempted work again even though I had had two more "episodes" of gushing fluid. I felt like I had missed a lot of work and despite not feeling well, my students needed me. Went to the Dr after work just because the fluid leaking seemed excessive. Heartbeat sounded ok- maybe a little high at 174bpm, ultrasound showed low fluid, but nothing concerningly low and swabs were sent to the lab to check me for infection. Back home I went, unconcerned- Charlie had low fluid the whole time and she was perfect so, again, nothing registered to be wrong. 
Thursday- After a full day of work I checked my voicemail. Urgent call from the Dr to go to the hospital right away. Away I went to triage to meet Mara, who happened to be working at that hospital at the time, and Matt. I went into the triage unit and they did the typical blood work, vitals, heartbeat (184bpm), etc. They did another check of the fluid coming out, but because of the color, it was inconclusive if it was amniotic. To the surprise of Matt and me they wanted to keep me overnight for observation. I have to admit we were both a little irritated- why did they have to keep us just to take my temp every two hours and monitor me?? But we stayed and made the arrangements with family to pick up Charlie and the dog and miss work Friday.
Friday- My white blood cell count was high but not "too high" for a pregnant woman, the heart rate was the same- high but not "too high," so I went to a high definition Ultrasound with a high-risk OB Dr. The ultrasound showed incredibly low fluid around the baby- much lower than the Wednesday ultrasound. Coming back to the room I broke down- why couldn't I have a normal pregnancy? Charlie was hard on me and now this. I didn't think I would lose the baby at this point, but the bad news was starting to set in- the Dr's suggestion that my fluid was leaking and the amniotic sac was ruptured was becoming more of a reality. More waiting. The high risk OB and my Dr. came in to  do some more poking and feeling and swabbing .... then tell me what I don't want to hear- the sac is completely ruptured- here are yours options... at this point I'm crying... this is not what's supposed to happen... this is not how pregnancy is supposed to go. Conversation was a blur, but Matt and I choose not to terminate. Although we were told the chance of the baby making it to a viable gestational age was comparable to winning the lottery, as long as the baby had a heartbeat and wouldn't give up, neither would we. Matt brought Charlie to see me that night, we ate hospital ice cream and watched a movie in my bed. That night I cried on and off all night.
Saturday- we begged to go home for the night. I wasn't spiking a fever, my white blood cell count was still high, but normal, baby still had a heartbeat and sitting in a hospital room was just not what we wanted to do. So they let us go home, with instructions to be on bedrest, check my temperature and come back the next day. We spent the night with Charlie and Annie. Watched movies and football, cuddled, and my mom brought us Chinese food. I honestly did adhere to directions and only got up when needed and laid on the couch 99% of the time. Matt and Charlie carved pumpkins and I love seeing them together. The heartbreak happens here though because I know Matt will be an amazing dad to his biological children and it hurts knowing I probably won't be able to give him one this time. 

Sunday- Matt and I say good bye to Charlie and pack up our things for an indefinite stay at the hospital. Still hoping it'll be months and baby has a miracle. 
After settling in our room the gamut of tests begin again- but this time we were told the worst phrase I have heard- there's no heartbeat. After two more ultrasound checks, no heartbeat. Although we knew this was a strong possibility, it so much more devastating as a reality. We were given our options, but at this point I didn't want to delay the inevitable- it was time to start induction- to have our baby months before he was supposed to arrive- it was time to end this dream. 

The Hardest 48 hours of my Life:

This is by far the cruelest game of life I have ever played. We started induction at 4pm Sunday afternoon. Just pills that would start contractions. I was told it would feel like period cramps, then turn into more "labor-type" cramping and the typical pressure to push that could come on suddenly. It could take anywhere from 12-18 hours and I would be given more pills every four hours until the baby came out. We had a nurse just for us and Dr.'s that checked regularly because my health at this point was priority. Matt and I ordered pizza and tried to make the best of a shitty day- I only had one piece in fear things would go fast and my stomach wouldn't handle it well. I set up my lesson plans for the next day and answered student emails. I don't know why. I just couldn't let my students down even in this time in my life.
I was allowed to have pain killers or even an epidural, but I chose to go without. I don't know if it was my way of wanting to physically feel the pain I was feeling emotionally or what, but I just breathed through the contractions that intensified through the night, hoping it would all be over soon. By my 4am dose they said it should be before 8am the way I was progressing. Nope. And by mid morning I was starting to lose it. It had now been 14 hours+... I was hungry, exhausted, and in pain. I laid there watching the minutes tick by, waiting for the next contraction, occasionally texting my family and close friends to update them. Matt laid by my side, held my hand, rubbed my back, anything so make this nightmare easier. 
By my noon dose on Monday I told my nurse I wanted something for the pain- I couldn't do it anymore- it had been 20 hours and my mental strength to keep going was done. I was waving my white flag in surrender to a situation I had no control of. Matt left to go to the car to grab something seeing as this time was as good as any. My nurse came in and was prepping my IV- suggesting I go to the bathroom before she pushed the drug because it would make getting up hard. Good. I was done feeling. 
I went to the bathroom like any other time, but immediately upon standing felt pressure and started screaming for my nurse... panicking I would lose my baby in the "hat" in the toilet... a horrible thought to have a baby in a bathroom, in a toilet, it didn't deserve that is all I could think... it was still mine even if it was dead. She grabbed towels and walked me back to the bed, yelling for help and holding the baby who obviously still attached. By this point I was inconceivably sobbing, laying on my side in the bed waiting for the Dr. to come. Matt came back to the room sometime in this chaos and ran to the bed to hold my hand. The next bit was a blur. The baby was out. It was a boy. Nothing was visibly wrong with him. Placenta wouldn't detach. More drugs to help contractions. More sobbing. Drugs to help with the pain. I started throwing up. Arguably the worst couple hours I have ever experienced. 
We were told my placenta wouldn't detach and my bleeding was worse than they commonly have. It was time for option two- general anesthesia and a D and C. I left my Matt and was taken to surgery. All went well and back to my room I went. 
Matt and I decided we wanted to see our baby. I knew he wouldn't look "normal" being that he was so young in gestation, but I couldn't not hold him. He was 7.5 inches long, 2.5oz. He had tiny little finger and toe nails, skinny little legs and he was completely perfect wrapped in a tiny blanket white, fuzzy blanket, born just too early by no fault of his. I don't know how long I held him, but eventually I knew I had to say good-bye and it was time to let go and start healing. 

The After:

The hospital and nurses and Dr.s were incredibly kind. They made Matt and me a memory box of his footprints and measurements, kept baby boy next door in case we wanted to see him again, offered pictures, funeral services, etc. 
My family was amazing. They did everything they could in a situation that no one can really help in. They took care of making sure we had food when we got home, offered to visit or not, took care of Charlie and Annie. Anything they could do. 
My work friends went above and beyond made sure my classes were taken care of, my lessons were carried out, and my leave was not stressful on me. I actually worked getting lessons ready right after holding him. Again, I don't know why. My attempt to still be a good teacher and not let my students feel my hurt maybe. To try to feel normal again? I don't know. 
My friends were there when I needed them and respected my wishes to not be bothered when I just needed time. They listened, told me they loved me, and offered anything they could do.
My Matt. This was his son too. I cannot be grateful enough he is my husband. I cannot imagine how this hurts him too. We were both so excited. He holds our family together.

As I opened up about my experience it is amazing how many others have suffered something similar. Second trimester (and third) losses of a child and heartbreaking. They are unfair. I am at a loss to find the words to explain how much my whole body hurts from going through this physically and emotionally. There really are no words. I don't wish this on anyone, but I honestly can tell you fr
om the other side I never imagined it would hit me this hard.

Moving On:

I feel like life is going to fast for me right now. I need it to slow down so I can re-group and get it together and come back to it. It's a new month, the sun is shining, the leaves are at peak color and I stand here not knowing how to pick up the pieces. 

The unfairness of this situation doesn't end when you deliver a stillborn child. Like that wasn't a traumatizing enough experience. Your life doesn't go back to normal so you can move on- even after the maternity clothes that were ready for your changing body are put away, the cute outfit you bought for your new addition is hidden so you aren't reminded of it, you can't just go like nothing happened. It starts when you are wheeled out of the hospital with a box of memories instead of a child. Past people who stare at you crying, holding a box. Out through the lobby where family waits for, and people leave with, their living babies. You still must recover like a normal pregnancy- no working out, taking it easy in life tasks, etc. Your milk still comes in like your body doesn't know you don't have a baby to feed. Your arms have track marks from all the blood draws and the IV. Your body needs to go back if any weight was gained. You still bleed- you don't get the sweat pants to be comfortable in, you have to make this work with your work clothes. Physically your body won't let you forget for at least a few weeks. Work is also waiting- there is no recovery time- life isn't on hold for you. I worked through my hospital stay making sure my students were not forgotten and now must do one of the harder parts, facing them in a week. 

Lessons Learned and All the Stage of Grief: 

The number one lesson in this pregnancy is that I am not in control. From the beginning to the end I was not in control. Pretending I wasn't pregnant and could do anything and everything was so completely false. My last post seems silly now. I would give anything to be still pregnant. I would love to lose all my gains to have him growing still. I would lay in a bed for months if it meant I could have him make it to term. 
The guilt I feel for this situation is astronomical. Between the field trips, the parent-teacher conferences, the trip to LA, the fitting in workouts even when I was exhausted, I was beyond stressed many days and nights- was that all too much? I know the Dr.'s said the membranes were weak and there is no rhyme or reason for this, and there is nothing I did or didn't do, but how do you not feel guilty? How do I not feel that this was my fault in some way? My body couldn't keep the baby. I couldn't give Matt the son he wanted. We now have to start over. I have to go through the trials of getting pregnant again, be sick again. I have to start over, again.
I hate all pregnant women. I'm sorry and it's no offense to my friends that are, but that's how I feel right now. I know that it is mainly jealousy, but I can't stand the complaining. I do not feel bad that you are uncomfortable, you have gained weight, you can't stand waiting any longer to meet your little one, and seeing your feet has become hard. I would absolutely love to have those kind of complaints... and honestly so would a lot of other women. So I don't want to see it or hear it... I want to say, "shut the f-ck up, at least your pregnant" and I am afraid I will, so I have "unfollowed" everyone on social media who might instigate that in me and am steering clear as best I can. 
I am angry. I am angry at the world and life that this happened to me. It isn't fair. A f-cking 16-year old crack head can have a baby and I can't. I finally was working towards the family I always wanted and it was taken from me. 
The final thought I have in all of this is how lucky I am to have Matt. He stayed up every night all night with me. Got up when I got up to re-tuck me in bed and make sure I was ok. Held my hand through all the checks, the pain, the everything. Took care of the house when I laid on the couch in a ball and cried. Played with Charlie when I was on bed rest and unable to move a lot- colored with her, carved pumpkins, made waffles- everything to make her life as normal as possible so she didn't need to know what was going on. Matt stood strong by my side to listen to the Dr.'s and nurses when I was breaking down and losing it even though I know he was broken too. This tragedy has brought us closer together, baby boy will always be our first, but I can't wait to see him hold our child we can take home. 
I can't wait to get back to my new "normal." And when we decide to try to have another I will definitely be more cautious even though the likelihood of this happening again is rare. No workout, trip, work event, stress, no nothing is worth this. Positive Thoughts.