Thursday, January 22, 2015

Personhood

Baby TCIE:

 5 weeks gestation, 3 weeks since conception (earlier than most abortions)
 
27 weeks 2 days gestation, 25 weeks 2 days since conception, most assuredly "viable" outside the womb with medical support
 
 
These are pictures of the SAME PERSON.  The first picture shows a gestational sac, only.  You cannot see him... but he's there.  In fact, his heart is already beating!  But it's too small for ultrasound to detect, yet.  In about 5-6 more days, you'd see him.  But, just because you cannot see him, doesn't mean he doesn't exist, nor that he is in any way a DIFFERENT PERSON than the one you see in the second picture.  That's still him!  Now the entire screen is taken up by his smooched face!!  It's impossible to get his whole body in one image.  You can even see his eyelashes!!!  (Isn't that wild?!)  He also gave us a big yawn during this ultrasound.  A yawn.  Something people do.  PEOPLE.  Here it is:
 
 video
 
 
 
Today we remember the over 55.5 million PEOPLE who have died since Roe vs. Wade was passed (including, on a much smaller scale, the mothers who died as a result of abortion).  Please join me in a moment of silence in remembrance of these beautiful souls, and for those who survived abortion (mothers, Drs, "health"care providers, and even some children!) we pray for complete healing as they live in the aftermath every single day.
 
 
Baby TCIE says, "Oy!  How hard is it to see I'm a person just like the rest of you?!  I think I'll go back to sleep, now."

Sunday, January 18, 2015

I Didn't Know What I Was Missing - But I Knew It

Pregnancy after 8 years of infertility... it's funny how it's not as strange of a transition as I always envisioned it would be.  For whatever reason, to me, this just feels so natural, like once egg and sperm met and implanted in the uterus, my body just said, "YESSSSSSS!!!  THAT'S what we're talking about!!  We got it from here, ovaries, testicles.  Carry on."

Motherhood, similar in some ways, and completely different in others.  It may have given the impression to other mothers that I have been downplaying, or minimizing the sacrifices and sufferings of motherhood.  It also is not lost on me that there is a TON I haven't yet experienced, and I cannot possibly understand until I live through it, when it comes to motherhood.  However, I find that my history of childlessness despite all efforts at fertility, adoption, and foster care gives me a unique vantage point on this front. 

I'm not an expert at pregnancy.  Nor at motherhood.  And, I never will be!  But, I am constantly reminded of how little I know of motherhood suffering, how little I understand of other mothers' struggles... which is just so different than was my experience through infertility and childlessness.  Amongst others who knew exactly what infertility felt like, many at the early stages, many at the "veteran" stages, I found that there existed a common ground of encouragement.  Some of us knew the heartache of miscarriage (myself not included), while others the heartache of never having conceived.  Some of us knew the pain of marital distress, loss of financial stability, health issues that seemed to never get better, only worse, all because of infertility - while others who may have been earlier in their journey only knew the relentless hope that came each month, only to come crashing down into a despair that would make you want to quit your job and move far, far away (somewhere with palm trees, and lots of alcohol).  And yet, despite our different stages, our different sufferings, throughout my infertility journey I only saw support, and a willingness to allow each woman to feel her own feelings, despite how different they may have been from another's. 

Infertility is incredibly, incredibly personal, as a life experience.  Even within the couple, the husband and the wife will often go through very different journeys.  That fact seemed so readily recognized, and honored by all of us in the trenches.  So far, my experience with motherhood has not been the same.

It's almost an unwritten oath, to "one up" any mother with younger children.  "Oh, you're only 2 months pregnant and feel nauseous, now?  Just wait until you're 8 or 9, you'll be so much more uncomfortable!!"  "You think you're sleep-deprived, now with your 4 month old?  Ha!  My 3 year old STILL doesn't sleep through the night, and comes and pees in my bed routinely!"  "Potty training, eh?  Ahhh, I miss those days.  That was EASY compared to raising a pre-teen!"  And so on, and so forth.  Rather than become offended by comments like these (truly, I'm not!) I tend to look at it inquisitively, wondering about our society and why these incredibly normal everyday interactions are so incredibly normal.  Obviously I speak from experience when I say that through a cross like infertility, you NEED support, helpful advice, encouragement, and understanding from those who are there and have been there.  But is it not the same in motherhood?  Sure, there are all kinds of Support Groups for Moms out there, throw a stone and you're bound to hit one.  But there seems to be an underlying sentiment of justification, comparison, and insecurity in motherhood, which does make complete sense to me.  If infertility is a personal experience, of course motherhood is, too!  But just as with infertility, there are common feelings that all those in the group have, and I think those 3 may be among the top.

As women, we all want to know that we're doing the best we can.  That is something we share across the board.  And, for those of us who desire children so strongly, and for those who have them already, we know we would do just about anything for their well-being.

Crossing over, for me, wasn't the out of body, Twilight Zone experience I thought it would be.  Instead, I find that my thoughts, desires, and personal experiences with my own pregnancy and (very early) motherhood are so full of hope and promise, it overwhelms me.  I've also discovered that infertility has made me so much less sensitive to those who cannot understand my personal experience with motherhood, thus far.  Infertility, in essence, has made me the mother I am today, and the mother I will continue to be in the future.

Perhaps something only those who have carried the cross of infertility/childlessness can appreciate, but that should be understood by all, is that the immense, uncontrollable, heart-bleeding desire for children is not all about the child.  It is, rather, a yearning for a new, unimaginable suffering.  We desire the unknown, that which we cannot possibly understand, yet.  We crave a way in which to serve God, daily, through the thankless, tiring, unending job of being a mother - sacrificing ourselves in ways we cannot fathom.  Sleepless nights with screaming babies, biting until our nipples bleed, running fevers at 2am, never, ever getting a break... we're SURE that's just the beginning of it - and we want more!  We have no earthly idea what we're missing.  But we know it.

We have no earthly idea what we're missing. 

But we know it.

And that, my friends, is where the sting penetrates the most, piercing the heart of all mothers-in-waiting.  We don't wear rose-colored glasses.  We don't envision a perfect life, void of all problems and worries, with angelic, never-pooping always-sleeping children.  We envision a life unknown.  A life unrealized.  A life we only hope one day to be lucky enough to experience.

And once we do - or, more fittingly, once I did?  I knew that my experience through pregnancy and motherhood would not be the same as anyone else's.  Just as my experience through infertility was not the same as anyone else's.  I recognize, and honor other mothers in their daily sufferings, and I recognize and honor my own (yes, I have them!!), but mostly, I recognize and honor the fact that I will continue to experience all of this in an incredibly personal way.  And that way will always, always be guided by the lessons I learned through my 8 years of infertility and childlessness.  Sleepless nights?  They suck!  I've had many, already, and I can't even hear my kid, yet!  But the fact that I had no idea I'd be losing sleep and having insomnia since early first Trimester?  That is the realization of my desire - my desire to live the unknown, to offer myself as a mother in sacrifices I didn't even know about.  It doesn't make the sleep deprivation better.  It makes it part of my answered prayer.

There will, I am certain of it, be more and more and more of these moments every single day as I move forward through my journey in motherhood.  And I'll be surprised, likely by all of them.

When I was childless, I didn't know what I was missing.

But I knew it.

And now, I just wait in wonder for the next big sacrifice, the next opportunity to give more of myself - the next way in which my prayer is being answered.

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Why I Love My Slow Cooker - Plus, My Bone Broth Recipe

Now that I've transitioned to working (primarily) from home, I've been without an excuse not to trying to cook more frequently.  There is really nothing quite like the smell of something glorious cooking and emanating through every crevice in your house, made better only by the taste and your husband's reaction to the taste of melt-in-your-mouth goodness.  Which brings me to...



Reason #6:  Everything, and I mean everything, turns out juicy and succulent.
In a slow cooker, *usually* you have some kind of liquid, that over the course of several hours, just braises the meat and veggies sooooo nicely.  I have not been able to attain that level of succulence (yes, it's a thing) via any other cooking modality.  With the slow cooker?  Every. single. time.

Reason #5:  Prep work can be done whenever you have time. 

You can "make" Friday's dinner on Thursday morning, if that's most convenient for you.  You can prep a big Sunday meal Saturday night, and simply press a button on your way out to Mass.  What always made me punchy was making dinner after a long day of work - I wanted, and craved something delicious and nutritious, but the time that would have needed to be invested (while the hunger pains grew stronger) was just not appealing in the least, leading me to resort to many a "quick fix" tuna or chicken salad, eggs, or take-out dinner.  Not that there's anything wrong with any of those options, but when you're on a budget, and you want to have a variety of nutrients on your family's plates, it just wasn't cutting it.

Reason #4:  The smell, ohhhhhhh the smell! 

Ok, granted, I'm pregnant.  Food smells like nectar to a honeybee to me all the time.  But, I've always loved food, and I've always loved the smell of GOOD food.  Now, instead of only an hour or 2 max, I get to enjoy that smell for somewhere between 4-8 hours!!  Yes, please!!

Reason #3:  It's not just one meal!

I have one of the largest capacity crockpots, so I am usually making recipes that serve 4-6 people, or I even double the recipe if it's something that requires a ton of prep work (which is worth it in the end!!) so that I can freeze whatever is left, if there is anything left.  Many times the intention was to freeze the leftovers, but we enjoyed it so much we WANTED to eat it again for lunch the next day, and dinner for the next two nights!  Point being, you can cook in bulk and because the finished product is so juicy, it tends to freeze beautifully.

Reason #2:  Minimal to no clean-up afterwards.

I've always been a "wash as you go" cook, I hate having a ton of pots and pans and whisks and spoons and ladles sitting in my sink just as my meal is coming out of the oven.  When I "serve" dinner, I much prefer everything to be cleaned, already, so that I can also relax and enjoy the meal.  Of course, even with my most valiant efforts, I had serving platters, or the pots/pans that the meal had cooked in, sitting in the sink during dinner.  The slow cooker eliminates much of that - while I do still make cooked side dishes from time to time, most of the recipes I make in the slow cooker have a ton of ingredients including meat, and a variety of veggies- making a cooked side a bit superfluous.  In the end, if I serve directly onto the dinner plates, I have only the slow cooker to clean afterwards, with the dinner plates and utensils.  Soooo much nicer!

Reason #1:  Even if you're not a great cook, the slow cooker can turn you into one.

There's really not a way you can truly screw up a crockpot recipe.  Of course, some of the recipes require a bit more culinary know-how (pre-searing meat or sautee-ing veggies in fat, deglazing the pan, etc.) but for the most part you can always find a recipe to meet your needs, experience, and comfort level.  And once you begin making food in the slow cooker, you begin to learn more about cooking times, herbs that complement and augment certain meats and veggies, liquids that work and don't work with others, fats that combine perfectly... before you know it, you'll be making those quick, easy breakfasts and lunches on the stovetop or in the oven that would have taken way too much time and prep and turned out not-so-hot, previously.

Plus, there is nothing better than setting down a delicious meal in front of your husband and saying, "I slaved away over this dinner for NINE HOURS!"

One of the things I make most often in my crockpot is homemade bone broth - so incredibly healthful, with amazing healing properties, AND can be enjoyed alone, as I do with breakfast every morning, or in a MULTITUDE of other slow cooker recipes.  It freezes perfectly in mason jars or Pyrex, just don't fill them too high!  You can find the recipe online, and again, cater it to your needs, but I will post below what I do every time, and it always yields a delicious finished product.  Important:  use the bones of PASTURED animals only for the full benefits (grass-fed, grass-finished beef and veal, pastured pork, chicken, lamb).

Start with enough bones to cover the bottom of your crockpot and up about halfway.  You can either do straight one animal (all beef bones, for example) or a mix, they all taste great but I do prefer to mix pork bones with beef because the pork broth isn't my favorite tasting.

If the bones were from a previous recipe (already cooked), just toss them in the pot as-is (don't worry about cleaning off bits of meat, herbs, or anything else from prior meals!)
If they were unused bones you purchased, for everything but poultry, you'll want to roast them for about 30-45mins at 400degrees.
Poultry bones can go in as-is, but roasting the red meat bones will help the nutrients come out more from the marrow AND make your broth much stronger and flavorful.
(Doesn't matter if bones are frozen or not, follow the same procedure.)
Along with the bones, if you have any chicken feet or necks, throw a couple of those in, as well (it adds more nutritious collagen).

Pour COLD filtered water over the bones, enough to cover all of the bones.  Then pour a few Tablespoons of apple cider vinegar into the water.  (This again helps extract more nutrients out of the bones and into the water.)  Let sit for about 30 minutes.

Then, add your onion (quartered), carrots (1 large or 2 medium, cut into pieces), celery (2-3 long stalks, with leaves even better), and herbs and spices.  I generally add rosemary, sage, thyme, parsley, kelp, and turmeric, but you can add whatever you like!  Be aware some herbs can have an overwhelming taste in the finished product, so use things like dill or oregano sparingly.  LOTS of black pepper, at this time, too - but DO NOT ADD SALT.  You can always add salt, if need be, when drinking or using the finished product in recipes.  But I have never needed to.  Also, hold off on the garlic, until later.

Once everything is in the crockpot, pour more water to bring the level just below the top, turn the slow cooker on LOW for 12 hours (mine has a max time of 12 hours, so I just set it again once it's winding down to 0).

Cook times:  For poultry-only broths, try to do 24 hours maximum, as the poultry bones are more brittle and will fall apart with too much cooking.

For everything else, or for a mixture of bones, you can go up to 48 hours, or even beyond.  I typically do 36-48hours for my beef and veal broth, depending on when I can get to it.

In the last 30-60 minutes or so, add your garlic.  Don't be stingy :)  I love me some garlic.

Once done and ready to jar, fill your sink with icy cold water and place your crockpot (just the pot, not the base!) into it.  You want to cool it down quickly, not slowly, to allow less time for bacteria to grow.  Then you can begin sifting through with a big sifter to remove the bones and large pieces of veggies.  (You can save the bones and make another 1-2 batches of broth, but since I always cook mine for so long, I tend to toss them after the first batch.  HOWEVER, if you have any bones where you can get to the marrow, EAT THAT!!!  Soooooo good!)  Once all the big stuff is out, and pot is now cooled, pour through a more fine sieve into your storing containers and let sit a while with the tops not tightly on (the broth will still be quite hot at this time).  Once they get to room temp, it's safe to put them into the freezer, or fridge if using within the next 5-7 days.

Enjoy!!


Today's meal, cooking now...

 
Borscht.  My very favorite winter meal :)

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Barren Tree No More



The woman once called 'The Barren Tree'
whose fruitfulness was simply not to be,
once stood so still as time passed her by,
watching the other trees bear enough fruit for a pie!
(Forgive me, I'm making this up on the fly.)

When one day she stopped her incessant comparing,
and realized that life was not 'measure,' but 'sharing.'
For it is in giving of ourselves that we receive,
in finding joy for others even while we grieve.

So, through the years The Barren Tree grew,
with strength, prayers and understanding anew-
fueled by all the other trees in the forest,
amid the greatest suffering, she somehow felt glorious.

And when the dark passed and light shone again,
it was brighter, and stronger, with a faithful refrain,
reminding her she had never been truly forgotten,
that as the other trees and (incessant) leaves were begotten
they were a part of her plan, from the beginning.
It was the journey itself, and not about winning.

And so it was, when not knowing the time nor place
this barren tree fell into such grace,
to be surrounded by those who had lifted her in Truth
when she, herself, now bore surprise fruit!

And behold, that woman, once called 'barren'
has conceived a SON, now in her 6th month carryin'.
For nothing will be impossible with God, the Almighty.

Now you know TCIE's baby's gender... alrighty?  :)

 
 
And the winner of the Blog Giveaway is...
 
 
 
 
Susan Kolosionek!
 
(Susan, use the contact tab on the top of the blog to send me an email with your mailing address - I will send your blessed Annunciation magnet this week!  Congrats!)