Category Archives: Family

This weekend . . .

There are weekends that simply kick your ass and leave you exhausted. This was one of them.

It all started on Friday. I was working (my part time job), but my boss is excellent and is also one of my best friends, so it is hardly like it’s work. We didn’t get together until 8:30pm, and I didn’t get home until midnight. We had a great time of laughter and work. I had tons of energy for some reason, which led to me having a hard time falling and staying asleep!

The two of us reconvened on Saturday morning for a 3.5 mile trail run on the mountain behind my house. I’m still getting out on flat, easy stuff and am loving it. We had an unusually cool morning with a beautiful breeze. It was truly perfect running weather. We found a baby turtle, no bigger than a quarter, in the middle of the trail and barely managed to miss stepping on it. We got him off the trail so he didn’t get squished. After the run we hit up on of my favorite spots in Harrisburg, Mellow Minded Cafe, for coffee. Coffee turned into quinoa pancakes (Ve & GF), tempeh bacon and fresh fruit.

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Yum, right??

After that, I had to hustle home to get showered and dressed for our baby shower. This was the second one that was thrown in our honor, and this one was hosted by my family. It was held at my dad’s fiancee’s house, which is wonderful and was perfect for such an occasion. My cousins and aunt put together a really beautiful day that was perfectly complemented by the gorgeous weather. It was a really special time with family and friends. We received lots of wonderful gifts, but the most special thing I received won’t be used to clothe or feed the baby. No one at the shower saw it because my cousin had my husband give it to me after we left.

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Here’s a closer look at the photo.

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I’d never seen this photo before. That’s me and my mom. Isn’t it wonderful? My cousin found it in her mother’s wedding album and they decided I could have it. I was speechless and shed some tears. I love it so much.

One of the fun things we did was take guesses from our guests regarding the baby’s name, delivery date, length and weight. We already have the name picked out, but haven’t told anyone. It’s fun to check out the guesses. My brother would be the one who predicted I’ll have a 13 lb baby. I sure hope not, but my maternal grandmother was allegedly that weight at birth, so I guess it’s possible!

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After we got home we all went for a walk with Little Dude on his bike. By the time we got home from that, I was beat. I felt like my midsection had been beaten and bruised. I took a spot on the couch and didn’t really leave it the rest of the night.

All of a sudden it was Sunday morning. I was still tired, but rolled out of bed to meet my dear friend Anne for a trail run on the other side of “my” mountain. I knew it would turn out to be more of a hike, but I really wanted to see a particular section of the trail again and knew it would probably be the last time I’d be up for it. We did hike quite a bit of the route, but it was fine. We had beautiful weather again and had a great time. The uphill gave me a hard time, but the steeper downhill was equally difficult. Gravity was pulling on my belly with every step so I ended up walking that part. All in all, though, it was great.

We went to church and then back home for another walk and to prep some food for a campfire event as part of our faith community (my part time job). We got to the campfire around 5pm and our son was GONE. He found the kids and was running around, playing with sticks, tubing in the creek, practicing cartwheels . . . it makes me tired just to think about it. Meanwhile, we socialized and ate a yummy dinner. We stayed well into the evening and enjoyed some fireworks. (If you’re not from PA, you might not think that’s a big deal. But if you live here, you know that you can’t get much more than sparklers here, so having a friend who brings fireworks to a party is pretty exciting.)

We got to bed super late again, and all of a sudden it was time to get up and head out again. Why do we keep doing this?  Today we were off to a trail run on the Appalachian Trail in Boiling Springs. Our running group’s founder and “coach” celebrates his birthday, and America’s, with a trail run every year on the 4th. We hung out afterwards for some snacks and socializing and then headed home. We just wrapped up a cookout with our neighbors and now I’m writing this. Whew!!

Updates all around

Well crap. I can’t believe it’s been 2 months since I updated this blog. No . . . that’s a lie . .  . I can totally believe it. It’s been nuts for me lately, and I kept sitting down with the intention to write a blog but then something else would come up and I couldn’t do it. So let me give the rundown.

Pregnancy

I entered the 3rd trimester (28 weeks) on Thursday. I was extremely nauseous during my first trimester, and everyone assured me the second would be drastically better. I had two cousins who were sick pretty much the whole time, so I knew that wasn’t a guarantee. From weeks 15 – 22 I felt halfway decent. I was suuuuper tired and was taking lots of naps (which I hate), but I wasn’t sick, so that was good. I did have a good bit of acid reflux, but I’ve dealt with that a lot even before pregnancy so it wasn’t something I couldn’t handle. I had aches and pains, bleeding gums, weird cysts on my gums, and a few other weird side effects, but nothing that was too bad.

During week 22, I started experiencing excruciating pain in my chest, near the base of my sternum. When laying down, I felt like someone was trying to saw me open from the inside with a red-hot saw. It was awful at times. Thankfully the most intense pain was fleeting, but there was a longer lasting, less intense one that stayed around for the better part of a few weeks. The doctor said it wasn’t my gall bladder, which was their initial concern, and that I probably just tweaked a muscle at the gym. I don’t quite buy that answer – because no matter what I do, I can’t MAKE it hurt – but I don’t have another one. I’ve dealt with it off and on for the last 5 weeks, and it’s at the point now where it’s not much more than an annoyance. At times, though, it’s accompanied by some nasty nausea, so that stinks.

Speaking of nausea, that came back around the end of week 22 as well. At first it was just for a few hours, during the afternoon. Then it was late morning AND the afternoon. It got to the point of being pretty intense and with me 24/7. I dealt with the 24/7 crap for a week or so, but then just had enough. I was so tired and so nauseous and felt like a failure of a parent to my 5 year old, so I called the doctor again. I had bloodwork done to rule a few things out and ended up on Promethazine. It helped, but the side effect waaaaaas . . . . .sleepiness! So I was even more tired than before. Ugh. I ended up at the doctor AGAIN on the first day of the 3rd trimester because the baby really wasn’t moving very much and they wanted to check on her. They said that her reduced activity was likely related to me not eating or drinking “enough”, so I once again explained the nausea and lack of appetite. The doctor I saw that day put me on a fairly new medication that’s JUST for nausea during pregnancy. IT’S A MIRACLE!! I feel good now and actually have a bit of an appetite. It’s amazing!! I think I’m finally at a good point . . . just in time to get super big and uncomfortable during the heat of summer! YAY!

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With 2 of the 3 girls who hosted our baby shower yesterday.

Engagements

Both my dad and my brother got engaged in the last 6 weeks. My dad and his fiancee are getting married in less than 3 weeks, and my brother and his fiancee (one of my oldest friends in the world, no less) are trying to nail down a date for theirs. Both women are great, and I’m really happy to be adding them to our family.

Job

I took on a part-time job at the beginning of the month. One of my dearest friends in the world was ordained as a Lutheran pastor and is leading a new faith community that meets outside of the traditional church building and tries to appeal to folks who have left the church and/or don’t feel welcomed by it. It’s a pretty cool concept, and our family has been part of the community for much of the last year, in addition to our regular church family. When she accepted her call she decided she needed an assistant and ended up hiring me! It’s a great gig: I am doing something I really enjoy with someone I respect and admire and can work from home for 10-15 hours per week. It’s really perfect!

Volunteering

We are trying to raise the money we need to break ground for Hope Academy in Guatemala asap – ideally this fall. This means that there is a lot of work to be done here on the fundraising side, as well as all of the other work we do. I’ve been working a good bit of hours per week to help accomplish this goal. Again, I’m doing something I love with that same respected and admired friend, so I can’t complain!

Running

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A pre-5K photo with Little Dude . . . and what looks like an attitude.

I’ve still been running, but it’s been very erratic. I was doing pretty well at getting in 3-4 runs per week of 3-6 miles, but the last couple of weeks were hard with all of the nausea. S and I did run a 5K in early June and that went well. I finished in 30:02:59 despite a bathroom break and actually stopping for some water. (I’ve never stopped for water in anything under a half, but it was warm and humid and the baby wanted some.) I got in an easy trail run last Sunday with my friend. It was her first ever trail run, so it was perfect timing. The trails felt GREAT – much better than pavement. I won’t do trails alone, though, at this point, nor will I do any that are in any way rocky. I need to stick to smooth, easy stuff right now! Now that I’m feeling better I’m hoping to get back out a few times per week, in addition to my twice weekly strength training workouts. Those are so NOT intense – nothing like the old days -but they are getting my muscles to do a little bit of work, and that’s a good thing. I’ve been happy with the level of activity I’ve been able to keep up. I was hoping for a little more but fearful of a lot less. I’ll take it.

Home life

I cannot get this house clean to save my life. As soon as I clean one area, the 5 year old tornado blows through. Dusting has gone by the wayside, but that’s optional anyway, right?? I got Little Dude’s new room painted and got his furniture moved in. We have to assemble his new dresser and hang some stuff on the walls, but he’s in it and loves it. It’s yellow and will soon be covered in superheroes. Little Avocado’s room is next up, and then after that we have some minor fix-ups to do here and there. It’s never ending!

My little bandit garden is doing well. In my 8′ X 16″ plot of crappy dirt I have 1 cherry tomato plant, 5 kale plants, 2 jalapenos, and 2 pepperoncinis. I planted some marigolds alongside of them to hopefully keep pests away since my kale was eaten 2 of the last 3 years. So far, so good! In pots I have cilantro, 2 strawberry plants, Italian basil, Thai basil and rosemary. I also planted a heliotrope in the hopes that it will attract butterflies. I tried finding some lavender but haven’t had success yet. Everything is doing well. I don’t have the best luck with growing stuff, so my fingers are pretty much permanently crossed.

I really need to get my homeschool s*** together so we can start kindergarten. I am going to start asap and do as much as I can so I can take some weeks off when the baby comes.

S has been super busy with work, and is preparing to go to Poland to work with World Youth Day, specifically with the Pope. They are going to be live-streaming the Pope’s final mass there in 360 degree video.

So that’s life in a nutshell right now. Whew, I’m tired. Good night!

 

 

“How” I got pregnant . . . beyond the obvious.

I’m 17 weeks along in my pregnancy now. I had an OB appointment last week and everything is going great. Little Dude and I got to hear our baby girl’s heartbeat and I got some blood drawn. (Yes, I said baby girl!)

Since we announced our pregnancy, I’ve been asked a particular question over and over: “I thought you couldn’t have kids. What happened?” I’ve been answering this honestly and completely, because I just never know who could benefit from my experience. And since the question persists, I thought I’d share it here. It’s personal – more personal than most of my entries, but I feel that is important.

I started on birth control pills at the age of 16. I remained on them until I was 24, when my therapist said that they could contribute to depression. She recommended ditching them for a while to see if it helped, rather than simply prescribing me another medication. I did as she recommended. Two years came and went. I never saw any sign of a menstrual cycle. Nothing. Nada. During this time I also became fairly thin, diagnosed with EDNOS (eating disorder not otherwise specified), but the lack of cycle preceded the EDNOS. I feel that’s important to note. And at that time, I did NOT exercise. (I know . . . right? If you know me now that’s hard to believe.) Many people tried to blame my weight and my exercise habits for my infertility. (That was incredibly unfair to blame me. It was hurtful every time I heard it. People said these things to me off the cuff, without knowing my history. I’ve heard these comments as recently as this past year. And I am no longer skinny – not even a little. I’m smack-dab in the middle of the normal range for my height and weight. I know plenty of women who are much thinner than men who successfully bear children, and athletes who do as well. And, by the way, at that time, I ate meat. All of the meat. Red and white.)

I tried to give blood one day at the local blood bank. Typically my iron had been borderline acceptable, but that day, after testing my iron, one of the women there rushed over to me. She said, “Honey, are you on your period?” I said no, I hadn’t had one in over two years. She asked me a couple of other questions. Then she said, “You need to get to a doctor right away. Your iron is very, very low and it’s not good.” She recommended seeing my GYN.

I called my GYN that day and scheduled an appointment. The blood work came back and confirmed what the tech said. My iron levels were super low. I was referred to a local hematology/oncology office for treatment. My doctor told me that there was only one immediate solution: IV iron therapy. For the next 6 weeks I spent 4 hours on my Friday afternoons with the chemo patients, hooked up to an IV. After that, I went on daily doses of iron and had frequent follow up appointments. The threat of more IV treatments was always on the table. I took my pills daily, ate my meat, and did what the good doctor told me.

It was a struggle to keep my iron even at the bottom limit of the acceptable range.

During this time, my iron levels were the top story. The lack of a cycle was on the back burner. The docs felt that balancing out the iron should fix the lack of a cycle. After a couple of years, though, it hadn’t. At 26 years old, no one could really give me an answer. But now I was with my new boyfriend (now he’s my husband) and we weren’t ready for a baby. The doctors couldn’t tell me I WOULDN’T get pregnant, despite my lack of a cycle, so they recommend the pill again.

I went back on that thing, and it forced my body to cycle regularly. By this point I had eliminated red meat. My iron crept up ever so slightly, but not enough to really mean anything. Shortly before we got married, I cut out meat altogether. My iron crept up again, but still not significantly.

In 2009 we decided we were ready to start trying for a family. I went off the pill in November and, you guessed it, nothing happened. Usually your GYN tells you to wait 6 months before calling them, but because of my history, they said to call if nothing happened after 3 months. I really don’t think they had any hope that anything miraculous would happen. And it didn’t.

By the spring of 2010 I was at lots of appointments with my GYN and an infertility specialist 80 miles from my home. They did a battery of bloodwork and xrays and diagnosed me with Hypoestrogenic Hypogonadism. If you have ever been diagnosed with IBS, you probably went through tons and tons of tests, with lots of negative results, and in the end were told you had IBS . . . pretty much because there was no other answer. That’s how I felt here. I read the definition of my diagnosis and really didn’t feel like it answered my questions. I don’t have any of the disorders that cause it. So if kind of felt like this was the diagnosis because nothing else fit. Maybe I’m wrong about that. I probably am; I don’t have any fancy letters after my name.

Then we adopted. Let me tell you again that the adoption had nothing to do with my biology.

During my husband’s final trip to Ethiopia, I decided to play around with my diet. I was, at this point, fully vegetarian. I was having lot of gastro-intestinal issues and wondered if a food sensitivity was to blame. I had already been tested for the common food allergies and had no positive results. I decided to follow the Thrive Diet for a few weeks. Thrive is fully vegan and corn, soy, peanut, wheat and refined-sugar free. Yes, it’s very limiting, but honestly there were plenty of tasty things to eat. I felt really good while on the diet, so I knew that something (or some things) that I had eliminated was causing me issues.

When S returned, I slowly started adding those common allergens back into my diet. Corn was no problem. Soy was fine. Refined sugar was okay in small amounts. Wheat and peanuts, though, gave me stomach issues. Cutting out peanut butter was tough, mentally, but in reality it was really very easy to do. I just substituted it with almond butter and called it a day. I can tolerate almonds and other nuts in small amounts, so this worked. But wheat was tricky. My reactions weren’t severe and I had tested negative for a wheat allergy, but there was definitely some sort of relationship between wheat and my problems. I decided to do my best to eliminate it from my diet.

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After a few months I was feeling better – a lot better. The craziest thing happened too: I had my first menstrual cycle in years (without medication). It was the most random thing, and I didn’t know what to make of it. Months went by without another one, but it made me wonder. I had been suffering from anemia and nasty, nasty bouts of fatigue for years. And the infertility. I wondered if there was a common link between them? So I did what anyone would do. I Googled it. And I returned an article showing a link between gluten intolerance and all of those symptoms.

Boom.

I was sold. I ran it by a doctor friend and she said to give it a shot. So I tightened up my diet and got serious about ridding my diet of gluten. I downloaded an app to track my cycle, and over the following 3 years, it became more and more regular. It was a slow process, but I could see progress. I started seeing my mom’s oncologist/hematologist, and ran this all by him. He was convinced gluten was the problem and encouraged me to continue down this path.

When my mom died I ate whatever was available . . . which, in the hospital, was often gluten filled crap. My cycle was off for the next couple of months, but I can’t say stress didn’t play into that a little. Last year I was very consistent in my diet, and even had 3 months in a row of 30ish day cycles. I was astonished. Those months were October (the month of my last 100), November and December. I found out I was 5 weeks pregnant in early January . . . you do the math.

So . . . the bottom line is that, for me, gluten seems to be the reason that I couldn’t get pregnant. If you would have told me this 5 or 6 years ago, I would have thought you were crazy. I didn’t understand the issues that gluten can cause people. I thought gluten was super tasty. But then I realized that it wasn’t for everyone. Sure – some people can eat bagels for breakfast, sandwiches for lunch, a plate of spaghetti for dinner and chocolate cake for dessert without an issue. But others cannot. Gluten intolerance manifests itself in many different ways for many different people. For me, the difference was life changing – no, life giving.

Edited to add: On a related note, my iron levels have been much better since giving up gluten and following a healthier vegan diet (by this I mean adding a greater variety of fresh veggies, beans and using predominantly cast-iron skillets for my cooking). I have not had any bouts of fatigue like I used to have either. Those bouts were awful. I would come home from work over my hour lunch and take a 45 minute nap just about every day. (I lived a mile from work.) If you know me, you know I HATE napping, but this was necessary for me to function. I had these bouts twice per year, just about every year, since I was a teenager. I had numerous blood tests done, and they always came out normal. The only downside to being a gluten-free vegan is it’s tricky to go out to restaurants!!

Don’t say this . . . please

A long time ago I wrote a blog entry about the things you shouldn’t say to a family in the process of adopting. One of those things was, “Once you start the adoption, you’ll get pregnant.” That was said to me by many, many people, and it made my blood boil every time. The act of a sperm and egg uniting to create what will, in 9 months, be a breathing, crying, squirming human HAS NOTHING TO DO WITH a legal proceeding to adopt a child. Nothing. Nada. Zilch.

Now I’m pregnant. I’m getting the same comment with a different spin on it. I keep hearing this, “This happens so often. A couple adopts and then all of a sudden they are pregnant. It’s so common.”

Bullshit.

I know of exactly one couple who had this experience. They struggled for years with infertility and just before they were to board a plane to meet their child, they found out they were pregnant. One family. I know a lot of people who’ve adopted, a lot of people who’ve had children with whom they share biology, and a lot of people who’ve contemplated adoption and ultimately had biological children. One family.

 

When I tell people that the two things have no relationship, the answer is often something like this: “When you give up on the idea of having a biological child, the stress is gone and then your body is ready to have that baby.”

Ask any parent who has gone through an adoption whether the experience has been stressful. The answer will be, unequivocally, yes. You have tons of paperwork to file, background checks to complete, passports and visas to obtain, and approvals to receive. Your house is examined. Your background is examined. Your house is examined. You have to figure out where you are going to find $25,000 – $50,000 dollars. You have to realize that you are going to be doing the hurry-up-and-wait game over and over for at least 18 months, if not a few years. It’s definitely no walk in the park. It’s not easy. It’s not fun. Sex is fun. The waiting between the sex and the pregnancy test isn’t, but seriously, trying to compare the stress of the two ways to build your family really isn’t fair. (Obviously I’m not talking about IVF here; just  your “standard” reproduction.)

I guess people assume that we just decided to adopt again and poof! this baby happened. That’s not true. I pretty much gave up on the idea that my body was capable of producing a child 5 years ago, not in the fall of 2015. (More about this in an upcoming blog.) I was super stressed about the idea of coming up with money for a second adoption, and about how long it would take. So this idea that because we decided to adopt, we got pregnant, is nonsense.

The bottom line here is this: if you know of someone who is contemplating adoption, find something else to say to them other than “If you just decide to adopt, you’ll get pregnant.” And if you know of a pregnant women (or soon-to-be-dad) who contemplated adoption or adopted a child, don’t say anything like, “See? You just needed to adopt a kid so you could have a baby.” Either way, it’s not a welcome sentiment. Simply encourage or congratulate the couple and then move on to a topic like how ridiculous Donald Trump’s hair is.

The weekend

I have no idea if I’ve ever done a weekend wrap-up, and I certainly don’t intend to make them a habit, but I wanted to share a few highlights with you.

The weekend got off to a great start when there was a knock on the door late on Friday. After I got the dog to relax, I went to the door and saw a package waiting for me. It was my long-awaited, much-anticipated Vitamix!

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I have it sitting on the counter but haven’t been able to use it yet. I’m super excited, though. I think I’ll be making a smoothie tomorrow!

Later that night we actually sent Little Dude to a friend’s house and went out for dinner. We rarely do this, but are trying to find a way to make it a monthly thing, especially before the baby comes. Some friends recently went to the soft opening of a new local restaurant, Vrai, and upon googling it, I found that they had vegan options. Not only did they have items that were easily modified to be vegan, but they had 3 vegan-gluten-ree options. Three! At one restaurant! Around here, that just doesn’t happen. They also had several vegan desserts . . . in fact, most were vegan and only one ice cream had dairy. I felt like it had to be in some sort of bizarro world.

Vrai was great. The atmosphere was great, and it was packed. I recognized a few people, and realized that a lot of locals were there. We were some of the few imports from across the river. The food was amazing . . . so amazing that I just ate it and really didn’t think about taking photos. I did snap one of my entree though. We split an order of brussels sprouts with crushed hazelnuts. It sounded weird but it was delicious. It came with some sort of lemon cream but we got that on the side so S could have it while I skipped it. My entree was a quinoa cake with an avocado cream, tomato jelly and a tangy cole slaw. It was super delicious, but I took a really bad picture. Sorry – I really wanted to eat it.

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S got a shrimp fettucine with a poached egg that he said was fantastic. The great meal was capped off with a ridiculously yummy vegan-gluten-free blondie with a side of sorbet. (It was supposed to be house made chocolate salted caramel but, sigh, they ran out.) The service overall was fine, but a little slow. And they overbooked their reservations, so people were waiting. But they’ve only been open for a little less than 4 weeks so I’m sure that will improve. If you live in the Lemoyne, PA area, get yourself a reservation now.

I got to squeeze in a great 7 mile run on the Appalachian Trail on Saturday morning. Unfortunately it still required gloves and a headband, but it was a nice morning so that was okay. I got in another 4 miles on Sunday on “my mountain” and it was a little better; I was in shorts, long sleeves, no gloves and no headband. Spring is coming.

We (Tree 4 Hope) held our first annual Zumbathon at our local Gold’s Gym on Saturday afternoon. I do not Zumba, but I helped at the event. It was great; we raised over $800 and everyone had a lot of fun. All of the money raised will go towards building Hope Academy. If you’ve missed out on what Hope Academy is, click here and learn how you can help.

I discovered a wonderful song a few weeks ago and ended up pairing with a guitarist at church to sing it at both Sunday services this week. I am not sharing the file of our rendition, but I just have to share the original. It’s just so good. We weren’t nearly this good, but we did our best.

So that was the weekend in a nutshell. I did a ton of other stuff, but most of it’s boring. And the busy weekend left this baby incubator exhausted, but it’s all good.