Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Why God Made Little Boys

My mom gave birth to 3 girls total by the time she was 23 years old. Growing up, things were very much centered around girly things. My step-dad was clearly outnumbered, and his only hope of anything remotely masculine in our home was one sister playing softball for a few years. I will never forget circa 1985 at the ripe age of 5, having my two older sisters doing me up in full face make-up, complete with bright yellow and green eyeshadow, to then parade around the mall. The fact that no one took a picture of this is inexcusable now, but I remember it clear as day.

There was always an entire closet full of beauty products that were ripe for the picking and playing. My mom sold avon for a few years, so it was like a virtual smorgasboard of "Let's try this on Emily!" I can't even count the number of times we got brushes stuck in our hair trying crazy hairstyles, or how many times we fought over who borrowed some girly item from one another and didn't return it. Seriously, it was ALL GIRL in our house....complete with hair flips and attitudes.

We had this vintage Hallmark plaque that floated from room to room for years, and I had completely forgotten about it until today. I don't know where it even came from, or where it went, but I had it memorized I'd read it so many times. It looked like this...

It's amazing how things that were seemingly so insignificant as a child can pop into your mind 30 years later and affect you on a deep emotional level. Little things like this plaque remind me of how special we were to my mom. She wasn't a perfect mom and made many mistakes, but she cherished each of us for our own individual strengths and had a unique and slightly different bond with each of us. More than anything, she just LOVED that we were all girls!

At our OB apt. yesterday, I wasn't expecting to see the baby via another u/s, since they listened for the heartbeat by itself at the start....which was great at 157 bpm. However, when the doc said, "Let's take a look!" I was stoked. No idea how many of these u/s insurance will cover or how they're coding them to make them "medically necessary", but so far no bills in the mail. I know most (normal/low risk) people only have a couple u/s tops their whole pregnancy, and this made #6 for us at only 14w4d. Either way, we will not turn down the offer. Measuring at 14w6d...

We were given a guesstimate on gender at right around 12 weeks, and yet again, it became very apparent that our OB's first guess was spot on. Please meet Preston Alexander...

Best pic we could get. Our model was wiggling and kicking like karate kid.

I couldn't help but wonder if they made a plaque for Why God Made Little Boys, and it turns out they did...

"Why God Made Little Boys"

God made the world out of His dreams
Of magic mountains, oceans and streams,
Prairies and plans and wooded land,
Then paused and thought "I need someone to stand
On top of mountains, to conquer the seas,
Explore the plains and climb the trees.
Someone to start out small and to grow,
Sturdy, strong as a tree…" And so,
He created boys, full of spirit and fun,
To explore and conquer, to romp and run.
With dirty faces and banged up chins,
With courageous hearts and boyish grins.
When He had completed the task He'd begun
He surely said "A job well done".
Author: Unknown

The more we find out about our little one, the more I am falling head over heels in love with him. One thing that makes it extra special is that he is due one week before my hubby's birthday. I can't help but imagine shared bday parties for the two men in my life and how fun that might be. And while my former self might have felt slightly unequipped to do "boy stuff", now that we know we're having one, any lack of confidence has been replaced with a ridiculous amount of excitement to do all things boy. So there you have it. Looks like God wants me to be one of those crazy sports moms yelling from the sidelines! A boy is going to be so good for this family. No doubt this child will teach me more than I could ever teach him. :)

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Gluten-Free Almond Berry Granola Bars

As much as we love Two Moms in the Raw granola bars, I don't think right now is the best time to be paying $8 for a pack of 4 granola bars. There has been an official moratorium placed on all Two Moms in the Raw purchases, and I'm getting creative with our snacks around here. It's so funny the things you realize were "splurges" when you are reduced to no income...fair to say it's been a bit of an eye opener. I mean, I realized those suckers were expensive, but they really are just that good people. Plus, healthy food is much more important to us than clothes or other extravagant purchases, and I will sacrifice pretty much anything to have our kitchen stocked with clean whole foods.

Previous to both hubby & I developing a crack-like addiction to Two Moms products, I'd been making my own granola bars for a few years with a recipe I invented. I just hadn't attempted to modify the recipe and make any since going gluten-free. I wanted to find a way though, since I can make 16 granola bars with my homemade recipe for less than $5. 16 Two Moms bars would cost $32, so yeah, pretty big difference, especially when we are each eating one per day. Our Two Mom's habit was becoming it's own monthly expense. Ha!

Enter Namaste gluten-free flour into my life! This stuff is pretty amazing...

You can buy a big ole bag at Costco for cheap, and the label touts that you can use it cup for cup in place of regular flour in any recipe. I've experimented with quite a few things thus far and am impressed. The brownie recipe listed on the bag is EXCELLENT, and now I can add another great use to the list...

Em's Gluten-Free Almond Berry Granola Bars

-2 cups old fashioned oats
-1 cup gluten-free flour (or regular...up to you)
-5 oz. bag sliced almonds
-5 oz. bag dried fruit (I use blueberry, cherry or regular Craisins)
-1/2 cup brown sugar
-1 tsp. cinnamon
-3/4 tsp. salt
-1/2 cup canola oil
-1/2 cup agave nectar
-2 tsp. vanilla extract
-2 egg whites

Step 1: Preheat oven to 350 F. In a large mixing bowl, add all dry ingredients, including dried fruit. Mix together with large spoon or baking spatula.

Step 2: Add oil, agave, vanilla, and egg whites. Mix well.

Step 3: Spray a 9 x 13 in. baking dish with non-stick cooking spray . Spread mixture firmly and evenly into dish. Bake for 20 minutes. Remove from oven and allow to cool completely before cutting into bars. (Makes soft & chewy granola bars).

Step 4: Store in airtight container. Makes 16 large bars or 32 smaller choose how big you want them.

I used to use whole wheat flour as well as wheat germ in this recipe, so I just replaced the flour, removed the wheat germ and added more almonds to make up for the reduction in dry ingredients. Worked like a charm. Seriously, these are the bomb!

I know there are quite a few people looking for healthy snacks, as well as those trying to go gluten-free. These are completely idiot easy to make and super easy clean-up. Just made some cherry almond today, and they smell scrumptious!

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Do I Really Belong Here? Why, Yes...I Do.

I can now attest, like many other infertile women who've crossed over before me, that the transition from infertility to maternity brings its fair share of unexpected emotional hurdles. Yesterday was our first OB appointment finally at 12w3d. We've been seeing a perinatologist for ultrasounds and doing bloodwork through our RE still, so this pregnancy has been extremely closely monitored. However, with all the icy weather as of late, we're just now getting in with an OB.

Hooray for passage through the elusive 12 week "safety zone." What I didn't expect was how out of place I'd feel sometimes being here in this wonderful new world. As soon as we sat down in the waiting room of the OB's office, a woman at least 7 months pregnant sat directly across from us with her 9 month old (I overheard her telling another nosy woman who asked the age). I turned to my husband and said, "How is that even possible?!" I got to sit there and listen to what a surprise it had been to find out she was pregnant so soon again (in her most unenthusiastic voice), as she replayed the story to another very pregnant mom who was toting a toddler. Apparently, the woman also had a third child in school.

One woman after the next walked in pregnant and holding the hand of a big brother/sister-to-be. I quickly realized I was almost the only first time mom there and the only one who didn't actually "look pregnant." I glanced down at my lack of belly bumpage and a wave of sinking emotion hit me.

                                                            Do I really belong here?

I have never felt so out of place. I wondered if someone was going to make me pee in a cup and prove I was pregnant, in order to stay in this VIP room of what seemed on the surface to be a bunch of women who could not fathom what it took for us to get to this point. Now, I know better than that of course. Chances are, there were women there who might have experienced similar struggles, and perhaps much longer and more difficult journeys.

I just wonder if it will always feel like I can't completely relate to other "normal" pregnant women or moms? I would really love to, but it's like I just can't, because it will always feel like they can't relate to me. How could anyone possibly relate to our experience with maternity if they haven't also experienced an infertility journey leading up to their own pregnancy? I don't think they possibly can, nor should they be expected to.

Yes, I will probably be that woman who worries about every little thing; The one eating organic, using natural products, and who doesn't jog. Heck, I haven't even been vacuuming my big ole house thanks to the hubs. Forget about air travel or sex for the moment....not even going there! I'm feeling more and more secure in this pregnancy with each and every good doctor's visit and blood test, but after losing 4 babies in 2.5 years, I think we've earned the right to retain an over-the-top careful quotient.

I had a momentary mini cry as soon as I sat on the exam table waiting for the doc. I told hubby how I just didn't feel like I belonged there. In a strange way, I felt so much more at home in the waiting room of the fertility clinic. It was just a lot to wrap my head around that we were actually seeing an OB and WHY we were actually there.

Thankfully, as soon as we met our new nurse and OB the anxiety lessened. I seriously was not sure if I'd picked the right place until we met them, and I am 100% sure now that we're in good hands. The OB did a full annual exam since I was overdue and also did an ultrasound on Baby A. He did it vaginally, which I felt gave a much better view than the abdominal ones we've been getting with our peri.

Once again everything looked perfect with baby, and for the first time we saw TONS of movement from the little bugger. We'd seen a hand wave or a little wiggling before, but this kid was practically somersaulting before our eyes! OB said healthy babies tend to move around more, so of course this is reassuring to hear. I'm sure they say that to everyone, but I still liked hearing it.

The icing on the cake was asking about the sex of the baby. We were not expecting to find out until the full anatomy scan with our peri at 18 weeks, but we were told with some degree of certainty the gender of our little one. As if I wasn't already attached to this child! My heart completely melted. We are waiting to reveal the gender to friends, family, and blog buddies at least until next u/s just to confirm once more. However, I can assure you I'm telling the truth when I say I don't care what gender Baby A is, just that he/she is healthy. So far, we've had every reason to believe that's the case.

Once the doctor left the room, I clung to hubby and just enjoyed the moment...a moment I was never sure we'd ever experience. God is so good. Science is so awesome. We have so much to be thankful for.

Seeing how excited I was and the stark contrast in my mood from when we'd arrived, hubby asked me, "So, now do you feel like you belong here?" God, I love this man! Tears welled up as I replied,    

                                                   "Yes, I do. I do belong here!"

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

The Good & The Unexpected

So which would you rather hear first, good news or bad news? Being that I like to end things on a good note, it's no surprise I've always been a bad news first kind of person. In fact, let's just scratch that idea and instead call this good news and unexpected news. I'll still give you the unexpected news first though.

I'm writing this blog at the wee hour of 2 am, which should give some indication that I'm having a sleepless night. Let's just say the last couple weeks have not been stress free. Exactly two weeks ago, I/we learned that my husband would be "parting ways" with his company of almost 9 years. Well, isn't this a convenient time to be jobless? Yeah, not so much.

For the first time in a really long time, we've found ourselves wondering where our next source of income will come from. Ask me what my least favorite topics of conversation while barely 1/3 of the way through a pregnancy are. Oh, thanks for asking! They are....drumroll please....

1) Claiming Unemployment
2) Obtaining COBRA healthcare coverage
3) Researching Employee Rights & Negotiating Severance Packages

Some real doozies eh? I am really trying to be the good wife, but am beginning to ask myself how supportive and agreeable I can truly be during such a situation... while also trying not to pull every last hair on my head out. There have been some differences of opinion regarding this unexpected situation from all parties involved, and it's only natural that it would be stressful, not only on my hubby, but also on us as a couple and soon to be family.

Needless to say,  I've gone into "doing anything and everything I can to help" mode. Part of that has meant back to work for me, substitute teaching every chance I can get. At the rate I'm going, I'm making about 1/10 of what my husband was making, so my subbing obviously won't get us far. However, any little bit helps, and even if it only covers groceries, it's something.

Don't get me wrong, I'm not crying a river over here, and we don't need sympathy. One of the good things about being poor in your youngers years is that you know how to make anything work. We'll make it through, because that's what we've always done, without asking for anyone's help.  Hubby is interviewing right and left with, truth be told, more reputable and well-known companies with much better benefits than the employer he's leaving. Did I mention how proud I am of him?  On top of it all, he's smack dab in the middle of earning his MBA as well. I happened to marry one of the most driven, and inspiring, and successful people on the planet, and it's only a matter of time before the right offers come his way.

Plus, I know God has something way bigger and better in store for us. I truly believe with my WHOLE ENTIRE HEART that while this unexpected news seems really inconvenient timing wise, it will actually end up being a huge blessing in the long run. Sure, right now it sucks. I don't think anyone breaks ties with an employer of that long without feeling like they've lost that loving feeling. And, if I'm being honest, we're both a bit f'ing scared about the future. However, my willingness to just MOVE ON far outweighs any fear I have about where our next meal comes from.

I tend to believe that in order for a new door to open, the first one has to fully close sometimes. I think it's safe to say I am ready for this door to be closed, even if it means walking away with less than what would make us comfortable. Sometimes, there is simply no pricetag that can make up for time and energy spent on battling with people. And of course, just when I was searching for a message that would help guide us through this trying time, leave it to Joel Osteen to deliver, as always.

My favorite line, "You can be pitiful or you can be powerful, but you cannot be both!" If you feel like something unfair has happened to you; Like it's been hard to move on or that bitterness over a situation is beginning to take over, watch this message "Get Over It." I bet you'll gain a difference perspective. Love, love, LOVE this message.

So enough about that. Thanks to those of you who have emailed asking what part of earth I dropped off of. I've just been busy and exhausted. It means a great deal that you guys care, so THANK YOU for emailing and asking for updates!

In other unexpected news, Texas has the craziest weather I've ever experienced. It's gone from sunny 70's to icy conditions and back and forth more than once over the past couple weeks, in the matter of literally 24 hours. Totally nuts! Take a look at this....

That is ice ya'll. And clearly I was the only idiot at the gym at 6 am that morning. I really should not have been driving come to find out, but I honestly had never driven on an icy road in my life until that morning. I was totally clueless what it entailed. I will definitely watch the news next time and heed all warnings. Both of my OB apts. with my new OB, whom we still haven't met, were cancelled on two separate "ice days." We've rescheduled for Monday of next week, and fingers crossed there will be no major cold fronts to pour freezing rain on our parade again!

And now for the GOOD NEWS, that will easily trump any and all unexpected news. In the words of our perinatologist, "Baby looks perfect." We had our NT Scan yesterday @ 11w3d. This is where they take measurements to determine certain chromosomal risk factors caused by trisomies, and they can also assess risk for some other things like certain heart conditions. Nuchal fold measurement should be less than 3, and ours was less than 1. This is fantastic! Nasal bone should be fully intact and of certain size, and both u/s tech and MFM commented how all body parts were formed perfectly.

We were given a 0.33% chance (very low) of any chromosomal abnormalities based on this scan alone, meaning that it's about 99.67% that everything is perfectly normal. There is some additional bloodwork that is typically done along with the NT scan, which might further reduce our risk assessment. However, because we had a vanishing twin, this would make the blood result inconclusive, so we're simply not doing it. We're also choosing not to do an amnio, CVS, or any other tests which pose any risk to baby, even if only 1-2% risk of harm.

They viewed the baby from many angles and pointed out two legs, two arms, five fingers on the hand showing, and even individual ribs. He/she is starting to look like a real live human being at this point, so I'll share, even though a pic taken of an u/s pic is not the best quality.

Is it just me, or does that little white spot on the side of the head look like an ear? I think it might be. Lord help me, I'm turning into one of those women who thinks a fuzzy, grainy, black and white pic of their child's body parts is already cute. Baby A is still measuring ahead by one day and heartbeat is strong @167 bpm. This Friday makes 12 weeks. Two more weeks until we officially enter the 2nd trimester.

We're just so incredibly grateful beyond words that we at least have this baby to look forward to right now. All of life's problems just pale in comparison to the prospect of this beautiful healthy child that is on his/her way. A tornado could blow our entire house away today, and I seriously think I'd be fine, as long as this baby is fine and I have my amazing hubby by my side.