Harvest Risotto

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The autumnal equinox has officially passed, and we are now experiencing the evening hours growing darker and the air growing more crisp. I’m more accustomed to the Indian Summers of Texas, so this more iconic autumn weather here in Virginia is a refreshing change of pace.

Along with the shift in temperatures come a shift in palate. Instead of seafood and endless summer squash, I’m craving heartier roasts and roots. “Storage” crops like winter squash in whimsical varieties also grace the store shelves, and they make a delicious addition to this classic, comforting dish.

 

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Rice has a contentious role within the “paleosphere.” Being that it is a grain, it is not included in paleo canon, but has found neutral favor in many circles (such as here, here, and here) for those who tolerate it. Some have even purported specific benefits.

Until we discovered Isaac’s dairy intolerance, I had been waking up with him several times a night between his 7th and 13th month of age. These perpetual sleep interruptions paired with an accidental gluten ingestion over Memorial Day led to the most significant adrenal crash I’ve had since before I went gluten free. After spending most of June and all of July sick with never-ending respiratory infections, I’ve been working to specifically bring my adrenal function back to baseline health. A vital part of adrenal recovery is moderating glucose, as too much of a glucose load stresses out the adrenals, but without sufficient cortisol, my body isn’t efficient at gluconeogenesis (manufacturing necessary glucose in the absence of dietary carbohydrates). It’s a balancing act, and including rice in my diet (in addition to starchy vegetables like squashes, parsnips, plantains, and all manner of potato) keeps my carb intake from dipping too low while keeping my sugar cravings at bay. It also makes my trips to the local Thai restaurant more frequent, but that’s beside the point.

Rice is made particularly flavor-full and nutrient-dense in this risotto with the inclusion of not only seasonal squashes and seeds, but mineral-and-collagen-rich chicken stock. I’ve used my own home brew in this recipe, but store-bought broth will work in a pinch (Pacific Natural is gluten-free), and I imagine mushroom stock would be particularly delicious!

 

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Harvest Risotto
{gluten free, dairy free-optional, vegan-optional}
Serves 6-8

4 cups (1 quart) chicken, vegetable, or mushroom stock
3 cups water
1-2 tbsp ghee, butter, or coconut oil
2 leeks, green and white parts sliced
2 large cloves garlic, minced
1.5 cup arborio rice
1 cup hard cider, dry preferably (substitute fresh apple cider for non-alcoholic)
1 lb of butternut squash, peeled and chopped into 1/2″ cubes (about 1 small squash)
1/4 cup pepitas (pumpkin seeds)
1 tsp ground sage
1/2 tsp ground thyme
1-1.5 tsp kosher salt (or to taste)
black pepper to taste
raisins for garnish (optional)

Make sure you have all your ingredients chopped/minced/sliced ahead of time.

Pour the stock and water together in a large saucepan and set over high heat. Bring to a boil, then lower the heat to a gentle simmer. You will maintain this simmer for the duration of the recipe.

Set a separate, large saute pan over medium heat and add the butter/ghee/coconut oil. Once the fat is melted and shimmery (but not burning), add the leeks. Gently saute until soft, usually 3-5 minutes, being careful not to burn. Add the garlic and dry rice and saute together until the rice is gently toasted, about 5 more minutes. Add the hard cider and continue to stir frequently until the cider has been fully absorbed into the rice and there is none pooling in the pan.

Now, add a ladle-full of stock to the rice. In similar fashion to the cider, stir frequently while the rice absorbs the stock. Be careful not to let the pan get so hot that the stock evaporates instead of absorbing into the rice. Once each ladle-full of stock is absorbed, add another ladle-full, continuing on with the stirring-absorbing-and-adding-more-stock. This is a great time to turn on some music and sip the rest of that cider you have.

Once you have used about half of the stock, stir in the butternut squash and pepitas. Continue ladling-and-stirring the stock into the rice until both the butternut squash and the rice are soft and cooked-through. The rice will be sticky and creamy.

Stir in the sage, thyme, salt, and pepper.

Serve warm, topped with raisins, if desired.

Curried Pumpkin-Cauliflower Soup

 

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That’s right. Another pumpkin recipe. But it’s only September, and with our first real cold front coming through tomorrow, I believe it’s high time for soup to hit the household menu.

Soups are perhaps my favorite cool-weather food to prepare. They’re incredibly simple, and they’re a fantastic way to consume a variety of vegetables without having to force another forkful of cold, bitter greens into your mouth. Pumpkin, in particular, as well as plenty of other winter squashes, bring a particular savory sweetness to this soup that plays against the tingly warmth of the curry spices. The coconut milk and  cauliflower, being a common ingredients in Indian fare, tie the flavors all together with velvety richness.

 

Curried Pumpkin-Cauliflower Soup
{paleo, gluten free, vegan-optional}

2 tbsp ghee, butter, or coconut oil
1 large onion, diced
5 cloves garlic, minced
2 tsp fresh ginger, grated (about a thumb-sized knob)
2 tsp garam masala
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp ground coriander
2 tsp salt
1 quart chicken or vegetable stock
4 cups cauliflower florets
1-14 oz can pumpkin puree (about 2 cups)
1-14 oz can full-fat coconut milk (about 2 cups)

In a large saucepan, melt the ghee, butter, or coconut oil over medium heat. Add the onion and saute until mostly translucent. Add the garlic, ginger, garam masala, cumin, coriander and salt, and stir for a minute or two until highly fragrant.

Add the stock, cauliflower, and pumpkin puree. Bring to a boil, then lower to a steady simmer, and cook until cauliflower is soft and easily pierced with a fork.

Remove from heat, add the coconut milk. Puree the soup using an immersion blender, or by (carefully!) blending in batches in either a blender or a food processor.

 

Pumpkin-Cinnamon Swirl Bread

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It’s that time of year again. Now that it is officially September, many feel the sudden relief of finally being able to sate their pumpkin cravings, especially for that fan favorite, the pumpkin bread. To be honest, I hadn’t made pumpkin bread in probably four years. Don’t get me wrong; I love pumpkin! I find excuses to put it in everything from soups to frostings to curries.  I guess I had so many store-bought loaves and a few homemade versions that matched in flavor that I sort of burnt myself out on the monotony of it all. But then I found myself craving cinnamon rolls and I had an epiphany! What if I combine the seriously spicy sensations of cinnamon rolls with the familiar and festive flavors of pumpkin bread? I set out on my journey, cans of puree and bulk bags of ground cinnamon in hand, and I say, I may have just found my family’s annual pumpkin bread.

 For this recipe, I referred to Michael Ruhlman’s ratios for baking. I really enjoy making quick breads because they are just that–they’re quick to put together (even if they do spend forever in the oven), and they’re relatively foolproof. And even if you mess it up somehow, it’s delicious anyway! Plus, the quick bread ratio is the base for so, so many baked treats out there. Know the ratio and it’s as if you really get to “know” the art of the baked good, and your options become unlimited. However, Ruhlman’s ratios are noted for traditional wheat flour-based baking. Grain-free baking presents its own challenges in binding, rise, moisture content (you don’t want it to be too dry and crumbly, nor too gummy), and in some cases, flavor. Thankfully, however, this recipe, with all its adjustments from the original ratio of 2 parts flour, 2 parts liquid, 1 part egg, and 1 part fat, by weight, still remains simple and delicious.

I decided to keep true to the flavors of a cinnamon roll in that this recipe is not cloyingly sweet like so many pumpkin breads. The bread itself is only lightly sweetened, just like cinnamon roll pastry, and the filling, while indeed sweet, is more dark and warming; a subtlety that makes this a wonderful breakfast bread. The sticky-sweetness of a cinnamon roll comes from the icing. Being that cinnamon roll icing preference seems to be somewhat contentious, with some preferring the drippy powdered-sugar-and-milk icing and some opting instead for spoonfuls of thick cream cheese frosting topped while the bread is still warm. This is why I’m leaving the option up to you. For these photos, I kept with the “unrefined” theme and used a simple icing of coconut milk, melted coconut butter (not to be confused with coconut oil) mixed with only a little bit of maple syrup and vanilla. Feel free to make it your own.

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Pumpkin-Cinnamon Swirl Bread
{gluten free, grain free, paleo}

Bread:
5 oz (1/2 cup + 2 tbsp) pumpkin puree
1 tsp vanilla extract
3 large eggs
1 oz (2 tbsp) maple syrup
4 oz (1 1/4 cups) fine-ground blanched almond flour
2 oz (1/2 cup) arrowroot flour
1 tsp ground nutmeg
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt

Filling:
1/3 cup coconut sugar (dark brown sugar works as well)
1/3 cup chopped pecans
1/4 cup softened butter, ghee, or coconut oil (does not need to be melted)
1 tbsp ground cinnamon
pinch of salt

Preheat oven to 350. Take a 3.5 x 7.5 loaf pan and rub the entire inside of the pan with butter or coconut oil. Cut a piece of parchment paper to fit inside the pan and up the long sides, leaving some overhang, like a sling for the bread. Press the paper inside and grease the inside of the pan again.

In a medium bowl, combine the pumpkin, vanilla, eggs, and maple syrup together and whisk well.

In a separate, smaller bowl, combine the almond flour, arrowroot, nutmeg, baking soda, and salt together and blend well.

Pour the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients and stir well.

In a third smaller bowl, combine the oil/butter/ghee, pecans, sugar, cinnamon, and salt.

Pour about half of the bread batter into the loaf pan. Then pour/spoon about half of the cinnamon-sugar filling on top of the batter. Next, pour the rest of the pumpkin batter into the pan, then the last bit of the cinnamon filling on the very top. Use a butter knife inserted vertically all the way into the batter to swirl quick patterns.

Bake for 40-50 minutes. Loaf will be done when a bamboo skewer or knife inserted into the middle comes out clean.

Allow the bread cool in the pan for about 15 minutes, then pull the bread out using the parchment paper sling you’ve made (you will probably need to use a knife to release the bread from the pan at the ends), and allow to cool on a cooling rack for about an hour. I will be tasty after the initial cooling, but this bread actually gets better and easier to slice the longer it cools.

NOTES:

Notice that I use a 3.5 x 7.5 loaf pan. This is a fairly small pan, and if you use a larger pan, your bread will be more wide than tall, and you may need to adjust the cooking time down.

I have written this recipe primarily by weight, as I find that baking by weight is more accurate, more consistent, and dirties fewer dishes. I highly encourage you to bake by weight as well, but for those who need volume measurements, my measure is based on the “scoop and level” method.

Sweet Potato, Apple, & Poblano Hash

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One of my very favorite things about this time of year is that the great variety of seasonal chiles appear in the farmers markets and grocery stores. As a native Texan, you might think that my favorite of these is the jalapeño. It’s not. Those things are perfect paired with cream cheese for Armadillo eggs or for stuffing tamales, but they’re not my favorite. No, mine’s the poblano. It barely makes the chart on the scoville scale, carrying just a tinge of heat, but provides a lot of flavor. I never make chile con carne the same way twice, but my best versions always contained roasted poblanos. But that’s another post.

Lately I’ve been eating a lot of hash. The tiny baby-bite-sized cubes are perfect for Isaac to pick at, and I find that a dish of hash with two eggs baked on top makes for the most satisfying breakfast. This morning I found myself (sadly) without bacon, but when I realized I had a green apple and a farmers market poblano on hand, I realized I could make a hash perfect for a September breakfast.

 

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Sweet Potato, Apple, & Poblano Hash
{gluten free, paleo}
Serves 2

1 large sweet potato
1 green apple
1 poblano chile
2 tbsp pastured lard, ghee, or coconut oil
1 tsp coarse salt
1/2 tsp black pepper
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
2 green onions

Dice the sweet potato and apple into a fine dice. These need to be finely diced rather than chopped into large cubes, so that they will cook sufficiently in the pan.

Cut the poblano in half length-wise, remove the seed, membrane, and stem, and finely dice.

Set a cast iron pan over medium-high heat and add the fat to the pan. All the fat to heat up, but don’t let it get so hot that it smokes.

Add the sweet potato, apple, and poblano to the pan and toss to combine. Season with salt, pepper, and nutmeg. Allow to cook on medium or medium-high, stirring ONLY OCCASIONALLY. You want the sweet potato to develop some caramelization, and that won’t happen if it all keeps getting tossed around. After about 10-15 minutes, test a piece of sweet potato to make sure that it’s cooked through.

Sliced up some green onions and serve on top.

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*DON’T FORGET! I’ve got a giveaway going on HERE through 9/16/14 at 11:59 PM. Don’t miss out! *

 

 

Review and GIVEAWAY: Paleo to Go

Once upon a time I lived in a world when I could make just about everything from scratch. I had most the afternoon and evening to prepare whatever it is I wanted to make, and really had nothing standing in my way. But then I got pregnant, and while my appetite went up, my desire to cook complicated things (or any of the things, really) went so, so down. Suddenly I needed a snack in my purse AT ALL TIMES. Then, I gave birth. But that ability to go from zero to HANGRY in 3.7 seconds didn’t disappear. Nope! I was nursing a newborn, and with that came 3am night feedings where I struggled to juggle an equally hungry, sweaty, tired, and poopy (the kid; not me) baby whilst simultaneously stuffing an energy bar in my mouth to quench my rumbling stomach. And now I’ve got a one-year-old with the appetite of a horse, and I’m very quickly discovering that having a stash of easy-to-pack and easy-to-eat snacks in my purse is the ticket to agreeable restaurant outings and visits to the gym or church nurseries.

However, if you’re anything like me, you’ve probably eschewed most pre-packaged foods in favor of “real food.” You know, the food that has always been food: meats, vegetables, fruits, nuts, seeds, and maybe some dairy. But these sort of things are typically described as “ingredients,” and usually require some effort to prepare (which isn’t bad, but there are really only so many free hours in the day), and even fewer can survive an afternoon getting tossed around in the lunchbox. If you have food allergies/intolerances in your family, this gets even trickier (we recently discovered Isaac has a dairy intolerance, which makes this nursing mom think lustful thoughts about ice cream and cheese multiple times a day), as even many packaged foods marketed to health-freaks like me can still contain the likes of gluten, soy, treenuts, ground nuts, and eggs (wahh!).
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However, Stacy Toth and Matthew McCarry of Paleo Parents have stepped in to help us all out. In their new ebook, Paleo to Go, they’ve outlined some tips on how to put together nutritionally-balanced lunchboxes of travel-friendly real food, navigating common food allergies and restrictions among school children (and all the rest of us, really), including easy-to-prepare, kid-friendly recipes like Pizza Egg Cups (!!!), Not-Beanie Weenies, and lest you think the Paleo Parents are health-food fuddie-duddies with all their healthy meal ideas, they include treat recipes for things like Chocolate Chip Coconut Macroons! They’ve also included a collection of their favorite brands of clean-ingredient prepared snacks to make our lives just that much easier.
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For the next week I am running a GIVEAWAY for a copy of the Paleo to Go ebook! Giveaway ends 9/16/14 at 11:59 PM.

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*DISCLOSURE* I am an affiliate for the Paleo Parents ebooks Paleo to Go and 3-Phase Paleo, and do receive a small commission for those purchased using my affiliate link. The views expressed in this blog are mine alone, and I only promote products, recipes, and work I truly believe in.

Halfway there – 21 Day Sugar Detox

Ed and I are already halfway through our 21 Day Sugar Detox! This round has brought a few different challenges than the first did, as well as some new opportunities. You know how necessity is the mother of invention? Well, it’s something like that. Here’s how things are going so far:

Weight loss: I’ve lost what was left of my pregnancy pounds and then some. However, I met that on day 2 of the detox, so it probably had more to do with my pre-existing eating patterns.

Detox symptoms: Ed didn’t appear to have any negative reactions, but I suffered some cold/flu symptoms last week. I didn’t experience this during my first round. My best guess for this is that the first round was with the ebook guidelines, which suggested an additional starchy carb for EACH MEAL for the nursing modification, while the current guidelines only suggests a starchy carb at least once a day. I don’t have an intellectual problem with eating more starches (I normally have a moderate carb diet already), but since Ed isn’t on an energy modification, it’s usually easier just to steam up some cauliflower for both of us instead of preparing a starch source for myself in addition to everything. Thus, I’ve been eating lower carb than I normally do.

Positive reactions: Ed’s moods have improved and we’ve both been better at eating more vegetables.

Cheats?: Of course. Last week Ed ate a jelly donut at work without thinking, and when he forgot his lunch today he ate at Taco Bell, later noting that everything tasted very processed and super-sweet. My cheats have really been “bending” of the rules. For example, 2 pieces of approved fruit instead of 1, a full 16 oz of kombucha instead of 8, or level 1 approved rice at the Thai restaurant even though I’m following level 2. Today I ran out of green-tipped bananas and supplemented with my frozen overripe bananas. THAT tasted REALLY sweet! Other than that, I think the biggest cheat was the Thai restaurant. We both ordered red curry and stuck with rice, but I’m positive the sauce had sugar in it. Ah well.

Food I’m missing: Chocolate. Wooo boy.

Best detox meal: PIZZA. I made this cauliflower crust and loaded it with peppers, spinach, mushrooms, olives, Italian sausage, tomato sauce, and a FULL POUND of whole milk mozzarella. It was so beautiful I instagrammed it, and Ed said it was better than Dominos or Pizza Hut!

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Worst recipe: I’m working on a tortilla recipe. It’s still in the fail box in my mind, but I’m not giving up!

Best recipe adaptation: Alton Brown’s Shepherd’s Pie. I’ve used this recipe for my Shepherd’s Pie for years since the flavors are so spot-on, so when I was inspired to make a 21DSD-friendly meat pie, I went back to this recipe for guidance. In the end I made quite a few changes. Shepherd’s Pie is made with lamb, so technically this would be closer to a Cottage Pie since I used beef. I also wanted to make my meat stretch, so I added diced mushrooms and … chicken livers! I’ve been meaning to get more organ meats into my diet, and grinding livers and adding it to ground beef is both nutritious and economical, and it makes no difference in taste. I changes a few other ingredients to be more detox-friendly, and I did make two different toppings for Ed and myself–a cauli-mash topping for him and a Japanese sweet potato topping for me!

 

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 Shepherd’s (Cottage) Pie  – (Gluten Free, Grain Free, Paleo, Primal, 21DSD, WAPF)
Adapted from Alton Brown
Serves 6

*For sweet potato topping:

2 lbs Japanese sweet potato
2 tbsp butter, ghee, tallow, or lard
1/4 cup milk type drink of your choice
1/2 tsp salt
1 egg yolk

For cauliflower topping:

1 head cauliflower
1/4 cup chicken or beef stock
2 tbsp butter, ghee, tallow, or lard
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp black pepper
1 egg yolk

For the filling:

1 tbsp butter, ghee, tallow, or lard
1 small chopped onion
4 medium carrots, peeled and diced small
1/2 cup mushrooms, finely chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 lb ground beef
1/2 lb liver, finely diced either by hand or food processor, or ground (I used chicken, but I have it on good authority that lamb liver is great as well)
2 tbsp arrowroot flour**
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp black pepper
1 cup beef or chicken stock
2 tsp tomato paste
1 tsp fish sauce (Red Boat brand is sugar free and therefore 21DSD-friendly)
2 tsp fresh rosemary, finely chopped
1 tsp thyme leaves
1/2 cup frozen or fresh peas

Preheat your oven to 400 degrees.

If using sweet potato, peel and chop your sweet potatoes into medium chunks. In a large pot, add the chopped potatoes and enough water to cover. Bring to boil and allow to cook until potatoes pierce easily with a fork. Using either a potato masher, a food processor, or hand mixer, mash or puree the potatoes roughly. Allow to cool a bit. Add the butter, milk, salt, and egg yolk and continue to mash or puree until smooth. Some small chunks are fine.

If using cauliflower, roughly chop the cauliflower, discarding the steams and leaves. In a large or saucepan, add the stock and cauliflower and cover with a lid. Bring to boil, then lower temperature to a strong simmer. Cook until cauliflower easily pierces with a fork. Drain liquid and allow to cool a bit. Add butter, salt, pepper, and egg yolk, and puree or mash with a food processor, potato masher, or hand mixer.

Set a large saute pan over medium/medium-high heat and add butter. When melted, add onions, carrots, and mushrooms and allow to cook, stirring occasionally, for several minutes until the onions soften and become fragrant. Add ground beef and liver and allow to cook, again stirring occasionally until meat is fully cooked and incorporated. Sprinkle the arrowroot flour, salt, and pepper over top of the meat. Stir to mix into the meat, and allow to cook for several more minutes. Add the stock, tomato paste, fish sauce, rosemary, and thyme and allow to cook until the sauce has thickened somewhat, which should take about 5 more minutes. Mix in the peas and remove the pan from the heat.

In a casserole dish, pour the meat filling and then pour the topping atop the filling, using a spatula or back of a spoon to spread the topping evenly, smoothing out the edges to create something of a seal for the juices.

Place casserole dish in the oven and allow to bake for about 25-35 minutes, until topping is lightly browned. Allow to cool for about 10 minutes before serving.

*Sweet potatoes are only appropriate for the energy modifications during the 21 Day Sugar Detox.

**Arrowroot flour is OK during the 21 Day Sugar Detox when used in sauce-thickening applications such as this one.

 

 

The 21-Day Sugar Detox

Tomorrow I start the 21-Day Sugar Detox.

This isn’t my first rodeo with the 21DSD. I was riding high on the sugar train at the end of my pregnancy and in my early postpartum weeks. So at one month postpartum, my sister, Katie, and I embarked on our first sugar detox. The hardcopy book wasn’t released yet, and we both used the ebook form for level 1, using the nursing modification for myself.

As difficult as the detox was at times, I rather enjoyed the “clean eating reset.” It forced me to meal plan again and actually eat real meals instead of snacking. And I did find it effective in curbing my sugar binge.

Today, I find myself living in Virginia (Yeah. Military life for ya), finally settled in our new home, and entering a new year with zero expectations of what’s to come. I’m already within two pounds of my pre-pregnancy weight, through a combination of breastfeeding and eating mostly primal, and my sugar cravings aren’t really that strong (though all I want is lots of dark chocolate!). But I have fallen back into the habit of not really preparing well-rounded meals for myself , so it’s time for another reset. I’m taking this challenge at level 2 this time, though still with the energy modifications for nursing.

I’ll update progress on this round here, and probably share some recipes or meal ideas. Here we go!

Introducing…

Isaac James Rollins

Born 7/28/2013 

7 lbs 5 oz

20.5 inches long

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Sunday, the 28th, at 37 weeks, 4 days pregnant, I slept in due to a killer sinus headache. When I finally got up at 1:30, my parents were congregating in the living room and I joined them to chat, and also began to talk to Edgar over text. I shared with all of them that I had a “feeling” that the baby was coming this week. Part of my reasoning was that while I hadn’t had any Braxton Hicks, I had felt mild menstrual-like cramps very occasionally throughout my third trimester, and I had been feeling them every night for the past week. I wondered, “could this be my body’s version of prodromal labor?” and started getting this feeling I may not even last through the weekend, though I didn’t share that specific detail with my parents or Edgar, not wanting to alarm them.

Then, while sitting there, my water broke.

Not a little bit. A LOT. Niagra Falls, a LOT. And it didn’t stop!

I jumped up and just stood there, on the laminate floor, sort of in shock, until I could gather myself to call Edgar (with whom I was still engaged in text conversation) to tell him my water broke and he needed to do whatever he needed to do to get clearance to come down here ASAP. Then I called my doula. As luck would have it, ALL THREE of her AUGUST clients went into labor the SAME WEEKEND. In fact, she was with one client at the time, who also had her water break (by the way, water breaking before the onset of labor only happens in about 10-12% of births, despite what the movies show!), and that client was also delivering at Harris, where I was to be delivering. She told me she didn’t expect me to give birth until the next morning and to keep her informed and she’d send a backup doula my way and try to share time between us. Then I called L&D to let them know I’d be coming in soon.

Since I tested Group B Strep negative and my fluid was clear, we took our time getting out the door. We secured a flight for Edgar, which would be coming in at 10pm, and gathered our things. I blew up Facebook with a status update. Two hours later as we were heading out the door, I started feeling more cramping that came and went. I knew this was really early labor and I still couldn’t time them, though halfway to the hospital, in the car, I could.

I checked into maternal observation at about 4:30, and my contractions were about two minutes apart, 30 seconds long, and still pretty mild. As luck would have it, all of L&D AND maternal observation was full! There was a running joke that there was something in the air, because just about every woman in there came in because her water broke (remember that 10-12% statistic? Hah!). I sat (on a bunch of towels) in the waiting room with my parents for about an hour before I was brought back. By that time my contractions were still 2 minutes apart and a full minute in length, and slightly stronger.

The nurse checked me and got really confused. She wasn’t sure what she was feeling, but she said it didn’t feel right. She sent for the midwife, who was at first thinking she was feeling the wrong cervix (I have uterine didelphys-double uterus with double cervix), so she checked me herself. Nope, something wasn’t right. That wasn’t a head they were feeling. The brought me to another room where they did an ultrasound and they found that my baby had somehow turned into the transverse position with his legs in some funky yoga move. One foot was tucked behind him while the other was folded in front, tucked into my pelvis, against my cervix… with the umbilical cord. Game over. With his position and the threat of a cord prolapse, there was only one way this child could come out safely, and that was a c-section.

It took a little while to process, but my doula, who managed to take a break from her other client to spend time with me, reminded me that this was one of those few instances we discussed in our childbirth classes where a cesarean was absolutely necessary. She also reminded me that it’s a very good thing that Isaac “picked his own birthday,” and that every contraction I was feeling was not in vain–they were stimulating catecholamines, amino acids that are beneficial to his immunity. I found peace in that. My next concern was that Edgar was now on a plane somewhere on a four-hour flight en route to Texas, and the chances of him arriving before the birth were now next to nil. 

It took an hour and a half to prep me for surgery. In the meantime my contractions got much stronger and started to piggyback (I learned later this often happens with malpresenting babies). My mom and doula worked with me through just about every contraction, massaging my legs, blunting the sharpness of the pain.

I was wheeled into surgery a little after 8, and at 8:31, he was here. My mom took pictures while my doula rubbed my forehead and exclaimed, “your uterus is SO COOL!” Haha! 

He had a lot of fluid in his lungs, so they had to suction him out pretty quickly, so delayed cord clamping and immediate skin-to-skin wasn’t exactly an option, but they brought me to him as soon as he was breathing and wiped down. I held him on my chest while my midwife sutured up my incisions. He was beautiful. He looked just like Edgar except that he had my lips!

I was wheeled back into L&D to recover for a little bit, and my dad arrived with Edgar in tow at about 10:45. 

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Several days later my midwife chatted with us about what she, the surgeon, and the other midwives think happened. Isaac had been faithfully in the vertex position every week, even up to my last midwife appointment two days before delivery. It’s possible that after my water broke, my second, non-pregnant uterus put pressure on the other one and encouraged him to flip with each contraction. Another thought is that the force of my membranes breaking “flushed” him into transverse. We can’t really know for sure, but that if my membranes break prematurely next time, she advises I come to the hospital right away.

She also spoke very positively of my candidacy for a VBAC, telling me that they had done a low transverse incision (most common these days) and double-layer stitched my uterus (not very common these days) to preserve its strength as much as possible. She also said that my pregnant uterus was very healthy-looking. On the other hand, she told me that my second uterus looked “rudimentary” and probably wouldn’t sustain a healthy pregnancy in the off-chance I was even able to get pregnant in that side. This isn’t exactly news to me, but it’s good to have a bit extra information about my second uterus.

While I am going to have to wait a bit longer for my natural birth, I am blessed with the healthy little boy I have now. 

Sons are a heritage from the Lord; children a reward from Him.
Psalm 127:3

He settles the barren woman in her home as a happy mother of children. Praise the Lord.
Psalm 113:9

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(All photos taken by Katie Sanders Photography)

The Uncertainty Bubble

It’s been six months since my last post, and life it completely different. In six months:

* Edgar has begun and completed training at Officer Candidate School in Newport, RI. Here’s the thing–he’s still there. Due to some medical clearance complications, he is in student pool while we wade through all the protocols to get his clearance, commission, and orders. It’s been a trip, I tell ya what! And we still don’t know when he’ll get to leave.

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(Following the OCS graduation ceremony in Newport, RI)

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(Ed gifted me some newborn N-Dubs! N-Dubs of course referring to NWUs, Navy Working Uniform)

* I have moved us out of our house in Plainview. Most of our earthly belongings currently reside in a POD in Lubbock, while I have been camping out in my parents’ house in Fort Worth since May. 

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(I moved out of our house the day before the 28th week of my pregnancy)

* I’m currently 36 weeks pregnant. This pregnancy has exceeded everyone’s expectations and has had zero complications. Definitely a blessing amidst all of life’s uncertainty right now! I was told I may not make it to 34 weeks. 34 weeks came and went. I was told I may go into preterm labor. I’ll be “full term” in 3 days and my body hasn’t done anything out of the ordinary. I was told my baby may have growth restriction. My uterus has done nothing but accommodate and has been measuring LARGE with a still-quite-active baby. I was told there’s a good chance he (yes, HE!) would be breech. He was head-down until a few days before my 32 week ultrasound when he decided to somersault on me. After a weekend of inversions and frozen veggie compresses, he flipped back to vertex and has been that way ever since.

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(Baby BOY at 22w5d. He looks just like his daddy!)

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(My most recent belly shot. 36 weeks!)

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(My sister did some beautiful maternity shots for me several weeks back! She’s on Facebook. Check her out!)

I’ve been living in a bubble of uncertainty for quite some time now. Nothing really has gone “as expected.” We were expecting Edgar to graduate, come back to Plainview one last time, and move with me to Pensacola where we would set up house and prepare for our new baby, together, in the comfort of our own home. Now,  there is a makeshift nursery set up in the corner of my sister’s room, and I’ve been sharing a bed with her. We aren’t sure if Edgar will be able to make it down in time for the birth, and we have no idea when we will be able to move, and at this point we’re not even sure where we are going. 

This sort of uncertainty would devastate some people. I will admit it’s hard, and there are times where we feel more hopeless than faithful. But I also remember that it is in these moments that God teaches me His most important lessons. It has been my experience that the best decisions in life have happened when I really had no choice but to trust Him. It is also in these times that God has spoken through my husband’s sense of intuition to teach me that I can’t depend on “evidence” all the time. God will get us through. He always has. He always does. That is His promise.

For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Jeremiah 29:11

I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry,whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through him who gives me strength Philippians 4:12-13

 Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. James 1:2-4

 

What change a year has brought

 

2012 was a year of subtle, but important change. I didn’t change jobs or do anything drastic like that, like I had in 2011. 2012 was quiet and subdued for the most part, it was a year of preparation for what is to come in 2013.

 

In May, Edgar completed his double-major in Business and Music, and began a journey toward a commission in the U.S. Navy. Shortly after my last post, he received his professional recommendation, then his final select letter, then official swore in a few weeks ago. He will be leaving in a few short weeks to begin his training as a Naval officer.

Around that same time, we discovered another equally exciting pieces of news, which has turned our world upside down in the best way possible:

 

 

Baby Rollins has been given an estimated due date of 8/14/13, though given my double uterus, could be expected to come in July!

This is why I haven’t posted lately. I have been sick between the flu and morning sickness and relentless fatigue, but this week I am working to push forward through the progesterone-induced fog and get this house ready for our impending move, and revive my writing.

Sometime soon, I will go into a bit more detail of the changes I went through before getting pregnant (hint: it involves a lot of eggs and butterfat). For me, conceiving without medication or struggle, while having PCOS, was a big deal, and it deserves its own post.

 

What major change has the last year brought for you?

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