Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Homemade Chicken and Dumplings

This is childhood-memories, warm-your-soul, polar-vortex kind of food, people!

Start with a cut up whole chicken. Or just some bone-in cuts of chicken. Put it into a big pot. 

Like, the biggest pot you have. 

This time I am trying it with my pasta pot that has a strainer pot that nests inside of it. I thought that would be helpful to get the chicken and veggies out later. 


Fill up the pot with water to just at the top of the chicken, or just under the top of the pot, whichever comes first. 

If you have room, add some chunks of onion, celery, and carrots. I did not have room, so I'm going to add those after I take the cooked chicken out. 



One good thing about not putting the veggies in yet is that you will end up with plain, poached chicken that could be used for other recipes. 

Bring the chicken to a boil and then reduce to a simmer and cook for as long as you can, but at least 45 minutes to an hour or until chicken is thoroughly cooked.

Once the chicken is done, remove from the water and let it sit until it's cool enough to separate the meat from the bones, skin, and cartilage. 



If you are using dark meat like I did, you may want to skim some of the fat off the top of the broth. It will look oily on the top. It's up to you - the dark meat definitely adds more flavor, and it is also cheaper than all-white meat. I just used a coffee mug and scooped some off the surface.



Now you can put your chunks of veggies and a bay leaf and a teaspoon or so of whole peppercorns into the pot of chicken water and bring that back up to a boil. Be sure to reserve some veggies to chop and add later - the chunks are just for flavoring the broth. Reduce heat and simmer away, I'd say for maybe another hour? You could always do it shorter and I'm sure it would still turn out fine if you don't have as much time.


Strain the veggies out of the broth and discard.


Using the pasta strainer worked like a charm - only a few peppercorns escaped through the holes! I just fished them out with a spoon. Do it quick! I thought they would float, but they sink to the bottom. This is a good time to taste the broth and see how much salt you need to add. Mine needed quite a bit, probably a tablespoon or a bit more. Of course, I didn't measure. :) Just add cautiously; you can always add more later.



Chop your remaining veggies into small, bite sized pieces (the husband and I like them very small in soups - its up to you what size you'd like them to be). Put them into the broth along with the cooked chicken that's been shredded into bite-size bits.


It yielded so much meat! I decided to freeze a little over half of it. I put it in a freezer bag and rolled it into a log.



Now for the drop bisquick dumplings! All you need is bisquick mix and milk. I actually found a recipe for chicken and dumplings on the back of my box! A much faster version, and not from scratch. But I did use it for my guideline for the ratio of bisquick to milk.

Use 2 cups of bisquick and mix it with 2/3 cup of milk and stir together. It will seem a tad dry and be hard to stir. I chose to add some dry parsley to the mix.


Once your chicken broth, chopped veggies, and shredded chicken have reached a boil, drop the bisquick mixture in, a spoonful at a time. Once you have gotten all the dumplings in the soup, then you can reduce the heat to a simmer.

It looks like little cauliflower clouds on the surface!


Simmer for 10 minutes uncovered, and then another 10 minutes with the lid on.

And then...it's time to eat!


It was delicious, and just how I remember my momma making it!



Homemade Chicken and Dumplings

Serves: a lot.

Ingredients

whole chicken, cut into pieces or bone in chicken breasts
water
celery
carrots
1 onion
bay leaf
1 teaspoon peppercorns
2 cups of bisquick baking mix
2/3 cup milk
2 teaspoons dry parsley
salt

Put chicken pieces, the chopped chunks of veggies, bay leaf, and peppercorns into a large pot and just barely cover with water.

Bring to a boil and then reduce heat and simmer for at least 1 hour, until chicken is cooked through and falls off the bone.

Strain out the liquid from the chicken and veggies. Discard the veggies.

Let chicken cool and separate meat from the bones, skin, and cartilage. Add shredded chicken back into the broth.

Finely chop some carrots and celery; add to the pot as well.

Bring to a boil.

Mix the bisquick, milk, and parsley in a small bowl until moistened.

Drop by the spoonful into the boiling broth.

Once all have been added, reduce the heat and simmer for 10 minutes, uncovered.

Then put the lid on and simmer for an additional 10 minutes.

Serve immediately.

Sunday, January 26, 2014

It's a...

...Girl!!!

We had our gender reveal party tonite. 

I think we need to have parties more often because it motivates us to clean house!

Duke slept while we cleaned.


I made this poster of Old Wives Tales of gender predicting.


I made an area for posting votes.


We ate Chipotle-themed food: barbacoa beef, beans, and cilantro-lime rice.





The aftermath.


The decorations!


The cupcakes.


Pink filling!



I can't wait to meet little Ava Mckenzie this summer!!

Saturday, January 25, 2014

17 Weeks

Well, here I am!


It is really hard to take these selfies. I feel like it will be easier to capture my belly once I am a little bit bigger. It is a talent to get the belly at the right angle, to figure out what to do with my arm, and to have a semi natural-looking smile. This was like photo number 6.

We did a 4D ultrasound a few days ago to determine gender! I wasn't sure I wanted to spend the money on an "extra" ultrasound, but we got a good deal, and it was such a neat experience! I'm glad we decided to do it. 

The room was dimly lit and had big couches in it for friends and family - you could have a party in there! The images were up on the projector screen, so you didn't miss a single movement. We spent about 15 minutes watching our baby on the screen, some 2D images, and some 3D. 

At first, the baby had its legs crossed, so the ultrasound tech wasn't sure she would be able to determine gender. But baby eventually moved, so she was able to tell! And she said she was 150% sure!

Here's a little secret...we debated for about a week on wether or not we wanted to know the gender at the appointment or be surprised at our gender reveal party. We decided at the last minute that we just had to know - this experience and this baby are just too special to wait. Why wait?!

The ultrasound tech had me bounce on a yoga ball to see if we could get the baby to rotate in order to get some 3D images of the baby's face. So far all we could see was a side and back view of the baby. She had me lay back on the table and press on the side of my belly to see if that would help. Baby was making us laugh; the baby was upside down on its head, with legs outstretched! When I would press on my belly, we could see baby kick back on the screen!




I had not felt any kicks up until this point, but seeing the baby move on the screen helped me to know what I was feeling. I could feel little tiny flutters when the baby would kick back! I have enjoyed feeling baby kick, now that I know that its the baby and not just my stomach or gas moving around! The other night I had my hand over my lower belly when I was in bed, and I could feel the kick on the outside! But I had to focus in order to feel it; it's not very obvious yet!

After the ultrasound, we went to a pizza place next door and had lunch and talked about our little baby. I felt really, really happy. Content. And smiley! I was very glad we decided to find out the gender - it was nice that just the two of us could share it. I can't wait for our gender reveal party on Sunday...then the whole world will know!

I have definitely been more tired lately; as usual, I'm getting nothing done. I'm starting to have lower back aches and I get tired doing simple chores. 

I'm still eating whatever, although I realize I lost my obsession with breakfast. I used to make fried egg sandwiches, scrambled eggs and toast, and things like that, and now I don't feel like it. Maybe because it makes me tired just thinking about having to make it? Probably!

Still no progress with the nursery. Well, that's not entirely true. 

I finally put the Christmas decoration boxes away that were in there.

I went through our Christmas gifts.

I sorted through some maternity clothes...there's a lot!

And, I've decided the color scheme for the nursery, and I intend to go crazy adding things to our registry after the party! 

So...what do you think? Boy or girl?!

Friday, January 17, 2014

16 Weeks

I am at 16 weeks today, and I have to say, I feel pretty great.

On days that I don't work, I am interested in some sort of exercising, something I could not imagine wanting to do in my first trimester.

I enjoy ALL food. I have lost the majority of my sweet tooth. Sad! That does not stop me from wanting a good carbonated beverage or sweet tea. I have discovered that if I overdo it on the sweets that I really don't feel good afterward. I really enjoy my salty food though! I wouldn't say that I have cravings, but the majority of the time when I want a snack, I want something salty and crunchy. Or some fruit. Ha! So no real rhyme or reason to it.

The majority of my clothes still fit. A few of my tight-waisted jeans are already going to have to be put away, as well as a few of my snug shirts. I have a bunch of maternity clothes already, some of which I have been given, some I have purchased, and some that I am borrowing. I have some clothes sorting to do in my future!

The animals don't seem to be acting any different toward me. At least Duke is not. He is just a hot mess and doesn't know what he's doing. He thrives on attention anyway, so he always follows us around and stares at us. I guess the cats have been lounging around with me a bit more often, but only at night when I go to bed. There have been a few occasions when one of them will join me on the couch voluntarily, but it always depends on where Duke is. If Duke is wandering around the house, they won't do it. Only if he is settled in one spot or outside.

The only real symptoms I'm getting so far this trimester is the occasional headache. The other day I had a headache, went to bed with it, and woke up with it. That never happens to me!

I am enjoying my pregnancy pillow. I bought it pretty early on, just when my tummy was barely sticking out. I knew I would want it, and now it is perfect for side sleeping. This is the one I bought. It's great because it has 3 detachable parts so it can be customized for what you want. I have the top part detached so I can use my own pillow. The cats enjoy laying near it, on it, and the other day, I found Zorro sleeping under it. If you don't own cats, I will tell you that they think everything you bring into the house is for them.

This upcoming week, we have a 4D ultrasound scheduled to determine the gender! We are hoping that we can keep our decision to keep it a surprise until we have our gender reveal party the following weekend! We are SO excited to know!

I am hoping to be able to make some nursery decisions and maybe even some purchases in the upcoming weeks! The tax refund will definitely come in handy this year!

I still cannot believe that we have been so blessed. Even though I am classified as high-risk, I should have a "normal" pregnancy. Toward the end I will have to watch for early labor. I still look at my belly everyday and feel disbelief that this is happening. Pretty much everyday one (or both) of us looks at the other person and says, "we're going to have a baby" or "pretty soon there will be a baby on the couch with us" or something along those lines. We are so ready for this addition to our lives! I remember having many conversations about how we felt we knew we were ready for kids because our lives simply felt incomplete.

I am looking forward to the weeks ahead!



See you next week!

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

One Trimester Down, 2 To Go!

Read Part 1 and Part 2


We talked for awhile that day.

Like nonstop.

He still couldn't wrap his brain around the fact that I was pregnant. I told him that I've had 4 weeks to process this, and I still couldn't understand it.

Here's my theory on what happened:

1. I began my period on Aug. 30. I took Clomid as prescribed.
2. Clomid did not make me ovulate; the blood test on day 21 was correct.
3. I was testing for pregnancy between day 30 and 40.
4. I took Provera between day 45 and day 55 after taking a lab urine pregnancy test.
5. I ovulated on my own on or before day 45 of my cycle, October 11. We conceived shortly thereafter. I was NOT charting, so I have no idea what day was "the day". You can't know for sure anyway, unless you only try like once every 7 days.
6. I starting feeling pregnancy symptoms around day 55. Some of them were the same as PMS symptoms, so I was still expecting a period after ending Provera.
7. I got a positive pregnancy test on day 64.
8. November 12 was the day I went to the ER. I was measured at 6 weeks, 4 days.

Crazy.

Working backwards, based on my ER measurement, my imaginary cycle should have started on September 28. That's how off everything was! So I was able to get a strong positive at 4.5 weeks pregnant. And under "normal" circumstances, I probably would have chosen to take a test several days earlier.

Every time I went to see a doctor or talked to a nurse, they always wanted to know when the first day of my last menstrual cycle was to determine my due date. I would tell them August 30th, and then I'd have to tell them the whole story. If they would just pull up my file on the computer, they would see that I went to the ER and had an ultrasound done. I think some of them just thought I was lying about the date. I had one nurse ask me if I was "sure about that".

Yes. I am.

Before I could get ahold of my doctor or went to the clinic for the pregnancy test, in those first few days when I was alone in my thoughts, I did some research on Provera in early pregnancy. I didn't realize how "common" it was. A lot of people were saying they had "Provera babies". A particular website had written that Provera could actually help the tail end of the cycle and aid in the ability of the pregnancy to begin. Provera is progesterone, and progesterone is responsible for the luteal phase, and my luteal phase was too short, like I'd been thinking all along, but no doctor would hear me out...

Chills.

Despite my anger at my doctor for withholding those lab results for 20 days, it was apparently was what led me to taking Provera while having a fertilized egg at the same time. I'm pretty certain that taking Provera helped this pregnancy thrive.

I already feel like my baby is a miracle. It is obvious that this specific baby, this specific egg and sperm, was meant to be our baby. This baby wanted to exist.

One of the favorite things anyone has told me during our time we were trying to conceive was from my sister, who also waited a long time to conceive her baby. She more or less said:

"You may not understand why you aren't getting pregnant right now. It's frustrating, and you want to know what's taking so long. But God is taking his time picking just the right egg and just the right sperm to make just the right baby for you. The baby that you may have wanted to conceive in the past was not the baby God wanted you to have. He has picked this baby just for you."

Beautiful. That definitely put things in perspective for me, and it made me feel better. It didn't take away the emotional tug-of-war, but I found comfort in those words.

I'm in love with this baby.

In the beginning, I was obsessed with looking in the mirror at my belly. I was so excited to see it grow. I think I convinced myself that it already looked bigger. I had spend so many days before getting pregnant, sticking my belly out, imagining what I'd look like with a pregnant belly.

And now, at almost 16 weeks, I have a nice little round basketball.

I'm already breaking in some of my maternity clothes. They are the most comfy.

I'm still obsessed with looking in the mirror at my belly. I still cannot believe I'm pregnant, and I'm glad I'm getting some noticeable physical changes so I don't have to keep telling myself I'm pregnant. I can see it now. If I had nothing better to do all day, I would probably just stand in front of the mirror. And rub my belly. I'm trying not to take any of these days for granted; I know of many, many people who are still on their own journeys to get where I am.

I was fortunate to escape the first trimester without throwing up once. I am very grateful for that! Not to say that I wasn't nauseous - I had my fair share of nauseously uncomfortable evenings. I remember thinking to myself while trying to get pregnant that I would be happy to throw up and be nauseous because that meant that I would be pregnant. I wouldn't complain.

My nausea has gradually slipped away, I am back to eating practically everything (I even ate pizza the other day, something I've had an aversion to this whole time!), and going to the grocery store doesn't make me want to pass out. And, as a bonus, I'm going on week 2 of an energy burst! I no longer seem to need my nap (or two) each day to survive.

I can't wait to start feeling those baby kicks and movements.

We are anxiously awaiting our next ultrasound; it should be the gender reveal!

My Pregnancy: The Reveal

My brain was a jumbled mess.

I am pregnant.

And nobody knows.

(To fully understand the context of this post, you may want to read my previous post first.)

That morning, I was by myself at work for a few hours. It was the slowest shift ever.

God must have done that knowing I would need some time to think!

It was sort of agonizing. My mind was going in a thousand different directions. I was trying to sort out what could have possibly happened. Was my home ovulation test faulty? Was there a chance the lab test was wrong, or maybe it was someone else's results? How far along was I? Do I tell someone? Do I tell Chris?!

I never imagined that I would have to tell Chris over the phone that I was pregnant. And I hated the idea of it. He was in an area where there was poor cell phone reception, so there was no guarantee that I could even get ahold of him to tell him. And I was imagining me trying to tell him the news and then the phone cutting in and out. It would be so awkward and anti-climactic. The other option was to tell him through text message.

Really?!

I couldn't stand the thought of having to tell him that way.

I knew he would call me at some point during his training, even if that meant borrowing someone else's phone to call me. So I would eventually have the opportunity to tell him.

But after all we've been through, this long journey to get here, I just could not bring myself to telling him without it being able to be in person, just him and me. I wanted him to be able to focus at training. I knew he would have a ton of questions, just like the ones racing through my mind.

I then realized I had a third option.

Don't tell him at all!

For a second, I though, no, that is too selfish.

But I realized it would actually be more selfish to tell him while he was so far away. And he had just started his 4-week training.

I decided I would keep it a secret until he came home and I could tell him in person. I would have more answers then, and he would have NO idea that I was pregnant. He knew I was about to get my period when he left because of the medicine I was taking.

I have to admit, I did slightly consider the fact that I might have been pregnant a few days before he left. I just kept those thoughts to myself. We had gone through so much disappointment and so many negative pregnancy tests that I figured once again, I was just making things up in my mind.

Ok, so I made one decision.

Soon the next person would be coming into work, and this news was already eating away at me.

Should I tell other people?

Would that be fair to Chris that he would not be the first one to know?

Could I really go 4 weeks keeping this secret from everyone?!

I decided that I would tell a few people at work. I'm sure that my pregnancy symptoms would be hard to hide, anyway.

So I told a few girls at work.

It seemed so weird to have those words slip through my mouth: I'm pregnant.

I never thought I'd actually get to say those words.

Of course, I was still in complete disbelief. I'm not even sure I believed the pregnancy tests. I thought they were faulty.

But it made so much sense with the pregnancy symptoms I had. It just didn't make sense on paper.

I left a message for my doctor. I was a little concerned that I was taking Provera while apparently pregnant. I assumed, like drinking alcohol during early, early pregnancy, that it was nothing to really worry about. Lots of women do things that are not considered healthy for a pregnancy before they realize they are pregnant, and the babies are just fine.

A few days went by, and no call from my doctor. I left another message, and called another number and left a message on that line, too.

The weekend went by, and by Monday morning, I was frustrated.

Zero communication.

I finally called the appointment line, and had to leave a message there as well.

What?! Who has ever had to leave a message on an appointment line?!

I was realizing that I was going more crazy than ever. I decided that I would tell my neighbor; she is a mother herself, and I decided it would be smart to tell someone nearby in case I needed help. She told me that all you have to do is go to the clinic (where my PCM is) and ask to do a pregnancy test. And then you will have one on file and the doctor should call you. And sure enough, when I got a call back later that day from the appointment line (STILL nothing from MY doctor), she said the same thing.

I was too late to do a pregnancy test that day; they only do them during certain hours. So I went in the next day. I was talking with the nurse about how this pregnancy came about, and how I was getting frustrated by the lack of communication with my doctor. As I was talking, she was taking my vitals. She was looking to write down my blood pressure from the display on the wall, and her eyes bolted to mine. She said, "Is your blood pressure always high?" I said no. She said it was really high, and she said, "Just try and relax a bit. I'm going to test it again".

I told her it's probably because I'm stressed. I was telling her that I was interested in getting a referral to see a different doctor because I just wasn't happy with all that we had gone through with the one I have.

And then I started crying!

That never happens to me. I was clearly stressed, upset, and pregnant!

The nurse was so great and sympathetic. Her tone instantly changed, and she offered me a tissue. She told me that there are plenty of great doctors in OB that I could switch to. She seemed surprised that my doctor hadn't called me too. She answered as many of my questions as she could, and she told me she would call me as soon as the lab test came back.

I did feel a little better after talking with her. I finally got a few of my questions answered, even though I still didn't know how far along I was or what had happened with my medications.

I had been spotting the last few days, just a brownish-colored discharge, and I had read that was pretty normal. But when I woke up the next day, I was spotting pinkish-red. And I was crampy.

I got a little scared. I couldn't get ahold of my doctor. WHY WOULDN'T SHE CALL ME BACK?!

So. mad.

The nurse called me back, just like she promised, and said the test of course came back positive. She said it would take 3 days for the results to be sent up to OB, and then someone would call me to make my OB orientation appointment. I told her about my bleeding, and she said she would quickly talk to my PCM and call me right back. 5 minutes later, she did. She recommended that I go to the ER to get checked out.

Blech. I had never been to the ER before. Well, that's I lie. Once when I was 3, but that doesn't count.

I talked to my neighbor to tell her what was going on, and she graciously volunteered to take me, even though it meant bringing her baby with us. I was hoping she would say that - I was a bit scared to go alone.

Fortunately, all of my appointments are on post at the hospital, which I live just down the street from. So it only takes a few minutes to get to the ER. Fortunately, we didn't have to wait long to be seen. I was taken back to a small room to talk to a nurse to discuss what was going on. The tone in her voice made me feel like I was overreacting. She wasn't really very warm towards me until the end when she was cooing at my neighbor's baby. We were sent back to the waiting room. I figured we'd have to wait for awhile - there had been an accident involving a semi with a load of iron beams and at least one other car just off post. And they were all brought to the ER on post. But I was taken back within 5 minutes!

To make a 4 hour story short, I had a few exams done, some blood and urine taken, and an internal ultrasound. As I was wheeled over to the ultrasound room, the ultrasound tech said with a smile, "You know it's Tuesday, right?" I smiled back and said "yeah..."

Then he said, "It's TWINS Tuesday!!"

I sorta laughed and said, "OH no! I don't think so!"

All the staff was great. He wasn't allowed to talk to me about what he was seeing on the screen. So he made small chat about other things. I laid there in the dark room, wondering what he was seeing. Was it ectopic? Was everything ok? Was there a heartbeat? Was it too early for a heartbeat? Was I pregnant at all? I still was in such doubt of all these tests; I was ready for some physical proof.

I was wheeled back to my exam room. The doctor came back in; he was an older man with a very gentle spirit and was a soft spoken and warm person. He said that the ultrasound came back fine - everything looked as it should. He said my numbers should double every 24-48 hours or so, and compared to the blood test from my pregnancy test in the clinic 3 days prior, my numbers hadn't quite doubled yet. But the baby was growing in a normal place, and the heart rate was 153.

The heart rate! The baby's heart was beating! The baby!!

He then said I was measuring 6 weeks, 4 days.

I felt a big smile spread across my face. That was enough proof for me - I AM PREGNANT!!

He did a quick exam and then gave me his adorable speech, that went something along the lines of this: "Now, we aren't quite sure why you are bleeding. Sometimes that just happens. Some women continue to get bleeding like a period each month throughout their pregnancy, and everything turns out just fine. Now sometimes bleeding just happens, and unfortunately there's nothing we can do about it. Only the Lord will decide when it is going to be a miscarriage; we just don't know. Only the Lord can decide."

He reminded me of a sweet grandfather. He was the perfect doctor with a calm disposition and a great bedside manner. I thanked him so much for his care, and he responded with a thank you of his own for being so patient and waiting for so long.

I was then discharged with instructions to not work for the next few days, go to the clinic for a follow-up blood test in a few days to check on my numbers, and to return if the bleeding increased in volume.

I.

Felt.

SO.

Much.

Better.

My neighbor said, "You feel a lot better now, huh?"

Why yes I did.

So so so thankful for the staff working in the ER that day. I could not have asked for a better experience.

The bleeding stopped in a few days. Whenever I wasn't at work, I put myself of bed rest. I didn't do ANYTHING. I decided that was best.

Chris called a few days later; it was REALLY hard not to tell him what was going on. We tell each other everything. I got really good at subtly changing the subject when I felt the conversation was getting too close to what was going on with me.

I spent the next few days avoiding most food, drinking sprite and ginger ale, and trying to find food that actually tasted good. Lots of evening nausea, but thankfully no vomiting. For about a week there were only a handful of things I could stand to eat. And I made only one trip to the grocery store and bought a lot of what sounded good; going to the grocery store was awful. I could not stand to look at so much food. It made my nausea worse.

By the next week I didn't want ANY of the food I had just bought. Such a waste.

I didn't really do any cooking the whole time Chris was gone. Saltines made me want to vomit when I had nausea. I survived on bananas, frozen pot pies, ginger ale, and peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. My appetite had definitely changed, and I had a TON of food aversions. Mint gum, goldfish crackers, and sipping on water helped me survive at work.

(Now I hate goldfish crackers. I bought a huge box from SAM's Club and I won't touch it.)

As time got closer for Chris to come home, I was thinking of how to tell him. There are a million ways to do it! Did I want it to be funny? Or sweet? Should I do it in front of everyone once he got off the bus? Or did I want it to be more private?

I finally decided that since it was such a confusing fact that I was pregnant, and we had been trying for so many years and gone through such struggle, I decided that telling him at home, just the two of us, was the way to go.

I never really thought that we would be able to be 100% surprised by a pregnancy while taking fertility meds. We would always know that a pregnancy was coming. Or at least could come. We both had it in our minds that a pregnancy would not happen for us this cycle. There were facts to back it up.

I decided that he would find out the same way I did: a simple positive pregnancy test. I left one on the counter in the bathroom. I knew the first thing he would want to do when he came home was to take a shower. So I was sure he'd see it right away. I wanted to recreate the same shock and feelings that I had. Just like he wasn't gone at all.

Then I put some things up in the soon-to-be baby room. I borrowed a banner from my neighbor, who welcomed her husband home from deployment after their baby was born. He met his daughter for the first time when she was already several months old. I put the banner up on the wall.


I had also been keeping a "Daddy Diary" in which I documented each day that Chris was gone - how I was feeling physically and mentally, so he didn't have to miss a thing. I taped those to the wall as well. The pages wrapped halfway across the room!

I also knew he would be just as confused as I was about me being pregnant, so I also printed off some calendars and filled in some things and worked backwards to figure out when we conceived. I calculated our due date using an app on my phone - July 5! (At a later appointment, I was told it was actually July 4th!)

I found a few cute gender-neutral things to put up on the wall to make it cute.


All that was left to do was wait.

His bus arrived on a Sunday morning. I drove to his troop to meet him, but they were still waiting on their bags and weapons that were being transported in a semi. So we sat right next to each other for a few hours, in a room with leadership, without me being able to say anything about it to him. Lots of small talk, lots of sitting quietly while listening to the stories of the training, and the occasional talk of when their bags would arrive and how soon they could be released.

I was surprisingly calm. I was just glad he was home; I knew we'd get our time soon enough. It did feel a little strange to be sitting right next to him with this big secret that was going to change our lives forever.

I ended up leaving to go wait at home, and then I awaited his call to come back and get him.

And things went just how I planned.

He immediately went upstairs for a shower. I followed him up there. I sort of hung back and stood around the corner in the bedroom doorway in hopes of catching a glimpse of his face as he saw what was on the counter.

I felt so sneaky.

And then he walked back out of the bathroom and started chatting with me. I walked into the room, not hearing anything he said. I just stared at him.

He didn't see it! I was sure to take everything off the counter so he would HAVE to see it! 

He usually puts his towel on the counter, right where I put the test! My plan did not work!

So I had to call him out on it.

I asked,
"Did you see what's on the counter in there?"

"Uh huh, it's one of your ovulation tests." (I used these many times, the digital ones look practically identical to the pregnancy test.)

I didn't know what to say.

(I had lied during a previous phone conversation and said I had taken Clomid and it would be time to try when he got home.)

So I just went with it.
"Did you see what it said?"

He walked back in the bathroom, and I followed like a little puppy to the bathroom doorway.

I stared at him with my hands at my mouth.

He picked up the test.

"Pregnant", he said.

"Pregnant...?" he said again, and he looked at me.

"You're pregnant?!"

All I could do was smile and nod like a crazy person.

"Yes, I'm pregnant!"

The next few moments were both hilarious and adorable. As he was trying to make sense of it all, I could literally see the wheels in his brain turning.

"Wait, how can that be?" and he would scratch his chest and scrunch up his face. Then he would smile at me, and repeat "You're pregnant", like a statement, rather than a question.

"Wait...so how far along are you...like 3 weeks...?"

His poor brain.

I said, "No, I'm already 8 weeks."

"Wait, you've been pregnant this whole time I've been gone?!"

I quietly said "yes."

And we smiled.

I decided I had tortured him enough and took him by the hand and led him into the baby room. The room was empty except for what I had put on the walls, and I had dug out a few of my baby things from storage. I started to explain everything to him, how Provera didn't work because I was already pregnant and I had to go to the ER but everything's fine and that's how I know how far a long I am.

"You aren't mad that I kept this from you, are you?"

"No! Not at all!" he said excitedly. "We're going to have a baby!!"

Yes, we are.

Stay tuned for Part 3!



Friday, January 10, 2014

Now, This is a Story All About How My Life Got Flipped Turned Upside Down...

I have debated for a long time about whether I wanted to include a post on my blog about the journey my husband and I have been on to achieve a pregnancy.

It's quite personal.

And some people may think that it's too much information.

But without the other blogs I came across during my research, I would have felt MUCH more helpless and alone. And my hope is, is that another woman will stumble across this post and find comfort and hope in hearing someone else's story.

Now, I will go ahead and include a disclaimer: men may find this post frightening as you will probably read way more than you ever wanted to know about the female body. It's nothing embarrassing, its just biology. I will warn you again when things get personal.

For now, let's rewind the clock back to June 6, 2009: the day Chris and I got married! We both had talked during our dating years of if we wanted kids, how many, and when we wanted to start trying. We both agreed not to start trying right away. Maybe wait a year or two - we didn't really have an exact timeline. We just wanted to enjoy life, our marriage, and take things as they came.

I was using the birth control pill when we started talking about when we should start trying. I knew from my last doctor's appointment that coming off birth control meant my body would have a lot of adjusting to do. My body would have to restart releasing the correct hormones on its own, and she said it can take several months for my body to re-regulate. With this in mind, we decided that I would stop taking birth control, and we would let nature take its course. I believe this was in November of 2010. We felt comfortable knowing that the chances of us getting pregnant right away were slim.

Getting a little personal...

My body had not been completely free of the hormones from the pill for 8 years. Knowing what I know now about how harmful those hormones can be, I never would have stayed on it for so long. I was FAR from having regular cycles. I never knew when my period would show up, which made it agonizing because it made me think I could have been pregnant each cycle. I can't tell you how many pregnancy tests I went through. The whole reason I starting taking birth control in the first place was because of my irregular cycles, so I guess I wasn't too surprised. Nonetheless, as each month passed, I became more emotionally consumed by not being able to get pregnant.

I had learned about charting your cycles from a huge book, called Taking Charge of Your Fertility, which I highly recommend. I had no idea there was so much I didn't know about my own body. It has in-depth explanations of how to achieve AND prevent pregnancy...naturally! No type of store-bought birth control necessary. I will spare you the details, but basically you track 3 different things daily and record them on a chart provided in the book. Certain patterns of these 3 things indicate ovulation and later, either pregnancy or an impending period.

I decided this would be a great thing to do to try to figure out what in the heck my body was doing. I brought months worth of my home documentation to my doctor, and she didn't even look at it. She just brushed it off and said she didn't have any concerns because I was still getting a period about every 5 weeks or so. Thanks. I had never felt so ignored by a doctor before. She said we needed to have been trying to conceive (TTC) for at least a year before we would look at another course of action.

Well, then my husband had to go to Officer Training for the Army and was gone for 9 months. So obviously, no attempts were made during those months. It set us back almost another year. Right after his training was up, we got orders to move out of state. We decided that once we got settled, I would make an appointment to be seen regarding fertility.

My first appointment was in the fall of 2012. I had to go to my PCM, or Primary Care Manager. All referrals to any other department (including OB) have to come from your PCM. I told her we had been trying for 2 years with no luck. She was happy to refer me to the fertility clinic. Of course, I had to wait like 3 weeks to be seen. Lots of hurry up and wait in the Army. 3 weeks felt like forever. Man, when you have baby fever, you have it BAD.

And getting more personal...

Finally the appointment arrived, and the nurse took down a lot of information about what my cycles are like. Lately I had been going between 40-50 days between each period, some periods with really heavy bleeding, and others with more "regular" bleeding. Sometimes I would spot, which I knew from my charting was actually breakthrough bleeding and was not a period. So definitely not normal things.

TMI about periods...
 
I had my own theory about what was wrong, in addition to my long cycles. Day 1-5 of a cycle is typically bleeding days. The average woman ovulates on day 14, and then day 15 to the return of the period is called the luteal phase. The luteal phase must be at least 10 days to give a fertilized egg the time it needs to travel down the fallopian tube into the uterus to implant. I was only hitting about 8 days. So I came to the conclusion that my luteal phase was too short, and that it's possible that I could have had fertilized eggs in the past that just didn't have a chance to implant. The hormone that is responsible for the length of the luteal phase is progesterone. At least that is what I understood from my book. And of course, I am no doctor, but cycle after cycle, it would take between 30-40 days and then there were signs of ovulation (sometimes even confirmed by ovulation tests) and then I would quickly get my period. I was convinced I had diagnosed myself.

My diagnosis...

So back to the appointment, the doctor began to talk to me about Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS) and what the symptoms look like. PCOS can interfere with the ability of the ovaries to release an egg due to harmless cysts that form around the ovaries. She performed an internal sonogram to get a look at my ovaries, tubes, and uterus. And sure enough, there was a "string of pearls" around both of my ovaries. Clear as day - even Chris could see them.

I was not surprised. Someone very close to me also has PCOS, so I was already familiar with it. I was actually expecting her to say I had it based on all my symptoms, which includes crazy whacked out cycles and acne, something I have struggled with since Jr. High.

The doctor said she also wanted me to have an hysterosalpingogram (HSG...try and say that 10 times fast!) done to be sure there was nothing else going on. She briefly told me that it is an X-ray in which dye in injected into the uterus to get a look at the shape of the uterus and tubes more clearly. She also put in orders for Chris to do a semen analysis to ensure there were no problems with him.

Chris's results quickly came back all clear. It took me forever to schedule my appointment for the HSG - it has to be perfomed between day 7 and day 10 of your cycle. Basically after you've stopped bleeding but before ovulation has occured.

I did some research on the HSG the night before my appointment.

BIG mistake.

The procedure seemed pretty invasive, so I wanted to get more information about exactly what happens. I knew the internet was a bad place to go, but it was the only way I could get any info about it. I found a ton of women who had written about their personal experience with it. Almost every single woman said it was the worst, most painful thing they have ever had done. Some women even compared it to child birthing. Some got a prescription for Valluim to get them through the procedure. Some women said their doctor told them to take Ibuprofen before the appointment to help. All I could think of, is why didn't my doctor tell me about any of this?! I was so worked up all that night.

The next day, I had to go down to Radiology and cancel my appointment because I was still on the tail end of my period. So frustrated. That meant I had to wait another 40-50 days before I got my period to try again. My orders in the computer were only good for 30 days, so that meant I would have to call my fertility doctor to have her put them in again.

So I started the hurry up and wait again. We were both getting tired of waiting; we felt so helpless, like so much time was being wasted. I called my doctor, and fortunately, she had a solution so I wouldn't have to wait for my period to show up again. She prescribed Provera, a hormone that gives you your period. Basially, it is progesterone that you take for 10 days. Once you stop taking it, it creates a withdrawl, and you get your period. All I had to do to start Provera was to go in and take a urine pregnancy test in the lab to be sure you're not pregnant. I sucessfully got my period after 5 days of stopping the Provera.

And then...the HSG.

I was beyond terrified. Still.

Details...lots of details...

I was taken into an X-ray room to sign a bunch of papers. I had taken a urine pregnancy test in the lab a few days earlier; it felt so silly as I was still on my period, but the procedure CANNOT be done if you are pregnant. It was obviously negative. I put on the fancy gown and the doctor came in and explained exactly what was going to happen. Chris was not allowed to stay in the room, but I had a nurse who got to hang out up by my head.

I was all hot. And I could feel how hot my cheeks were. Usually when I'm nervous, I'm cold and clammy. Not this time.

I was on an X-Ray table, so there were no stirrups for my feet, so I had to do my best to keep my knees bent on the table on my own. PLUS I had to try and relax as the speculum was inserted. Then the doctor inserted a catheter with a foley bulb on the end into my cervix to prevent the catheter from falling out.

It was a little uncomfortable. My heart was racing.

At this point, the doctor took the speculum out, leaving the catheter in. He told me that this was the point where he hears screaming and cursing, and he said if I felt like punching something to let him know and we can stop.

Oh dear lord. My heart was racing, and the sweet nurse reassured me that I was doing great and that she was right there with me.

He began to inject the dye (he was very good about telling me exactly what he was doing) and I braced myself for what I was sure would be the worst pain of my life. Then he told me that he was going to take a few X-Ray pictures. He wanted me to tilt to each side to get the dye to flow into each tube.

So I did....

AND THAT WAS IT!!

He removed the foley bulb and catheter and he said "We're done!"

The nurse was ecstatic. "You did so great!!!!! Wow, you were awesome!!!"

I couldn't believe it. I SURVIVED AN HSG!!

It was virtually painless. Maybe it was all the adrenaline flowing through my body.

I was also able to get instant results. He showed me the images on the screen, and he said that both my tubes were clear and healthy. He pointed to a slight dip at the top of my uterus, and said that's something your doctor may want to have an MRI done to get a closer look. But overall, he said everything looked good and saw nothing that should interfere with fertility, including the dip in the utereus. I never knew how tiny the tubes are - they looked like squiggly little threads on the screen!

I was free to get dressed and get the heck out of there! So glad I researched on my own...I knew to bring a pad to help absorb the dye that would be finding its way out of my body. Most would just harmlessly be absorbed.

After my doctor had a chance to read the X-Ray, she did want me to have an MRI done. Once again, a pelvic MRI has to be scheduled around my period, so she told me to call her if my period was taking awhile to show up again.

Surprise, I had to call her. So I took Provera again; this time I got my period 3 days after taking the last pill. I had also never had an MRI before, so I was a little nervous, but at least there was no pain involved!

The MRI lasted about an hour, and I was the perfect patient - I didn't move at all! The results were sent over to my doctor. She called a few days later and said the MRI showed that my uterus had a different shape to it - a heart shape; she said I had a bicornuate uterus. Basically the top dips down where it should not. I came in for my follow-up appointment, and she said that a bicornuate uterus does not have any effect on fertility. It happens during organ formation as a baby - the uterus starts out as two separate halves that come together, and mine just did not fully complete the fusion process. She said that the only things we would have to keep in mind is that my future pregnancies will be at a higher risk for early labor, small birth weight, and breech, simply because there is not as much room for baby to move and grow.

After digesting that, she said that she would like to have me start taking Clomid, a fertility drug that forces ovulation. I was all for it. I know of many women who have achieved pregnancy using Clomid.

So finally, finally, after another year of testing and appointments and WAITING...we had an action plan!

I took Clomid as prescribed at the start of my next cycle. I decided to use ovulation tests because I was just so dang curious to see if my body could actually ovulate on day 14...and I did!! It was so exciting! We followed the doctor's orders and waited.

And waited.

But I got my period.

I didn't even have a chance to take any test because my period showed up on day 26. A little early.

I was completely crushed. I tried to not let myself feel that way, because I knew it was out of my hands, anyway. Whatever God wanted for us is what we would get.

Of course, I got my period on Friday.

Right at the start of Labor Day weekend.

You have to start Clomid on day 3 of your period.

I immediately called my doctor, praying we wouldn't lose a whole cycle of trying due to a long holiday weekend. She called back that afternoon and put in the order for Clomid. I had it in my hands the next morning.

I am SO grateful for the staff who was working that day...this was the beginning of the series of wild events that led to our pregnancy!

So I then began Clomid round 2. My doctor said she wanted me to come in for a blood test on day 21 of my cycle. She didn't say what for and I didn't ask. Everything continued to go as planned. According to an ovulation test I took, I ovulated on day 16. We continued the doctor's orders and began the wait. I went in for the test on day 21.

I passed day 26, no period.

I passed day 32, no period, negative digital pregnancy test.

I tested like every day until I ran out of tests in my box.

I passed day 40, no period, still negative digital test.

What the heck?! I turned to the internet. Usually people want to know how soon a test will show up positive...I was searching for how late can a test show up positive for the first time. Some women said it didn't show up until a full week after your missed period.

I left a message for my doctor, and when she called back, she said the blood test on day 21 revealed that I did not ovulate this cycle. She put in another order for Provera and said once I get my period to call back so she could put in the order for Clomid. This time she would increase the dose on it.

I hung up and I was so confused. The digital test said I ovulated.

And then I was mad. All this time, I struggled on a daily basis as to whether or not I was pregnant and what was going on. Why didn't she call and tell me sooner? Why make me wait an additional 20 days and wonder and worry? She clearly didn't understand the emotional investment I had in this.

So once again, I took Provera.

I was bummed. Chris was getting ready to head to another round of training, and this extra 20 days we wasted meant we wouldn't be able to try this next cycle. His training was about 4 weeks long.

I ended Provera and had my period supples with me at all times, ready for it to arrive.

Day 3 went by, no period.

Day 5 went by, no period.

It can take up to a week for your period to show up, so I thought, ok...maybe on day 7.

Nope.

Chris was all packed up and ready to go to his training in the next day or two.

IN HINDSIGHT, it was in these few days that I was experiencing slight pregnancy symptoms.

I just didn't know it yet!

I was aware of a few unusual things about my body, but honestly, I thought it just meant that something else was wrong with me. I didn't really directly attribute it to pregnancy.

Chris left for training the night of October 29, 2013.

I decided that about 10 days of not getting a period warranted one of two things: a pregnancy test, or a call to my doctor. I really thought that something was wrong.

But I decided to take a pregnancy test instead.

On the morning of October 30, 2013, I took a digital pregnancy test.

I barely had sat it down on the counter when I looked at it, and it said

PREGNANT.

I. COULD. NOT. BELIEVE. IT.

!!!!

My mind was a jumbled mess. It didn't make any sense! How could this be?!

I immediately realized it wasn't meant for me to understand; this was God's plan all along.

I took a second test shortly after arriving at work. One with lines. I literally watched the positive line boldly show up as the urine soaked across the test.

I was ecstatic!

I was shocked.

I was so happy!

I was humbled.

And Chris had no idea.

Part 2 coming soon...


Thursday, January 9, 2014

How To Make a Mexican Dinner with What's in the Pantry


Wow, it's been awhile! I think my last post was in October. I've been a bit...occupied...with other things! More on that later. ;)

My favorite way of cooking it throwing things together. No recipe required!

And that is exactly how I made dinner last night. 

I had a little inspiration from from a pin on Pinterest for oven baked tacos. 

I think this fact right here is why I prefer cooking over baking: you can take almost any recipe and modify it based on what you have on hand at the moment. I feel this is especially true for Mexican-American dishes. (I throw in American because I could not imagine my Guatemalan mother-in-law making ANY of these things. She'd probably laugh!)

Anywho, I originally wanted to make those yummy looking tacos, but I didn't have the right stuff in the pantry. 

So then I started making things up. 

I had a pound of cooked ground beef in the freezer, so I started by thawing that quick and adding water and taco seasoning and simmering that on the stove for awhile. 

Meanwhile, I found a can of refried beans, a jar of salsa, and a fun creamy chipotle sauce in the fridge. After the water level in the meat had reduced a bit, I added the salsa and chipotle sauce. Maybe a cup of salsa and a few tablespoons of the chipotle sauce. I brought it all up to heat and simmered that for a bit. Then, I added the can of refried beans and stirred it until everything was all creamy. 

I added about a cup of shredded cheddar cheese (or "shred chedd" as I write it on my grocery list) and this became the filling. 

If you don't have those ingredients, here are some things you could easily substitute:

Taco sauce
Tomato sauce
Diced tomatoes
Pinto beans
Black beans
Enchilada sauce

You could even add things that I did not, like:

Peppers
Onions
Corn
Canned green chilies

You could even omit the beans or omit the beef for a veggie version! Whatever you'd like.

I had burrito-sized tortillas in the fridge, so I decided to make burritos instead of tacos. I filled each tortilla with the beef and bean mixture and laid them out in a baking dish. I realized that they should have some sort of sauce on them to keep the outside moist while baking. 

This is where you can get really creative!

I decided to make a cheese sauce. I have some knowledge of how to start any cheese sauce: make a roux (pronounced "roo"). 

It's very simple. You need equal parts butter and flour. I did half a stick of butter, melted in a pot on the stove on medium heat, and then I stirred in 4 tablespoons of flour. Cook this for a minute, stirring constantly. Then slowly pour in milk (I did maybe 2 cups? I didn't measure) and whisk together. The more fat in the milk, the thicker it will turn out. I had 2% in the fridge. Worked perfectly. You want the milk mixture to become thick and just start to be bubbly and then you can add your cheese. 

Any kind you want. 

Except for maybe Parmesan. It doesn't melt to a creamy texture. 

I used cheddar and Monterrey Jack. I also chose to put in some jalapeno cream cheese I had in the fridge. Unfortunately, the container was almost empty, so it ended up being like 2 or 3 spoonfuls. But hey, at least I was using up leftover items in the fridge!

You have to babysit this pot of hot milk; it can scald if you heat too high too quickly, so keep it on medium heat. Even if you're tired of waiting for it to bubble. You should be stirring it very frequently. Once you have achieved "thick and bubbly" status, the cheese can be stirred in.

Now go ahead and pour it on top of your burritos!

I put it in the oven at 375 degrees for 15 minutes, or until heated through and slightly bubbly. 

I served mine with some rice. 

It was pretty good. The husband and I agreed that the sauce was a little bland. But I think it would be a great sauce for a Mac and cheese! I probably should have added some salsa or taco seasoning to it to spice it up. 

Have fun making your own Mexican dish based on your kitchen!