Thursday, October 26, 2017

Three Months and Finding a New Normal

I cannot believe Rosie is a three month old. The difference between 8 weeks and 12 weeks is so drastic! I no longer have a newborn, but an awake, alert, wiggly little baby. I'm surprised at some of the newborn things I'd forgotten: those early days when they can't even purposefully move their arms so sometimes they just hang down at their sides while the baby stares into your eyes. Can you imagine not being able to control anything but your eyes or your cries? Their sweet trust and vulnerability gets to me every time.

Then we hit that fun stage where Rosie found her arms overnight, and any time we laid her on her back for about two weeks, she would just have her arms straight up in front of her, waving those little fists around, in awe that they've apparently been there the whole time. Then she spent a few days grabbing her shirt and kind of pulling it away from her body, as she experimented with what her arms could do. And now those chubby little fists have found their way to her mouth, and she's a drooly, slobbery little puddle who is trying her darnedest to sit up on her own. She's solidly in her 6 month clothes now, and it's so hard to remember that she's still a pretty tiny baby on the inside. Slow down, baby!

It's so fun to learn her different cries, too. The "pay attention to me" cry, the "I'm so tired, why aren't you putting me to bed" cry, the "I'm hungry" cry, the "I'm ticked" cry... and they're all just so so sweet. It breaks my heart that Noah mostly had an "I'm in pain" cry thanks to his reflux. The perils of being the oldest child-- I just didn't know what I didn't know when he was little! I hate that he had to suffer through that, and I will always mourn the "typical" newborn experience that he and I missed out on. But I love that we had so much Mama/Noah time to bond and connect as he got older. It's so interesting doing all of this newborn mothering the second time around. It gives me a chance to do things differently, but I'm also learning that babies themselves are so different right off the bat, and much of it (LIKE SLEEP) isn't a reflection of me as a parent.

Today I did my first postpartum Barre3 workout. I got cleared for exercise and physical therapy at 6 weeks, although I was taking 2-3 mile walks with the double stroller a few times a week starting around 4-5 weeks, because toddlers who don't want to nap in their beds are more apt to nap in the stroller! (It was kind of a bummer to come home with two well-rested kids while I, meanwhile, was exhausted and sore and all kinds of sweaty. But rested kids are WORTH IT.)

Sadly, those walks have fallen by the wayside in the past few weeks, as sleep patterns and weather patterns change. I'm reminding myself over and over again that change is the only constant in these early days. And I'd say I've been riding with it pretty well and giving myself a lot of grace up until the last week or two. I'm starting to crave routine, schedules, some semblance of normalcy. Even though Rosie isn't colicky (praise the Lord), she's still a baby! Sometimes she doesn't like to fall back asleep after eating at 3am. Sometimes she doesn't want to close her tired little eyes during Noah's rare afternoon naps. She still has witching hour when she's overtired in the evening. We still can't manage to all sit down to dinner together.

Everything changes at such a rapid pace right now, that a routine that worked well one week doesn't even begin to work the next week. I'm still figuring things out day by day. Don't even get me started on the toddler wanting to get out of the house, and the baby no longer falling asleep willy nilly while we are out and about. As with Noah, that 4-6 week developmental leap caught me by surprise with Rosie. My cuddly little newborn suddenly had opinions and didn't want to sleep all day every day. I found that right when the meal train ended and people stopped treating me like a freshly postpartum mom, is when I almost needed more support. The world thinks you're over it, but you're still recovering AND now your baby doesn't want to sleep all day AND your toddler is thoroughly sick of being home-bound. It's a rough transition.

But now we've kind of muddled our way through that. Rosie is showing signs of maybe wanting to be on a schedule, so I'm trying to figure out a good balance of getting out versus staying in. I'm crazy grateful that leaving the house and abandoning the ideal routine doesn't send me into a panic like it did when I was a first-time mom, but let's be real: it's still stressful and I'd prefer not to do it. And I'm starting to see that Noah needs some concrete interaction with me when we do stay home, because expecting him to entertain himself all morning doesn't cut it.

So here we are, in the in-between. I feel more normal, but I don't look normal and I can't fit into my old clothes. I crave balanced meals, quiet alone time, and exercise, but I can't quite make it a reality when I'm needed from 5:30am-9pm, and usually at least once or twice beyond that, too. I am a mom to a three year old and a mom to a three month old, but I'm not sure how to be both at once. And even in this season-between-seasons, I have to make myself stop and pause, because it's so so beautiful, and I don't want to wish it away. As Lisa-Jo Baker says, "mothers never want it to be over. Even the hard stuff. They may want it to stop. They may want to find room to breathe, to weep, to panic. But they don't want it to end-- this delivering, shaping, cheering, loving, bringing life into the world."

My hands are full, but so is my heart.

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

On the Eve of 6 Weeks

It's funny, I felt so sane and present the first few weeks after we brought Rosie home, and swore my memories would be crystal clear, but now it's already all a blur. I cannot believe my sweet little newborn is going to be 6 weeks old tomorrow. The past two weeks, she's been much more awake and alert, she gains more head control every day, she's tracking with her eyes and thinking about reaching for things with her hands, and she's even rolled over once! I swear I got some intentional smiles in the first two weeks, but I can tell we are really close to seeing some social smiles now, and I can't wait.

In the meantime, I don't know how to handle the 6 week milestone. This is probably further exacerbated by the fact that I'm pretty sure sister is pushing 12 pounds already. She doesn't look like a  newborn! The passage of time is always so bittersweet. The first few weeks, I just love telling people, "oh, she's 2... 3... 4 weeks old" when they ask. Those first few golden weeks pass like pearls threaded on a chain. So perfect and unique and individual. But then around weeks 5 and 6, they start to blur together. Time speeds up. And as much as it makes me want to cry, I know that in no time, the weeks will be scattered around me like beads spilling onto the floor. Each one rich with history, but in a hurry to pile on top of each other in a chaotic mess.

I was so intentional about my postpartum experience this time, which is another post on its own. But I'd seen so much about really protecting the first 40 days and making recovery a priority. I did really well for the first 3 weeks. Less well for the second three weeks. And now that the 40 days have passed, now what?

I feel like the world was ready for me to be back on my feet by 2-3 weeks. For the most part, I was able to avoid that temptation, but now it's harder to say no. I see two lactation clients this week because we desperately need the money for all of our hospital bills. I'm feeling silly turning down playdate invitations, even while I worry about my friendships moving on without me. While I struggle to grasp the fleeting days of babyhood, the world spins on and I'm starting to get overwhelmed!

So I sit here trying to burn present scenes into my memory: the way Rosie's eyes flutter as she's falling asleep. The delicious rolls on her legs. The little routine we have where she cluster feeds at 5, 6:30, and 8pm and then sleeps until 2:30am, and then goes back to sleep until brother's morning shenanigans cause her to stir. Her sweet little smell. The way she stretches when she first wakes up. The way she trusts me implicitly. The way Noah reports: sister's crying, sister's bless-you-ing (sneezing), sister's hungry again!

Every day I fail in a million ways, but I hope my babies always know how much I love them, how intensely I want to be present for their early days, and how much I need Jesus to fill in the gaps when I fail to meet my own expectations.

Sunday, August 13, 2017

Recipes I Want to Make: Late Summer Edition

Here are some recipes that I've had hanging out on my phone for the past few weeks. But let's be honest... I'm not going to be raring to go in the kitchen for a little while still. So in the meantime, I'll dream of these dishes!

Chocolate Peanut Butter Tart-- after feeling apathetic about chocolate for most of pregnancy, peanut butter with a little bit of chocolate sounds so good now!

Vegan Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Balls-- I've made and bought a lot of energy ball type treats over the years, but the Hail Merry Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Bites I tried recently are possibly the best yet. This is supposed to be a copycat recipe, and I can't wait to try it.

Key Lime Pie-- I was talking about the Florida Keys recently, and it made me crave a trip to the ocean. Maybe making this would be the next best thing?

Cherry + Almond Butter Caramel Bars-- Cherries have been soooo good this season!

Peanut Butter and Jelly Breakfast Cookies-- I actually do need to make these soon. I've been eating lots of oatmeal muffins and breakfast cookies for breakfast lately because they're just so easy, and oatmeal is good for milk supply!

Lemon Bundt Cake-- I haven't ventured into from-scratch gluten free cake-baking too much, but this looks like a good place to start!

S'mores Icebox Cake-- seriously looks like summer in a bowl.

Brownie Icebox Cake-- because summer is the only time of the year when I don't mind eating cold food.

Blackberry + Chocolate Ganache Cake

Coconut + Almond Flour Banana Bread-- this cooler weather makes me feel like fall baking is already upon us!

Cold-Brewed Iced Coffee-- I actually have made this a few times, and it's my favorite version thus far. (I don't dilute it as much as they say to, though.)

Crispy Salmon Burrito Bowls-- I'm not ONLY craving desserts right now. This bowl sounds phenomenal!

Blackberry Basil Smash Sandwiches-- I actually think these would still taste pretty good in a GF/DF version, with either Kite Hill Cream Cheese or Myokos Creamery Mozzarella for the cheese and Kim & Jake's artisan sandwich loaf for the bread!

Vegan Caprese Panini-- perfectly in season right now!

How to cook boneless skinless chicken breasts-- I always need new ideas for chicken!

Tahini Marinated Chicken Thighs with Cucumber Tomato Salad-- sounds like a nice change from typical BBQ menus.

Asian Beef and Cabbage-- for something different.

21 Chicken Breast Recipes Made for Meal Prep-- I want to be better at meal prep this year, so evenings are more calm around here!

Sunday, July 30, 2017

39 Weeks: The smallest of magnificent things, and the greatest of little ones

Once again, I find myself belatedly writing and post-dating my 39 week "pregnancy update" with a birth story. And once again, labor was nothing like I expected. Having been through it once, I thought  I knew how things would go. Rationally, I knew it wouldn't be exactly the same as last time, but I figured it would essentially be a sped up version. As the due date drew closer, I started having some anxiety about when exactly to consider labor "started," when to call for childcare help, when to go in to triage, etc. I had heard too many stories of second labors going incredibly quickly.

I had my 38 week appointment scheduled on a Tuesday, when I was technically 38.2. It was so hot that day, but I was DOING it. I'd nearly made it through the hottest summer we'd had in years, with a baby in my belly and a toddler in tow-- and the end was near! It's funny, with Noah I was NOT ready to be done being pregnant. I think God was gracious to me this time in making pregnancy much... less enjoyable. This time, all the sickness in the first half and all the discomfort in the second half made it easier to look forward to the day baby would be on the outside. Granted, I still miss a lot of things about being pregnant: the big kicks, all the sweet little wiggles that only I could feel, the belly that made all my clothes look cute, the comments from well-intentioned strangers, the ability to nap when my toddler napped. I do miss those things terribly in hindsight. I knew that I would, but as always you can't truly know until you're there. And now I know.

And now I know I was much more physically uncomfortable than I thought at the end, because the relief of not having a 7 pound 15 ounce baby in my belly was nearly instantaneous. But also, now knowing what I know about being a mom, the love was nearly instantaneous, too. The transition from one body to two still mystifies me beyond my ability to comprehend the magnitude of the miracle. I know its the same baby in there the whole time, but seeing their face for the first time is a whole new world of connection that you don't get even in the most intimate moments of pregnancy.

When I was binge watching Call the Midwife during one of my many illnesses over the winter, this quote stood out to me, "When a child is born, the world is altered in an instant. A new voice is heard, new love comes into being. Years later, we pause and say, 'Yes, that's when it all began, on that day in that room when I saw that face.' Birth is the smallest of magnificent things, and the greatest of little ones." I especially love that both of my babies were born on a Wednesday afternoon in room 3612, both with Vanessa as my doula and Jeane as my Midwife, and Ross as my biggest support, getting his hands squeezed off during the final, most painful contractions.

Anyway, I'm getting ahead of myself. I had Ross meet Noah and me at the Midwife's office that Tuesday. I wanted to talk through our plans for when labor started. I also had the Midwife check me, even though I know it means nothing (spoiler alert: now I REALLY know it means nothing)! But I thought, at least if I know I'm already dilated to 3-4cm, I have ZERO time to waste when contractions start. However, I was still just at 1cm and maybe 60% effaced. Essentially unchanged from 36 weeks. AND my Braxton-Hicks had even slowed down in the past week. So I left that appointment feeling really calm. Almost like I'd bought myself another week of pregnancy or something. I made plans to swim laps that weekend and finish the thank-yous from my baby shower. I also texted my Aunt Karen three different contingency plans based on our discussion with the Midwife. My aunt lives about 35 minutes away, and she was our top choice for watching Noah when labor started. Plan A was for her to come to our house when contractions kicked in. Plan B, if labor started at 7 or 8am, was for us to drop Noah off at his friend Alex's house on our way to the hospital, and my aunt would get him there after morning rush hour. Plan C was for us to meet my aunt at the hospital, with Noah in tow.

Plan D, apparently, was for my water to break and NOTHING to happen. Tuesday evening, a mere 5 hours after leaving the Midwife's office with new peace of mind, my water broke out of nowhere, with nary a contraction in sight. Not only did we have time for my aunt to make her way to our house, we also had time to eat dinner, tuck Noah in, take a short walk, AND greet my mom after her three hour drive from Omaha! Six hours after my water broke, I still wasn't having contractions-- just some uncomfortable cramping. Per the Midwife's recommendations, we headed into the hospital for intermittent monitoring overnight.

Now, this shook me up. It was perhaps less stressful than waiting for my aunt to arrive through painful contractions and precipitous labor, but it was incredibly stressful to me, given that it wasn't even in the realm of possibilities in my mind. I'd done this before: started labor on my own and progressed entirely normally and naturally. Why on EARTH would my body not remember how to do this a mere three years later?!

I don't know that I even really let my guard down to weep about it, but I should have. It might have made the long night less unpleasant. Instead, I held it all in with only occasional tears of frustration slipping out. Our wait in triage was anticlimactic and I was antsy to get into a room. But then the labor bed was shockingly uncomfortable-- clearly not made for sleep. And being monitored for 20 minutes out of every hour made sleep nearly impossible. Ross slept from about 0200-0500 in a nearby chair, and I slept-ish for about 20 minutes around 0400, I think. In hindsight, I should've just asked for continuous monitoring so the nurse wasn't coming and going every 30 minutes, but I craved those last few intervals of freedom. I knew that once the pitocin started (because even when we left our house, I knew it was WHEN and not IF they needed to start pitocin), I WOULD be on the monitor continuously. Until then, I wanted to walk down the hallway unhampered, with my hand on my belly, and feel those sweet kicks just a few more times.

At 0525 Wednesday morning, I took a lonely, tearful, bittersweet lap around the maternity floor, trying to wrap my head around what was to come. Sarah, the Midwife on call, came to check on me right after that walk. She'd been texting me through the night, which was a great comfort when I otherwise felt pretty alone and confused. I'm so grateful to her-- and to the fact that we used to work together at New Birth Company. Otherwise I certainly wouldn't have been texting with her like any old friend. But it was comforting to do that and not have to go through the answering service or the L and D nurses. She checked me and said that a night of cramping, walking, and tossing and turning had maybe nudged me to a 2-3cm and 80%. I think that was optimistic, given that an hour previous, the nurse had said I was still at a "loose 1cm." BUT this check got things moving a bit. More importantly, Sarah sat down and prayed with us, that God the Good Mechanic would give us peace that He knows how my body works, and that He is in control. We loved that.

Then Sarah went home and they had to monitor me for an hour before starting pitocin-- I actually started having some minor contractions during that hour. Then they started "a whiff" of pitocin at 0715 (2gtts/hour) and I think I tried to rest and do some Bible study for a bit. Romans 15:13 really stood out to me for the last few weeks of pregnancy, and while I was waiting for labor to start: "May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you amy overflow with hope by the power of the holy spirit." (Made more poignant by the fact that Hope, along with Anne and Rose, was one of our top name choices.)

They turned the pitocin up to 4gtts/hour around 0830, and at 0850 I texted my doula, Vanessa, "contractions are such that I'd be paying attention if I were at home." They weren't really painful yet, but they felt like actual contractions with a start and stop time, compared to just cramping.

Basically right after that text, Vanessa walked into the room and I was SO happy to see her! With Noah, we were escorted from the office to L and D and were never alone in the room thereafter-- it was a crazy 4 hours from 6cm to delivery, and my Midwife and doula were there the whole time. This time, we had to hurry up and WAIT which was unnerving. I'm so grateful we opted for a doula again, because once we saw her, she never left our sight until baby was born. Jeane, my Midwife, came in at some point in the morning, maybe when I was first getting into the tub? But then she left again for clinic, which was a little disheartening.

That first hour with Vanessa, I bounced on a birth ball and we chatted, I snacked, it was all pretty good. But things picked up QUICKLY after that. I don't think they ever turned the pitocin up again, and in fact at some point I think they turned it off, but once contractions started they were immediately painful! At the time, I thought it was because of the pitocin, but Sarah reminded me that I'd been awake all night, so I was already tired and my threshold was probably a bit lower. Then at my 2 week postpartum appointment, Jeane reminded me that I was contracting for my ENTIRE labor without a cushion of amniotic fluid! Last time my water didn't break until 7cm, which was a whole different ballgame! This time I didn't really get to ease into them. But just like last time, the tub felt incredible.

Laboring in the tub was good, but the intensity was still a little unnerving. Last time I remembered having these glorious breaks in between contractions, but this time they felt much closer together from the get-go. Last time, I made a labor playlist but didn't even get it out of my bag. This time, I had nothing prepared, but thankfully I'd charged and brought my old phone and we turned on my Worship playlist. The only songs I really remember hearing are "Lay My Burdens Down," which was really meaningful to me at this exact time last year, and "Good, Good Father" which was really meaningful to me the year before, when I was battling PPD while trying to wrap my head around a surprise pregnancy and subsequent miscarriage. The other song I took note of was, "Lo, He Comes with Clouds Descending," which is a bit of a Christmas song in my head, but is a good reminder of how powerful God is. Of course, even the details of my little labor wouldn't escape him. He'd always known how this would go, and he had a reason for it.

Once I got out of the tub, I have no concept of time. I'm so curious to see Vanessa's timeline when she does my postpartum home visit, because it all starts to blend together for me. I just remember being anxious because everyone said I was getting close, yet the Midwife was nowhere to be seen, so how could I be THAT close? And if I wasn't THAT close, I couldn't possibly continue at this level of intensity. Even when she did get there to check me, I remember saying, "If I'm not at least 8cm, I want an epidural." I was only at 7cm when she checked me! I was devastated until Vanessa reminded me that I'd essentially gone from something like 3cm to 7cm in two hours, which might explain why it felt so miserable. But still, I was disheartened. I was laying in bed by that time, and I just felt overwhelmingly fatigued between every contraction. Like if they'd been even a little farther apart, I could've taken a cat nap then and there. Instead, they kept coming and coming and I swore I did NOT remember labor hurting this bad, and that I wanted an epidural next time, since clearly no one was going to take my request seriously this time. (Disclaimer: I had the baby less than an hour after asking for an epidural, so my birth team wasn't being cruel and ignoring me. They simply knew that I didn't actually have time to get an epidural that would do me an ounce of good.)

Probably less than 20 (miserable, nauseating, light-headed) contractions after saying that, I felt the urge to push, which I never really had last time. As with pregnancy, I know God was there in that moment: instead of being in denial and afraid to actively move to the next stage, I was beyond READY to be done with labor and to have that baby in my arms! So push I did.

And then suddenly, it was over, and she was here. Our sweet summer Rose. She stayed in my arms while I got stitched up, and I was unbelievably glad to be holding her. After it was all said and done, Jeane told me that baby sister had a true knot in her cord. She let me look at the placenta, and I untied that slippery knot with one hand while holding my healthy baby in the other and whispering a prayer of thanks for her safety.

In hindsight, even the PROM and the need for pitocin (therefore continuous monitoring) was a gift from God for my anxious heart. True knots can lead to fetal distress and even fetal demise in labor. Since I was monitored for every minute of active labor, we know that the baby handled it like a champ, for which I'm unbelievably grateful! (Grateful for both the knowledge, and the fact that she handled everything without distress.)

(It's funny, I actually did have some anxiety about nuchal cords and true knots mid-pregnancy. I spent a week or so visualizing the baby untangling herself as she flipped head-down. And once she seemed to settle head-down I was less worried about it. But I did ask at my 37 week appointment if nuchal cords or true knots could be seen on ultrasound. Jeane said maybe, but what would you do about it? Also at that appointment, I said it felt like one or both of baby's hands were above her head, and Jeane said she'd likely move them before birth. Except she came out with her left hand saluting us, which may explain the fact that my contractions didn't start when my water broke. Hand-above-head isn't terribly conducive to good positioning. Finally, Jeane asked me at that appointment if this baby felt bigger or smaller. Even though I gained exactly 30 pounds with both kids, I said this one felt bigger. Sure enough, she was almost half a pound bigger even though she was two days earlier than Noah was! It's nice to know my intuition was correct all along!)

We asked for permission for early hospital discharge once we got to postpartum. We'd already spent one night in the hospital before she came, so spending two more felt like a lot. That being said, the one night we did spend with Rosie (well, "baby sister" because we hadn't chosen a name yet) was really sweet. Per our doula's recommendation, we actually didn't set an alarm for feedings that night. All I had to do was sleep, feed a baby, and sleep some more. She woke herself up every 3-4 hours, let out one cry, and waited for me to get her out of the bassinet. She'd nurse for 20-30 minutes and fall immediately back to sleep. It was glorious, and the postpartum bed even felt comfortable after a night in a labor bed! I'm so happy we get so experience those newborn wiggles, sighs, snuggles, and smells again!



Monday, July 24, 2017

Third Trimester Reflections at 38 Weeks

It's really hard not to count down to 38.5 weeks, when Noah was born. I'm 38.1 weeks today and I went into labor at 38.4 with Noah. I have a feeling I'm going to go past that, yet I'm also making zero plans past Thursday. This week finds me really patient with Noah, nostalgic for my baby belly already, and a little bit stir-crazy. It's weird to have time to wrap stuff up, yet I don't quite have the energy to do so after the last few weeks ended up being so eventful! It's simply impossible to keep the house clean with a toddler on the loose, but I am slowly still organizing nooks and crannies and weeding through stuff that's always accumulating. I'd like to have a few solid hours to actually update pictures on the blog! I'm like 2+ years behind, and it feels like now or never! That's the only other big project left undone, though. It's weird to have clothes and diapers washed and folded. I even have the hospital bag mostly packed!

So, here are some reflections on this pregnancy. The past 9 months have felt like an eternity, yet gone by in the blink of an eye when I look at how much Noah has grown and changed! And of course, baby sister has gone from the size of a poppy seed to, well, the size of a 6.5+ pound baby!

Most exciting moment: 
Probably a tie between the positive pregnancy test on Thanksgiving morning, and the 20 week ultrasound. The positive test-- it's something I'll only see a very few times in my life, and there's nothing like all the promise that second line holds! The ultrasound-- it's when both babies really felt "real" to me, and I was able to start imaging all of this actually happening.

Most challenging moment: 
Gosh, I was simply not prepared for how awful I'd feel this time around, and I quickly understood why being pregnant with a toddler is even harder. We made it through! But there were so many days either when Noah was home that I felt like I neglected him a bit, or when he went to his once-a-week Parent's Day Out, and I was too sick to be at all productive with my elusive solo time.

One thing I'm proud of:
Last time, I totally would've said I was proud of my consistent workouts and the fact that I ate vegetables every day, even when I felt kind of gross. This time, wow. Probably both because of the loss between pregnancies, but also because of the fact that I have 3 years of mom-ming under my belt, I'm always humbled by how much is out of my control, and how little I can actually claim to be proud of. Not to mention the fact that I was so much sicker this time, and circumstances are just so different. So yeah, I'm proud I've worked out when I can. I'm proud that I somehow had the foresight to potty train Noah before getting pregnant again. I'm proud that I've really been utilizing the warmer weather to get out and spend time with Noah after a gross winter and spring. I'm proud of all the work I put into physical therapy, counseling, and self-care to make this pregnancy and postpartum (hopefully) much smoother! But mostly I'm just grateful for the good days, and aware that I can't take much credit for them.

One thing I wish were different:
I wish I'd made more time to go swim laps/get out of the house/hang out with friends in the evening before being tied down for a few months. Between Noah's sleep regression and Ross' work deadlines, that just hasn't been feasible. I also legitimately wish we could hire a housecleaner once a month. I realize that sounds spoiled, but with me being so sick, and so uncomfortable, it's been impossible to clean the floors regularly, and in a house with all wood floors, they get dirty like hours after cleaning them. Even someone who coming to mop the floors and scrub the bathtub once a month would be a huge luxury! Maybe someday.

Favorite foods:
Right now I'm craving sushi and a huge Chick-fil-a lemonade! But in general, food hasn't been my favorite thing this pregnancy, which is very unlike me!

Least favorite food:
Anything I make myself? Ha! We do eat at home so so much, but I'll confess I always jump at the chance to go out. I find that even though the nausea has mostly subsided, I am generally tired of the food/flavors by the time I'm finished cooking dinner and before we've even eaten!

Physical state: 
Today is the first day in a week or so that I've felt kind of normal. Yay for a reprieve! But generally feeling pretty heavy. My feet hurt when I stand up in the morning. They're not used to carrying this much weight! But I love love love the baby belly and wouldn't trade it for anything!

Mental state:
Oh gosh. It varies between exhausted, excited, and really really nervous about all the change that's coming.

One thing that surprised me: 
How different my pregnancies would feel. I'm also surprised at how much Noah seems to "get it." He asks a lot of good questions, and it blows my mind! "How will my baby sister get out?" "Why is she upside down?" "Where are her toes? Where are her eyeballs? Will she have teeth when she comes out? Can she eat ___ (insert whatever food Noah is eating at the time)? When you eat, does she eat?"

Looking forward to: 
Meeting the baby, of course. I'm almost more excited for that this time around, since now I know how fun it is it to get to KNOW a tiny human! I'm also really curious to see how/when labor plays out. We had a great experience with Noah, but I hear second babies come faster and I can't afford to be in denial for the first 75% of my labor, especially when toddler childcare is a factor! It's also hard to imagine my labor story going any differently than it did the first time, although I know logically there's no way everything would/could play out exactly the same way. So, we wait. And pray for a safe delivery!

36 and 37 weeks

As I sit here at 38.1 weeks pregnant, I feel like weeks 36 and 37 have been the fastest yet. And the hottest, with a crazy heat wave hitting the Midwest!

The past two weeks have been a whirlwind of crazy. Remember a month ago when I thought I could devote July to a month of rest?! Joke's on me, I guess. Ross had surprise knee surgery on July 14 and had some major PACU drama that almost bought him a ticket to an overnight stay in the cardiac unit at the hospital. Thankfully, he recovered literally just in the nick of time, and we did get to go home that night, albeit much later than we anticipated, and to a very confused toddler. Poor Noah. We've been telling him that next time he sees grandma, it'll be when Mama and Papa go to the hospital and have a baby sister! We also told him that the doctor was going to fix Ross' knee.

Well, grandma came and Mama and Papa went to the hospital... but for surgery. Instead of hearing about a baby sister, he got a very unnerving FaceTime call from the PACU. Instead of an immediately "fixed" knee, Papa came home still on crutches, and spent the whole weekend in bed. Whew! And I worked my last shift before "maternity leave" on Sunday. I was dead on my feet, but thank goodness my mom came into town at the last minute. I wouldn't have even been standing if it weren't for all her help!

So anyway, here we are. It's hard not to count down to 38.5. As exhausted and huge-feeling as I am, I'm okay if this baby stays in a little longer than Noah did. I'm psyched to meet her, but I'm enjoying the few slow days that Noah and I still get. I love snuggling with him at nap time before moving to my own bed and just reading a book for an hour. I'm soaking it all up while I can, and still trying to go on a few Mama/Noah adventures before we are house-bound for a bit.

So week 36 was full of surgery drama and week 37, Ross was furiously working toward a work deadline. Meanwhile, last week I was the most physically uncomfortable I've been in a while, and I know the long solo days, late nights, and 100+ degree temps didn't help. What are the odds that Ross would have a huge deadline at 38 weeks with both of our babies?! Better now than a month from now, though!

This past Tuesday night, I had my first dream about baby's delivery. All was well, except I was mad at Ross for forgetting to call my doula! And apparently we temporarily named the baby "Cereal"?! Except Ross spelled it "cerial" and I was super annoyed. Oh boy! I do remember, though, that the baby had white blonde hair. I'm so curious to see what she looks like, and what her little personality is like!

So hmmm... trying to think back over the last two weeks is pretty much just resulting in a brain dump of tidbits:

-At my 36 weeks appointment, I found out I'm GBS negative! It's a benign bacteria on some moms' skin, but it can cause complications in baby, so it means you need IV antibiotics at least 4 hours before delivery (with Noah, I got the antibiotics like 3.5 hours before he came. Oops!). But I don't have it this time! I'm so so excited. I assumed I'd be positive since I work in the postpartum unit and have constant exposure to GBS (not to mention the fact that I had it last time, and most healthcare workers are carriers). At this visit, I also found out I'm 1 cm, 50% effaced, and baby is at -1 station. This is basically exactly where I was at this point with Noah, and it carries zero predictive value for when I'll actually go into labor, but it gives me a good baseline if I get checked again before officially going into labor.

-Baby's head down again after that crazy week I had a few weeks ago. She's low but still fairly active as far as turning from front to back and whatnot. But she does spend most of her time with her head slightly left of center, and her butt on my left side or in the middle of my belly. She's almost always facing my right side, and she loves to stretch her legs out to the point that I can see a legit lump where her foot is pushing all the way into my side! I wish I could get a good picture, but it doesn't show up well on camera. It's so funny, though! She certainly knows how to claim her space. She also sometimes rotates, and stretches either her knees or her butt right out above my belly button. It's the most bizarre feeling, and I have no idea how she is angling herself out like that, but she does! Again, pictures don't do it justice, but it's pretty entertaining.

-Speaking of which, I feel like I do notice a difference with a posterior placenta this time. Everything feels bonier and more "right there" if that makes any sense. An anterior placenta last time definitely put a cushion between me and the baby, but not this time! It's fun to feel and see everything. I do also wonder if that's why my belly is a legit different shape this time around. My belly button has basically long since given up, and I don't love it sticking out all the time, but my belly itself seems to be a different shape, too. Both babies are sitting quite low, and there's zero reason for the boy vs girl old-wives tale to be true, but I definitely did look like I carried Noah lower. My theory is that all my pelvic rehab physical therapy paid off-- I have actual muscle tone in my pelvic floor, my obliques, and my transverse abodominis. Yay! I also wear Blanqui support tanks almost every single day, and they really do hold everything up, whereas with Noah I wore support hose almost every single day, and they crammed everything down. Just my theory.

-I've hit the point where a lot of my maternity clothes don't fit/ it's way too hot. I've been wearing a lot more dresses this past week, and I pretty much immediately change into boxers or athletic shorts when we get home. Now I know what it's like to be full-term pregnant when it feels like 112 outside! I will say, there are some MAJOR perks to being pregnant in the summer. Namely, fresh seasonal fruit, flip flops (cannot IMAGINE trying to put winter boots on), and the POOL. Seriously, the pool is the only motivation I have to get out in this ungodly heat, though.

-Week 37 definitely reminded me that I'm having a baby SOON. Things are happening. This week brought with it an acne flare up, lots of menstrual-type cramping, reflux, nausea (it's been on and off again for the past few weeks), and more insomnia and night sweats. Baby is also definitely LOWER. I'm waddling. At the pool on Friday, an 80 year old guy asked, "are you OKAY?! You look like you could go at any minute!" Yep, I felt like it, too. Thankfully today the temps have dropped a bit and I feel much more human.

-After a rough few weeks, Noah was super lovey this past week! Lots of kisses for me, and for baby sister. I think he's excited she's almost here. I CANNOT BELIEVE she's almost here!


Wednesday, July 12, 2017

A Day in the Life: 3 years old and 36 weeks pregnant

Today was a rare, sweet day in which we had NO solid plans. I'm craving these days with Noah as my due date approaches. I didn't take meticulous notes, but I thought it would be a fun day to note, so here's what I remember.

0615: Blessed reprieve-- Noah slept in AND I was able to fall back asleep immediately after my 0400 potty break. I got 7+ hours of actual sleep and I feel human this morning! Ross gets up with Noah after a few minutes.

0630: I go over my prayer cards for a bit, until Noah comes into our bedroom needing something or other. Ross heads to work, and Noah and I eat breakfast. Eating meals is quite the ordeal these days. We end up splitting a smoothie, he has toast with almond butter, and I have two oatmeal muffins. This takes much longer than it should. Then we both get dressed for the day, and read a Bernstein Bears book.

0740: We head to Wednesday Farmer's Market. It's not TOO hot out yet, and I love being early-isa to market before the crowds.

0800: We buy komboucha, sip it for a few minutes, and then head to the fountains where Noah gleefully runs and splashes with very little competition.

0900: The first entertainer arrives, and we spend an hour doing Signing Time with her and her two daughters, and the crowd slowly grows over the course of the hour. We also take two potty breaks and a cookie break during this time-- ha! At the end, Noah sweetly waits his turn for a stamp, and gets one on his hand. Then goes back to ask for one on his bare belly! Oh summer.

1000: Some friends meet us briefly, and we splash in the water for a bit. Then we actually walk through market again and buy some sweet corn, some peaches, and some cucumbers. Our cucumbers are really not thriving this year and our whole garden feels behind schedule even though it's green and flowering. Maybe next year will be the year I actually start seeds indoors to get a head start?

1050: Wow it's ROASTING outside by now. The weather app says it's 95 but feels like 103! Noah and I are over it, and head home.

1130: We eat a quick lunch of turkey sandwiches and watermelon, and Noah must be as worn out as I am, because he really doesn't put up too much of a fight when I declare nap time.

1200: Nap jams, two stories, and two songs later, I'm resting next to Noah in his big kid bed and we both fall asleep pretty quickly. We've been doing this this past few weeks, ever since my belly just got too big for stories in the rocking chair. I'll admit the snuggles and cat nap are sometimes the sweetest part of my day.

1240: I sneak out of Noah's room and retire to my own bed to read for a bit. My belly feels extra heavy today, and rest is needed for sure. I also update my mom on Ross' knee. He hurt it a week and a half ago, and a sweet friend got us in to see an orthopedic doctor MUCH sooner than we would've been able to, otherwise. AND he had an OR spot open this Friday, so Ross is getting his meniscus repaired so much sooner than we'd hoped. Hopefully this means he'll be walking by the time baby arrives!

1430: Noah is awake! I let him bustle around his room for a bit before getting him out.

1445: Noah has a rice cake for a snack after declining watermelon, peaches, and turkey sandwich remains. Then, well, he watches two episodes of Daniel Tiger while I read on the couch. Did I mention it's 100+ degrees outside?!

1530: We get ready to go to the pool to meet some friends.

1605: The pool is like bathwater, but the weightlessness is pure bliss! We play in the baby pool with our friends for a little over an hour. Noah is so sweet to my friend's little 20 month girl, and I enjoy having some adult conversation.

1720: Noah and I have some really fun "Mama/Noah time" just playing in the big pool. We practice swimming, and he climbs up the ladder and jumps off the side ad nauseum. It's so fun to grab him and give him a hug every time he pops up. I miss holding him sometimes, but it's so effortless in the water! His belly flops have veered into dive territory lately, so we practice a lot of feet-first jumping for safety's sake, and he's finally getting the hang of it! When he and I are well rested, we sure do have a lot of fun together.

1800: We head home to meet Ross, and I shower while Ross and Noah eat leftover tacos for dinner.

1830: Ross gets Noah showered while I sit on the couch.

1900: I start getting Noah ready for bed while Ross lays in bed with ice on his knee. We are quite the pair these days! Noah and I read a story, talk, pray, and sing. Then we snuggle for a bit.

1945: Noah's in bed and I say goodnight. He's so funny... he has to say "I love you" and "thank you" to us each night. Tonight I didn't hear the thank you, so I didn't say you're welcome, and Noah came running to the door crying the minute I closed it. Poor kid. I gave him a huge hug, tucked him back in, and made sure to say "you're welcome" this time!

2000: I sit on the couch and read for another 30 minutes before getting up to type this while Ross waters the garden. Now it's almost 2100 and I'm going to load the dishwasher, type a follow-up email to a lactation consultation client, take a Unisom, and go to bed!

Sunday, July 9, 2017

35 weeks

This week went by so quickly between the holiday, work, and knee injury drama. Ross tore his meniscus on Sunday, so he saw the PCP on Monday and got an MRI on Friday. Now we are figuring out how to schedule his surgery and pay more medical bills. Meanwhile he's limping around and neither of us can lift anything heavy. It's been... interesting.

So. Thirty five weeks are over and done with, and now baby no longer has an automatic ticket to the NICU. I feel like a ticking time bomb! It's unnerving to think she could be here in 2.5 weeks like Noah was, or she could throw us all for a loop at stay put until mid-August.

How I'm feeling: Big. Sometimes I feel normal, like when I'm laying in bed in the morning, or I'll catch a glimpse of myself in the mirror early in the day and think my belly isn't THAT big. But the maternity tanks that fit me last time are getting a little short this time, and I think I'm definitely a little bigger this time around. And I'm convinced this child is huge! She seems to fill up my whole belly, and kicks to the ribs are not infrequent. It's so crazy! But the kicks and the belly are what I'll miss the very most. Otherwise, now that I know how fun it is to get to know the kid in there, I'm getting pretty excited to meet her and I don't think I'll miss feeling pregnant as much as I did last time. (I will miss looking obviously pregnant though). Also, pregnancy in July is not for the faint of heart. I've never been a sweater, but I'm constantly sweaty and overheated and thirsty now! The good parts of third trimester in warm weather, though, are the flip flops and the POOL. I didn't get to go swimming last week and I need to change that this week.

Symptoms: I'm definitely starting to get some swelling, which I don't really remember having last time. I'm sure it's a combination of the heat and the fact that I'm simply not sleeping well at all. I'm either up for the day after 4am, or I'm up hourly all night long. I'm starting to feel "tired but wired" at bedtime, too, which means it keeps inching later and later. I look so tired in all my pictures this summer! Also, nausea and food aversions have kicked in again. I forgot that this happened last time toward the end. The ONLY thing that sounds good is cold water, smoothies, and big salads. Of course, I still can and do eat most everything, but soups, coffee, and chocolate are quite unappetizing again. Still having lots of Braxton-Hicks, too. Not more frequent, but definitely intense than they were in the first pregnancy.

Home life: Well, this week was rough as mentioned above. With Ross' inability to walk and my inability to bend at the waist, we just didn't have a productive week around the house. I had been hoping to clean up the playroom once and for all (it's been a baby supply staging area for a few months), but that obviously didn't happen. Thankfully, my parents were here this weekend, and my mom swept the whole house and tidied up! And my dad helped me get Noah's old baby bins down in the garage, so now I've gone through and sorted and labeled those, and I think I've tracked down all the newborn stuff we have. So newborn clothes are almost all washed and put away, cloth diapers are out, snapped into their smallest sizes, and ready to go, and I even started packing the hospital bag. Who am I!? It's so weird to do this, because we weren't able to have ANYTHING ready the first time.

Exercise: Aside from walking, I didn't get to do much this week. I wonder if that has also affected my anxiety and my sleep quality? Noah and I did take a long, slow walk Friday morning, which was sweet. It's always nice when we don't have to rush somewhere!

Best thing I ate this week: This is a tie between Taste Nirvana coconut water (SO MUCH BETTER than any other coconut water I've had from the grocery store) and the scallops I had for dinner on Saturday at Merchant's in Lawrence. Yes, scallops still sound so amazing. Possibly the closest thing I've had to a consistent craving this pregnancy!



This week, I had a few moments of realizing, "wait... I'm like PREGNANT!" It was really weird. I think you just expect to feel that for so long, and then it doesn't really kick in til the end when it looks like you always expected it to look and feel all along.






Sunday, July 2, 2017

34 weeks and a false alarm

It's July 2. I'm 35 weeks pregnant today. 35 days to go until my due date, but we are likely to meet baby a bit before that. THIS MONTH. How is that possible?!

We rung in 34 weeks with a fun false alarm. I'm not sure if was because baby's position changed, or if my body was just over the last few weeks of go, go, go, but after church on Sunday I started having... contractions? They didn't quite feel like LABOR contractions, but they were also pretty different compared to the normal Braxton-Hicks I have all the time. My lower back was killing me, and the contractions were coming every 2 minutes. They didn't hurt? Per se? Not compared to labor, at least. But they were intense enough to stop me in my tracks when walking. I went home and laid down, and they didn't stop, so I called the Midwife. Since they DID finally stop with a warm bath, I narrowly avoided a visit to triage. But I had to stay in bed the rest of the day because they started up again the minute I would stand up! I drank a ton of water and Gatorade, took Benadryl and Tylenol that night, and slept it off.

I woke up on Monday quite sore, but thankfully back to my normal Braxton-Hicks. My Midwife appointment verified that I hadn't made any actual labor progress. Whew! I was really starting to panic there. However, it was soon evident that sister is now in a transverse position, which is REALLY uncomfortable given that she's 4.5-5 pounds, and roughly 18 inches long. I mean, there's a BABY in there and I am not wide enough for her to be chilling out sideways. It feels like my abs and my tailbone are going to rip open.

I'm not going to lie... it's making me nervous. Turns out transverse is actually a little more worrisome than a frank breech position at this stage, suggesting that possibly the placenta or cord is in the way, keeping her from turning again. I'm constantly praying for her to get head down, but I'm also praying that she stays SAFE. It makes me so nervous to think about cord accidents, nuchal cords, true knots, placental abruption. Ugh. So many many things that can go wrong between now and the sweet day I get to hold her in my arms. Pregnancy is so miraculous and so humbling, and I'm just praying that God keeps us both safe for a few more weeks. And a head-down baby with an uneventful birth would be even better.

This week, I happened to have a chiropractor appointment, acupuncture, physical therapy, and yoga. Ha! Even if she hasn't moved, I'm marginally more comfortable, but also way bigger than I was 7 days ago. Someone had a growth spurt! I don't remember the stretching being this painful last time. Either it's her fun position, or I just forgot about this part. I thought since everything has already been stretched once, it wouldn't be that big of a deal, but I three years was a long time ago, I guess, and my body has been through a lot.

Best moment of the week: We got a care package from the family I used to nanny for in Texas. They sent a perfect big brother book for Noah that made me tear up, but they also sent some adorable pajamas and a Madeline book for baby sister. Well. Noah is OBSESSED with the Madeline book. Like we read it a dozen times a day. He calls it his baby sister book. SO CUTE. (Runner up moment was the way Noah's eyes lit up when I told him he would get to meet baby sister in one month. "Not two months!?" "Nope, just one more month!")


Saturday, July 1, 2017

Postpartum Freezer Meals: Part 2

I made some BIG plans for freezer meals, detailed here. Today is one month away from the gestational age at which Noah was born, and given my increasing discomfort, I realized I needed to get this done sooner rather than later.

How I did it

DAY 1 (1.5-2 hours): In the morning, I started the pulled pork in the crockpot and we ate some for dinner, gave some to a friend for a baby meal, and froze the rest for postpartum. Then before bed, I washed and chopped ALL the produce. This actually took almost two hours! It's the most tedious part of cooking, for me, and it was nice to get it out of the way.

DAY 2 (5 hours): I got EVERYTHING out on the counter. All the ingredients I would need for all of the recipes. Turns out this was overly ambitious, but it kept me from having to search for random stuff mid-recipe. Then I tackled most of the uncooked meat dishes. Before putting anything in freezer bags, I wrote the date, the name of the recipe, and the cooking or re-heating instructions so I wouldn't have to look it up later. To assemble these, I used one bowl for each marinade, rinsing well in between. Same for the small bowl I used for each dry spice mixture. I put the meat right in the freezer bag, dumped the marinade over it, and then sealed and laid the bag horizontally in the deep freezer. This method helped me assemble the jerk chicken tacos, maple dijon chicken, salsa chicken, and beef and broccoli pretty quickly.

Then, since the chicken was already in use, I continued with the rest of the chicken dishes. I put the chicken enchilada filling in the crockpot and put the chicken spaghetti bake in the oven.

While those were cooking, I moved onto the ground meat dishes. I processed all the bread crumbs in the food processor in one batch, to measure out accordingly. Then I used one big bowl for each of the ground meat dishes, rinsing it in between recipes (and using fresh gloves for each batch, because I hate mixing meat with bare hands). I made the meatballs and put them in a freezer bag with the tomato sauce, to be cooked after thawing. Then I made the turkey loaf and Greek meatloaf muffins.  When they cooled, I wrapped them in foil and then put them each in a freezer bag and placed in the freezer.

I had to sauté some of the veggies for the meatloaf, and I used the same sauté pan to then cook the Italian sausage, onions, and garlic for the cauliflower and Italian sausage casserole. I boiled the cauliflower in a big soup pot, and then assembled and baked that casserole as well. With the casseroles, I baked them in disposable aluminum trays, cooled in the fridge, covered rightly with foil, and then covered with the included plastic lid, on which I wrote the date and the re-heating instructions.

Then I used that same soup pot to boil the second round of cauliflower, for the alfredo sauce and I went ahead and blended that and put in a freezer bag. Finally, I assembled the white bean chicken chili and let it all simmer in the soup pot while I started to clean up. (I put the rotisserie chicken carcass in the freezer to make bone broth at a later date.)

This all took 5 hours and while I didn't finish everything, I was kind of over it after 5 hours. I still made 13 meals in two days, and the deep freezer is filling up quickly!

DAY 3 (1.5-2 hours): I really didn't want to do more, but I had bought, washed, and chopped all that produce, and I knew I needed to utilize the fresh stuff, lest it go bad. So I made the 7 vegetable cheese soup, the red lentil dal, and the lentil mushroom walnut balls. The other soups I listed mostly utilize canned vegetable purees and frozen veggies, so I will keep those ingredients in the pantry and they'll be reasonably easy to make as needed and store in the fridge for a week. Same with the baked bean and cornbread casserole.

DAY 4 (3 hours, but this is skewed because the toddler was awake and around for most of it): So over it today. But I powered through and made the chana masala, vegan stuffed shells, and a double batch of lactation cookies. I thought the vegan meals would be nice to have for quick lunches, but I forgot that vegan meals sometimes take longer to assemble than meat dishes because you have to cook the beans, roast the walnuts, soak the cashews, etc. Next time I would consider leaving the dal, the chana masala, and the lentil mushroom walnut balls off the list. But they may prove to be invaluable to have on hand, later, so I'll see if it was worth the extra time.

LATER: I still hope to make the pancakes, Glo bars, and breakfast cookies before baby comes, but worst case scenario, Ross and Noah can make those while I supervise.

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THOUGHTS: Our brand new deep freezer is FULL. It feels really good, but I'm also really over cooking. Like I want to take a whole week off! But I have 18 meals in the freezer, and that feels great. I'm really hopeful that they will taste good/fresh in 1-3 months, and that they really will save time later. I neglected Noah a bit this week in the rush to have these DONE. I hope it keeps my postpartum self from standing in the kitchen too much in the first 2 months, though, and that means more time with Noah (and baby) down the road.

I'll write one more post once we've eaten everything, to follow-up on how it stored and re-heated! For now, here's the final tally of what I made (I put this list on the side of the deep freezer along with side dishes that would turn the frozen dish into a full meal):

-jerk chicken taco meat
-meatballs in tomato sauce
-maple dijon chicken
-salsa chicken
-beef and broccoli
-turkey loaf
-chicken enchilada filling
-pulled pork
-chicken spaghetti bake
-Greek meatloaf muffins
-cauliflower and Italian sausage casserole
-7 vegetable 'cheese' soup
-smoky white bean chili
-vegan alfredo sauce
-vegan stuffed manicotti shells
-red lentil dal
-chana masala
-lentil mushroom walnut balls
-lactation cookies


Sunday, June 25, 2017

33 weeks and expectations

Thank goodness for this blog, because I'm totally losing all track of how far along I am. The other day, Ross asked, "you're like, 37 weeks, right?!" Ha! No. But I feel like I should be. I was reading my old posts, and it's nice to see that this time last time, I was very emotional and worn out. Because right now, I'm... tired. Physically and emotionally. (My blog also tells me I even having lots of hip pain, craving vegetables at 33 weeks, and losing hair last time, like I have been this week! So funny.)

I'm up for the day around 4am and it's kind of making me worthless at mom-ming. I'm anxious about entering into the newborn fog when I'm already so tired. So I'm done trying to wean off of the Unisom. When I take half a tablet before bed, and drink a little coffee the next morning, I feel like I can take on the world! Or at least I feel some resemblance to my non-pregnant self. Better living through chemistry, when all else fails, I guess.

This week, I washed and folded tiny little newborn clothes, and I had a moment of gratitude. I was living out of a suitcase and had yet to purchase any baby clothes this time the first go-around, so I'm enjoying these little bursts of nesting. The excitement is slowly starting to counter-balance the anxiety that flared up in the past few weeks, but I think some of the anxiety is just here to stay until the end. So much is about to change.

This week, though, I'm realizing maybe I'm trying too hard to "enjoy these last few weeks." Last summer with Noah was really really sweet, and I find myself trying to re-create it: toddler time at the pool, Wednesday mornings at the farmer's market. I wanted to squeeze some of it in before I felt downright miserable, but I'm slowly starting to realize: I already feel downright miserable, and it's already impossible to re-create last summer.

I also sometimes feel like we need to rush here and there, because I know we will be home-bound for a month or so after baby arrives. Yet, our best summer 2017 memories thus far have been the slowest ones: puttering in the garden as a family after Noah's Sunday afternoon nap. Taking an early morning walk to Starbucks with Noah and chilling and reading books there before walking home. Taking dinner to the pool and meeting Ross there after work where we all swim for an hour before heading home for the bedtime routine.

I'm also realizing that "enjoying every minute of pregnancy" is just an impossible expectation. Yes, it makes me sad to feel like every week that goes by might be the last time I'm x number of weeks pregnant, but what would it look like to "fully soak it up"? I'll tell you. It would look like a week on the beach in Hawaii. Daily prenatal massages. Daily ultrasounds to just watch baby wiggle around and really figure out the various positions she puts herself in. (I can sort of guess sometimes from the outside, but it'd be so fun to master it with ultrasound verification.) It looks like fresh, seasonal food cooked to order for every meal, with zero cleanup on my part. It looks like spending at least an hour a day floating in the water and another hour a day in a lounge chair reading books on pregnancy, birth, and parenting. It looks like morning and evening walks, either having an adult conversation or listening to a good podcast. I looks like an hour of quiet time every morning and a full night's sleep every night. So what I'm saying is, it looks like a fantasy. It's just not possible to spend every minute of the day focused on this incredible thing that's happening.

So... I'm going to try to slow down when I can. Take more belly shots. Stop and feel when she's moving (the movements are already getting less dramatic as baby gets bigger). More pool time with Noah and less running to a bajillion errands and appointments. More prayer throughout the day. Earlier bedtimes. I'm trying to finish up "nesting" tasks by the end of June so that I can spend July in more of a "resting" mode. Here's hoping!

Sunday, June 18, 2017

32 weeks

If time could start moving a LITTLE more slowly, that would be great. The weeks are ticking by alarmingly quickly now. This was a fun week with Noah, but pretty uncomfortable pregnancy-wise between the heat and humidity, varicose veins, and pelvic and back pain. I'm splurging on a massage tomorrow, and I'm so looking forward to it. I think I would be a better person if I could afford massages every other week. Ha!

The week kind of started last Saturday when we had a fun family day of blueberry picking, eating at a new restaurant for lunch, and baking pie. It was a really refreshing day for ALL of us after a long, anxious, sleepless week the week before. Sunday, though, greeted me with lots of Braxton-Hicks and discomfort. I definitely feel pregnant all the time, except for when I very first wake up in the morning!

How I’m feeling: Nervous, excited, tired, big.

Home life: Knock on wood, renovations are DONE! Three years later than anticipated, but better late than never. I had the house spotless about two weeks ago, but it's totally messy again and I'm way too big/uncomfortable to be scrubbing baseboards now, so we will see if it gets clean clean again before delivery. Either way, I'm so excited that there's no more exposed drywall.

Nursery: Ross and I are agreeing to disagree on this right now. Our 900 square foot house consists of three bedrooms, a bathroom, a living room, a kitchen, and a small laundry room/pantry/mud room. No basement, dining room, office, or play room. So... the third bedroom is an office/playroom and we love having the extra space. It's also literally in the middle of the house, so it really wouldn't make a quiet bedroom. I want the baby to sleep in our room for 4-5 months (like Noah did) and then share a room with Noah. Ross says there's no way on earth that will happen because Noah didn't sleep through the night till he was 15 months old and, well, this baby comes from the same gene pool. I, however, need to be optimistic, so we are going to pretend that room-sharing is a feasible option for these two. For now.

Nesting: I did get an energy boost between 20-30 weeks, and it was amazing after a long winter. However, I'm slowing down quickly now. I need to make my freezer meals in the next two weeks before I totally peter out, and then hopefully I can spend my time resting instead of nesting! That is, when I'm not momming or working.

Belly button: Flat or out, depending on the day, the outfit, and baby's position.

Sleep: Night hunger and waking up for the day at 4am have been the name of the game again this week. Between 31 weeks and birth, baby DOUBLES or TRIPLES in weight! So I think these symptoms are just here to stay.

Wearing: Shorts and tanktops. Swimsuits.

Exercise: Walking, Barre 3, and... lap swimming! Last time I waited way too long to get into the pool, and this time I told myself I'd start swimming sooner. It feels SO SO SO good. I wish I'd started even sooner, but I'm definitely glad I didn't wait later.

Reading: Still haven't started on those parenting books I said I'd read before baby #2... I'm kind of loving reading novels for fun while I still have a little time on my hands.

Cravings: I need vegetables STAT. I've been lazy and not wanting to cut up and prepare veggies, but salads and veggie bowls and lots of fruit are the only thing that sounds good in this heat.

Best thing I ate/drank all week: Hmmm... that's a tie between sushi and cookie dough. The Ra Sushi Zonie Roll I had for takeout on Friday really tasted phenomenal. I could go for another one right now! Salmon, cucumber, avocado, Sriracha... so good after a hot day outside. Then, yesterday on the way home from work, I texted Ross that I was craving cookie dough. I came home to a tray of freshly baked cookies, and a bowl of leftover dough. Totally hit the spot after a busy day at work.

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Walking Weather (part 2)

Last week, I really started to panic about the upcoming changes in our life. I have really been seeking to banish that anxiety, because it becomes a vicious cycle and it intrudes on the precious time I'm so anxious about losing!

I listened to two other podcasts last week that I feel like really pointed me in an encouraging direction, and I want to write down what struck me, so I can reference it quickly in the thick of it.

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1) Risen Motherhood Episode 60: Adding Another Little-- How Mom Can Greet the Transition with Hope

The words that really stood out to me are as follows:

"Expect that you are going to need the Gospel truth more than ever... I look at transitions like this as something I dread a little bit, but in God's kingdom, in light of the Gospel, these types of situations are good. This is where big, transforming heart work happens. And when I look back at the times God has transformed me the most and helped me repent of sin and trust him more, is times like this when I've been totally helpless and dependent and exhausted and at the end of myself."

"God can nourish you in these hard seasons with the tiniest nugget of truth."

This episode helped me plan for the fact that whatever quiet time routine I do establish in the next few weeks will most likely be challenged when the baby comes, and I was able to brainstorm a few ideas for staying connected to God in the survival stage:

-Listening to audio Bible or podcast episodes during nighttime nursing sessions

-Do not believe the lie that you don't have time to be in God's word, you almost always do have 5 minutes to just read scripture or a devotional at some point in your day

-Meditate on a Seeds Family Worship song in the background even when the kids (eek! kidS plural!) are up and at 'em

-Pick a weekly verse to write on the wall and memorize as a family

-Remember, duty turns into delight, and these little efforts are worth it even if they don't feel as substantial as what someone else may be doing in this season

2) Risen Motherhood Episode 63: Jen Wilkin on Growing in God's Word as a Mom of Little Ones

This podcast is what really resonated with me the most last week, and gave me the most encouragement for the last bit of this current season, as well as expectations for the weeks to come. Jen Wilkin is a Bible teacher and author, and one of the many people I've meant to look more into, join a study with, etc. I was really excited I stumbled upon this interview with her, because it tailored her message to young moms in particular, whereas most of her stuff is meant for women in all stages of life.

In response to being asked why reading the Bible is important, Jen responds, "I would say that a pretty common experience for young moms is that when that first baby comes, they have a renewed understanding of their lack, with regard to matters of faith. We're responsible for passing down this faith heritage to our children, and we can't pass down something that we don't have direct knowledge of. The heart cannot love what the mind does not know, and Biblical literacy is an act of loving God with your mind, which translates into greater affection in your heart, because by its own report, the Bible is living and active. For the believer, we cannot encounter the scriptures and come away unchanged. I would say that for young moms in particular, you're at a place where you know your vulnerability like you perhaps didn't before you had children, and that provides a unique opportunity for you to begin investing in some good tools for literacy now."

Jen goes on to talk about the coveted idea of a quiet time routine, and says that as a young mom, "You may have pockets of discretionary time, but you never can predict really when they're going to be, or how long they're going to be. Perhaps more than at any other time in your adult life, when it comes to learning the Bible, you really need an outside structure and some accountability."

The host says, "A lot of times I think as young moms the message we can hear from people is, 'oh these little years, you don't have time to read your Bible.' I think there's an element of truth to that, but there's also an element of a major excuse where you say, 'the little years are the lost years.' Is there something special about being a mom of little kids that does make theological growth challenging, or is that a myth?"

Jen replies, "I think it can be an excuse, but it is not always an excuse. I think that women have different capacities, and I think it's important to know yourself pretty well, and know am I the kind of person who's looking for an excuse not to do this, or am I drowning right now? ...We all find time for the things that matter to us... I'm all for a good binge on Netflix, just not if it's a replacement for something that's transcending."

Later, she notes, "Our children are our neighbors, which means that if we are going to treat them as the people that they are, we're going to need to have a solid grasp of the 'one anothers' in scripture. We're going to need to know what it means to be patient and bear with one another, and that those one anothers include not just my adult friends or my co-workers, but also these tiny people who I hang out with a lot in my own home... Young motherhood was such a time of selfishness and selflessness intertwined for me. I told myself it was beating the selfishness out of me, because you have to give up all your personal freedoms, etc. But it turned out that as soon as the kids got older and were able to do things on their own, I just took all the selfishness right back. So I think that nothing is going to get to that underlying issue of self-centeredness like spending time in the scriptures will."

I found this tidbit interesting, even though it wasn't the main focus of the podcast: "We never had a structured approach (saying to our kids) now you need to sit down and read your Bible... We didn't want to require or structure it, we just modeled it. The kids understand that's just what you do when you're an adult."

Toward the end, the host asks, "What are some things you would say, 'here's where to start.' In terms of getting into your Bible?" Jen responds, "The most basic thing to start doing is to read repetitively. And I know that sounds, like, not exciting, and maybe even boring. But it's actually the piece that most of us run right past. We want to read a passage and understand it immediately and know what to do with it, and that's just not the way that learning works, and it's not the way that good reading skills happen. So I would say if you're a young mom and you have limited time, you are far better served by picking a book of the Bible, starting at the beginning, and beginning to read to the end. Don't ask a lot of yourself as you're reading through it the first time. Just read it like you would read a book for book club... or listen to it on YouVersion on your phone every time you're in the car... those are ways to start getting the text inside of you. One of the things I like to debunk as often as I can, especially with young moms, is the glorification of the idea of quiet time. I think that we are going to face challenges in growing in literacy if we carve out 10 minutes a day versus if we had 1-2 times a week where we spent 30-45 minute blocks... You can have a some moment of reflection for daily contact with the scriptures to get you set for the day, but in terms of learning your sacred text, you probably need a longer stretch of time than that... If during the young mom years, all you did was read for comprehension, when you come out of the young mom years and you have more time and you're ready to pick up more of those tools (study tools discussed in her book Women of the Word), you will hit the ground running."

The host replies, "I love that you're saying this! I tend to be pretty legalistic... but I think this gives enormous freedom to a young mom, especially trying to protect some larger chunks of time a few times a week. It doesn't have to be this daily big hunk of steak. And also in trusting that God's word will work in your life, even if you're... just saturating your heart and mind with God's word and trusting that that will give you the ability to discern truth... Our routines as moms tend to last about 3 months, and then you have to switch to a new routine... But we really can take God's word how it can come to us, and we need to access it as much as we can, when we can."

Jen says, "It's also easy to spend all your time in devotional reading and not literacy-building. Before you know it, all you're doing is reading devotionally or topically... Devotional reading can be great, particularly for a mom who wants to have some daily contact the the scriptures. But devotional reading gives us something in the moment-- a takeaway you can hold on to. The literacy-building elements don't necessarily do that for you, so we may not gravitate toward them as naturally as we should. The thing with devotional reading, is that while it may give you an emotional boost for the day, it is not giving you comprehensive knowledge of the text, and when we become overly dependent on it, we can actually decrease in our ability to read scripture in context and in long stretches... Devotional content is more like dessert... but it will be way more impactful if you have a foundational knowledge of the entire book that that passage is being pulled out of."

Finally, she encourages, "You can do this! You can be in the scriptures in ways that are drawing you closer to what they say, what they mean, how it should change you. You NEED a transcending vision of God, high and lifted up, to get through this season of life, and the place it has been given to us is in scripture. So find the time to get yourself into it as you're able. Your love for it will grow the more you do it... What you're growing in love for is not the scriptures, but the God of the scriptures."

----

I just really love this encouragement from Jen, especially the tidbits in bold. It encouraged me to go back to what I had juuuust started doing on Christmas break from BSF, before morning sickness and germ sickness kicked in for the rest of the winter. And that's to literally read my Bible as a book, from front to back. I've never done that! I picked my smaller Bible, the one that isn't a study Bible, and just started reading. So now I'm picking up where I left off this winter, and just reading. I'm noticing patterns, like how needy and selfish and grumbly God's people (including myself) are, and how he always replies to those cries with an I WILL promise, or an I AM statement. It's really cool to read the story and notice who God says He is and what He says He will do. It sounds so fundamental, getting to know God. But it's what I NEED. I've been trying to brainstorm this perfect magical combination of racing to the finish line of pregnancy and getting all emotionally prepared for the next stage of parenting: early morning Bible study, reading parenting books and doing a workout at nap time, journaling at bedtime, or what have you. I kept trying to re-arrange the elements, but all of the ideas just felt overwhelming. Because while I have the desire to utilize every minute well, I really don't have the energy to do that. At least not the way I'm defining "well."

So Jen's words really gave me the freedom to keep it simple. I'm going to continue with my monthly prayer cards that I've been doing this year: intentionally praying for myself and for my family when I first wake up. And then I'm going to open the Bible and read. Most days, I'm going to expect that I have 5-15 minutes of this before I'm needed by someone. Some days I might get more time in the morning, others I might devote a nap time to process things a bit more (like I am doing right this moment) if I have the capacity to do and something really struck me and I want to flesh it out more before continuing. But I'm not going to force that. I'm going to start small and realistic, and I already feel lighter for it. I guess it's like that old saying, you can do anything, but you can't do everything. Note to self.

When baby comes, I expect even this simple routine to be shot to pieces. When that happens, I want to go back to the tips I noted above, and then, like Jen says, just pay attention to my heart. I can discern when I've switched from the survival stage to the simply looking for excuses to avoid getting into God's word. And when I sense the shift toward laziness, I have the opportunity to dig deep. I can use the three minute morning tips, or just the simple routine I've been doing the past few days, to get me back on track, and I won't regret it.



Sunday, June 11, 2017

31 Weeks: Walking Weather (part 1)

Last week baby must've had a growth spurt because I was hungry at night again. But this week was pretty good, and I actually felt great physically. Noah and I got to talk a "wake-up walk" every day, and we took family bedtime walks most days, too. Noah turned three last Sunday! And he and I had a really sweet day on Monday, but the week went downhill from there, sleep and attitude-wise (for both of us, to be honest! What a long week.)

It's like I hit 31 weeks in this pregnancy and suddenly went from feeling really peaceful and excited to all-out panicked. The countdown is in the single digits and frankly, while I'm all about nesting and organizing and tangibly preparing for our new arrival, I'm terrified about the emotional aspects that I just can't prepare for. I know that I don't know what I don't know about having two kids. I don't know if I will ever be pregnant again after the next few weeks. I don't know if I'm mom enough to do the newborn phase WITH a toddler and be a good mom to both.

I'm also starting to panic about my days with Noah being numbered. I was so sick this winter that I feel like we lost a huge chunk of time together while I just survived. Are we over-scheduled? Have I spent enough intentional time with him in the past three years? Is fall preschool a bad idea? Am I a good mom? Will he still know I love him when I have to attend to an infant? Does he know we are adding to the family and not replacing him? Nothing like an existential crisis in the third trimester!

Then there's the pre-emptive mourning of time and sleep that will simply be lost. Some never to return again. Noah is thisclose to phasing out naps, and while his night sleep has been less than stellar during this pregnancy, it's still better than the first year of his life. Have I taken full advantage of nap times? Of the times he did go to bed at 7pm and stay in bed asleep (although that seems to be lost forever, at least while it's still light out at that hour)? That year between 18-36 months when he DID sleep in until 6:30am, why DIDN'T I wake up earlier to form a consistent habit of quiet time again? Agh!

Thankfully, with the morning walks and nap times I did get last week, I was able to *start* sorting through some of this anxiety that seemed to come out of nowhere. Possibly the biggest thing I'm currently regretting is never having formed a good habit of quiet time after Noah was born. I KNOW that peace is a person and that the presence of Christ will anchor me in the season ahead. Why am I not seeking it out now? For a long time after having my first baby, I was just surviving. Once I could kind of form a coherent thought, I went through a phase of beating myself up for not being able to focus when I did sit down, not "getting something out of it" like I used to, etc. So I would have "on" phases and "off" phases, always somehow trying to replicate the habit I was in before we moved around this time in my pregnancy with Noah. Which mostly looked like me waking up at 5:30am and taking 30-45 minutes to read a devotional, read my Bible, AND journal. Longer than that on the days I didn't work. Let's just say that magical morning quiet time has yet to make a re-appearance, and my discipline and capacity to maintain such an intense regimen at nap time has been lacking, to say the least.

And then... I have so many parenting books I still want to read. So many things I meant to do. What have I been doing with my spare time the past three years?! That's a rhetorical question, by the way. I know that by and large I did the best I could with what I knew at the time. I think about the (albeit part-time) work, the job changes, the hours and hours of studying for a new license, starting a new business or two... But I also think about the physical recovery. Coordinating all the appointments for a sick mama and a baby with some special needs. The postpartum anxiety. And heck, the normal, tumultuous, emotional adjustment to the role of motherhood!

Sure, I regret all the wasted hours on Facebook or Instagram, and I'm trying to replace that time with something slightly more beneficial, like reading a book for fun, listening to a podcast, or doing a 10 minute workout. Putting music on and dancing with Noah when we are both desperate for Papa to be home. Looking Noah in the eye and engaging when I most want to tune out. But in the grand scheme of things, I feel like I've done what I could do with my capacity in any given season over the past three years. And I'm currently reminding myself that there are so many seasons, even within this bigger (but still oh-so-short) season of the little years. Roughly every three months, things shift. I need to keep remembering that! And a lot of the time, it's okay for me to physically, mentally, and emotionally rest when I need to, to be able to get through the rest of the day. As long as I'm not looking at that physical rest as my inalienable right, and throwing a tantrum of my own when I don't get it.

I always tell people, Jesus is happy to meet you when you're at the end of the rope. I feel like motherhood is a constant battle between giving yourself grace, taking care of yourself so you're fit to take care of others, AND realizing any given day could go downhill in an instant for a million little reasons, and holding THAT with an open hand. It's about where my heart is much more than about where my time is spent. Although when my heart is in the right place, my time will be spent in the right place, too.

Anyway. All that to say, 'tis the season for morning walks and podcasts. My VERY favorite time of the year! Sunshine and encouragement before 9am. Walks have been SO GREAT this week as I muddle through this weird heart stuff.

Noah has not been sleeping a whole lot the past 25 weeks or so, so Ross and I haven't either. On Tuesday, I was in tears by the end of the day-- physically and emotionally exhausted. I expected this after baby, but not before! If I feel like this with one kid, how on earth am I going to make it through the day with two? Add to that the financial stress, the healthcare costs (our insurance changed pretty drastically since the last pregnancy), and the threat of the routine changing again (I thrive on routine), and I feel like I'm on very shaky ground.

Which is funny, because this morning one of the podcasts I listened to was a short devotional on Luke 6:46-49. Verses 46-48, in particular, struck me: "Why do you call me, 'Lord, Lord,' and do not do what I say? As for everyone who comes to me and hears my words AND puts them into practice, I will show you what they are like. They are like a man building a house, who DUG DOWN DEEP and laid the foundation on rock. When a flood came, the torrent struck that house but could not shake it, because it was well built."

WHEN the flood came, the torrent struck the house but COULD NOT SHAKE IT.

I hear God, and I know him as Lord, but I have NOT been putting his words into practice. I have not been digging down deep. This solidified what I've been sensing for the past two weeks: more than the freezer meals, more than the tidy house, more than the baby registry, what I need is to secure my foundation in Christ, because the storm is coming (let's all pray that it's like a passing afternoon thunderstorm in the Florida Keys and not the perma-mist of the Midwestern winter or the destruction of a hurricane). I've gotten my feet back under me since having Noah, and I've learned some deep truths along the way, but really ever since last fall, I've been surviving. And that's catching up to me. When I'm not drinking from the wellspring of life, I'm coming up empty, daily. As David Wilcox says, "We cannot trade empty for empty/We must go to the waterfall/For there's a break in the cup that holds love/Inside us all."

On the same note, a few weeks ago, I was listening to this hymn over and over again:

All my life long I had panted for a drink from some cool spring
That I hoped would quench the burning of the thirst I felt within
Hallelujah! He has found me, the One my soul so long has craved!
Jesus satisfies all my longing, through his blood I now am saved.

[...]Well of water ever springing, Bread of Life so rich and free
Untold wealth that never faileth, my Redeemer is to me
Hallelujah! He has found me, the One my soul so long has craved!
Jesus satisfies all my longing, through his blood I now am saved.

THEN because God really wants to hammer this into me, the point was reiterated in this podcast: Hello Mornings Episode 4: How to Begin and Build a Brilliant Morning. Heather and Kat talk a bit about a "three minute morning" routine, with God, Plan, and Move time. Basically, it's getting yourself moving in the direction you want to go. Action over perfection. Start with literally three minutes. One in which you meditate on a Bible verse like Psalm 143:8. One in which you glance at your calendar and pray about what you can and should do in your day with the schedule you have. And one minute to drink a glass of water. This is starting a routine. A bare minimum. It doesn't feel like a lot, but when the alternative is nothing, it's moving in the right direction! It doesn't matter if three years ago I was starting my day with 45 minutes of prayer, journaling, and Bible reading!

They also talk about other ways to build some momentum for change in your routine when your current routine, or lack thereof, isn't working and you're burnt out and not sure where to start (track, trade, and try, for example). But what really got me is when Heather said, "If you have a mentality that you're a pitcher of water, and you're having your quiet time in the morning to be filled up to pour out, you will have the idea that it has to be hours and hours and hours, because I know how much I pour out in my day. But if you view it as that time in the morning as me being reminded of my position in Christ, Christ in me, He is a River of Life, Flowing Water, Never-ending Source, and I'm getting plugged in there, so that His love can pour THROUGH me (not from me) to those in my environment, then it doesn't matter if it's a minute, an hour, two hours... you're never going to get filled up enough for the amount that you are getting poured out in your day, wherever you are. You will run out if it's all dependent on you being the source." Starting my day in communion with God will remind me where I stand, and whose I am, so I don't spend my day bemoaning what I lack externally or internally.

I want to write about two more podcast episodes that I found really encouraging this week, but the above ones really reminded me again that I can do the mom thing THROUGH Christ, who gives me strength. The newborn months are just going to give me some really sweet opportunities to rely heavily on that truth again. And in the meantime, I'm praying that God will help me enjoy the next few weeks of Mama and Noah time, and the quiet moments of kicks and hiccups with this sweet baby inside me.





Saturday, June 10, 2017

Easy Breakfast Cookies

This is basically a simplified version of cookies I've posted before. Simple is better these days!

Ingredients:

1.5 cups quick oats
1 egg
3/4 cup milk of choice
1 large banana
2 Tbs chia seeds or ground flax seeds
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp vanilla extract
a pinch of salt
2 Tbs chopped walnuts (optional)
1/2 cup raisins or chocolate chips

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 350. In a medium bowl, mix the egg, milk, banana, vanilla, and chia/flax seeds until smooth. Add oats, nuts, cinnamon, salt and mix until incorporated. Fold in the raisins or chocolate chips. Place on greased baking sheet in golf-ball sized scoops. Bake for 11-14 minutes. Makes 18 cookies.

*Hint: They taste extra awesome with a bit of peanut butter spread on top!*

Thursday, June 8, 2017

Postpartum Freezer Meals

So with Noah, I had prepped exactly one freezer meal, the day before going into labor. And it was filled with tofu and he ended up having MSPI and he was NOT thrilled with me eating that dish. So anyway, freezer meals are one thing I'm really really excited to get to do this time. Here's the list of what I'm thinking of making! Is this too ambitious? Am I overcompensating for last time? Do I care? Ha! I'll let you know how this all turns out.

Meat prepped to put in the crockpot or oven:

-Jerk Chicken Tacos (recipe from HyVee freezer meal workshop)
-Meatballs
-Skinny Taste's Maple Dijon Chicken
-Gimme Some Oven's Salsa Chicken
-Sweeter Side of Mommyhood's Beef and Broccoli

Cooked meat dishes to be thawed and warmed:

-Turkey Loaf (an old Jane Brody recipe that my mom makes)
-Salmon Cakes
-Enchilada Filling
-How Sweet Eats Saucy Pulled Pork
-Chicken Spaghetti Bake from Bev Cooks
-Greek Meatloaf Muffins (going to use this burger recipe, but plan to make them in muffin form)
-The Kitchn's Cauliflower and Chicken Sausage Casserole

Vegetarian meals for lunches or extra meals:

-Oh She Glows Red Lentil Dal with Cilantro Rice
-Oh She Glows Baked Bean Cornbread Casserole
-Eat Live Run's Chana Masala
-Wholefully's Vegan Stuffed Shells
-Full Helping's Sunshine Burgers (I love this recipe, but I might just buy some of these at the store to stash in the freezer to eat alongside soup or salad)
-Oh She Glows Lentil Mushroom Walnut Balls

Soup:

-Oh She Glows 7 Vegetable Cheese Soup
-Smoky White Bean Chicken Chili
-Ginger Lentil Soup
-Barley Stew (but with brown rice)
-Miso Pumpkin Soup

Miscellaneous:

-Oh She Glows Cauliflower Alfredo Sauce
-Bone Broth

Snacks:

-double batch of pancakes
-double batch of lactation cookies
-Jam and Teff Cookies
-Oh She Glows New Mama Glo Bars
-Oh She Glows Raspberry Almond Thumbprint Cookies or Flourless Breakfast Cookies

Advice on the Whole Process: 

Reader Advice from the Kitchn
5 Dos and Don'ts
Tips for Freezing and Reheating