Monday, August 26

A Pre-birth story

I am about 2.3 months shy of giving birth to my third child. And though my daughter is now five, there are times when it doesn't seem any more real today than it did the day she was first laid on my chest that I am a mother.

Every woman comes into motherhood in a unique way. All of the decisions she makes are deeply personal. I hope you read that as a disclosure that my experience in no way reflects on my opinions of anyone elses experiences. For me motherhood was preceded by a long process of searching and waiting that finally ended in birth. We were amazed that we were even able to have a child of our own. I had plenty of maternal support as well as support from other empowering women and my husband.  But I, like every woman, went into the experience alone with the things that would take place. It's simple to recognize that I would make mistakes as all women do. I wasn't satisfied with my first birth and so when I was pregnant again 9 months later I knew I needed to do something different. I spent a lot more of my next pregnancy soul searching and studying; thinking about what I wanted and how I was going to get it. Considering what had happened in my first birth and what mistakes I had made. I knew that I wanted a birth without interventions.

When Ada was born (my first birth) I went to the hospital a few hours after my water broke even though my contractions were minimal. I was very slow to progress and under pressure of hospital nurses and from fear of a forced cesarean after 24 hours of ruptured membranes, I accepted induction and later an epidural. I was given an episiotomy and remember thinking very clearly, as I watched the doctor cut me, of how unnecessary it was. He was impatient and groggy and unhappy about being there at 3:30 in the morning. There was no attempt at anything else before breaking out the scissors. I later came to understand the mistakes that I had made on my way to the birth that led to consequences for my new born daughter. The 'reason' for the episiotomy was to aid her in coming out. She had been in the birth canal too long and was under stress from the induced contractions. While there she had respirated meconium and had a hard time breathing for the first few minutes. Her blood sugar was very low. She had a hard time latching on and nursing. I didn't know at the time that most of these difficulties were likely directly caused by the induction and epidural. (For more information on that see avoid-being-induced  and epidural-side-effects-baby.)

In my process to find a new way I considered all of those things. While I understand the reasoning for the interventions, it is my understanding and belief that they all could have been avoided. So in this new birth experience I am reflecting, to make sure that this experience is one that brings me and my child closer, gives them the best chance at a healthy start, and me the best chance at a speedy, bonding-filled recovery.

The first thing that would have been helpful to understand, is that the bag of waters *usually* doesn't just break on it's own. And when it does, this does not in fact increase risk of infection. The day before labor began I had my doctor attempt to strip my membranes because I had been told that it could help start labor. I was ignorant to the fact that this is an intervention. There is no intervention that our bodies can not do better under normal circumstances. There are no studies (to my knowledge) that show that stripping membranes can increase risk of water breakage. However it is my belief, after the fact, that this is what prematurely ruptured my bag of waters. I also didn't know that water breakage doesn't mean that a body or a baby is any more ready for labor and delivery than it would be otherwise. I was ignorant to the fact that your body continues to produce water even after the membrane has broken. I also didn't understand that in a hospital setting the first thing a nurse will do is also the most likely to give me an infection, particularly after my water had broken: check my dilation.   (For more information on these topics see InductionByPitocin and pre-labour-rupture.)

With all of these experiences fresh in my mind, in my following pregnancy I chose to birth in a hospital again for financial reasons. I knew that birthing in a hospital was counter-intuitive to the kind of experience I wanted to have. But I thought that a different hospital could give me a better system of support. It's impossible not to be scarred from an experience like I had before. I imagined it to be my worst case scenario and prepared myself to face it in my next birth journey. All in addition to the experience of what would inevitably happen; my body and baby would work together to bring one through the other and into my arms.

The birth of my son 18 months later, a healthy 9 lb 14 oz. boy, was the most empowering experience of my life thus far. If you want, you can read about it here. From it I learned the true meaning of some of those mistakes. The consequences for birthing my daughter with interventions were, I felt, very severe. The recovery from the epidural made it difficult to get out of bed at the hospital for hours after the birth itself, something I didn't learn was NOT normal until my next birth. Either for an epidural or for a birth in general. The episiotomy made my first few weeks as a new mother so much more difficult. I was week, I was sore. I stayed in bed a lot. I didn't feel well or strong. I learned with my second that this was all completely avoidable. There was no recovery time, accept to sleep and adjust and get to know that sweet little boy spirit. My body was healthy and full of energy immediately after the birth I was dancing around the room 15 minutes later and the natural hormones were able to play their part. Nursing my daughter was complete hell. We made it to a year of nursing by some divine miracle, but a difficult latch, a groggy baby, milk coming in when the baby didn't really want to eat yet, all made it excruciatingly hard. Whereas with a healthy child who had no drugs in his system, my son latched right on, we had nothing but normal soreness and a healthy nursing relationship for over 3 years.  

My first birth was over 5 years ago. And now I find myself again in anticipation of a child and a life and incorporating him or her into my own as meaningfully and peaceably as possible. I write in  anticipation and hope that I can prepare myself as well or better for this experience. This time around I have the assurance that my body does indeed know how to give birth. I have an amazing midwife and my husband and I have learned together how to support each other in order for it to be a dually empowering experience. Some of this birth experience has already been decided. We'll be bringing our midwife into or home with a birthing pool. And our 5 year old daughter will be present, if possible. But other than that, there is so much mental and physical preparation to be made. And I hope that writing about it will help me, as it usually does, to focus my energy and actions in a helpful way. I do also hope that someone finds it helpful to read the experiences of a person who is in full recognition of their mistakes. It is too common for women to try to push those feelings of inadequacy aside because they don't want to feel the guilt of making a wrong decision. But reality is that there is no blame to place on an individual, but on a flawed system that makes a monetary profit for each birth and each intervention. Each intervention has a potential and common hazard and it will effect they way that you feel after birthing and your emotional and physical health as well as that of your child.
For now this is as far as I've come in this pre-birth journey. Every week brings new thoughts of how things will be and new fears of what my body will do. Experience tells me that the most important thing I can do it face those fears head on. And give them the engagement and expression that is required to vanquish them from my mind. Until my next session...


Saturday, August 10

Poor Mans Pesto

Where is that crusty bread when you need it?

I've been feeling a bit like the kid who wasn't invited to the party. I'm wondering why someone didn't tell me about this sooner. It was a bit sad really. But then I looked on Pinterest and noticed that most people probably don't realize how amazing, delicious, delectable, this actually is either. And so... I had to pick up the ol' blog and talk about it. It is after all summertime. Usually at this time of year I have two things on my mind: Tomatoes and Pesto. Well, the Tomatoes haven't quite arrived yet and the Pesto is waiting for my basil to grow a bit more before making the third batch this year. But I discovered today something that might just carry me through the rough patches when there is no basil to be had. It might even carry me through the middle of winter when the basil is long since frozen because turnip greens will last through frost like basil never will.

It all happened this morning while tending to my much neglected garden. The weeds from the carrot patch lay in the path where I left them three days ago. Beets are nodding their heads at me from under tall thin leafs speckled with insect bites. I see that my turnips need some thinning. So I set out to weed the green foxtail grass without injuring the tender stalks and pluck baby turnips from overcrowding neighbors and make room for expanding bulbs. Ada joins me and wants to help, so as I pull up each thin root next to bulging brother turnip, I hand her the half dozen stalks and greens. To my amazement she lays them softly in a basket and returns for more talking about how this is for dinner and she is helping and for once she could be right. As I find another bunch she bends down to watch and help exclaiming "Oh Mom! Pink!"  She's spotted the top of a healthy turnip whose roots bare into the soil for more water and nutrients.

I hand her a bunch with a small bulbous root at the end and she adds it to the others with a renewed appreciation for the garden, amazed that something such a lovely shade would grow in her very own dirt. Before we're finished Ada excitedly carries the mornings stash to the kitchen as she does with nearly every pile of weeds she helps me collect out in the garden. 

The catch is this: usually the tufts and stalks that Ada piles on the counter are in fact inedible, at least unpalitable. This is the first time she's made a pile of something that might be consumed. And I don't know what to do with it. It's my first time growing turnips. I look to Pinterest and a million happy pinners to see if there's something that would make this pile of fresh peppery foliage work for me. I find recipe upon recipes with deliscious looking images for cooking these crisp healthy greens in bacon fat and mixing them with cheese, puried for dipping etc. But my kitchen is uncannily empty and I don't want to let them wilt before whipping up something nice, preferably edible. I find one pin with a description that could fit my fancy, but I'm doubtful as it isn't filled with fat and distracting flavors. I click anyway. This is what I found: Poor Mans Pesto I don't have any walnuts or cheese but I go for it anyway and I score. In the end I feel like I should throw a party for myself just for having made the discovery. The only real tragedy is that with such an empty kitchen, I have no crusty bread to break and smother in this garlicky goodness.

Poor Man's Pesto

Five simple ingredients:

Turnip Greens, as many as will fit in your food processor
Garlic, 1 small head from the garden or 5-6 cloves.
Kosher Salt, 1 Tbsp
Olive Oil, 1/2 Cup
Pistacio nuts, 1 handful (in my case, whatever is left in the bag)

Though this has been delicious all by itself, I think I might go to the store today and while buying some nice artisan bread, buy myself some good hard cheese to mix into the puree.

Afterthought: This "Pesto" grow stronger in flavor as time goes by, so don't get too hasty unless you love a good hot mustardy flavor. It DOES benefit from a good strong cheese being processed into it like a traditional pesto. Perfect for sandwich spreads.

Thursday, May 23

Enjoying it.

I feel that it's important every once in a while, especially after a particularly tiring series of eventful days, to just sit in your bed that's made, in your room that's half clean by your husband, and just enjoy cats catching flies and birds chirping through an open window. Today I am lamenting all of the time gone by without writing anything in this blog. I am contemplating how in the last few months, my writing has consisted of (1) Letters to my unborn child, contemplations of creating life and growing bellies. (2) E-mails detailing what and how and when everything in the community garden will and has taken place. (3) random complaints on facebook about either how stressed I've been, how my body is a completely foreign entity, or how I really can't wait to get done with school. I've come to the conclusion in this contemplation that if I had written anything here, it probably would have been tainted with the constant angst and negativity that is a simple reality when one feels that their body is not their own and discomforts are uncontrollable. Therefore (note to self) please conclude that it was probably for the best that I havn't posted anything.

Today I feel  blessed. It seems like for a lot of years my life was riddled with confusing moments where I didn't know how to reach out to people through, what to me, were living horrors. Since in most cases I didn't know anyone who had lived through similar circumstances I felt very alone. There were moments of accompanying loved ones suffering trauma and living with the consequences, inability to conceive children, losing special people to acts of suicide or other tragedy; and most recently, half of my remaining family choosing self imposed insanity and isolation over loving, honest relationships. All of these things have taken their toll on me. And though there have been beautiful, wonderful, unignorable things, it only took me all of twenty minutes to phrase the run-on, incomplete sentence that mentions my hardships. However the last couple weeks, as I've been de-stressing from a few busy, sick, and stressful months, I've also been made aware of challenges that other people are going through and I feel (1) an enormous amount of guilt for not knowing how to reach out to them in their hard moments (2) A desire to help them feel comfort in their moments of grief, and (3) life has definitely taken a turn for the calm, quite waters that follow a rain storm. The last few years have felt more like a series of motor boats on a lake. In their wake the waves come crashing over and over, each time stronger, followed by yet another boat. Me being the only one who doesn't have a motor to push through. So I feel a sense of enormous relief that some hard moments are past for me, even though for others they are only beginning.

So I've decided that there are only a few simple things to do. This moment seems so clear. I know where I'm going. Life is just a normal flush of fortunate and unfortunate events. I ache for the trauma that is life for many I care about and I can do a lot to ease other's burdens, but I feel a weight lifted by gratitude for what is in my path right now: Watching my fascinating children, Loving my adorable, hardworking husband, Growing and making good food (and babies) and Enjoying it.

Friday, March 15

Human Woman Kind

I'm coming out of a head-cold-haze and I don't know if it's the Spring Break free-time or just the fact that my kids are getting smarter and funnier by the second, But today they are making me laugh harder than I have in a while. It must be that the sun has finally made its appearance and the winter blues are melting away. So I can think of nothing better to do than think about something that makes me really depressed.... Just kidding.

Under normal circumstances, it would be true. But today I literally have been laughing for the last half an hour and it makes me think of my sister Madelyn. Because above all else, the time we spent together was spent laughing. Usually at the things her kids would do or at the stupid things we did. I like to think that one day we'll be laughing at the ways that we hurt each other in the last few years. because, like to believe it or not, I'm sure there have been things that I've done to hurt her. Has it hurt her, the fact that I can't bear to see her, for fear that I would argue with her about her life and the distance she has chosen? I don't know. But I want to respect it, and so I stay away.

One of my favorite memories of Madelyn is from November 14, 2005. Ariel and I didn't have any kids yet and we had just spent a month and a half in Argentina with his family. We moved out of our apartment in Logan, UT before going to Argentina and were staying with Madelyn and Mike until we could find a job and an apartment in Salt Lake City. Madelyn was 9 months pregnant and had 4 kids, 2 of which were with us that day as we went shopping and running errands. Two of the kids must have been at school, because I'm fairly sure that either one of them could have done what needed to be done better than I did.

I'm sure I can't remember all of the details of the events. What I do remember was that a little boy needed to go to the bathroom or possibly already had an accident. I remember that the same little boy was suppose to go to a birthday party. We came back from errands and shopping with a narrow gap of time before the birthday party, to find that the house was locked and Madelyn didn't have the keys. There was only one way in. A tiny window to the basement bathroom. With two small boys and one very very pregnant woman, there was really only one option. The window was positioned at the top of a 7 foot wall, leaving 5 1/2 feet to drop, hopefully not crashing into the toilet. So when it came down to it, that's the only thing I could do. I dropped. At the bottom I felt my ankle buckle under me and the most excruciating pain I had yet felt in my life. In fact, it might have been the most excruciating pain ever. I just laid on the floor moaning and crying, yes crying. I just lay there waiting for the pain to subside. Eventually I realized that everyone was outside waiting for me and had no idea what had happened.  So, crying the whole way because of the pain, I crawled out of the bathroom and eventually made it upstairs to the back door to let everyone in. Now you're probably wondering where the funny part is. Or what makes this a good memory. Well, the rest of the day Madelyn, 9 months pregnant, tended to her 4 children, husband, one whiny sister and HER husband. I sat on the couch downstairs with my feet up and an ice pack that needed to be changed constantly. I've never felt more pathetic, before or since. But it doesn't end there.

That night I think I slept on the couch and very early in the morning my brother in law Mike came down and woke me up to tell me that Madelyn was in labor and they were going to the hospital. A minute later Madelyn came down and asked me if I wanted to go with them to the hospital to see the baby be born. Um. Yeah!

So there we were, a woman in labor, her husband pushing her in a wheel chair, and the sister hobbling down the hall with a sprained ankle and crutches. Like I said, I don't remember EVERYTHING. He might have pushed me in the wheelchair while Madelyn walked. I don't specifically remember having crutches. Point is, it was a very pathetically empowering day. I've now had two babies and I have yet to experience what it feels like to desire someone to accompany me during labor. I don't enjoy the attention I feel from observing eyes as I deal with uncomfortable circumstances. And I've never trusted easily. So I still don't know how or why Madelyn would want me there during her labor. But I know that I trusted her and she trusted me, and a lot. It opened up the way for many hundreds of conversations about labor and babies and how to this and why to that. At the moment Ariel and I had been 'trying' to get pregnant for a year and a half and it was a hard trial. Maybe Madelyn thought it would be my only chance of seeing what the female body is actually capable of. I know the thought occurred to me and it made the experience of watching, trying to support Madelyn the best I knew how (I knew nothing), that much more meaningful.

I realize that this entire tale seems somewhat egotistical. I tell it the way that I remember it. At the time I was childless and young. Though I was aware that birthing a baby is a bit harder than a sprained ankle, I had never experienced more pain than I had the day before. And then here I was, with this champion of a woman, watching her in the very epitome of human endurance. Years later I would go to that same hospital, even with the same nurse, to have my first baby girl. That experience sealed for me my relationship with my sister. It instilled in me a new kind of trust. One of my sister and of myself, but also of being plain and simply a woman.

There is one person I think of when I need advice of the womanly sort. Whether it be for my children, my body, or my marriage, I instinctively feel the need to talk to Madelyn first. A simple reality that puts this among my very favorite memories and will leave me forever grateful for the simple moments that taught me how to be a human, how to be a woman, and how to trust other human and woman-kind.

Monday, February 11

Happy Chinese New Year!!!!

I've been waiting to create this post for a good long while now. I've been waiting until I needed a healthy does of self humiliation. Intentional or not.. And until I needed a good hard laugh so much that I was willing to 'put it all out there', in order to get it.

My name is Andrea and I don't wear make up. However once upon a time I paid a small Chinese fortune to have someone plaster me in it so that I could do this one thing that I knew I would never ever again do. And guess what? I found out that there is a reason I have never done it nor will I ever do it again.

And if I get famous on the internet for having the biggest epic fail glamour shots of the century, I hope the little shop in Chanji, China, Xingjiang Province makes lots of money on it so they can buy dresses for lots of big girls out there who just really need an ego boost...or a good laugh.

This is one of those awkward moments where it's perfectly acceptable to laugh at your friends foolishness. And if you can't laugh, well, just laugh, because people, this is damn funny. .. .

Monday, January 21


Standing on the edge of some great magnetic chasm and the only thing I can think about is seeds. Tiny little round ones and even tinier moon shaped ribs. Seeds that bare rich aromas and flavors and others that can be crushed or boiled to make life lifting medicine. But most specifically, right now, I'm dreaming of the seeds that came from last years harvest. The Waltham Butternut that I hope to the garden goddess I saved a few of. The thin packets of round goodness that will provide a summers worth of reds, purples and greens hanging from thickened stalks and vines.

This years garden is gaining momentum in my mind and I am about ready to put those seeds in some soil and moisten their microscopic bellies. This year I plan on extending my growing space to the Hillsdale Park Community Garden. But that is another story in itself. I also plan on making the strip in front of my house, where this year I grew a bumble bee beacon of sunflowers, into a tomato maize. I'm a little nervous about people coming and taking my fruit, but I'm learning to think of things in terms of not what I have but what we all have. And we all are going to grow tomatoes, hundreds of tomatoes. hopefully hundreds of pounds of tomatoes. There's a meaty variety that I fiddled with last year that gives large, thick, paste tomatoes, called Opalka. Unfortunately I gave away all of my good plants and only had one fruit with viable seed, which I ate. So I am left somewhat longing for that thick paste tomato.  I just ordered some seeds from Moonlight Micro Farm in  Florida, a long way off for beets and some kale. But worth it for good heirloom seeds.

This last week I attended a training for the new community garden that we're starting. I met a few people who have gone through the same process we are in creating a community space. I was thoroughly refreshed to be part of a discussion about what a community garden means and who it's for. I was much sustained by the talk that a community garden is not only for growing food but for growing friendships. I find myself at a point in my life where friendships are more real than they've ever been, but also fewer. Quality is good, but I'm interested in cultivating quantity as well. If only to fill a few of the voids that are left by those missing in action. It seems that as I go through life it's more and more rare to connect to people around me. The reasons that use o be enough, no longer attract. I don't necessarily want it to be this way. But I'm grateful for those relationships that are able to be fed and nurtured even from old roots and especially those where words flow like water. Either in trickling streams or gushes that moisten the earth around new seeds, new roots emerging to form new kinds of relationships and boundaries.  I hope though, that I find newness in myself in this garden chasm and form new roots from new seeds in a freshly tilled ground.


Friday, January 4

2013 Dirt (Not a Resolution, Rather an Announcement)

Sometimes I have so many things in my head that I want to say that I think I might explode. Right now, for example, the outlinings of coherent sentences and words don't happen fast enough in my brain.

Outside there is a much waited for blanket of snow covering and protecting a thin layer of soil over much of the earth. It insulates the small particles of accumulated dust, rock broken down and added upon by millenia, and creates a crust in which micro-oganisms can work through their lifecycles. Did you know that the web of life on this planet depends on the first 5 cm of soil, or what remains of it?

Yesterday I came upon a seed catalog and suddenly my heart went thump just a little faster and inspiration came for just what is going to happen in a few little parcels of dirt this spring. I started thinking about what kinds of Tomatoes and where I'll place them and how I'll trellis them and I realized that really, I'm coming a little bit late for the party, considering that last year I built a greenhouse outside and I could be starting little tomatoes right this very minute to move outside in a few days.  This year I am determined to reach my goal of producing and preserving enough tomatoes that I won't need to buy a single can or jar. We feed a lot of Argentines around here and no Sunday is really complete without a hearty tuco.

These are the things I think about in the middle of winter. But really, not any of it is what I sat down to write about.  .  .

This morning I received a phone call. I've been wondering about this phone call for a while, trying not to wait is more like it. Wondering who it would come from, maybe it would be a letter, an e-mail. Maybe it would be really exciting and maybe it would be terrifying. What's slightly less amazing than the phone call is that I actually answered the phone. I have a serious aversion to phones that I am trying quickly to overcome (if you didn't already know, the cat's out of the bag). In this phone call, I didn't recognize the voice, I didn't recognize the number. But it was one of the most exciting phone calls of my life.

A few months ago I started a little ball rolling. I learned about the possibility of something happening near me and started talking to people to see if anyone else thought it was a good idea. It isn't the sort of thing you can do on your own, unless you are omniscient, omnipotent and omnipresent, which I am not. So I found a bunch of people who also thought it was a great idea. Some of them were even willing to sign their names on a line on a petition saying they would support the effort. And then we went through the process of submitting it, together with some other documents, to Salt Lake County. There was a significant amount of funding that would go into the process and what felt like a fair amount of competition in order to be chosen for it to happen. We submitted our application and it seemed like too much time had gone by.  We thought our chances of it happening had dimmed and withered with the winter. But then, at last, there was this phone call.

I'm not actually trying to make this as grueling as possible to get through. But the truth is I don't really know how to just come out and say it.

The first thing that woman on the other end told me after her name, was that the Hillsdale Park had been chosen to be Salt Lake County's urban farming initiative's Community Garden to be developed in 2013! It was sort of a long sentence for her to spit out, which I may not entirely remember word for word, and may contribute to the lengthiness and ambiguity of my introduction. Nonetheless, it has been about the longest 3 months of my Motherhood and I feel satisfied already for having our group be chosen to be able to do this. However it is just the beginning. There are so many exciting things about to happen. It's only about the best New Years News I could have hoped for as I am preparing for everything that 2013 will bring!

So that is my announcement. A New Garden! Where faces and voices and thoughts will come together to make something stronger and healthier!

This is where I leave my ownership of it.  With the start of a new garden comes the start of a new blog. The name is sure to change, as the voices therein and the fruits there will grow. But here is where it is born. For Now: Hillsdale Garden Blog.