Monday, November 30, 2009

As All Birthmother's Must Do

I am entering the final stretch of pregnancy. In the mornings I feel like four weeks is not enough time to enjoy these final days of pregnancy. By afternoon I think I can do this, it’s only four more weeks. By evening I think I’m not going to make it! My body cannot sustain another whole month of carrying around a full size baby; my stomach cannot stretch any further.

I suppose nine months is just the right amount of time in a lot of ways. It’s long enough that you are absolutely ready to be done but short enough that there is something of a fondness you feel towards the pregnancy months. As your body literally prepares the baby: creating lungs to breath earth air and a stomach to digest earth food etcetera, you prepare the space in which the baby will grow once out on the earth.

I have finally been feeling nesty lately. A few weeks ago I could not muster the energy to take my sandwich plate all the way to the sink, but this past weekend I have been cleaning, nailing pictures to the wall, folding diapers and vacuuming, re-vacuuming and then dusting what I just vacuumed. This is actually more true to my nature than not being able to peel my girth off the couch to fold a little laundry.

I remember the nesting stage attacking me hard when I was pregnant in high school. I’ve always been a very tidy person. The conflicts that arose from sharing a room with my older sister, who didn’t mind having week’s worth of dirty laundry piled in the corner and old plates and mugs stacked under the bed, were often epic and brutal.

That summer after senior year of high school when I entered the last month of pregnancy, I already knew that I was placing my baby for adoption, in fact, I already knew the people who would be adopting her. So I took out my nesting instinct on my parent’s house and the bedrooms of my siblings, tidying, dusting, scrubbing and moving stacks of important bills and documents to places out of my sight and out of every one else’s awareness. As you can imagine this caused no end of frustration to my parents and siblings.

Now that I have a house to keep clean and a husband and daughter to clean up after, my nesting instinct has plenty to work with; the more difficult thing is getting anything else done. Whereas sitting in front of my computer, writing used to be the activity that kept me from doing anything else, now the desire to clean and organize could keep me busy all day.

It was even hard to tear myself away, from a kitchen screaming to be scrubbed and a guest-room closet dying to have its contents sorted and rearranged, to see my birthdaughter in her acting debut on the Ordway stage in downtown Saint Paul. Going anywhere has been difficult since I am settling into the bigness and tiredness of the ninth month but fighting traffic to downtown and then searching for parking during the Hmong New Year celebration seemed like perhaps more than I could handle.

When I finally burst through the Ordway doors at fifteen minutes before show time, bought my ticket and slammed two dollars on the concession counter for a hot chocolate to fight the afternoon sleepys, I was a bit frazzled and my round ligaments were sore. But when I walked into the theater, the sound of Christmas carols filling the air, the first thing I saw was my birthdaughter, on the risers, singing with her peers, tall and thin and blond and looking nothing like a little girl anymore. I was overwhelmed with a wave of love for this beautiful young lady.

Just then, my entrance caught her attention and she looked up and we locked eyes, her face lit up with a radiant smile. She sang out loud and beautifully and her voice was distinct in the group and I was filled with a sense of pride even though I’ve never felt that I could take much credit for how amazing she is. I personally believe that nature has very little to do with how remarkable a person ends up being.

Who we are is shaped by our experiences, our friends, the people who encourage us, love us and influence our beliefs and actions. As a birthmother, I think my greatest influence on my birthdaughter happened before she was born. I gave her the foundation of health and I placed her in a home where I knew she would be loved and have the opportunities to be successful and then, as all birthmothers must do, I let go.

I give her parents a lot of credit for who she has become. But as I sit here in the final bigness and fatigue of pregnancy, reflecting on my daughter Twila and this future child to be, I wonder: how much can we really take credit even for our children who we raise?

We give them love and food and clothes; a safe place to sleep and as much knowledge and wisdom and valuable experiences as we can. But ultimately they must take those things and do as much with them as they choose.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Early Edition: Thanksgiving Indulgences

I’m going to share two recipes today since, well, its Thanksgiving week and it seems appropriate. Neither one can claim nutritional excellence but sometimes the act of indulging is an important part of balance. Everything in moderation, even moderation—right?

So first is an old Schweickhardt family favorite and the second is a soon to be new family favorite (I’m bringing Pumpkin Cheesecake to Thanksgiving dinner this year!) Have a happy Holiday weekend and enjoy these recipes.

Creamed Onions


This is a recipe that I believe does not get enough press around Thanksgiving time so I am opting to put it out there even though it doesn’t entirely fit my guidelines for health and nutrition. Not that these little gems are the worst thing on the Thanksgiving Day Buffet, they just don’t pack much of a nutritional punch. Se la vi, it’s the holidays.

Ingredients:

  • 1 (16 ounce) package frozen pearl onions
  • 4 1/2 teaspoons butter
  • 4 1/2 teaspoons all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/8 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/8 teaspoon pepper
  • 3/4 cup milk
  • Paprika

Method:

  1. Cook onions according to package directions
  2. Meanwhile, in a small saucepan, melt butter; stir in the flour, salt, nutmeg, garlic powder and pepper until smooth
  3. Gradually stir in milk, bring to a boil
  4. Cook and stir for two minutes or until thickened
  5. Drain onions; stir into cream sauce
  6. Sprinkle with paprika
  7. You can serve immediately or save and bake later in a 200-300 degree oven. Serve hot.

Pumpkin Cheesecake


Ingredients:

Crust:

1. 1 ½ cups graham crackers crumbled

2. 5 tablespoons butter, melted

Filling:

1. Tbsp. sugar

2. 3- 8oz.pkgs. cream cheese, softened

3. 1 cup sugar

4. 1 tsp. vanilla

5. 1 cup canned pumpkin

6. 3 eggs

7. 1/2 tsp. cinnamon

8. 1/4 tsp. nutmeg

9. Whipped Cream

Method:

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees

2. Mix crust ingredients together, just till coated and crumbly.

3. Press onto the bottom and 2/3 up the sides of an 8" springform pan.

4. Bake for 5 min. aside.

5. Combine cheese, sugar and vanilla in large bowl, mix until smooth with an electric mixer.

6. Add pumpkin eggs, and spices, beat till smooth and creamy.

7. Pour into the crust.

8. Bake for 60-70 min. or till the top turns a bit darker.

9. Remove from oven and allow to come to room temperature, then refrigerate.

10. After it has thoroughly chilled, remove the pan sides and cut.

11. Serve with whipped cream. Fresh whipped is always better!!

Enjoy!! And Happy Thanksgiving!

Share your favorite Thanksgiving recipe by posting it here or emailing it to melissa.nilsen@gmail.com!

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Excitement or Joy?


I saw a doe stepping lightly through the shallows of our lake at four fifteen this morning. She was the perfect embodiment of peace and tranquility. The light from the moon, refracted by the cloudy whiteness of the coming snow poured a dim cover of light over the whole lake and it was in front of this light that I could see her perfect silhouette stepping gently behind our sumac bush.

Even though our house was perfectly dark and the bedroom even darker, she noticed me sitting up. She didn’t stop moving, just turned her head gently to look at me.

This is an emotionally charged time of year. We are getting to it now, the time when our highs soar with winged joy that teeters on the verge of the magical and our lows drag us so low we feel as if we are looking in to the bottom of a muddy river which reflects nothing but our total aloneness in the world. Why is winter the time when we seem to examine our shortcomings, all that we lack, and all that is not right with the world?

It seems that there is so much joy, leading up to the New Year that when Christmas dinner finally hits, we have the sugar crash of the century, like the United States is having a collective manic, depressive episode.

I am feeling it already and I’m not sure if it’s the Holiday blues or the last few weeks of pregnancy. My God, I wonder what post partum depression in January is like? I shudder to think. So much is culminating for me at the end of this year—wonderful things but big things. I will have another baby—two children to care for and keep safe. Its times like this I think of my mother raising four children and wonder how she did it without a nanny and heavy psychotherapy.

And my book will be published. It’s so exciting yet so unknown. I have put years of my life into this book and I wonder what finally publishing it will feel like. Will it sell? I imagine myself doing like Anne Lamott does when one of her books comes out and calling local bookstores, disguising my voice and asking them to carry it.

There is so much swirling in the transom of my mind this month that it feels like the holidays on steroids—too much excitement building in such a short period of time and yet I can’t call it joy. Joy is something simpler, something peaceful and quiet that does not threaten to drop you like a sugar crash. Joy is a more enduring and wholesome feeling that brings total tranquility, like seeing a doe quietly stepping through the water in the early hours of morning.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Weekend Edition: Chai Tea Versus Ice Cream


I was visiting my midwife two days ago and she shared a little pregnancy nutrition advice that absolutely blew my mind so I thought I’d better share it with you. Fair warning, I have not done my own research on this yet. I was asking if it was better (when I needed a special treat) to have black tea, chai, or decaf coffee. She said probably black tea or chai because of the health benefits that black tea have—poor coffee is delicious but doesn’t tout much in the way of benefits for your health.

But this was the really mind blowing part: she said at this point in my pregnancy, it would be better to have a small chai every day than to have ice cream once a week!

Apparently ice cream is particularly unhelpful in pregnancy, partly because of the high sugar, partly because of the lactose fat. She said they can always tell when a baby is born, if her mother ate too much ice cream because it makes the babies bulk up in an odd way.

Can you beat that? And here I learn it in the last third of my third pregnancy—go figure.

Now, I’ve never tried making my own chai before, to be honest it sounds a bit involved, but what better smell to fill your home on a cold November weekend, on the eve of our first real snow? Yes, I will be trying it this weekend.

If you’d like to try your own, here is someplace to get you started:

Ingredients:

1. one Tbsp fennel or anise seed

2. six green cardamom pods

3. 12 cloves

4. one cinnamon stick

5. 1/4" ginger root, sliced thin

6. 1/4 tsp black pepper corns

7. two bay leaves

8. seven cups water

9. two tbsp Darjeeling tea

10. six tbsp honey or brown sugar

11. one cup milk

Method:

1. Boil first eight ingredients five minutes, then steep ten minutes

2. Add black tea and bring to a boil

3. Simmer five minutes:

4. Add milk and honey

5. Stir and drink

Enjoy!!

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

With Unbridled Strength and Enthusiasm.


I must be entering the warm fuzzy stage of pregnancy, either that or I am finally taking just the right balance of vitamins, herbs and supplements, because despite the growingly unattractive ailments of pregnancy, I am feeling just so happy lately.

Okay not consistently. Being woken up when it’s still pitch dark out makes me grumpy, a grumpy that is hard to recover from for most of the morning. But with more and more frequency lately, I am just feeling good, peaceful, at ease, and so ready for labor!

And no not just because I want a big fat glass of cabernet and a strong espresso, I am feeling excited about labor. I know, crazy right? I realize in looking back that I was never really excited about labor with Twila. I was tired of being pregnant, but was not, in all frankness, ready to let her out. A tragic paradox in pregnancy.

I think my fear about letting her out, letting the rest of the world with all its influences, germs, noises and over-enthusiastic relatives, gain access to her, ended up blocking me mentally and physically when, five days after my due date I finally and slowly began the labor process.
So much of what I remember of that night was fear. I was so scared of what was happening, what was going to happen. I didn’t identify it at the time but it is so clear to me now: I was just plain terrified.

When I birthed my birthdaughter at eighteen years old, I didn’t know fear. I don’t think I had ever been scared of anything in my whole life (a fact which terrified my parents). I just went boldly into each next stage of my life. I got pregnant at seventeen, okay I thought, let’s do pregnancy now. I planned to place my baby for adoption and thought okay, here we go. I had no idea what would happen but I just dove in head first and everything fell into place. When it was time to labor with my birthdaughter, I just did it. I stomped the halls of the hospital and kept my head down and a few hours later, my birthdaughter was born and I thought, that was the coolest thing in the world.

When seven years later, I had my own daughter, I had learned how to be fearful. I had begun over the preceding three years to experience anxiety, self-doubt and fear. I was scared to take on parenthood, to try and prove myself as a mother. Fear clouded the end of that pregnancy and my first full year of parenthood. Some helped me through that time; some made it so much worse.

But the truly valuable discovery from all of that was this secret: it doesn’t actually matter what help or hurt people or any outside forces chose to present each day, what matters is me, staying grounded in me. Through the process of this pregnancy I have discovered that; and it is for that reason that I feel no fear now. I feel only unbridled strength and enthusiasm.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Thanks for Following!

Thank you to all those who signed up for my RSS feed. I look forward to sending you my updates. If you have not yet signed up to get my RSS feed, click on ‘posts’ at the top right of the screen and sign up right away.

As Tapestry gets ready to make my book available in just a couple of months, we've decided that The Healthy Birthmother, will include not only the non-fiction text regarding unplanned pregnancy and open adoption, it will also include Part I of my short story, The East River.I would like to collect some information from my readers. I’m curious about how you found my blog and how long you’ve been reading. When my book becomes available, I’ll send a free copy to the first ten people who email me with the following information.

1. Your Name

2. Your email address (So I can keep you posted about the progress of my book. This information will not be shared with anyone, ever!)

3. How you found my blog

4. How long you’ve been reading

5. If your life has been touched by adoption, what is your experience with it and how has it impacted your life (optional).

Email your responses to Melissa.nilsen@gmail.com

Thank you, I look forward to hearing from you!!