Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Baby G’s Birth Story: The Highlight Reel

(there’s not actually any video, don’t worry)

I thought I’d copy Melissa’s style and go with a bullet-pointed highlight list. You know how I love my bullet points. I think it’ll save me going into too much detail – the internet is forever, kids! I don’t want to scar Baby G at some point in the future if she ever runs across this.
Also with some hospital pictures I haven’t shared on here before.

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  • Baby G came into the world unexpectedly, after a completely uncomplicated pregnancy, at 36 weeks. Completely blind-sided us. See, I had a “birth plan,” so to speak. I was supposed to be induced at 39 weeks, an arrangement agreed upon by my OB and my cardiologist. I was also told I would not be “allowed” to push for more than 2 hours (gee, thanks!) and the word “forceps” came up. I really, really hoped it wouldn’t come to that.
  • All that weekend I had been feeling "off." Wonderful friends had given us a baby shower that Saturday, and I woke up the most bloated and tired I had been all pregnancy. Monday night, I took a long bath and SoldierMan and I laughed about how we needed to start our Pre-Baby Bucket List now that we were in the Red Zone. Specifically, which movies we were going to see and which restaurants we were going to hit up before we were +1. I also thought it might be a good idea to start making the list for my hospital bag.
  • My water broke in the middle of the night that night. Yet another example of how grossly unprepared I was – I had so set my mind on the scheduled induction that I never really researched the whole “going into labor naturally” thing. Didn’t even cross my mind that it was a possibility. So when it actually happened, I thought something was horribly, horribly wrong with Baby G. (And in my defense, going into labor at 36 weeks isn’t exactly recommended.) For the sake of protecting the guilty I won't say exactly how fast SoldierMan drove to the hospital. But really, you hardly even felt it. We have a great car.
  • There was so much providence in Baby G coming early, though. For example, getting to the hospital at 3:00 am meant we were literally the only family in L&D. Also, my OB just happened to be OB on shift that night, so she was already there when we arrived. She had the wonderful job of meeting our “deer-in-headlights” looks when she came into the room and SoldierMan said, “So, it’s Baby Day?” “Yes! It’s Baby Day!
  • Here’s the epidural story (this part is long) - By the time we had gotten to the hospital, I was already dilated to a 2. When we got to the delivery room, and by the time the anesthesiologist got there, I was a 4. She asked me what I wanted to do as far as pain management. I asked her what my options were. Apparently you can go one of two ways: IV sedation, or epidural. With the IV sedation, she explained, yes it's less invasive, but it's not an actual pain killer. It's a sedative that basically helps you sleep between contractions and takes some of the edge off of the contractions. But, while you're conscious, you are mobile. For actual pain killing, you have to do the full epidural, which of course means no load-bearing legs. She also was great about explaining in detail what was involved with administering the epidural, which made it much less intimidating.
    At first I thought I'd want to do the IV sedation. But then I asked myself, where did I think I'd be running to? So I said, go ahead, bring on the epidural! And she said she'd go down and order the meds and paperwork and be back. "You know, you're doing really good. Usually by the time women talk to me, they're screaming and cussing and throwing things." And she left. When she finally came back, something like an half an hour later (Army hospital regulations were working against me), I was screaming. Things like, “WHY IN THE FREAKING HECK WOULD ANYONE EVER DO THIS BY CHOICE.” In fact, I’m sure those were the only words I was capable of articulating. I was a miserable 8 with contractions coming hard and fast, less than every 2 minutes.
    Here's the thing about an epidural that maybe no one has told you: the success of it depends on a few factors – obviously, the skill of the anesthesiologist, but also how well your body tolerates anesthesia generally, and how well YOU cooperate with the anesthesiologist. In order for the epidural to hit the exact right nerve bundle it needs to, I had to remain completely still while she was threading the needle into my back. Even during the mind-breaking contractions. (Thankfully, she had explained this to me earlier, when I was more lucid and less resembling a foaling nag.) I couldn't have managed it without SoldierMan. He held my head and reminded me to be still and breathe, and basically became my center.
    And yes, when the anesthesiologist inserted the tube for the epidural, it bit like a mother. But it only lasted a moment, about like getting your ears pierced. Then she inserted the hair-like needle which actually administered the anesthesia, and within moments the contractions didn't feel like they would break my back. Within minutes, the pain was gone. It was glorious.
    Get the freaking epidural.
  • The epidural didn’t slow my contractions at all (I was already pretty far along though) and I still felt everything, just without pain. So the OB basically told me to lead her on the pushing, which I appreciated. I’d push whenever a contraction hit, and then it would pass, and we’d spend a minute or two awkwardly not making eye contact with the OB, the two nurses at my bedside, and the neonatal team huddled in the corner of the room (about 7 additional people). Pushing was a total of about 30 minutes. Not bad, really.
  • During a lot of this, when he wasn’t supporting me – literally supporting me, holding me up, letting me squeeze his hand, reminding me to breathe – SoldierMan was texting the family to let them know we were having a surprise delivery. Finally at one point, the OB said, “Okay Daddy, come here and hold this.” He said, “Okay,” and without looking up from his phone, walked over. He raised his hands before his eyes, and she plopped my limp leg into his hands. He didn’t stay there long. :)
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  • 7:43 am, the moment Baby G was born, I mean the instant open air hit her face, was the most amazing feeling I have ever experienced. The euphoria was intense. Immediately I began looking around for the person holding up their hand to give me a high five -- because, why wouldn't they? I crossed the finish line. I nailed the landing. It was time to unroll the flag above my head and play the national anthem. (I'm only slightly exaggerating.) To my disappointment, not a single nurse was waiting to slap me five and give me a pat on the back. They all had other things to do, apparently. And SoldierMan was crying, so that was out.
  • Oh, the stats – 7:43 am, 6 lb 6 oz, 20 in, 5.5 hours of labor exactly from water breaking to baby cry.
  • They set Baby G on my stomach to do the initial “look her over” exam, but almost immediately she was whisked away by the neonatal crew and I didn’t see her again for a few hours. SoldierMan, of course, followed her to the Special Care nursery and basically ran back and forth between us until we were allowed to go see her.
  • After she was born, she was kept in the Special Care nursery (a streamlined NICU) for several days. They also kept me for just as long. A little bit after she was born, a couple of hours maybe, the nurse came by to help me “walk off” the epidural. I wasn’t too sure about this, but she insisted it was time, and anyway they needed the room. *eyeroll* Big mistake. The rush of standing up and just walking across the room made me black out. The first time in my life I have ever fainted. It was very annoying. After that she let me stay in the delivery room as long as I wanted.
    Because of this, and compounded by the fact I was a heart patient, I got to stay almost a week to recover. The fact that this isn’t standard practice galls me. Those 5 days were miserable, aside from the fact that I had nurses bringing me pain meds 3 times a day to get me through, making sitz baths for me, basically just getting really taken care of. I can’t imagine just going home the next day to tough it out. I really can’t imagine doing that as a single or teenage mom. That’s just inhumane, in my opinion.
    There, soapbox moment over
  • Oh, unfortunately, because everything happened so fast in the middle of the night, the photographer I had hired to do hospital pictures didn’t make it. I felt only a little bad about this – she had a 4 month old herself, and her husband was in the field that week (of course!) But bless her heart, she still came when she could, just too late. So she swapped us for those awesome newborn pics I posted a few weeks ago. I’m fine with the tradeoff, especially since the pictures I wanted were of us seeing her for the first time, holding her for the first time, and thanks to the special care team, none of that really went normally. We still got plenty of cell phone pictures that have since printed very nicely for the baby book.
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  • Baby G got a thorough working over. She was on a CPAP machine for a couple of days, a feeding tube for a good day (maybe 2? It’s all a blur), got the special light bulbs, an echocardiogram. Basically they made sure she was absolutely perfect before letting her come into our room. We were allowed to visit her once every 3 hours, to feed, change, and hold her (after the 2nd day). Finally, on Friday, they had taken her off all the health assistants, she was in our room!10431562_10100921117200981_5578269848741010216_n
  • At this hospital, first-time parents are required to do a 24-hour room-in with their baby before going home. So we had our last night in the hospital and went home the next morning (an adventure story for another post).

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And there you have it: the nitty non-gritty version (best I could) story of Baby G’s arrival. If you have more detailed questions, feel free to ask (as long as your reply-to email is set, so I can actually, you know, reply).

Truthfully, we couldn’t have planned it better – and we tried! For being 4 weeks early, she was at a very healthy weight. For nearly the entirety of her stay, she had the neonatal team exclusively to herself. My OB was the one on-shift, so I didn’t have to throw a fit for them to call her rather than take whoever was there. The nurses I had were fantastic. My parents, who had some sort of premonition the night before, practically had their bags packed when SoldierMan called them and were there that afternoon, and were able to stay at our house and take care of the dogs so that both of us could be at the hospital with Baby G 24/7.

Providence, I tell ya.

**EDITED to add: I had Baby G at the Army hospital here. And while I know my story isn’t the same as anyone else’s story, and historically I have been no fan of Army medicine, I would like to give credit where it is due. My OB was wonderful, my nurses (other than the one who was something of a tyrant and caused me to black out) and the nurses who took care of Baby G were amazing, and even the food was good. There are plenty of horror stories coming out of Army hospitals. Mine isn’t one of them. The worst I can say is that they woke me up at 6:00 every morning to take my pain medication. I felt like we were genuinely cared for and very well taken care of.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Recipe Post: SoldierMan’s Chicken Fried Rice

Me and My SoldierMan Chicken Fried Rice

Note: If you, like me, are the kind of person who barely skims the “introduction” portion of recipe posts (sorry!) I highly recommend you do NOT do that this time. There will be a bit of “Do as I say, not as I do” involved.

Now, lest the title leave you with the false impression that this is SoldierMan’s recipe because he’s the one that makes it, that’s not the case. This is named for SoldierMan because it’s an adjustment from my regular deployment fried rice, specially attuned to SoldierMan’s tastes. I am a big believer in accommodating picky eaters.

So, rather than your traditional Asian veggie mix, we use the frozen corn-carrots-peas. As an example.

There’s a specific toolkit I use for this recipe. The most important is a non-stick skillet with a metal spatula. I just heard dozens of pearl necklaces being clutched. Look, I have a big wok, and I’ve never been able to do anything with it but make charcoal. If you can make crispy rice in a wok, then by all means. Also, I’ve tried doing this with the non-stick skillet and a wooden utensil. That’s a great way to get mushy rice cakes. That’s not what we want. We want nice, crispy, individual grains of rice.

I’ve had this same deep non-stick pan – a Wearever – from Walmart – for the last 5 or more years. I’ve been using the metal spatula to scrape rice in it (and other foods) throughout that time. It’s practically as good as new. Just sayin’

The other is my slap chopper thing. Mine is Pampered Chef, but I’m sure any brand will do. I don’t use it all the time, but I am very thankful I have it every time I make this recipe.

The other “trick” to fried rice – that took me years to figure out – is to precook your rice HOURS before you intend to cook it. The night before if you can swing it. If it’s a split decision and you can only get it done an hour or two before, be sure and let it cool completely and air out. Here in the desert that doesn’t take too long, but in other climates, putting it in the fridge for a while is probably mandatory.

Oh, and I also used an egg for this recipe that I forgot to include in the ingredients picture.

There, I think that’s everything.

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You will need:

  • 2 cups precooked rice
  • 2 chicken breasts
  • 1/2 lb mix frozen veggies
  • 1/2 onion
  • 1 T lemon juice
  • 1-1.5 T ground ginger
  • 2 tsp paprika
  • 1 tsp garlic powder (or 1 large clove minced garlic)
  • 1/4 cup terikayi
  • 2 T soy sauce
  • salt, to taste
  • 1-2 eggs (not pictured)
  • water (not pictured)

I started with frozen chicken breasts, but raw works just as well.

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Put them in your deep-sided non-stick pan and add some water. Cover and bring to a low boil and let the chicken cook all the way or mostly through.

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Next, use that slap-chopper to dice up your onion. SoldierMan likes them really small, so that’s what we do. Not minced, though. That’s mush in the making.

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Once you get your chicken basically cooked, drain the water, put the heat WAY down to low, and put the onion in to “sweat.”
Don’t blame me, the term is older than both of us.

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Now, cut your chicken into pieces small enough to fit in the slapchopper, and --

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Oh, wait, this is where you spray the pan with cooking spray and start your egg/s frying.

NOW --

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Chop up your chicken. We’re talking minced, here.

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All of it. You can chop up the egg with your METAL spatula.

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Add all the dry seasonings and the lemon juice

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Mix and distribute

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Add the rice and mix up.

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Then add your veggies and turn the heat up to medium-high. Cover and let them get nice and thawed.

Then, because I only have two hands, you’ll have to imagine this next step rather than seeing it in pictures. Add your teriyaki and soy sauce, to taste, because I tend to get a little heavy-handed with the teriyaki. Then mix everything together, letting the rice and chicken absorb the liquid.

Press everything evenly in the pan and let it sit for a minute or so. Then mix it up – be sure to scrape the rice lightly from the bottom of the pan – press, and wait again. You need to make sure the pan is REALLY hot. This will get you the nice dark crispiness you want in fried rice, rather than just melty hot mushy rice mush. Just keep doing that until you get to your desired level of crispy. Add sauce or salt as needed.

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And there you are: chicken fried rice. SoldierMan-style.

Friday, July 18, 2014

Dear Baby G

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  • Here you are, 6 weeks old. It’s a big milestone. You are very alert and active. And I am sure you are aware of more than we realize. You like to sit on the couch, propped up in your Boppy, between Mommy and Daddy, preferably with one of us holding your hand. Of course, most of all, you love to be held. As much as possible. If you wake up from a nap on your own, you give a startled little jump.
  • Like I say, you are very aware of your surroundings. You love to stare at Daddy when he gets home from work. You can see and react when I hold your paci in front of you. We’re getting better about operating within your (very shallow) field of vision, so I know that helps.
  • The other night, I was putting on your pajamas, and when I buttoned one of the snaps on your pajamas, I snagged your skin with my fingernail. It didn’t even discolor your skin, but it still snagged you. And you screamed. Boy, you screamed. And I held you and apologized and asked if you were okay. And you threw your head back and stuck your bottom lip out and glared at me with a look of the utmost betrayal. Twice.
  • You do fantastically when Mommy has to take you to run errands. We try not to cram too much into one trip. The other day we went to the postal annex and had to stand in line for a while. You were the darling of the room. You were awake and flashing your bright blue eyes at everyone. Or course, I think you were the only person with blue eyes in the building :)
  • And now you’re ready to eat again, so I’ll stop this here. Mommy will try and be better about recording more goings-on.