Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Random Thoughts at 5:00 a.m.

Every morning at 5 a.m. a bird right outside my bedroom window tweets one lovely, long and musical tweet. Then it stops in eery silence and doesn’t make a sound. One tweet. Silence. Does a random burst of song just happen to overcome this bird at 5 a.m., she gets it out, and then she is done?

I am so glad the universe is bigger than me. A few days ago I was having one of those *perfectionist* moments that I have a tendency for. I was trying to get the whole house perfectly cleaned in one day, all the dishes done, all the laundry done, our van cleaned out and vacuumed, and the kids’ piano practice and homework all done. The kids couldn't quite keep up with my harried pace and despite the fact that they had just cleaned their rooms, practiced their piano, and cleaned out the entire van, I was frustrated with them. Work, children, work! Mostly, I was frustrated with myself – my physical body that is slowed by the pregnancy.

I stepped outside of my kitchen. Outside those four little walls and onto the deck which leads to the woods behind our house. Seeing the tall Ponderosa pine trees, vast blue skies and deep woods, the thought came to me. I am so glad the universe is bigger than me.

Bigger than my petty woes. Bigger than myself. There is so much more to life than just me and what I want and what I think. Thank heaven! I am convinced that a large part of the reason that we are here on this earth is to overcome ourselves, even in our most difficult times -- To reach inside ourselves and somehow find the ability to look outward at others and ease their suffering even if we are struggling, too. This is what the Savior would do. This is what we are challenged to become. Unselfish. Looking outward. Finding someone else who is suffering or struggling and for a moment, think about them instead of myself. Even, or perhaps especially, if that person is one of my children or my husband. In my darkest hours, this concept has brought relief and joy. The world is not all about me, and God is teaching me that. One day at a time.

Remember when I talked about struggling with weight gain during pregnancy? Yesterday I spoke with a friend, Christy*, who pointed out to me that I had recently lost a lot of weight, and that at my pre-pregnancy lowest I weighed almost 20 pounds less than I did in high school. I might gain "more" than the cookie cut-out doctor charts recommend because my body is starting at an all-time low.

She also related a story about her pregnant sister-in-law who appears to have a severe eating disorder. While pregnant. With two other small girls in tow.

Christy spoke of how this beautiful young woman (both inside and out) drank nothing but caffeine to sustain her and spent most of her time on the couch, in exhaustion, from the lack of energy and nutrients that eating provides. Her oldest daughter, only five years of age, seems to be picking up some of these strange eating habits (or un-eating habits?) and had apparent guilt related to eating. Christy even found it difficult to not feel guilty for eating in front of her. She felt like a pig for enjoying her lunch while her sister-in-law sipped on her Red Bull energy drink, and had to keep reminding herself, I am a nursing mother and my baby and I need these healthful nutrients.

As Christy talked to me about other troubling problems related to her sister-in-law’s eating disorder, it reinforced something that Paul has been trying to tell me for years. This weight gain has a reason. A really good reason. A reason to celebrate, to rejoice in, to be happy for. I would so much rather gain five pounds “too much” in my pregnancy through exercise and eating healthfully, than to waste away on the couch from lack of energy, giving my unborn child a constant caffeine buzz in order to sustain my small shape.

2005, nine months pregnant with Essie, and weighing what my doctor claimed to be 5 lbs "too much."

I am sorry for this young woman who is so terribly lost in the world’s obsession with appearance that she cannot glory in one of the most beautiful things that God has given to us -- the ability to create life and bring it forth into the world. And I am reminded not to fall into that same tragic trap.

(*Name and Identity have been changed in order to protect and keep anonymous the identity of the woman with the eating disorder)

My first Random post.

Thursday, May 9, 2013

I Am Alive!

My dear friends.

It has been so long since I have written. My morning sickness was something awful. Gone are all of my crazy notions or ideas that a healthier diet would wipe out morning sickness. Ha. And anyone who says that morning sickness comes from a nutritionally inadequate diet does NOT know what they are talking about. I had one wicked healthy diet, and that morning sickness felt worse than ever.

But…the good news is! I am feeling so much better now. Although I wish I had written more during the last month or so, I really just have to be kind to myself. I was half-dead, people. Day after day of terrible nausea, fatigue, and very strange symptoms like extreme sensitivities to hot or cold, to water (weird!), or certain kinds of clothing. Just thinking about wearing a long sleeve shirt and the cloth touching my arms would send shivers down my spine and make me even more nauseous. My entire body felt like it was an itchy block of ice. But the itch and ice were inside of me. The room could be 75 or even 80 degrees; I could be bundled in my warmest clothes and wrapped in a blanket. And still be shivering from the cold. I still struggle with being cold and I cannot wait until summer and sun and heat and warm. It’s been an unusually cold spring here, so when I read other blogs that talk about ice cream and swimming, I get jealous.

As for food? We ate out every day. Paul did everything. I mean everything. Laundry, dishes, homework with kids, food prep, grocery shopping, cleaning, and on top of all that, he took care of me. And I am one high maintenance pregnant lady. No, I can’t sleep in that bed because it reminds me of being sick. No I can’t eat that food, or use that blanket, I need another blanket, I want different food...and on and on. And he never lost his patience. Blessed man.

I started feeling better around the end of April, just in time to celebrate my 29th birthday. I didn’t care that it was my birthday, for the first time in years. I was just so happy to be ALIVE! Since that time, it seems like every moment of my life has been needed in order to catch up from two months of neglecting my family. Everyone needed haircuts, new clothes, piles and piles of laundry needed done, (Paul can only do so much, he had to work full time, and serve in the bishopric at church, too!) the house needed re-vamped, and reorganized, and of course I have started cooking for my family. Boy, are they ever hungry for homemade meals around the table.

Human again. Day after day of depressing and all-consuming illness made me think of what it would be like to be chronically ill or even terminally ill. How hard it is to try to overcome the darkness that can overtake your mind when it feels like there will be no end to the misery. The feeling that the sun will never shine again.

Paul made a very big deal about my birthday, though. He bought me large gifts and took me out to eat at a high-end Mexican restaurant where we ate the best veggie fajitas loaded with guacamole and shredded lettuce. I felt so good after eating it. Food at last! He helped me make a Raw Strawberry Pie from Dreena Burton’s LTEV and must have sung Happy Birthday to me twenty times. I think he was really happy to see me feeling better, too. Happy that I wasn’t lost to the darkness and gloom forever.

I had some food cravings during my morning sickness, bust mostly food aversions. I craved eggs and cheese like no other. Looking back, I wish I had just let myself eat those things. Being on a whole foods diet doesn’t mean you have to be perfect, especially when a difficult season of life comes and maybe your body is craving certain foods for a reason. Being too strict during times of such great distress can backfire.

I especially wished I hadn’t been so strict with myself after reading this post by one of my favorite bloggers, Janae. Here is a short excerpt from one of her pregnancy posts, where she explains why she still feels good about calling herself vegan even though she ate some animal foods during her morning sickness. The post is titled, “What Does it Mean to be Vegan,” and I particularly liked this part:

I think people are turned off from embracing vegetarianism or veganism because there seems to be an element of perfectionism to it. Like if you decide you’re vegetarian, and you happen to eat meat once or twice does this no longer make you vegetarian?

This problem doesn’t just exist for vegetarians or vegans. What if you’re Democrat and vote for several Republican candidates over a period of time? What if you’re Catholic but you never attend Mass? Do you still call yourself Catholic?

This has been something I’ve thought a lot about as I’ve been intensely nauseated and all of the old foods I used to eat have been unpalatable (an understatement!). The other morning, for example, determined to finally eat something healthy, I ate two bites of watermelon and felt like I was going to throw up (which was on top of the usual nausea). I can’t eat more than a few bites of oatmeal. I find it revolting. And the mere thought of any vegetables (except for tomatoes, which luckily, I actually can tolerate) and most all fruits (except for berries…interesting, huh?) makes me want to vomit. A Krispy Kreme donut and a diet Pepsi, on the other hand, one day, seemed to do the trick and soothed my stomach like nothing else. I have to say though that this was just one moment in time. There’s never much predictability in the foods that I can tolerate and the foods that actually make me feel temporarily better. But the pattern remains the basically same–processed, refined foods tend to be much more approachable than foods that are unrefined & whole. Sadly, pretty much anything healthy.

Unless you’ve gone through this yourself, you can’t understand what it’s like to wake up day after day and have to deal with this gut-wrenching nausea that doesn’t let up. Out of what I’ve deemed is necessity, I’ve made the choice to eat some non-vegan foods. I haven’t enjoyed it, or liked the that I have eaten these foods. In fact I hate the way that I’m eating right now (it’s safe to say I pretty much don’t enjoy any food right now), and wish I could tolerate a big salad or nice bean soup. So, does this mean I am no longer vegan? Should I rename my blog? I feel comfortable still calling myself vegan because in a week or two, if the stars align, I will be past all of this morning sickness and nausea and be back to my old vegan self. Because I miss cooking. I miss eating the colorful, vibrant foods I used to eat....I’m sorry if I’ve let any of you down. I’m sorry if you don’t think I’m vegan enough to call myself vegan. But in my mind, being vegan isn’t about perfectionism or abiding by a number of do’s and don’ts, a list of rules that if always abide by, you’re cool enough to be in the vegan club. This exclusiveness is part of the reason why veganism has in the past, struggled gaining much traction.

Being vegan, to me, means doing and living the best you can in a healthful, compassionate, and aware fashion. I say let’s do away with the judgement and criticism and embrace being compassionately optimistic.

And she gives a perfect list of pretty much exactly how I ate, and how I wish I had let myself eat, in her post titled, "How To Gain 15 Pounds in Two Months.":

How DO you gain 13 pounds in about 6 weeks (the time I was uber-sick)? I’ve created a short summary for your convenience:
Don’t eat any vegetables.
Ditto for fruit.
Eat whenever and whatever you want, including right before you go to sleep.
Focus on refined/processed/and fast foods.
Eat lots of white flour, oils, and cheese.
Make cold cereal your go-to snack of choice-a calorie dense food, especially if it’s Captain Crunch you can easily consume 5 bowls in one sitting without feeling like you made a dent in your hunger at all!
Did I mention eat lots of white bread.
Never spend more than 3 minutes preparing anything that you eat.
Eat out daily.
Avoid moving. Lounge/lay around and sleep as much as possible.

I have gained about ten pounds and am now 16 weeks along. All the pregnancy websites say I should only have gained three to five pounds at this point in my pregnancy. Yeah, right. Where do they get these numbers? I say they must have gotten them from the ladies who declare, “I never felt better (being pregnant, even in the first trimester) in my life! I feel great and healthy! I love being pregnant!”

Oh, on my due date/how many weeks along I am. I was wrong about my due date. I went to see the doctor on Monday and after a brief ultrasound the tech let me know that I was NOT 21 weeks along as I had previously thought. I was only 16 weeks. After going through what felt like outer darkness with Satan, being told that I am “one month behind” was extremely depressing. I had a pity party for a day or so, and then told Paul, “It’s like being in prison, and looking forward to my release. Only to be told that I was confused about my release date and that it is actually a month later.” I know. Drama, Ashlee! It’s really not all that bad. It just took me some time to let it soak in.

Gaining weight in pregnancy is always hard for me. I have to be honest. Paul asked me last night, “Why? Why is it hard when you know that it is for a good reason? A wonderful reason?” and I responded, “I know. It doesn’t make any sense. But like Rachel (a very good friend) says, every pound you gain you know you’ll have to beat it off with a stick once the pregnancy is over!” I always gain five or ten pounds too much and the doctors usually give me a lecture about it which my mind grossly exaggerates and then I go home and cry. Well, I am just going to have to stop caring so much about weight gain. I am going to have to grow some thicker skin and push it aside. Now that the hardest part (or what I consider the hardest part!) is over I want to find ways to enjoy pregnancy and care more about regaining my strength and eating for health. Someday my childbearing days will be over, and I will have fond memories of what will never happen again. I want to enjoy the journey and not just the destination.

Two months. Watching star trek episodes for seven hours at a time and other Netflix streaming endlessly. Eating chips and cheeseless Dominos pizza. Way too many Subway sandwiches that I will probably never be able to eat again.

After seeing all that I went through, my eight year old daughter Essie said to me, “Mom, sometimes I wish I wasn't a girl. Girls have to go through so much and it seems really hard.” And I just said to her, “Yes. Girls have to be tough. (And walking in the mall right past the porn posters hanging in Victoria’s Secret display windows) The world tries to make girls feel like they should look like that. But we have to be really tough and not listen. Girls have to be tougher than anyone else because they go through a lot. But God always helps us, and we make it through, and we find happiness in wonderful things. Like beautiful new babies and laughing with our families. Sometimes it will be hard. But mostly it will bring more joy than we ever thought possible.”

Alisa commented (I didn't have the strength to reply at the time, sorry!), "I'm in such a dinner rut!!! Ashleeeeee, heeeelllllpppp! I have not visited any blogs lately but I am coming to yours for rescue."

I have found some new fab dinners and other meals my family loves. I would love to share them. I have to tell you I hate taking pictures of food. Loathe, detest, begrudge, do. not. like. Taking pictures of food is what keeps me from being able to post recipes. It is a lot of work and my dinky little camera never fully captures the yummyness. Frustrating. BUT. When I get the courage. When I make those meals again. I will try to snap a few pics and post the recipes. Thanks for reading, I know this is long! You all are great!