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!


  1. I'm so glad you survived! That would be HORRIBLE to discover you were due a month later. Comparing it to prison is not dramatic, it's completely accurate. Are you going to find out the sex of the baby, or be surprised? You just rest your pregnant self and take pictures when you are good and ready :)

    1. Katie, it's a boy! So I will have two girls and two boys. Yay! And I am working on the picture thing. What it really comes down to is that I need a better camera. I think I would love taking pics much more if I had a decent camera. Glad you understand about the due date thing...

  2. Women really do have to have so much courage to love themselves and to act according to their wishes instead of caving to the enormous pressures of society. Victoria Secret models aside, retailers are starting to make higher quality advertisements and classier clothing. It's nice to see that you are feeling so much better!

    1. And sometimes we make it worse by increasing that pressure on ourselves! Where have you noticed that retailers are getting better? Just curious.

  3. Ashlee, dear, so glad you're emerging from the yuckiness of morning sickness. I feel ya, 100%. *100%* I applaud your stick-to-itness during this time. As you know, I wasn't so kosher. I ate whatever disgusting thing I could (it was all disgusting, especially afterwards). I forced myself to drink green smoothies for awhile during one pregnancy, which is partly the reason why it took me a few years to be able to enjoy them again.

    I also don't like taking pictures of food when/during cooking. By the time I've spent an hour or two in the kitchen making something, my kids (& myself) are all clamoring to eat, & the last thing I want to do is take pictures of it. Getting a DSLR helped that, & now at least it's more fun to take pictures. But it is insanely difficult a lot of times, with a 2 year old in tow.

    Anyway, sending you lots of hugs your way!


    1. Oh, sad about the green smoothies! Morning sickness really can ruin the best foods. I am learning from you and wish I had read your posts about morning sickness DURING my morning sickness so that I could have relaxed a little. You are great, Janae!

  4. Sadly, I can relate. Hang in there momma. As you know, it's totally worth it.
    Also love that post from Bring Joy.

    1. Thanks, Alanna! Things are getting so much better. It is worth it, the trick is just remembering that during the hard times!

  5. Man this hits home with me. Before my last pregnancy, I had been eating a 100% vegan, 50% raw diet. Then I got pregnant with twin boys....I was SO SICK! I wanted to eat vegan and stuck to it most of the way through, but I never felt good. I was always sick. I choked down food the whole way through the pregnancy and didn't feel satisfied. Also, raw fruits and vegetables made me sick. It was just 9 months of nausea and exhaustion. Towards the end I ate some organic eggs and meats, but very few because I felt so guilty. Then I nursed twins for 16 months while I cared for 2 other toddlers too. It was a lot of work, and took a toll on my body, and I learned that sometimes I need to eat something extra - like an egg from my parent's chickens. Now I am pregnant again, and this time, I have decided that it is ok to eat some meat and eggs. Not a lot, probably eggs twice a week, and a small amount of organic meat once or twice a week, but the difference is amazing! When I try not to eat those, I feel horrible. When I go ahead and eat what my body feels like it needs, I feel much better. It has been hard not to feel like I am a horrible vegan. I feel so much better when I listen to my body though. I don't need animal products every day, but when I have a day where I feel like I need them now, I listen to it. I keep wondering if my last pregnancy would have been a different, less sick story if I had listened to my body then. I think that pregnancy and nursing really do create different needs for our bodies. I know that there are vegans who are successful at eating 100% that way when pregnant and nursing. But they do not have my life circumstances (income, other young children to care for, etc) or my same body. Someday, I will be able to be a true vegan again. In the meantime, I am trying not to judge myself too harshly.
    I wish you the best for the rest of your pregnancy!

    1. Delight, your experience is so interesting. I find it interesting because actually eating a few animal products DOES help you feel better. I practically want to rewind and tell myself: just eat the eggs woman! Get some organic cheese! Let yourself have some doughnuts! But your example is great because you learned from yourself. You learned during this pregnancy to go ahead and make necessary changes. I can do the same if/when I have future pregnancies.

      I love that you are listening to your body one day at a time. Changing what you eat on a daily basis to suit the needs of your body. And you are not a horrible vegan for taking care of you..although I can see why those thoughts would try to push themselves on you; sometimes veganism does seem like a perfectionist club. I struggle with perfectionism issues already, so to try to work against the idea of perfectionism is a constant battle.

      I wish you the best for your pregnancy, too! Congratulations! And I am so glad you are taking care of yourself the way that your body is asking you to.

    2. Thank you Ashlee. Veganism definitely seems to be a contest of perfectionism sometimes.

      I wish you the best too!

  6. I am so glad that you are past your sickness. I feel with food cravings that your body craves what it needs, even if it may not seem healthy. If it is fatty maybe your body needs more fat, or salt, or protein while it is making the baby. Who knows. I also take the pregancy weight gain as a sign that my baby is growing as a good sign. A few of my sisters have had their babies die a little later then you might think and it seemed like the first sign of something being wrong is that they stop gaining weight. I definitely understand the "nesting" symptoms that you are showing I did it every single pregnancy. From bedridden for a couple month to non stop cleaning the house and baking and doing tons of stuff.

  7. Hey Ashlee, long time no...write? read? lol

    I hope you are doing well. I am now preggo myself (after 9mo of trying), about 7 weeks, and sooooo sick. Not throwing up but laying around, eating unhealthy food (only thing I can tolerate), no energy, my house is in shambles, all the stuff you described in this post and the last. This is my fourth pregnancy and I have never experienced it like this before. I would be mildly tired and go to bed early, but never like this. All my produce is going bad in the fridge because I don't have the energy to chop or prepare it. Anyway, wanted to say sorry about demanding dinner ideas before! I must not have known you were pregnant. I hope to hear about what's going on in your life soon. And I guess my blogger name thingy is a no reply, but if you ever care to want it, my email address is