Valor's Birth Story — Part 1

Some people have birth stories to share. Well, I have a life and near death story to share...with a happy ending of course. This is a scary story, yet wrapped all in love, faith and prayer. Because my son and I visited death's door during this story, it is difficult to recollect and write. I'll be sharing our birth story in a few parts. So here it goes...part 1.

Ps. 46:1 - God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble.

Monday evening, August 25th, Husband and I were spending a simple evening at home. I grew to a very uncomfortable state. My parents came over to visit, my mom lightly touched my round 17 pound smuggled basketball-baby bump and I reeled back in pain. Something just wasn't right. But pushing it all aside, being in the home stretch of the pregnancy, we wrapped up the evening and went to bed. It was a torrential night's sleep. By morning I decided to call my OB, who was on-call for just another 15 minutes. I was having Braxton hicks contractions, but still in enough discomfort to stay home from work. As I spoke to my OB, she told me to come straight to the hospital's Labor & Delivery Unit for observation. I arrived, got to a room, hospital-gowned up and painfully climbed into bed. Monitors we strapped to my round belly and I heard the rhythmic heartbeat of my little boy. There were touches of contractions, but definitely not the real-deal. The on-call OB came for examination, preformed an ultrasound to rule out a placenta abruption. He mentioned the (low) possibility of kidney stones, or appendix issues. Not fitting the traditional symptoms of any of those diagnosis, he ruled it severe strained muscles. I mean I was in the nesting phase, right? So after a few hours of monitoring, I was sent home for rest, ice compression for my muscles and tyenol. My dad came to drive me home and helped get me settled. I spent the afternoon napping until Husband arrived home. We ordered in Thai but I could hardly take a bite. The pain and contractions were back. This was not a strained muscle. All I remember thinking and saying was, "This is not right. Braxton hicks shouldn't be this painful. This baby is coming." Trying to do diligence, Husband pulled up the timer on his iPhone and we tried timing out the contractions and figure out what was happening. After about 10 minutes, I called my OB. Something was not right. The OB, with concern in his voice told me to return to the hospital right away. Husband and I gathered a few items, got in the car and drove fast. For yet the second time that day, I arrived on the L&D floor, got into a hospital gown, was strapped to monitors and waited. I was placed on a 23 hour observation. By morning I had the two monitors constantly on my belly, an IV coming from my right hand, a blood pressure cuff permanently attached to my left bicep, a pulse monitor attached to my left pointer finger and continued to wait, trying to be calm. Listening to my son's somewhat rhythmic heartbeat.

First thing Wednesday morning I was wheeled around for a battery of tests - lab, ultrasound, MRI...the MRI found fluid filling the cavity around my appendix, and a surgical consult. A surgical team was swiftly compiled. The Director of Surgery, the area's top general surgeon for the appendectomy. OB and L&D support. NICU pediatrician. Neonatal support. And many other surgical and high-risk support staff. A few hours passed as the special team was assembled and an OR was set up for every possible situation that could possibly arise in the surgery. Finally about 2 pm on Wednesday they wheeled me into the pre-op area. As I held Husband's hand I looked at him, wearing a surgical gown and cap, knowing we would be separated for the next few hours and how dangerous of a surgery this was normally, but on top of that being 35 weeks pregnant. As we looked at each other and silently knew all the scary risks, we told each other how much we loved each other and that we would see each other soon. Not knowing the results. Not knowing if I had the ability to live. Not knowing if our little boy that was safely tucked in my womb could withstand the surgery. Not knowing if we would be parents that day. He squeezed my hand tightly and released as they surrounded my bed and rolled me back into the cold, sterile, yet very busy OR. All the medical professionals in that room and in the wings were there - just for me and our baby. My pain was growing worse and worse. I was so scared yet just so eager to be put under so I couldn't feel for just a little while.

After a few hours in surgery, my genius surgeon was successful. He completed an entire appendectomy - that had been ruptured. The entire cavity filled with infection and was able to do it all laparoscopically around my largely pregnant uterus. Unfortunately due to the severity, in surgery, I also lost my right ovary, right Fallopian tube and a section of my intestines. But praise to be alive! After waking, I was told that they were moments away from cutting me completely open and having to deliver our baby boy. But he is strong. Valor held on and was able to stay in-utero. We gave him the right name before we had any idea of the trials we would go through birthing Valor into this world. After the appendectomy, I was left with four incisions and a lovely jp drain hanging from another incision on my right side. After a few hours of recovery, I was returned to my L&D room for rest, healing and continued 24/7 monitoring of our sweet, strong, brave little babe.

To be continued.

29 Weeks

(photo taken at 27 weeks)

Time really does fly. How is it that I'm already 29 weeks along in this pregnancy? My OB appointments are now every two weeks and at my appointment last week, my physician asked if I am feeling any contractions yet — UMMM YIKES! Gladly my answer to that question is no. Don't get me wrong, Husband and I can hardly wait another moment to hold our squirmy little boy, but we also want him to grow big and strong before his arrival. Plus, we still have lots to do around our house. Me, being me, I thought it was a good idea to hand-make a mobile for Valor's crib. What a joke! 29 weeks along and I've done about one sixth of the project...yea, you do the math...I better get into gear and start sewing faster (err, actually working on it). We have a door to hang in our laundry room, some basic organization projects and I want to get one major deep clean in before his arrival. For me, summer is hard to get things done because I'd rather be outside. My dear friend just welcomed her healthy baby boy into this world, but he was 15 days early and made me realize...I may not make it to my due date and need to be ready early. So after this post, I am dedicating today to work, work, work!

Baby Size: Valor is now the size of an acorn squash! He measures about 15.2 to 16.7 inches long. Right now, he weights a little over 2.5 pounds. Can you believe he will triple in weight before birth?

Weight Gain: As you know, weight gain has been a struggle over the course of this pregnancy. It may not look like it (which I think is so odd), but I've only gained 13 pounds this entire course, two pounds in the last month. My OB really wants me to continue to up my calories and to gain at minimum, another 10 pounds before delivery. I guess all 13 pounds have really gone just to my belly. Hey, I'm not complaining! I've been told from numerous sources that you cannot tell I am pregnant at all, not even from the back, only when you see my big-smuggled-basketball-belly.

Overall Feeling: I am doing okay. Thankfully I think I can honestly say, "MORNING" SICKNESS IS OVER! I haven't gotten sick in about two weeks! But, if it isn't one thing, it is another. I definitely can feel my organs being squished and have been struggling for a little while now with some severe back pain. I do great if I can stand, but the sitting really gets to me and unfortunately with work and then two hours of commuting in my car each day, the evenings are a little difficult. Thankfully, as all of you know by now, I have the world's greatest husband who lovingly rubs my back in the evenings and bought me a prenatal massage — which I need to schedule. I've been trying to hold off scheduling, but think I am about ready to break down and cash that day!

Excited For: At my 24 week update I said I couldn't wait for Husband to feel Valor's kicks, and he now has, which is awesome. Now that the time is getting closer, I am becoming more and more eager to see Husband as a Daddy. I've seen him with very limited amount of babies, and with him being his family's baby, there weren't any to follow. I know, with his personality, he is going to make the best Daddy!

Advice Needed: I have searched all of Pinterest and the web for hospital packing lists. There are so many out there! Some of them look as though I could be packing for a trip around the globe! What do we really need to be bringing? Also, being that I am delivering an hour away from home (without traffic issues) I want to make sure I bring everything that we need, because Husband won't be just "running home quickly" to grab something we forgot. Recommendations are much appreciated!

All the time we wondered and wondered, who is this person coming, growing, turning, floating, swimming, deep, deep inside. — Crescent Dragonwagon

PS — Fun Fact: This post is number 100 on The Passionate Parsley!

Babymoon Staycation Recap

Sometimes coming off a weekend can be a little hard when the 5:00 am alarm sounds on Monday morning. Or maybe a little hard when sitting in traffic or sitting in a meeting that's dragging on way too long. But this Monday I am tired, but still flying a bit high from my excellent weekend — my babymoon staycation with Husband. Yes, it's back to the grind for us. Yes, by 7:00 am today we already had major discussions of budget, school loan payments and what on earth we are going to do about childcare, but that has definitely not taken away the wonderful memories of a well-spent weekend.

This past loooong weekend, Husband and I dedicated it as our babymoon staycation. Friday we slept in (ahhhh), I made red-white & blueberry cinnamon rolls. We leisurely enjoyed piping hot coffee on our patio and simple, laid-back conversation.

We went to the local 4th of July parade, then came home and enjoyed more of each other's company on our patio, took a nap and made grilled vegan pizza. The day closed at a local firework display with a couple of dear friends.

Saturday we took a day trip to Milwaukee and toted Braxton along with us. We shopped the South Shore Farmer's Market, purchased a big, warm bag of fresh kettle corn, sat underneath a huge maple tree to snack on our purchase, enjoyed the live musician and watched a local painter sit and recreate the lively scene on his stretched canvas.

A little later Saturday we walked along the lakeshore, soaked in the glistening water dotted with sailboats. Honestly, I don't know what could make for a more beautiful or relaxing scene. Then we finished up our day enjoying vegan burgers on the Stack'd patio — a local beer for Husband and a local root beer for me. On our way out of town, we had to stop at Babe's, which has a huge selection of vegan ice cream and toppings — talk about a happy pregnant woman!

Sunday again was very low-key and a much needed day of rest. For brunch we went to Barbakoa, a local modern Latin bistro and ate way too much! We ordered pomegranate-ginger-habenero nojitos (a virgin mojito) — probably the best and most fun drink I've had since being pregnant. Haha! Waiting for our meal, we noshed on a guacamole and salsa flight. Corn, wild mushroom and fire roasted poblano tacos on homemade corn tortillas, sushito peppers, and for a sweet finish — cantaloupe, watermelon, jicima, and pineapple, dusted with a spicy piquin pepper powder. Is this post making you hungry? 

We closed out our babymoon staycation, way too fat and happy. We spent the rest of our Sunday afternoon walking around a nearby outdoor shopping center and bought Valor the cutest little sweater. So maybe we didn't go on the actual vacation that we were hoping for, but we did get dedicated time together. Time where we pushed everything aside — conversations of to-do checklists, schedule logistics, and whatever other everyday business we need to take care of, and just soaked in the weekend together which, as you know, is an extreme rarity for our family. I am just so blessed to call Nick my Husband and very soon, Valor's dad. There isn't a better guy out there for me or our family!

Babymoon Staycation

To some of you this may not make sense because your family schedule may be a little more typical than Husband's and mine...I am so giddy because of how spoiled I'm going to be this weekend. Husband is off work this holiday weekend and I could not be a happier gal! The last weekend we spent together? Honestly, I couldn't tell you - it's been that long. Our schedules make us pass in the night. I'm gone during the weekdays. Husband, gone on the evenings and weekends. But this weekend, I'm going to soak in every blessed moment I have with my favorite person on earth. We are going to make simple, but good memories. We were supposed to be traveling this weekend for our babymoon, but due to my job situation we unfortunately are not taking our before-baby-trip. But at this point in life, I am just so excited to have dedicated time with Husband. We're going to pack as much as we can into the next three days with a 4th of July parade, fireworks, vegan ice cream eating, restaurant adventures, a day trip up to Milwaukee, and even a few small projects around our house. Regardless of what we do, this weekend my soul is going to be fed and nurtured. I feel so blessed and thankful.

Follow along on Instagram @passionateparsley and have a fantastic 4th of July weekend!

Polenta & Orange Salad With Fennel Salsa (GF)

Another recipe, wahoo! Like I said last weekend, I broke into my cookbook collection for some recipe-inspiration. Husband and I love polenta on the grill. Remember my gluten-free grilled polenta bruschetta? Something just magical happens when sizzling brown grill marks are formed on the polenta, making it crispy on the outside and warm and creamy on the inside...mouth watering...Anyway! When going through Makini Howell's cookbook, Plum, and saw the recipe for Polenta & Orange Salad with Fennel Salsa, I knew that was a must try recipe! Grilled Polenta — Vegan — Gluten Free — What are you waiting for? Fire up your grills people!

I ventured slightly off the recipe, what else is new, right?

1 - 18 oz. sleeve of polenta — If you have ever made polenta from scratch, you know how time consuming it can be, stirring endlessly for proper consistency — This is an excellent short-cut to get dinner on the table quickly after work.
6 cups arugula
orange-cilantro vinaigrette
fennel salsa

Orange-Cilantro Vinaigrette
1 T. vinegar
1 T. chopped fresh cilantro, leaves and stems
1 T. gluten-free tamari
1 T. minced, peeled fresh ginger
1 t. sugar
3 T. olive oil
2 T. orange juice

1. Whisk together the vinegar, cilantro, tamari, ginger, sugar, olive oil and orange juice.

Fennel Salsa
2 T. olive oil
2 T. white wine vinegar
2 T. chopped fresh cilantro, leaves and stems
2 t. gluten-free tamari
2 t. minced, peeled fresh ginger
2 t. sugar
3 medium oranges, peeled, segmented, pith and membranes removed
1 medium fennel bulb, trimmed and sliced into 1/4-inch-wide by 2-inch long matchsticks
1/2 cup thinly sliced red onion
sea salt & freshly ground pepper

1. In a medium bowl, combine the oil, vinegar, cilantro, tamari, ginger, and sugar. Gently stir in the oranges, fennel, and onion. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Any leftover salsa will keep a good two weeks in the refrigerator. You can use it as a salad dressing or even as a condiment on a sandwich!

To Serve
1. Cut the polenta into discs and lightly brush each side with olive oil. Heat the grill to medium-high heat, and cook the cakes for 1-3 minutes on each side or until distinct grill marks form.

2. In a large bowl, combine the arugula and fennel salsa. Dress the mixture with 1/4 cup of the vinaigrette.

3. Divide the salad among the plates and arrange your polenta cakes alongside the greens.

4. Enjoy!

Another excellent recipe from Plum is the vegan mac & cheese, check out the recipe here.