Wednesday, February 27, 2008

The Week of Healthy Delicious

In my second trimester, I've mysteriously developed the eating habits and food preferences of a two-year-old child. I can only imagine that this is nature's way of preparing me for the actual two-year-old child who is fast approaching me like a bowling ball bearing down on the poor, oblivious pins.

With my newfound two-year-oldness, I go from perfectly fine to desperately starving in about four seconds, and I Must Eat Now, except I don't want any of That because it looks yucky. And even when I find something that seems appetizing, I can only eat about a half a cup of it before it turns to ashes in my mouth, and I'm so done with eating. I get desperately hungry again in another twenty minutes, and the whole cycle starts over. This is driving me crazy. It's also driving me tired and grumpy and ill-nourished.

My old way of cooking and eating was to have three good meals each day, with a heavy reliance on leftovers. These days, I eat six or seven times a day, and I get tired of food a lot quicker than it gets used up. This leads directly to my eating more snack foods and fewer real foods than usual, just when I should be eating the healthiest diet of my life. And on top of this, my habitual cooking time of late afternoon is now the time of day at which my energy is the lowest. It feels like a lose-lose-lose situation.

So after some careful deliberation and a close look at the budget, we've decided to hire a round-the-clock, seven-days-a-week personal chef. She's been instructed to have a wide variety of healthy, delicious meals at her fingertips, any of which can be ready within moments. She just got back from her first trip to the grocery store, and things are looking up in the food department.

This personal chef is, of course, me. I realized today that if I can't figure out a way to feed myself better, I'm not going to be much good for much else. So I made a plan. I made a list of the healthiest, most delicious foods I could think of, and planned eight different meals around them. I'll do as much pre-preparation as I can, so that whenever the hunger strikes, I can be with moments of Real Foods of Great Variety.

In case this works out really well, and gets us a delicious, healthy week of eating with not too much fuss, I'm keeping track. And so both you and I know where to find this list in the future, I'm sharing with The Good Ol' Internet. Here's the grocery list and menu plan:*

8 whole wheat tortillas
8 whole wheat mini pita breads
1 box whole wheat angel hair pasta
1 loaf multi-grain bread
1 frozen ball of whole wheat pizza dough

2 lbs flank steak
12 oz mozzarella
1 lb cheddar
7 oz whole-milk Fage yogurt
2 19-oz cans white beans
6 eggs
1 lb sliced deli ham**
8 oz hummus

2 avocados
4 red peppers
2 sweet onions
1 lb baby spinach
4 tomatoes
1 head lettuce
1 bunch carrots
5 zucchinis
1 can tomato sauce
1 meyer lemon
1 head garlic

Prep Work:
Chop a whole head of garlic, and keep it in olive oil.
Broil and slice the flank steak.
Grate the mozzarella and the cheddar.
Marinate the beans in lemon zest, garlic, oregano, and olive oil.
Wash and dry the spinach and the lettuce.
Slice and broil half the zucchini, half the peppers, and half an onion.
Wash and chop the rest of those vegetables.
Peel the carrots.
Divide the pizza dough into 4, stretch and pre-bake

Steak Salad (lettuce, spinach, onion, peppers, carrots, sliced steak)
Tacos (beans, steak, peppers, cheddar) and Guacamole (avocado, onion)
Roasted Veg and Ham Panini (zucchini, peppers, onions, ham, cheddar, bread)
Frittata (ham, spinach, zucchini, eggs) and Salad (lettuce, onions, tomato)
Pita Pockets (pita, hummus, flank steak, yogurt sauce, spinach, carrot, tomato)
Wraps (tortillas, lettuce, onions, spinach, beans, yogurt sauce)
Pasta (tomato sauce, zucchini, carrots, cheddar) and Salad (spinach, onions, beans)
Pizza (dough, tomato sauce, mozzarella, ham, peppers)

*In the interests of maximum tastiness, nutrition and variety, I've all but abandoned my usual goals of seasonality and affordability. This is a more expensive and less sustainable way of eating than I prefer, but you have to pick your battles, and this week, my battle is to get enough good food into me to make a healthy baby and a mama that has the strength to pick her head up off the couch. Don't worry, I'll make sure the kid feels guilty about it forever. You can rely on me.

**Yes, yes. Lunch meat, pregnant = pestilence, death, blah blah blah. I will heat it thoroughly before eating and somehow keep myself from munching it cold out of the fridge.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Month Four

The Pregnant Hunger: it is here. I woke up this "morning" at 4:30, starving. I went down to the kitchen, zapped a hot dog in a tortilla, and ate it along with a bunch of grapes, in about three minutes. On my way back to bed, I passed my husband, just getting up. SeƱor Stalwart is getting up at 5 these days, partly so we can go to bed at the same ridiculously early hour. Thinking of calling us after 8:30 in the evening? Think again.

The wee-hours-snack is now a pretty firmly established part of my routine, and the house is cold at three and four in the morning. You'd think I could just keep crackers on the nightstand, wouldn't you? Nope, has to be cereal and milk these days. I'm thinking about keeping a little thermos of milk by the bed, next to a bowl of dry cereal. Or maybe I'll make up a little bedroll in the kitchen by the fridge.

I still have a hard time eating a full meal, or even wanting to eat sometimes. I feel hungry, I know I should eat, but nothing that I think of seems appetizing. Although sometimes I'll see a picture or hear a description of food and develop an instant craving for about half a cup of it. I really need to make myself a little Heathy Foods picture book to browse. I'm up six pounds now, though, so it seems like I'm getting enough.

Along with a nice round little belly, I've developed off-and-on cramps in my sides. Stabby, stabby cramps. Apparently they're caused by stretching ligaments, which makes sense given all the abdominal renovations going on. Lying down helps, so I spent a few hours in bed yesterday afternoon. It was warm, comfortable, stab-free heaven.

What with the lying down during the day and lying awake at night post-snack, I've been reading an awful lot. So far, the almost complete works of Terry Pratchett and Jane Austen, alternately. Witty prose, appealing characters, eventful plots, and happy endings. Perfection. What other authors exist in the same Venn-diagram space as Austen and Pratchett? I'm running out of books.

Imagine getting a big, energetic new goldfish at the pet store. It comes in a plastic bag of water, right? Now imagine that taut bag of fish and water nestled in your pelvis. Feel the fish flipping around in there? Yeah, me too. I felt the first flips a few weeks ago, and I wasn't sure if they were The Goldfish That Is Our Child or The Goldfish That Was Last Night's Dinner, but now I'm sure. I feel it several times a day, especially in the evening, when the baby and I are draped on the couch and the man of the house is making us dinner. When I make dinner, there's not quite as much flippy action, which could be taken a couple of ways. My preferred interpretation is, "The baby loves it when you make dinner. I wouldn't mind cooking, but think of the child!"

Feeling movement has been a strange new part of being pregnant. It creeped me out a little at first, but now I'm used to it, and my instinctive, worried response is to wonder if the baby is doing a jolly little dance or if it's kicking at the walls in annoyance. This pointless level of concern for my baby's happiness does not bode well for my future as a mother. I can see it now: every room filled with discarded plastic toys, half-eaten candy and new puppies, all because I couldn't bear to see the little angel's lower lip tremble. I'm going to be awesome.

Two things I heard this week:
"Wow, you're really big for only four and a half months along!"
"You're the cutest pregnant lady I've ever seen."
The only thing I believed? The former. The only thing I want to hear again? The latter.

As a woman currently living through Things People Feel They Should Say To A Pregnant Woman, let me share some advice. Unless you have a well-established tradition of affectionate mutual taunting with the pregnant woman before you, any observation about her appearance that doesn't include the words glowing, wonderful or gorgeous should be kept to yourself, bub. Especially things that include words like tired, huge, whale-like or spotty. You can safely bet that she's aware of the novelty of her appearance, and doesn't need you to point it out. Because of this, a loving, supportive and patently false compliment is likely to be very welcome indeed.

Being pregnant is like trading in your old, dependable body for a new model that, while it has lots of exciting new features, is buggy, unpredictable, and crashes at inconvenient moments. It's true that there's lots of tech support out there, but most of it tends to fall into two not-very-helpful categories: Impending Doom (also known as You're Doing It Wrong) and Fluffy Rainbow Kitties (also known as Don't Worry Your Pretty Little Head About It).

Friday, February 22, 2008

Month Three

Second ultrasound: the baby is huge! Well, two inches, head to butt. But it's twice as big as last time! We saw it wiggle and flex and wave its little limbs, and we saw fingers! Five fingers! We're hoping for about twice that many, but five's a really good start. We saw the baby's profile, and so far, the baby has its father's nose: very small and cute. Whew.

This week, my craving has been grapefruit. I've had two whole ones already today, and I could really go for another one. I try not to grunt as I devour them, but I'm not always successful.

Apparently I'm over the grapefruit craving. Had half a one this morning, and it was just a nice piece of fruit, not the Amazing Citrus Adventure it's been for the past couple weeks. I don't have a big appetite in general these days—I eat, but I don't get too excited about it. So, in the grocery store this morning, not in a hurry, I just pushed the cart up and down and looked at all the various foods, waiting for something to jump out and be my new best friend. No surprise: beef hotdogs. Surprise: baked beans. I think I need iron.

I had trouble getting dressed this morning. Hmm. Maybe I really am pregnant. Luckily, I had a meeting of my Council of Advisors tonight (well, my book club, same thing), and they gave me the list of yeahs and nays in the world of maternity clothes. Good: Gap, Target, and Old Navy. Bad: Motherhood Maternity.

How am I feeling these days? Bloated, gassy, heartburny, and alternately cranky and grumpy. The levels of crank and grump are unprecedented. Despite the fact that I've never been known for my willpower, I've always assumed that my sunny mood was thanks to an intentionally healthy outlook and a good dose of self-control in times of trial. Turns out I have nothing to do with it. It is a bestowed gift, and can apparently be unbestowed.

When eating makes you feel bad (see gas, bloat, and burn above), it can be hard to work up much of an appetite. These days, eating and cooking are tedious and unbelievably frequent necessities. I am not used to this.

I want to go live all by myself in a small, plain shack and eat small, plain meals. In other words, Prenatal Depression: I have some. It sucks. I have decided not to implement the Shack Plan, so instead I slouch around the house, growling and spitting. In good news, I still enjoy chopping vegetables and working in my studio. Everything else? Not that much.

You can make instant mashed potatoes with all milk (no water). They're fine that way, and extra-calciumy. And also good cold, for second breakfasts. I still haven't gained any weight, so I'm having as many breakfasts as I want.

I was better! Chipper, energetic, happy. Then I stayed up late to watch as the BBC messed with Jane Austen and got only 8 hours of sleep. Turns out my new good mood was dependent on the 10 to 11 hours of sleep I'd been getting every night. I'm going to take a nap.

Month Two

I'm finally starting to feel a little gross. It's kind of reassuring to have a sign of pregnancy beyond all the peed-on sticks. Yeah, I saved them. You have a comment about that?

I have a craving today for gooey macaroni and cheese. But I'm not sure it counts, because it's not like I've ever NOT wanted gooey mac and cheese. So I don't know. I do know that I got two boxes of Annie's Deluxe at the store. Oh boy.

Later... Ooogh. It takes 20 minutes to make a box of Annie's Deluxe. It takes 3 minutes to inhale a third of it. Now I don't feel so good.

I'm trying to stay detached and accepting about this process, especially before we see a heartbeat. Last week, feeling fairly well, I was calmly thinking that I'll just take it as it comes and experience whatever happens day by day. This attitude is much harder to maintain with nausea and fatigue and epic gas to contend with. This morning I was thinking, "Feeling crappy sucks. I better get a really awesome baby out of this. If this doesn't work out, I'm going to be so pissed." Maybe I should start meditating.

Here's what might work for nausea: Drinking ginger tea or lemon soda.
Here's what's not working: Imagining I'm drinking lemon soda.
Since we don't have any lemon soda, maybe I should make some ginger tea.
Later... It works! Ginger tea works!

My favorite food these days is cold, congealed oatmeal. No joke. I flat out love it. I'd rather have it for breakfast than a fancy pastry or eggs and bacon. I can only get half a bowl of oatmeal down at a time, so I eat half hot and half cold, later. It is fantastic.

First ultrasound! There are two hearts in me! An increase of 100%! Crazy! And also, the baby looks like a lump of oatmeal, which seems appropriate.

I've gotten used to the nausea, and it goes away as soon as I eat something. My favorite thing these days is a bowl of cheerios right before bed. Just the smell of them makes my mouth water.

My folks were here for Christmas, and they said their style of pregnancy and childbirth was Clueless Hippie, which worked out really well for them. My style, apparently, is Over-Informed Geek Girl (no surprise).

Earlier today, I said I'd gotten used to the nausea. Well, I should amend that to: I've gotten used to dealing with nausea when I'm at home. Shortly after I wrote that, I made the mistake of leaving the house without proper preparation, and so found myself marching around on errands, not really sick enough to give up and go home, but plenty sick enough to wear a truly wretched look on my face and hate everyone who dared cross my path. I really have to make myself a bag that holds a tiny bottle of lemon soda and three triscuits. I know, a flask! Every pregnant lady should carry a flask. Although, by the time I look more pregnant, I'll probably be over the nausea, so I wouldn't get much real shock value out of it.

Month One

In an ironic twist, I got pregnant right as my Month of Every Day Posting began back in November. Trying to come up with something to say every day without talking about that newsiest and most distracting of life events was a challenge. But it was all for the best, because now I have the chance to edit my stream-of-consciousness journal with the benefit of a little hindsight. So, read on! Catch up! But first a warning: it might be edited, but it's still the navel-gazing reflections of a woman who's pregnant for the first time. Grains of salt? Please?

It looks like my first symptom of pregnancy is the development of the legendary Mothervision. Usually manifested as "eyes in the back of your head," mine is more like "can make out the faintest of pale blue lines on a pregnancy test." Yesterday, only I could really see it. Today, both of us can see it, but it's still pretty faint. Probably only visible to people who are genetically related to the line-producing blob. I'm cautiously over the moon.

Over the last three days, I've taken four more pregnancy tests. By now, the line is probably visible from space. Hello, dear parasite.

It's November. Therefore, I'm chilly, and I find myself browsing newborn legwarmers and hats and cozy little shirts online. Forgetting, apparently, that if all goes well and the baby comes in July, it'll be plenty warm for at least a couple months. Maybe I should just go put on another sweater.

I'm traveling for Thanksgiving, and still feeling very well, although everyone is clearly ready to be helpful and supportive if I start feeling feeble. They were all happy when I decided to take a nap in the middle of the day yesterday, although I think I was just Transcontinental Travel Tired, not Pregnant Tired.

My main inclination is to cook all day, quietly, by myself. This is the perfect mood to be in on the day after Thanksgiving, when there's soup to be made and everyone else is happily lolling on the couch.