Monday, January 31, 2011

January 31 baby update

Jocelyn continues to thrive. She hit the 4-pound mark last night and got herself out of the baby incubator and into an open crib. I just called this morning to check in with the nurse, and Jossie has maintained her temperature all night (in fact, it's been perfectly at 98.6 - I think Jossie's trying to prove a point here) and taken her feedings well. They are giving her as much as she wants, and she's increased her own feedings from 32 ml to 45-50 ml.

I was worried she might have another brady (a heartbeat drop) because that can happen when you take the baby out and give her more work to do but she hasn't had one yet. In fact, tonight, at 11 p.m. or so, she'll have gone FOUR DAYS without a brady. She will just need to go 24 more hours (Tuesday at 11 p.m.) to be in the clear. The nurses have actually started talking about her being able to go home by the weekend! 

My mama instinct is also telling me Jossie will be home soon. Our house is turned upside-down from our recently completed renovations, and I'm putting it back together. But I am getting sucked into simply ridiculous projects such as replacing the water filter in our coffee maker, organizing our kitchen junk drawer and organizing our battery supply.

Jack's practicing his big brother moves too - he keeps asking when our baby will be home. Oh, if he only knows what he's in for!

Last night, after we heard the news that Jossie is now 4 pounds, I put my head to hers and cradled her small body in my hands. I thought about how many times we'll do this over a lifetime - to summon courage, to think through a problem, to celebrate a joyful moment. My strong girl; my daughter.

Many thanks to Auntie Laura for Jossie's new hat. She loves it despite the look on her face!

Go-to meal: Roast chicken with caramelized shallots

Girlfriends come through again. This recipe is from my BFF, Amy, who's gone above and beyond the call of friendship - she is a wonderful and kind soul.

Roast chicken with caramelized shallots
Serves 4 to 6

Adapted from French Farmhouse Cookbook (Workman) by Susan Herrmann Loomis
I use a whole chicken cut into eight pieces; two legs, two thighs, and I cut each breast piece in half, crosswise, keeping the wings attached. You could also just use eight of your favorite chicken pieces.
3 tablespoons olive oil
3 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1 tablespoon soy sauce
4 large shallots, peeled and minced
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
One whole chicken, cut into 8 pieces
one generou
s handful of coarsely chopped flat-leaf parsley

1. Preheat the oven to 425ºF (220ºC).
2. In a large baking dish, one which will hold all the chicken pieces in a single layer, mix the olive oil, vinegar, soy sauce, shallots, and some salt and pepper.
3. Toss the chicken in the mixture, so they’re completely coated with the shallots. Turn the chicken pieces so they are all skin side up.
4. Roast the chicken for about twenty minutes, until it starts to brown on top. Turn the pieces of chicken over. Scrape any juices and shallots over the chicken that may be clinging to the pan, and bake for another twenty minutes, or until the pieces of chicken are cooked through and the shallots are well-caramelized.
5. Remove from oven and toss in the chopped parsley, then serve.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

January 29 baby update

Our big news yesterday was that Jossie's feeding tube was removed and she continues to gain weight like a champ. At her 9 p.m. weigh-in last night, she was at 3 lb 13 oz. Now we're focusing on her bradycardia. It's a common preemie problem and with her mild case, we just have to wait it out. One nurse explained to me that between 34 and 36 weeks, the part of the brain that controls this function develops fully. On Monday, Joss will be 35 weeks.

She needs to go five consecutive days without incident. Apparently, she's already gone 24 hours - go, baby, go. Please continue to send good thoughts and prayers.

My middle sister Dayna is here with her family. She is literally and figuratively supporting me. I'm unraveling a bit around the edges, and I'm glad she's here to hold my hand. It's always been difficult but it's really hard these days to leave Joss at night - she's much more awake and aware and acting like a baby, and I can't leave until she's asleep.

When I think about all Jossie has already conquered - we got rid of the IV and the feeding tube this week. She mastered eating from a bottle within a few days and nursing within a few minutes. The first week of her life, she had a few digestive problems and overcame those too. I just need to keep faith that her little body will figure out the constant heartbeat deal.

We headed out to dinner last night after our hospital visit. Jack's enjoying his time with dear cousin Johannah. Johannah is currently tucked into my right arm as I type this post one-handed. She is giving me sweet smiles as Jack dances around to the music from his TV show.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

January 27 baby update

Jossie continues to do well - she keeps inching along in the right direction. We just need to patiently wait for everything to come together. She continues to have a periodic (and very brief) heartbeat rate drop (about one every 12 hours or so...she just had one today at 3:45 p.m.), which is frustrating. Our doctors could see my frustration at rounds today - I'm sure they were just trying to reassure me, but they told me this heartbeat rate drop is completely normal for preemies and could occur periodically until her due date of March 7. That made my heart sink so low - I really hope we aren't here that long.

Besides these episodes, which are always very brief and she can self-recover from, Jossie is on the up-and-up. She gained two whole ounces yesterday, bringing her weight to 3 lb 11 oz!  She also has been a champ taking her bottle - yesterday, she took 77% of her intake via a bottle (and the rest through her feeding tube). Today, we're doing really well - we even tried nursing briefly and she totally got it. That made me smile - it took me six weeks to learn how to breastfeed Jack; with Joss, it took about six seconds.

It was bathtime today, which she didn't love but what newborn does? Her pacifier helped to soothe.

And then she was all clean, in her new outfit from our friend Emily:

We have a wonderful nurse today - she's on duty Friday and then Sunday through Wednesday of next week. I'm hoping we have her all of those days.

The glad game

Since January 10, Jeremy and I have undergone a journey fraught with emotion - hope, despair, joy, frustration - oh the list goes on and on. Through it all, we've seen so much good and here are just a few of the things that make me happy and keep me going:

  • My mom staying with us and keeping our house running and organized
  • Jeremy's parents and sister spending the past weekend with us
  • My sister and her family visiting tomorrow
  • BFFs who call and email to check in and help me out from the downright silly (maxi pad run) to the major (keeping Jack overnight)
  • Us planning to order dinner from The Smoke Daddy last night and right before we placed the order, we opened the mail to find a gift card to that exact restaurant from our good friends Alissa and Andy
  • This is vain, but having nice maternity clothes bought by my mom and mother-in-law and lent by friends to wear daily (I'm not ready to put on regular clothes just yet)
  • Our good friends Emily and Steve considering moving back to Chicago
  • Eating dessert at lunch every day (I'm nursing - I can afford the calories)
  • A workplace that is very understanding that family comes first
  • A husband who is my best friend and my two adorable kiddos

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

January 26 baby update

Jossie likes to remind us she's still a preemie and does one heartbeat drop a day. I'm glad it's only one but we need to go five days consecutively without any. Otherwise, she is doing fantastic. She gained 30 grams yesterday and is at 3 lbs 9 oz. So far today, she has been a champ taking her bottle.

We were able to dress her, and she's swimming in her preemie outfit but what a cutie!

And even though she's sacked out in that last picture, she's been pretty awake and aware today. Day by day...

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

January 25 baby update

Well, the first big news - we can dress Jossie now. Bring on the pink!  Dear friends sent a bunch of preemie clothes their daughter wore three years ago, so we have a lot of things to dress her in. She's had a good day today - she had one episode where her heartbeat dropped down to the 80s for mere seconds (when it's typically 140-160) but again the doctors were not worried. Her feedings remain at 28 ml but they are adding a bit of supplement to the breastmilk to pack on the calories. The nurse said it was a baby milkshake.

The doctor just stopped by for a check-up and said at this point, Jossie is a preemie feeder and grower - she's just eating her way out of the NICU and the doctor noted she was doing remarkably well for a preemie her age. 

The head of the NICU, who is a friend of one of my Openlands' board members, called me at home last night to check in on us and to see if we had any questions. She was very kind and told me to remember that a baby's time in the NICU is not a sprint but a marathon. I am trying to remember this as we face each new day. I do feel a touch of sadness when I see a mommy waiting in the discharge waiting room with her big, healthy baby. That should be me, I selfishly think. But then I remember that I have a small, healthy baby, and even being here in the NICU, I see little ones with bigger battles to fight than our Joss. And I'm grateful.

Whether it was my wedding, my first child or my first time in the NICU, I always turn to my reading and research to provide me with understanding. I'm currently reading The Preemie Primer by Jennifer Gunter. There's a chapter devoted to parents' emotional health. I like her thoughts on mind-body medicine. "Mind-body medicine is the idea that our thoughts and emotions influence physical health, and harnessing this connection improves both emotional and physical well-being." I definitely believe that my hope has helped me to physically heal quickly and for both Jeremy and me to be emotionally available and secure for Jossie.  A large heaping of friend and family support has given us strength too. My mom has been by my side since the weekend, and I've also benefited from having my good friend Emily here too for the past couple of days, along with a sprinkling of other visitors.

Each day, Joss is more and more alert. Hoping this works - here's Jossie's very first video (including a few sneezes).

I see one of her friends went home today - he weighed 4 lbs 1 oz. Our nurse reiterated our milestones today to get Jossie home:
1. No episodes (heartrate drop) for five days in a row (she just had one this morning);
2. 24 hours of taking all feedings by mouth (and not the feeding tube); and
3. A nice weight gain (within the 4-lb range).

Monday, January 24, 2011

January 24 baby update

Jossie continues to do well. I was at her bedside for the doctors' rounds this morning and so I got to hear their report. She is taking a bottle now - 46% of the time, and the doctors said that was great. They also upped her feedings to 28 ml per serving. She has been taken off of her fluids through her IV, which is also a positive step in the right direction.

Apparently, she had two "episodes" yesterday. I did not ask what they specifically were, but it was either her heartbeat, oxygen level or breathing. This is the first time this has happened, and the doctors actually said they are amazed it took this long for this to happen. They said they would continue to monitor it but they also said they are not worried at all about these two episodes.

Jocelyn is already charming the nurses. In the picture above, she's with one of our favorite nurses, Sasha. Sasha told me that she has requested to be Jossie's nurse any time she is on duty. And who can blame her, right?

Go-to meal: Beef Barbacoa

I almost thought I wouldn’t post a recipe today but another girlfriend pulled through for me. Here is a recipe from my friend Alissa:
Beef Barbacoa
Please note: I actually browned the beef, deglazed the pan and then transferred everything to a crockpot. I cooked it until the meat fell apart and then followed the recipe the rest of the way.

1 t. freshly ground black pepper
1 t. dried oregano
3/4 t. kosher salt
3/4 t. ancho chile powder
1 (2 1/4-lb) boneless chuck steak, trimmed
Cooking spray
1 cup water
2 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
1 T. fresh lime juice

1.      Preheat oven to 300 degrees
2.      Combine first 5 ingredients in a small bowl; rub oregano mixture evenly over beef.  Heat a large Dutch oven over high heat.  Coat pan with cooking spray.  Add beef to pan; cook 3 minutes on each side or until browned.  Add 1 cup water and garlic to pan, scraping pan to loosen browned bits.  Cover and bake at 300 for 3 hours or until beef is very tender.  Cool to room temperature.  Cover and chill 8 hours or overnight.
3.      Skim fat from surface of broth.  Remove beef; shred with 2 forks.  Return beef to pan; bring to a simmer over medium-high heat.  Simmer mixture 3 minutes or until liquid evaporates; stir in lime juice.  Reduce heat to medium, and cook beef 3 minutes or until crisp in spots.
4.      Serve in soft taco shells (corn or flour) with queso fresco or sour cream.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

January 23 baby update

Life has been going in fast-forward for me during the last 48 hours. I was discharged Friday afternoon, and my mom arrived from Cleveland Friday night. Jeremy's parents and sister arrived from New York yesterday morning. It's been wonderful to be surrounded by their helping hands, love and support. We had dinner last night at Francesca's on Chestnut, and it was just a wonderful meal - Jack was well behaved and everyone was in a celebratory mood. Jeremy and I toasted to family and to our dear Jossie and Jack.

Nana and Yaya

I'm transitioning back to my home life - arriving home to a condo that has been transformed. The contractor we're working with has done a wonderful and thorough job finishing off the walls in our condo - each of our bedrooms is now enclosed with drywall and large windows.  Rather than make our place look darker and smaller, I think the walls actually make our place look bigger. We just love it! And our contractor is just fantastic - he moves our furniture back at the end of every day and carefully stacks his tools in the corner. He is trying to make this process as least disruptive as possible for us.  Jeremy makes his team coffee in the morning and they even stack their cups in the sink and rinse out the coffee pot for us. They still have a bit of painting to do but should be finished by Tuesday or Wednesday of this week. I'm glad Jeremy pushed ahead with this project - we're just getting all of the crazy over at once!

Jack is holding up amazingly well - he's relieved to have his mama home. Anytime I'm at the hospital visiting with Joss, he asks when I'm coming back. I constantly reassure him that I will always come home to him. We've had a few episodes where tiny things set him off into tears, but I know he's just overwhelmed and tired. This morning, he's sleeping in, and I hope he will sleep for awhile. But overall, he continues to eat well and is almost 100% potty trained.

At breakfast Saturday morning, I explained to Jack that I was both his mommy and Jossie's mommy now. He thought about that for a moment, and then asked, "are you Daddy's mommy too?" Sometimes, Jack. Sometimes.

And Jossie is truly progressing - she's been gaining an ounce a day. Last night at 9 p.m., she was at 3 lb 8 oz (1590 grams). Hooray! They continue to increase her feedings. Yesterday she was taking 20 ml of breastmilk per feeding, every three hours. The doctors make their rounds in the morning daily, so we're hoping they will increase her amount again today. The magic number for Jossie is 29 ml - once she is receiving this amount per feeding, we'll lose the IV she's had since birth. The IV provides her with extra fluids that include electrolytes, lipids and sugars. This will just be one step closer to bringing our baby home.

The NICU nurses are truly angels on earth - they are so caring and loving of their little patients. They answer all of our questions (yesterday I asked if Jossie's mouth gets dry since she's on a feeding tube) and will just sit with us to ensure we're okay. We can call around the clock to check in with our nurse if we're not at the hospital. I just talked with Katie, our night nurse, and she gave me some great news. Jossie took two bottles through the night (she has currently been "eating" through a feeding tube that goes through her nose and down into her tummy). I'm already over the fact I wasn't there for this "first." I'm just so excited! She has been doing a great job sucking on her pacifier since day one but to take two bottles with no trouble is an amazing step in the right direction - she is showing the doctors that her brain is capable of breathing and eating at the same time!

With the news we received earlier this week, I truly believe that Jossie is a healthy baby - she just was born too early because of those darn tightly wound blood vessels in her umbilical cord.

I haven't done a good job of calling anyone this weekend or keeping people updated - forgive me! Please know I'm thankful for everyone's love and prayers. Jeremy and I simply could not find the strength and courage to face each day without our family, friends and faith.

It's great to be alive!

Friday, January 21, 2011

Chilly morning; heartwarming news

It's -2 degrees in Chicago - without the wind chill. The sun is shining brightly and flooding my hospital room this chilly morning. I just got some fabulous, fabulous news - I went down to the NICU to drop off some milk for Jossie and did a double-take on her chart. She is back to her birth weight of 3 lb 6 oz!  They give babies two weeks to make this milestone; it took Jossie 4.5 days! I asked the nurse and she said most likely Joss will only go up from here. Thank you, God! We're on our way!

Thursday, January 20, 2011

January 20 baby update

I heard some good news tonight (in the big picture of things). The doctors believe that Jossie's in-utero erratic heartbeat was due to tightly wound blood vessels in the umbilical cord. As she was growing bigger in the womb, the blood vessels weren't big enough to accommodate her and thus she wasn't getting enough blood at times. Even though these past couple of weeks have been so hard, it's a relief to know I was here and in good care and being constantly monitored. And overall, it was not a problem with her health or with mine - just a problem with the cord. The doctor assured me I couldn't have done anything differently to avoid this problem.

We also got the results on the extra tests that were done - as far as the doctors can tell, I had no infection during this pregnancy that would have been the cause of her being on the small side, including toxoplasmosis (which you can get from your cat - I had to call Jeremy right away so he could stop looking up cat recipes on And now I can stop feeling secretly guilty about having a bit of pasteurized blue cheese while pregnant.

Basically, she's small because she just is.

She had another good day, and we continue to take things day-by-day. Her feedings were increased from 4 ml to 12 ml! And she is digesting it well!  The doctors will take this slowly, but I am hoping they will continue to increase her servings through the weekend. She currently has had an IV that provides her with extra lipids, sugars and electrolytes, and they talked about the possibility of discontinuing it sometime over the weekend or early next week, and she would be sustained on breastmilk alone.

The doctor finished up by saying Jossie just needs to sleep, eat and grow like any newborn. Please keep praying that she does!

And I'm completely on the mend. While this situation is not ideal, staying in the hospital a few extra days has really helped me to heal quickly. I'll be discharged tomorrow. I can actually look at weather reports again with some relevancy. And it's supposed to be -20 degrees in Chicago tomorrow with the wind chill...

Pure love

Everyone says it and it's true - your love just multiplies with new babies. Jack visited with Jossie last night - it was slightly overwhelming for him and chaotic for us but we did enjoy a quiet moment between the two of our precious children. This morning, I've been sending pictures to Maria, and Jack's looking over her shoulder. She told me he said, "That's my baby! I'm gonna bring her home!"

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

January 19 baby update

Jossie continues to do well - her weight went slightly down to 3 lb 5 oz, but that is to be expected of all newborns. This is going to be her real Everest - basically eating her way out of the NICU. They told us she'll lose about 10% of her birth weight (which would put her at about 3 lb even) and then will start to rebound from there. We're hoping that it happens sooner than later. Everything else continues to go well - strong lungs, heart and oxygen levels. Her 48-hour culture tests came back negative so she's been taken off any antibiotics. Her little belly needs to digest food better - she's currently taking 4 ml of breastmilk at each feeding. If she can digest it better (and things looked better today), then they will up her to 8 ml per feeding.

She and I have been doing some serious kangaroo care today - three good skin-to-skin sessions. It is restorative for us both - when else in your life can you just sit there in silence with your baby curled up against your chest? It is wonderful and magical. I just hope it really does wonders for her and helps her to grow and grow.

Jack visited his sister tonight - he's had a lot to deal with in the last two weeks, so he was a little overwhelmed by it all. Only siblings are allowed in the NICU, and the children must have their temperature taken before entering. A simple task turned into a big deal as Jack twisted and turned, and Jeremy and I had to hold him down, crying, to take his temperature under his arm. All was forgotten as he got to use our "magical" door pass that automatically opened the doors.

Jack was curious about Jossie, asking if this was the baby in his belly. I think it's all still sinking in for him. A few minutes passed and he looked at us and said, "Can I have a treat now?"

I'm off for one more visit with dear Jocelyn. Good night!

My view

It's a gray day in Chicago but here is the view of Lake Michigan from my hospital room.

When I told my co-workers that I had a nice view of the lake, one told me to not think about one of our biggest projects, the Openlands Lakeshore Preserve. I guess it's an occupational hazard of working for a conservation organization - nature may remind you of work.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

January 18 baby update

Well, we're nearing 48 hours of Jossie's birth. I'm feeling amazingly well today - all wires and tubes have been removed from me, and I've been up and walking around. Seriously, I've been given this infusion of power and strength - I feel great!

Now I can ably turn my attention to Jossie. She is small for her age of 33 weeks - they are running two tests to see if I might have had an infection while carrying her. This wouldn't necessarily lead to any treatment but would give them more information on why she's small. She was also tested for an assortment of infections common to all preemies and they have been watching a culture for the past 48 hours - I'm happy to report they have not found anything as of yet (we'll know for sure after midnight tonight). She was preemptively given antibiotics, so they will stop those tonight if all goes well.

They are constantly monitoring her heartbeat, oxygen levels and temperature. If she can go five days without an "episode" of any of these things, then that is one obstacle removed from her going home. She hasn't had any since birth - two days down, three days to go. Other factors she'll have to meet are eating well on her own through her mouth and meeting and maintaining a certain weight (roughly at least 4 pounds).

Jeremy and I spent a lot of time in the NICU today - we did a lot of kangaroo care (skin-to-skin touch between mother and child) and it was so good for both Jossie and me. She rested peacefully against me, and I loved hearing the sound of her breathing.

Speaking of breathing, she hasn't had any help with this since birth - which puts her "ahead of the curve" according to a baby doctor I spoke with today. She also has been eating since day 0, which impresses the doctors. She had a bit of a bloated tummy this morning but had a dirty diaper later in the day and all is well now (I'm chalking it up to kangaroo care!!).

And we talked about why I was put in here in the first place - her crazy heartbeat. The baby doctor is confident that it was the environment - a possible kink in the cord, something funky with the placenta, of course the low amniotic fluid levels - and nothing to do with her. PHEW!!!!

We talked about timing of her going home. We still have to take this day-by-day but the doctor said conservatively speaking, it would be her due date (March 7). Realistically speaking, the average stay time is four weeks, which would put us at Valentine's Day. And of course I'm hoping for an even shorter time - maybe two or three weeks for my girl.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Awash in miracles

With the Jets winning Sunday afternoon, I should have known that the rest of my day would be filled with miracles.

During the fourth quarter of the Jets-Patriots game, I was hooked up to the NST. Baby girl's heartbeat was fairly good - I thought it was my best NST ever. Toward the end of the test, there was one dip, which worried the doctor, so I was kept on a bit longer. Things did not improve, so I was whisked away to the labor and delivery unit. This was my third visit to this unit, so Jeremy and I were able to keep our cool. The only thing that wasn't great was that I hadn't had dinner yet - Jeremy tried calling two different Chinese places to order food and both had out-of-service numbers. This would prove to be one of my miracles later in the evening, since it was a very good thing I didn't eat.

We continued our NST monitoring and the evening wore on - we were blessed with the fact that my BFF Amy was keeping Jack for the night, so Jeremy could stay as long as he was needed. Yet another miracle in the long run!

All of the nurses are very kind here but are on the young side. Midway through my testing, a more senior nurse checked on me. She noted that my IV (which refers to the actual stick in my arm) was about to expire - they need to change them every three to four days. She went ahead and expertly found a new place for a new IV - which again would prove to be very helpful later in the night.

Just as they were about to take me off the monitor, baby girl's heartbeat took a very severe decline. All of a sudden, my room was filled with nurses, an anesthesiologist and the ob/gyn doctor. I don't think I have ever been more scared in my life. They had me on my hands and knees, trying to elevate the baby's heartbeat - I was shaking. The ob/gyn looked at me, smoothed my hair against my head, and said, "Your baby is telling us it's time."

I could not believe it was happening and happening fast, for that matter. They were trying to stabilize her heartbeat - if they couldn't, they were going to put me under and get the baby out immediately. If they could stabilize her heartbeat, then I could receive an epidural and would essentially be awake for the procedure with Jeremy at my side. Luckily, the latter worked out. They rushed me down the hallway on a gurney to the operating room, ER-style. The operating room was cold and bright - a million hands and equipment were swarming over me. I was terrified because I had no idea of how things would proceed. The on-call doctor for my practice arrived and assured me things were going to be fine and she held onto my hand as I got my epidural. The anesthesiologists were fantastic and were constantly monitoring me and telling me what was happening through the procedure. Jeremy joined me, and within moments, baby girl emerged and let out a big, beautiful cry. She was whisked away, and it took about another 45 minutes to finish the c section. Jeremy got to hold the baby and brought her to me. She knew me and I knew her. There was an instant familiarity and she smiled at her mama.

Jocelyn Grace was born at 12:33 a.m. - exactly 33 minutes into my 33rd week of pregnancy. She weighed 3 lbs 6 oz - exactly half the size of her brother Jack at birth. She is small but mighty and we pray and pray that she continues to do well. Today, she has been breathing well on her own, digested all of the milk I provided her with and regulating her temperature well. Her heartbeat has been strong and solid (they are still trying to figure out why things were wonky - they thought they saw some kinks in the cord as an initial explanation).The doctors and nurses comment on how alert she is. Please pray that she continues to thrive in the NICU and that we get to bring her home sooner than later.

We thank God for all of the miracles that happened to bring our strong baby girl to us. And we thank you for your unending support and love.


It's a name for a girl
It's also a thought that changed the world
And when she walks on the street
You can hear the strings
Grace finds goodness in everything

"Grace," U2

Go-to meal: Moroccan sweet potato tagine

As I've mentioned before, friends and family have been so generous with their love and support to Jeremy and me this past week. My friend Sarah, a fellow fundraiser, knows that I'm trying to post at least one new recipe per week, so she shared this new family favorite with me. She's a great person, a wonderful friend and is one of my fellowing founding board members of the Development Leadership Consortium (and our current fearless leader and chair). She left amazing biscotti and banana bread at our condo a few days ago for Jeremy and Jack and has been keeping me entertained through emails. Thank you, Sarah.

So without further adieu...

Moroccan Sweet Potato Tagine
1 onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced (this can be increased or decreased depending on your love of garlic)
Spices: I was generous with all these spices. 1 tsp turmeric
1/2 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp curry powder
1/4 tsp red pepper flakes
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
3/4 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg

4 sweet potatoes, cut into bite-size pieces (or squash if you have those)
3 carrots, cut into bite-size pieces
1/2 cup vegetable broth
14 oz can chickpeas, rinsed and drained
14oz can tomatoes
1/2 cup raisins
dried apricots (about 10-15)
toasted pine nuts

1. In a pot, sauté onions and garlic until soft but not brown.
2. Add spices and cook a few minutes. Stir in sweet potatoes, squash, carrots and broth, and bring to a boil.
3. Reduce heat to low and simmer, covered, for 5 minutes.
4. Add chickpeas, tomatoes and raisins, and simmer, covered, until the potatoes, squash and carrots are tender (about 30 minutes).

Sunday, January 16, 2011

January 16 baby update

I'm starting to really tire of knowing stats and keeping numbers in my head. My NST (nonstress tests) are still nonreactive but my BPP (biophysical profile) test was an 8 out of 8 today, which trumps the NST.  At my ultrasound today, we learned that baby girl is breech again - the same technician did the ultrasound yesterday where we found she was not breech, so I don't think this is human error.  Despite me drinking a ton of water yesterday (100 oz or more - my skin looks fabulous by the way), my amniotic fluid level went down to 4.44 from 6.94 (again, something that can be affected by human error as the technician tallies up the total) and while my drinking a ton of water can help, it's not the only factor, of course.

I try not to think about this too much but I just pray that whatever is happening, it's not because the baby is unhealthy. I pray and pray that she is fine - I take great hope seeing her "breathing" on the ultrasound that her lungs are developing well and she will be a champ breathing on her own, if she comes early; her vital organs all look good according to the doctors; and she likes to open and close her mouth (already practicing talking, I'm sure).  

The on-call doctor from my practice and I spoke today. She is going to reduce my NSTs from 3 times a day to 2 times a day, which is good. It's stressful on me to continue to see "nonreactive" results, and if there's a new doctor on duty at the hospital, they have to be educated that this is unfortunately my normal. If they don't get this, then I've been sent to labor and delivery for more intensive monitoring.

On my own, I'll continue to monitor her kicks and movement. The on-call doctor approached the idea of me coming in for outpatient monitoring in the coming days (allowing me to go home!) but could make no promises. I'll be able to talk with my doctor tomorrow to learn more. Luckily, our dear friend Amy is keeping Jack today and tomorrow, so Jeremy can be here with me full-time. I'm so glad to have him here.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

January 15 baby update

Today was a good day - we got an 8 out of 8 on our biophysical profile - yea! And the amniotic fluid levels are ever-so-slightly up to 6.94 (from 6.88 yesterday - I'm taking every victory I can).  Plus, my fickle girl turned around again, so she's no longer breech - yea! My fetal non-stress tests (that measure the heartbeat) are not getting worse - they just aren't showing significant progress and being more "reactive." Not sure where that leaves me but I'm determined to be positive. I've been praying a lot - this is truly in God's hands, and that gives me a sense of a strong foundation to approach each new day. Thank you for your good thoughts and wishes!

Just so you know...

I won't let myself get too down - I've been upset to be sure this week - seeing Jack last night and then having him leave was heart-wrenching. But I'm trying to be positive and full of faith, hope and peace. This is mind over matter, people! The sun is shining, baby girl's heartbeat rate test was better last night, and I even had time to renew my library books online this morning. You cannot get this gal down for long, I promise you.

Friday, January 14, 2011

January 14 baby update

Well, here's the news - the good, the bad, and the cute:

Good: I just had my BPP (biophysical profile) test and my amniotic fluid levels actually went up! Yesterday they were 4.4, and today they are at 6.88! Also, Jeremy has spent the whole day with me, which has really lifted my spirits.

Bad: The last two heartbeat rate tests I've had have ended in me going back to the labor and delivery unit for prolonged monitoring. Both times my results were okay but not great. I am hoping that the increased amniotic fluid levels will bring better results in the coming days.

On the flipside (no pun intended), we also learned this afternoon that baby girl somehow moved herself around and is now breech. At the moment, I'm numb to that news, considering what else we've been through. And here I thought Jack was high-maintenance.

I think our plan of action for the coming days is to just keep going with the monitoring and hope for positive results - please pray and send good thoughts that my amniotic fluid levels continue to go up and that baby girl flips back around.

And the cute: When we were in the labor and delivery unit this morning, we heard a baby crying out its first cries. What a wonderful sound that was. We also learned - and I'm sure no one would be surprised - that our baby girl has a full head of hair - so much so that we could see it on the ultrasound. Looking forward to kissing that sweet head soon.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

January 13 baby update

Character-building can summarize today. It started off well - I got up early, got a shower and breakfast. Morning tests went well and I had two visitors. In the afternoon, things started to change. I found out my amniotic fluid levels are down further and the doctors didn't love our little one's heartbeat rate tests. I ended up being on the monitor for nearly seven hours and was moved back to the labor and delivery unit. My heart was broken again - Jack was supposed to visit tonight, but they don't allow little ones in labor and delivery. They actually were going to make an exception for him after seeing my reaction, but it was easier to just ask Maria to keep him so he could have a normal evening and Jeremy could be here with me.

But - we made it through another day. My tests were good enough that I've avoided any inducement tonight. I'm glad - being in this labor and delivery room, with the little baby warmer looming next to me, I'm glad I've bought another day for our little miss.

Until tomorrow...

Thank you

I say it over and over - I'm so grateful for everyone's support and love. Jeremy's and my immediate families in New York and Cleveland are ready to fly out here at a moment's notice to help. Maria has been wonderful with taking more time with Jack and providing him with a normal daily routine (and he's thriving). My girlfriends are wonderful - some of the BFFs stopped by last night with flowers, fun shower gels, chocolate chip muffins and a baby book (I was lamenting that I wasn't prepared for this baby girl - I don't even own a baby book for her, which is only a ridiculous statement I would make). Everyone's offered to watch Jack, including my friend Alissa in Columbus who is willing to take him for a few days if we're here longer. I've heard from friends and family far and wide - thank you. I particularly appreciate other people's stories about being in the hospital and their experiences in the NICU - and all of the wonderfully strong children who were once preemies. Coworkers and board members from Openlands are planning visits, for which I'm extremely grateful. 

Jeremy and I are in this together as a team, and I'm so thankful for our relationship - he's taking good care of Jack at home, trying to do a bit of work, visiting me daily and bringing me things and managing our renovation project at home.

I pulled this quote from one of my favorite blogs this morning; completely different context from what she beautifully wrote but it resonates with this week's experiences:

Sometimes grace manifests as synchronicity-its energy brings together people or events in a soothing, helpful, or dramatic way when you most need it and least expect it. At other times grace is the energy that suddenly illuminates us with understanding, allowing us to see what we had not been able to grasp before. Grace can also lift us into an altered state of consciousness in which we feel suffused by an unfamiliar energy -an indescribable combination of love, hope, and fearlessness.
Caroline Myss, Why People Don't Heal and How They Can

And I'm keeping close a Bible verse that my sister Laura shared with me at the beginning of this week:

For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future."
Jeremiah 29:11

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

So I'm in baby jail

I can't complain, and I really, really, really shouldn't - I'm here for my baby's health. And Prentice Women's Hospital is about as nice as they come - three years old and has all of the bells and whistles. I have my own private room, complete with wireless Internet and a flat-screen TV. (The first day I was here, they had an a/v gal stop by to make sure I knew how to work everything.) I push a button, and the nurse brings me water and whatever else I request. They have on-call room service, so I can choose meals from a menu, anytime of the day or night. My bathroom has really nice tile even - they really have tried to make these rooms homey. I'm trying to stay positive and just get into the spirit of things. I even ordered chocolate pudding with my lunch today because it seemed very "hospital" to me.

And while I'm away from my dear son, I'm also away from wiping tushies, washing dishes and making beds. I'm hoping this little visit will do wonders for my chapped hands! Jeremy's been great, and after night two of being home alone with Jack, he asked me to never leave him (I've said this on occasion to him too when he travels for business). We make a great team, and I know he appreciates me, but now he really appreciates me.

So I'm stopped in my tracks on normal life - it took hospital admission to make this working mama relax. But I admit: I'm still trying to stay busy. I'm very much a list person, so I've been making lists and having Jeremy run through Jack's nighttime routine, so I can feel like I'm a part of it. I send Jeremy silly reminders like to eat the strawberries that we bought at Costco this past weekend - we have so many and I don't want them to go to waste. I'm going a tad crazy being stuck here, but I know it's what is best. My days are actually going very quickly - just between tests and talking with doctors.

The support from family and friends has been overwhelming...thank you. More to come. I will leave you with what my prescribed activity was for today:

January 12 baby update

For my time here at the hospital, I'll post a daily baby update to report on our health. I'm sure other posts will come up as well - being here by myself has given me a lot of time to think of things to write about, so more to come. Here's the quick and dirty update for today:

My blood test came back normal - our little girl's blood is not leaking into mine - there's no leak in the umbilical cord. My mom had raised concerns about anemia since we have some family history, but my iron levels are strong, and there's no indication that the little one is anemic either - Jeremy would have to be tested to be 100% sure. The only answer they can give me is that maybe there is a kink in the umbilical cord, which is wreaking havoc with her heartbeat. They are not suggesting that there is anything wrong with the baby herself - her vital organs look great, which is a relief to me.

The erratic heartbeat is the doctor's biggest concern. If it was just the low amniotic fluid levels (which are slowly improving - Monday was 6.36; yesterday was 6.64; a normal range is 8-14), she would release me and I would come back twice a week for testing. But since little girl isn't showing great signs of improvement on heartbeat rate, I remain here for heartbeat rate monitors three times a day and one ultrasound per day. The good thing is that the heart rate is not getting worse. they'd just like to see her accelerate her heartbeat a bit more (going from say 135 bpm to 160 bpm in a steady motion) and they don't want to see any crazy drops (basically, they said it was like her holding her breath). Today, for example, she dropped to 80 bpm for 1.5 minutes and that concerned them but then she returned to a more favorable level of 150 bpm, so I don't have to be on constant monitoring. I just remain here.

So, my doctor said I should plan to be here through the weekend at least, so I'm preparing myself for that. Our little girl basically has to show remarkable progress in her heart rate - what we're praying for is that if there is a kink in the umbilical cord, it will work itself out because that might solve the problem. My doctor had a patient where this just miraculously happened and she was sent home and went to full-term. So that's the best plan I have - the heartbeat rate remarkably improves, and I can go home and maybe even back to work (this isn't a bed rest issue - it's just about keeping me here in the hospital for monitoring). The next best plan is that things remain the same - they don't get worse, but they don't improve by a lot. If that's the case, we'll keep doing what we're doing and I will remain in the hospital for the coming week for monitoring. I'll be induced January 24, which will be week 34 for baby girl. She will be more than 4 lbs and will look like a giant in the NICU. Fingers crossed, she'll only have to be in the NICU at that point for a few days. Worst case scenario would be if the heartbeat rate dramatically worsens and I would be induced sooner. But all signs are pointing toward at least staying steady, if not improving, so I hope we can avoid that last case!

More daily updates to come...

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

We're okay

This afternoon, Jeremy asked me what day it was, and when I answered, "Tuesday," he replied he couldn't believe what a long week it has already been.

Granted he told me this as I sat in a hospital bed and he was sitting in a chair next to me, legs outstretched.  

This week's journey started in the wee hours of Monday morning. I realized I hadn't felt baby girl kick in a good while and started to really worry - to the point of quietly crying. 

Late that morning, I was very distracted at work and was grateful that my doctor could see me. They hooked me up to a non-stress test that follows the baby's heartbeat. The baby's heartbeat was a bit erratic - taking deep dips and they did a quick ultrasound and noticed my amniotic levels were quite low. They admitted me to the hospital right away.

I've been here since, going through a lot of tests. We talked to the high-risk ob gyn this morning. They want to keep me at the hospital for the next two weeks to monitor the baby's heartbeat and the low amniotic levels. There is still a chance I might even deliver this week but that is looking less and less likely.

We are taking this day by day. After meeting with the NICU doctor today, I'd really like to make it to 35 weeks (on Monday, we were at 32 weeks) - we would avoid automatically going to the NICU at that point, which would be such a blessing.

The doctor we spoke with this morning called my situation very unique. There's nothing been written about it. I am healthy, the baby's growth is good...he put out the idea that maybe there was some sort of leak through the cord and the baby's blood is leaking into my blood stream, causing the baby to be anemic, which is affecting her heart and maybe the amnio levels. They took blood to test this, and I haven't heard back yet.

My heart is breaking at the idea of being away from my Jack, but I am keep my hopes high that I can return home earlier than two weeks and just keep this little girl inside for a bit longer. Jeremy's in charge at home and is doing a great job.

The doctor said that everything could be just fine. He even noted that if we didn't have the information we have now, this pregnancy could have very well been just fine on its own. This is just one giant precautionary exercise to quote my husband. Since the doctors have this information now, they simply can't let me leave.

Jeremy and I are blessed with our family, friends and good health. I am in the best place I can be, and I kid that this is my vacation - I have my own TV, my own bed and room service. My family and friends have been wonderful, offering help and promising visits if I'm here for awhile.

Please send good thoughts and prayers our way. We had a good day today. Baby girl did a great job on all of our tests and is kicking and moving around well. I am determined to be an A+ student so we can be sent home earlier. My goal is Friday - there, I said it. I'm almost overwhelmed at the excess of health care I'm receiving, but I know that they must take this prenatal care very seriously.

Hey did I mention we started a brief renovation project on our condo Monday too? When it rains, it pours!

More updates to come...I'm off to watch Glee now.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Does dessert count?

So a week ago, I made my pledge to post a go-to meal every Monday. I tried this shepherd's pie recipe last night - it was okay but not blog-worthy. It used practically every pot in my house, seemed pretty unhealthy (we didn't do the blue cheese) and my mashed potatoes were kind of gloppy. Overall ho-hum. But Mommy saves the day! I made The Barefoot Contessa's lemon yogurt cake for dessert and got rave reviews from my biggest fans. I loved it because it doesn't require a mixer:

Lemon Yogurt Cake

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 cup plain whole-milk yogurt (we used no-fat and it worked fine)
1 1/3 cups sugar, divided
3 extra-large eggs
2 teaspoons grated lemon zest (2 lemons)
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1/3 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice

For the glaze:
1 cup confectioners' sugar
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Grease an 8 1/2 by 4 1/4 by 2 1/2-inch loaf pan. Line the bottom with parchment paper. Grease and flour the pan.

Sift together the flour, baking powder, and salt into 1 bowl. In another bowl, whisk together the yogurt, 1 cup sugar, the eggs, lemon zest, and vanilla. Slowly whisk the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients. With a rubber spatula, fold the vegetable oil into the batter, making sure it's all incorporated. Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake for about 50 minutes, or until a cake tester placed in the center of the loaf comes out clean.

Meanwhile, cook the 1/3 cup lemon juice and remaining 1/3 cup sugar in a small pan until the sugar dissolves and the mixture is clear. Set aside.

When the cake is done, allow it to cool in the pan for 10 minutes. Carefully place on a baking rack over a sheet pan. While the cake is still warm, pour the lemon-sugar mixture over the cake and allow it to soak in. Cool.

For the glaze, combine the confectioners' sugar and lemon juice and pour over the cake.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Winter's not so bad

I have to admit - I kind of like the winter months. I'm not the biggest fan of cloudy days, and Chicago has its fair share these these days, but those seriously chilly but sunny days like today are fine by me. We've been spending a lot of time sitting around on the "Mommy's bed" - Jack reading stories or playing games on the iPad and Jeremy and I watching TV or leafing through magazines. This afternoon, we just finished an epic trip to Costco, and our kitchen is filled with economy-sized boxes. Our Christmas decorations are still up because we like the twinkling lights at night.

Everything will probably be put away tomorrow - Monday, our tiny abode will be turned upside-down as we start a renovation project to close off the walls in our loft condo. But for now, it's a cozy sweater for me, matching Jets sweatshirts for my guys, slippers and lots of down time. Happy Saturday!

Monday, January 3, 2011

Go-to meals start today

So my sister-in-law graduates from law school this spring, and her boyfriend graduates from business school. Not that they will have a ton of free time on their hands as busy professionals, but they are looking for more weeknight dinners in their lives. They've inspired me to start a new Monday post - for the next 52 weeks, I'll post a good go-to meal for a weeknight; whatever keeps you busy, you surely need more go-to meals in your life.  I'm still formulating my guidelines, but here's what I've got so far:

  • Takes no more than 45 minutes to complete (may require some prep work on Sunday, like marinating).
  • It doesn't "hide" ingredients - I really don't like the idea of being deceptive with kids - hiding vegetables in baked goods, etc. I say this as a mother of a good eater....if #2 is a picky eater, I may change my tune!
  • Is relatively healthy and definitely contains some vegetables.
  • A good option for kids and adults alike.
I'm mailing in my first Monday meal because besides my resolution to eat good food, my other resolution is to celebrate daily joys. And tonight, I'm celebrating my friends' kindness - our nannyshare friends (and friends way beyond the nannyshare) are bringing over dinner, which is greatly appreciated by this 7-month pregnant mama whose husband is out of town.  

So without further adieu, check out this family favorite: crispy beef with broccoli. This can be made with chicken and firm tofu as well. If you'd like to submit your favorite weeknight dinner, please email me - I'd love to feature you.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Happy new year

It's 6:48 a.m. on New Year's Day, and I'm sure only the parents of small children are awake right now.

I've been thinking a lot about this new year. I often feel overwhelmed about what I have to accomplish, let alone the unknown of what might come up. A new baby in March, numerous work challenges as we close out a fundraising campaign, renovations to our condo, Jeremy finding his best footing in his new job, we securing a good preschool for Jack, and finding time not only for our little family but for our wider family and friends.

Yesterday, a profoundly sad moment happened - the good friends of my sister and brother-in-law lost their unborn baby, after they took every step they could - including in utero surgery. They are really good people, and I can't help but ask God, why them? The only comfort is knowing that everything happens for a reason, and I pray that these friends, through their faith, will find peace. Unfortunately, it takes critical moments like these to make me stop for a second and remind me of the blessings I have in life, like these two:

A toast to the new year at Chalkboard, December 31, 2010

Everyone has their challenges for 2011 - may you have a strong foundation and many blessings to take you through this year. Celebrate the joys of everyday life and enjoy some good food along the way. That's my wish for you and me on this early dawn of a new year.