Kale Chips

Happy Boxing Day, Cradled in Joy followers! I’ve gotten you a present: kale chips! Here, try a bite…

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Oh, sorry, I didn’t realize your computer doesn’t have the food teleporter attachment. Well, I hope you don’t mind my chewing sounds while I type. What? You don’t hear those either? Well, that’s nice at least!

You’re probably wondering: why is a birth doula giving me a recipe for kale chips? The answer is simple: Whether you’re growing a fetus, feeding a picky toddler, or just plain going about your business, kale is phenomenal for your health. It’s high in fiber; vitamins A, C, and K; minerals including calcium, iron, and manganese; and, as vegetables go, it’s even quite protein-rich. I encourage you to try it served all sorts of ways–in soups, as a salad green, blended into a smoothie, sautéed with garlic in butter. But kale is a strong-tasting vegetable, and not every toddler (or, let’s be honest, every mama) enjoys leafy greens as much as we know we should.

But you know what I bet you–and your toddler–enjoy more than you should? Potato chips. I know my four year old can be set into a mania of wheedling by just the sight of a potato chip bag–“Please, Mommy, PLEEEEAAASE?!?!” But what’s more, she can be set into the same frenzy by a bag of kale chips. That’s right, my preschooler begs for kale. (And, to preserve the mystery, I confess to limiting her intake: “Oh, gee, honey, I dunno. I reckon you’re gonna have to eat more of your [whatever else I served, that is doubtless less healthy] before I can give you any more kale!”)

So here’s my recipe, simplified from my friend Chelsea’s Real Food‘s utterly-amazing-but-too-complex-for-simple-cooks-like-me version (hers is available Saturdays at the Athens Farmers Market, and you know you want some!):

1 bunch of kale (I prefer crinkly varieties–they maintain more height, like potato chips with ridges, but you may prefer the smooth kind)
a couple Tbsp lemon juice (bottled is fine by me, though Chelsea uses fresh)
a couple Tbsp olive oil
about 1 tsp salt
a goodly shake (1/4 cup?) of nutritional yeast (yes, I know, this is a semi-obscure ingredient, but not expensive; in the Athens, Ohio, area it can be found at the Farmacy or the Bulk Food Depot, and it is crucial to this recipe)

In a large mixing bowl, stir together the lemon juice, olive oil, salt, and nutritional yeast.
Wash your kale, rip it off the stalks and into bits about 4″ across. Discard the stalks (or save them for making broth!). Toss the kale pieces in the dressing, then rub them briskly in your hands until they reduce in volume by almost half.
Lay the kale pieces in a single layer in a food dehydrator and process till done. Time will vary depending on your dehydrator (mine is an antique with no fan and takes about a day; the nicer kind are done in a couple hours). You can also dehydrate food in a low oven, about 200*, though I’m the sort of dum-dum who manages to burn everything that way. Dehydrators are only about $25 these days, and my family eats rather a lot of kale chips and apple chips (bonus recipe: slice apples and put them in the dehydrator. That’s all).

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Navigating the Second Trimester

Ah, the second trimester; you are finally starting to show a little bit of cute pregnancy belly, the morning sickness is mostly gone, and the hormonal swings have calmed down for the time being.  This is a great time to take some time for yourself and get yourself comfortable before that baby starts taking up space.  You may notice a few aches and pains near the end of the second trimester as your hips and ribs expand to make room for your growing uterus.  If you have an exhausting day, sit back with a cup of tea and a good book; your body is doing more work than you even know!

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Choosing your birth and breastfeeding class

By the end of the second trimester, you should be ready to sign up for your Lamaze birth class and breastfeeding class.  Ideally, you will find a class that covers both topics together.  A good class will give you more time to ask questions, get to know other expectant families, and practice natural laboring techniques.  Even if you plan to get an epidural, you should still have some tools to cope with pain for two reasons. 1: some epidurals don’t completely take, and you may still be stuck feeling a couple things. 2: you may not be able to get your epidural the second you start feeling labor pains, so it is good to know how to cope until anesthesia can get to you.  Remember, the more you know about birth, the more you can be empowered and have control over your birth experience.

Tips, tricks and favorite products:

Clothes

As your body changes, you may find that some of your old clothes don’t fit.  You will definitely want to invest in some comfortable supportive bras, maternity pants and dresses.  Trust me on this; by the time you get to your last month, you will be thankful for the dresses because nothing else will feel good.  Also, invest in a nice pair of slip-on shoes one shoe size bigger than your current shoe size.  You will thank yourself when you can’t reach your toes.

Books

Now is a good time to start reading up on the birth process and breastfeeding.  Yes, it will be covered in your birth class, but you will be so overwhelmed with all the new information that it will be hard to absorb.  If you start the learning process on your own late in the second trimester, you will have time to ask questions about the parts that you truly don’t understand.  Most birth books are pretty good at covering the process, but I liked The Complete Book of Pregnancy and Childbirth and Breastfeeding Made Simple.

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Fitness

As your body grows, you may find that your regular exercise routine is getting a little uncomfortable.  Prenatal yoga is a great way to keep your body in shape and prepare it for birth.  Most yoga studios offer special rates for expectant mothers, so give it a try!  It will help you relax and stay fit for your little one! And you can always stock up on DVD’s if your budget is tight!

Your body

As your body grows, you may find that sleeping starts to get a little more uncomfortable.  If you are burying yourself in a mountain of pillows, you might want to consider getting a pregnancy body pillow.   Oh, and don’t forget to keep drinking water.  Dehydration can cause all sorts of issues in pregnancy, and it is so easy to prevent!

See also:

Navigating the First Trimester

Navigating the Third Trimester

Navigating the First Trimester

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Congratulations, you are pregnant!  The first trimester can be a very exciting time as you relish in the thought that you will soon be bringing a child into the world.  The hardest decisions for you right now likely will be choosing a care provider and deciding when to tell your family.  Pregnancy monitoring during the first trimester is pretty laid back; you generally only go in about once a month for checkups at this point.  At 8 weeks, most expectant mothers will have an ultrasound to check the fetus for viability and determine a more accurate due date.

Choose your provider

When you choose your care provider, take your time.  You want to make sure that you will be on the same page throughout your pregnancy and during the birth process.  You will also need to have a good idea of what kind of birth you want; many OB’s will not attend home births and most states have rather specific laws about what midwives can and can’t do in hospitals.  If you want a natural birth, ask your care provider how he or she feels about letting you labor at home, the necessity of common interventions like breaking your water and also check his or her C-Section rate.  High cesarean rates don’t necessarily mean that your care provider won’t support a natural birth, but they do mean that your care provider’s experience and training are more geared in that direction.

Planning ahead

You don’t have to be ready for birth right now, but you will probably want to consider what type of birth and postpartum experience are important to you.  You can consult pregnancy books to learn a little bit about different birth plans.  For your postpartum, you may want to start thinking about how you will find the support you need to breastfeed (a doula is a great choice!) and make it through those first sleep-deprived weeks.

Tips, tricks, and favorite products:

Morning sickness

For morning sickness, nothing really worked for me.  Everyone suggested I eat saltines, but they only made me more sick.  What worked for me?  Ginger beer (with real ginger bits), sour patch kids and Preggie Pops.  Apparently sour things (and cheese) were the only things that agreed with me. I also was a big fan of tea, and Earth Mama Angel Baby makes a great Morning Wellness tea if you are into that.  And remember that your body is pre-programmed to feed your baby first, so he or she will be fine even if you have days where the eating is at a minimum.

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Fitness

It is important to keep exercising while you are pregnant.  In fact, if you are currently running or cycling regularly, you don’t even have to stop with your normal routine. You’ll probably not be up to a brisk jog in your final month, but for now, keep it up.  The exercise will help your baby grow and keep morning sickness and exhaustion to a minimum.  You might be tired, but make a point to get up off the couch once a day to take care of your changing body.

Books

For starters, let me state that I never got into entire line of “What to Expect” books.  They aren’t bad, but they aren’t really the best resource you can have at your fingertips.  When you go to select your pregnancy book, take some time to look at the entire shelf.  I have personally found that the Dr. Sears pregnancy book and the Great Expectations pregnancy book are my two favorites: they present all of the information you need in a balanced way that makes you feel empowered during your pregnancy.

Your body

You may not look pregnant yet, but your body is already starting to change, and you need to start preparing now.  First, invest in a large stainless steel or BPA-free plastic water bottle.  Trust me, you will be dying of thirst until the day you stop nursing, so just invest in the prettiest, coolest water bottle you can so that you always have plenty to drink no matter where you are.  Second, find a way to unwind–whether that is through a daily yoga DVD or a monthly prenatal massage, it’s time to relax and prepare your mind and body to support this baby!

Finally, now is the time to start moisturizing that belly so your stretch marks don’t stick around for the rest of your life.  Let me clarify: every woman gets stretch marks.  But good moisturization and hydration during and after pregnancy will help them disappear to practically nothing. Personally, I loved the Mama Bee Belly Cream, made by Burt’s Bees and the Earth Mama Angel Baby belly oil.

Now, it’s your turn: What worked for you in the first trimester??????

See also:

Navigating the Second Trimester

Navigating the Third Trimester

What Should I Do?

From the moment you find yourself standing in a pharmacy staring at the eight bazillion home pregnancy test choices (plus or minus? one line or two? digital?), parenthood is an unending parade of decisions that need making.

Where's the plus sign??

Doctor or midwife? Hospital or home? Cloth or disposable? Breast or bottle? Amniocentesis? Circumcision? Vaccines? Soft cheeses? Stay home or return to work? Work from home? Prenatal yoga? Postnatal yoga? Moxibustion? Caffeine? Weekly vaginal checks? Herbal supplements? Placenta encapsulation? What if you go past your due date? What if the ultrasound indicates a problem? What if your kid drops out of high school, or is gay, or likes football? How will you discipline? Which car seat should you buy? What color should you paint the nursery? Are you even allowed to paint the nursery?

It is the great blessing of the time in which we live that answers are only a few keystrokes away. I know only one person, a music librarian specializing in the obscure, who has in the last decade managed to query Google and get zero results. When it comes to pregnancy, birth, and parenting, every question has been asked, and every question has been answered. There are dozens of reputable websites staffed by credentialed medical professionals providing answers to all the common, and most of the uncommon, maternity questions. There are forums, blogs, Facebook, and the lady behind you in line at the grocery store, too. And, as you will know by the time your pregnancy shows, they all have opinions.

Obviously some of these sources are more reliable than others. Late in my first pregnancy, the teenager bagging my groceries scolded me for buying a 40-pound sack of cat litter. My CNM, on the other hand, had told me to continue my normal activities, just taking a little extra care of my balance and posture. Trusting that my provider knew more about the matter than the bagger, I went ahead and lifted the sack of cat litter. (I also would have taken her advice that people who have lived with cats all their lives, and do not currently have kittens, are at low risk of a toxoplasmosis infection and can safely change cat litter—except cat litter is already one of my spouse’s chores.)

But what happens when the opposing recommendations come from less clear sources than midwife vs. grocery clerk? What if it’s your mother in law versus your best friend from high school? One pregnancy book versus another? Google answers versus a moms’ group on Facebook? What’s worse: a 1:100 chance of mildly bad outcome, or a 1:10,000 chance of very bad outcome? What happens when your sense of what’s best for society doesn’t align with what’s best for your family?

You can try to seek information, you can make lists of pros and cons, tabulate prices and time commitments and what the neighbors will think. But often there is no one right way. In fact, there is almost never a bright and shining sign from the heavens: “Go this way, Mother, and your child will be well, you will be well, and no one will wind up in therapy.” The secret of parenthood – perhaps of life – is this: you do the best you can. You learn, you listen, you reflect, and the you decide. You do the best you can with what you’ve got. Maybe later you learn something new, something that would have made you choose differently. That’s okay. You did the best you could. Maybe your kid grows up to deal hard drugs to children. That’s… Well, that’s not okay. But you couldn’t have known that would happen when you chose the pregnancy test with the + sign.

So cut yourself some slack. Allow that sometimes you’ll be wrong. Sometimes there will be no right. Sometimes you’ll do everything right and things will somehow still go wrong. Sometimes you’ll wish you’d chosen a celibate life as a crazy cat lady and never seen that dratted + sign at all. Except in the next breath – or more likely in the same one – you’ll never wish that at all.

Trimester Tuesdays: The “Try”-mester

 
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This post is a little bit about TTC, or Trying to Conceive.  For some couples, this comes easily, while other couples struggle with infertility and pregnancy loss.  I am not a medical professional, so it is hard for me to get into the ins and outs of trying to conceive, but I will pass along the few things I DO know in the hopes that you can discuss them with your care provider and set up a plan that works for you.
To wait or not to wait?
This week, 47-year-old Halle Berry gave birth to a beautiful baby boy.  With stories like this common in the media, you might think that you don’t have to worry about getting pregnant until you are well established in your career and personal life.  For many people, this plan will work, but for many others you may be missing a window.  I don’t want to get into the whole “biological clock” debate, but it is true that it starts to get harder to conceive between the ages of 30 and 40.  It is important to make sure you are emotionally ready to care for a child before you try, but it is also important to remember that if you wait until you have enough money, job success, etc to have a child, you may never be ready to have one. No matter what you decide, make sure you talk it over with your partner and make the decision together.
Understand your body
You already probably know that you ovulate and you menstruate, but fertility is a little more complex than that.  One method of trying to conceive is known as the “maybe baby,” where you simply stop using contraceptive tools and see what happens.  For many people, this will result in a pregnancy, but for many others it may not be the best way to take advantage of your fertility window.  What is your fertility window?  You may have heard that you ovulate on day 14, but this actually varies from woman to woman, so you really need to know the ins and outs of your personal fertility cycle. Basal body temperature, cervical fluid and cervical position can all help give you a clue when you are in a fertile time period.  I highly recommend the book Taking Charge of your Fertility by Toni Weschler as a great guide to your cycle.  Plus, the book includes digital help and a collection of charts to help you with conception and even pregnancy prevention.
Be patient
It can take up to 6 months or longer for many couples to conceive.  Because unexpected pregnancies are quite common, most people assume that it is an easy process.  However, many factors must line up right for a child to come into being.  Age, diet and environment can be big factors in how easily you will get pregnant.  Remember also that it can take a long time for your body to kick back into gear after quitting long-term birth control. If you have been trying for a year with no success, it may be time to talk to your care provider about possible issues and solutions.
Check your environment
It is suspected that household chemicals and products may have some effect on conception abilities.  Try to avoid harsh cleaners and chemicals, as well as any plastics that contain BPA.  You may also want to avoid products containing hormones, such as traditional dairy foods or perfumes with pheromones.  Take a look at this article to find some common household hormone disrupters and get them out of your home: http://pregnant.thebump.com/getting-pregnant/fertility-ovulation/articles/10-ways-home-making-you-infertile.aspx?MsdVisit=1
Relax and be healthy
Stress can make baby making not so fun.  Relax and let chance be your guide. Keep eating a healthy diet full of whole grains, fruits and vegetables and remember to exercise at least three times a week.  If your body is happy and healthy and stress-free, you are increasing your chances of conception just by making a safe and stress-free home for your babe.
Dealing with infertility
If you are having trouble conceiving, I am going to add a few comments from a friend who was diagnosed with PCOS and struggled with infertility.  I found her advice very helpful and hope you do too.
“I wanted to share just a few things we had hoped we knew beforehand. One is that when you go to the doctor for infertility, DONT say that is what you’re there for because typically infertility is not covered by insurance companies. We learned that the hard way. If you simply say you’re there for PCOS or whatever other health condition you have that may be limiting your chances of getting pregnant, then you shouldn’t end up with crazy bills to pay afterwards. Also, when you are diagnosed with a health condition, say ‘I’ve been diagnosed with …’ Rather than ‘I have …’ Because when you say ‘I have PCOS’, then you own it, it is yours. It’s really a mental thing. Just a matter of it not taking control of you.”
For the record, she did eventually get pregnant, so there is often hope out there if you seek out help and support!
I hope this was a good launching point for your TTC journey.  The best thing you can do is get involved in the process.  Reach out to other women and get on some boards for tips, tricks and people to help you through on your journey to create a baby!