Strawberry Jam!

Jude and I have been having so much fun this summer!  I have been home for just 2 weeks, but I feel like we have already had the opportunity to do so many fun things together.  I have found that the secret to life with a toddler is having a few things planned to do so he doesn’t just tear up the house out of boredom =)  One of our favorite things to do this summer has been visiting a lot of our local farmer’s markets and produce stands, and Jude has been in LOVE with all the fresh, local strawberries we have enjoyed lately.  I have been talking about learning to can and asking for home canning materials for about 3 years now, but I finally got around to trying my hand at making some homemade strawberry jam with Jude today.  I decided that canning the jam was the best way to go for us as our freezer space is a little limited at the moment.  I’m happy to say that we had a really good time and I guess we will need to wait to see if the jam came out, but I am hopeful!

All of our canning supplies, plus our yummy strawberries from a local produce market.

Heating up the jars-I had 12 oz. jars on hand, so that’s what I used!

Jude loved helping because it gave him the opportunity to eat as many berries as he could!

Mashing the berries with our handy-dandy potato masher

I think Jude’s favorite job was washing all of the berries.

My theory for raising babies is that children and clothes can always be washed =) I tend to be a messy cook myself, so he gets it honest!

Our finished product-10 jars of homemade jam!

I relied heavily on the Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving for directions on how to can and my recipe was from the Pioneer Woman which you can find here, although I used the recipe from her second cookbook which made a larger quantity-I figured if I was going to all the trouble of canning, I wanted a decent amount.

Since it went so well I’m itching to try some other recipes for canning, and I’ll share any that are particularly magical =)  What do you like to can?


Journey to a Family of 4-Part 2

If you read my post yesterday, I mentioned that this pregnancy has been quite a journey (and we are only 13 weeks into it!).  I never want to give the impression that I’m ungrateful for anything that has happened, because I certainly understand what it is like to loose a pregnancy, but in case anyone out there doesn’t have a stress-free pregnancy, I thought it was best to be truthful.

So as I mentioned yesterday that we found ourselves holding a positive pregnancy test 8 weeks after my D&E from my 3rd pregnancy, and 2 months before our doctor had recommended that we try again.  This time I called the doctor immediately, and they wanted to see me immediately.  I had an appointment when they estimated me to be 5 weeks along.  At this appointment, the PA-C that I saw gave me some options-she said that she could go ahead and do a sonogram, but it was definitely too early to see a heartbeat, and would possibly even be too early to see anything at all.  If I needed the comfort, she said she could measure whatever she found, and have me come back in 2-3 days later and measure it again just to show growth.  True story: I hate making decisions at the doctor’s office-I always feel like I have a very short amount of time to make a big decision.  I decided that I just needed to have faith that everything would be okay, and I was fine just to come back in closer to 7 weeks when it should be very obvious whether or not there was a heartbeat.  I was also given the option of having a progesterone supplement as this was one of the things that was discussed as a possible cause of my last miscarriage, but I decided to forgo that as well since they had absolutely no evidence that I had an imbalance.  I can not tell you the peace that I felt when I left this appointment.  I felt like I had shown faith that my child’s life was in God’s hands, not mine.  I think I stopped at Target on the way home and spent some time browsing through the baby section.

In the time between this appointment and my next, I came across this verse: “Be strong and of good courage; do not be afraid, nor be dismayed, for the LORD your God is with you wherever you go.” Joshua 1:9.  The post I read it in was about verses that this mother clung to during pregnancy, labor & delivery.  Whenever I had moments of doubt, this is what I turned to.

Again, I felt very peaceful going into my next appointment.  Of course I was anxious to physically see a heartbeat which would make my mommy heart feel good, but I wasn’t really in the mindset that anything could be wrong.  I just FELT like everything should be just fine.  The PA-C came in to do my exam and really the only thing on the docket for this appointment was the internal sonogram.  Side note-the PA-C had a student with her, which I dislike, but having been a student teacher not that long ago, I get it.  So the student began the exam, and having been through quite a few early sonograms I could see that she wasn’t finding anything.  Again, I wasn’t really worried because it wouldn’t be the first time that a student at the OB-GYN had been unsuccessful and the PA-C had stepped in, which is what happened.  I just kept thinking through the verse from Joshua that I mentioned earlier.  To my utter amazement, she couldn’t find anything either, and I do mean nothing.  No baby, no yolk sac, just an empty gestational sac.  Even with my babies I lost we could see where the baby was.  They definitely took some time trying to find something, but to no avail.  Can I just say that I’m weary of falling apart in doctor’s offices?  Because I was still early they didn’t immediately say definitively that it was a blighted ovum or another type of early pregnancy loss.  They scheduled me for a formal sonogram (like I had with my previous pregnancy) about a week later.  If there was still nothing at this sonogram, then we would talk about next steps.

I would say that the next week was my ultimate low point out of all 4 of my pregnancies.  To say I was devastated was an understatement.  The few people that I had shared these details with at the time could tell you that I was ready to call us a family of 3 and be done with it.  I just was not sure that I could go through this again, and I couldn’t get out of my mind that the more miscarriages you have, the more likely it is for you to have more.  I was mad-mad that I had tried so hard to show faith that God was in control of my child’s health, and it wasn’t enough.  I was mad that I didn’t have a sonogram the week before and we could have been a week or two closer to recovering.  I was mad that I was going to again have to tell the people I loved that we were again in mourning, and I was mad that I needed to hold it together at work and pretend that I really, really cared about reading a time signature when all I wanted to do was hibernate at home until I was really prepared to carry on.  It was a bad week.  I’m not proud that this was my response, but again, I promised the truth.  Dustin and I had no hope-our PA-C had told us that she didn’t believe the baby was just too small, and we believed her.  We had discussed next steps, and to his forever credit, Dustin told me he would support whatever I decided to do.

A funny thing happened, though, the day before my sonogram.  I was standing in my kitchen and the thought came to me that maybe I didn’t have a sonogram at my first appointment because if we had had two sonograms in a row that showed nothing we may have called it quits too early.  When this thought came to me, with it came the tiniest smidgen of hope (and I do mean tiny).  The morning of my sonogram I remember praying “God, if you want me to have hope, you are going to need to provide it.”  I drank the massive amount of water required, and prayed for the best.

This sonogram was so different from my previous one just two months earlier.  Instead of an air of secrecy, this technician had the computer screen on in front of me so that I could see everything that she was doing.  We had a brief discussion about why I was there and that it was very likely we wouldn’t see anything, but she wasn’t out to hide anything from me.  She began externally, which I knew she would do, and I wasn’t expecting much of anything because if you remember the previous technician I had said I was too early to see anything externally, and I couldn’t have been much further along than I had been at that point.  Shock is the only word I can use to describe my reaction when not but 10 seconds into the external exam she pointed out to me exactly where my baby was, and where his/her little heartbeat was going strong.  A million thoughts flew through my brain-my baby is okay!  I don’t have to cry in front of this technician today!  Dustin is going to be so surprised!  I seriously can not put into words all the emotions I was feeling, but it was GOOD.  The conclusion that we came to with our PA-C at my follow up appointment was that I must have realized I was pregnant almost immediately and my dates were off, in fact my due date was adjusted by about a week.  I thoroughly enjoyed sharing this good news with those who knew what was going on and to hear their stories that they had been praying that the PA-C had just been wrong and that everything was okay.  It was just as if I didn’t have the strength to pray that way, and our family and friends stood in the gap for us, for which I will be forever grateful.

While I was so relieved that we were back on track, I was anxious to get the first trimester under my belt.  I had another appointment around 9 weeks, had another sonogram, and this time the baby was seen immediately, good healthy heartbeat, everything looked great.  I am aware that it could just be my imagination, but I swear that I began to feel movement soon after this, certainly not frequently, but just enough to make me confident that everything was still going okay.  My next appointment was a month later when I would be about 13 weeks.  I was so excited because getting through those first 12 weeks meant my risk of miscarriage was much lower, I would be in the regular rotation of doctors, and NO MORE INTERNAL SONOGRAMS!  If you have ever had an internal sonogram, you know what I mean =)

So I show up to my 13 week appointment, and I’m feeling good.  I can feel my little peanut dancing around, and I’m confident everything will be just fine.  After the normal blood pressure/heart-rate stuff it was time to find the heartbeat, this time externally (which I was very excited about).  Would you believe that the doctor couldn’t find the heartbeat?  So she grabs the sonogram machine to figure out what is going on.  I probably wouldn’t have become too anxious except that it took about 15 minutes for her to come back and do the sonogram and in that time I began to again question what was going on, and wondering (not for the first time) why it just couldn’t be easy!  I’m very happy to say that when the doctor finally did the sonogram my baby was happily dancing around everywhere which is probably why she couldn’t find the heartbeat.  The heartbeat and measurements look good and so we carry on until our next appointment in another month.

Things I have learned:1)God is bigger than sonogram machines, and the only way to have peace is to continue to put my trust in Him ; 2) I could not be a health care professional and I have nothing but the greatest respect for those who go into that field; 3)Just because the journey has been hard doesn’t mean that it hasn’t been good; and 4)Dustin and I are just blessed to know some wonderful people-family and friends who have seen us through the good, the bad, and the ugly.

Whew…congrats on making it to the end!  I didn’t have my blog up and running when I was pregnant with Jude, so I expect to make some more posts about pregnancy, but I promise, there won’t be any pictures of my naked, prego belly.  Props to those mamas who feel comfortable showing off the bump, but I am not one of them.

Just so we are all clear =)


Journey to a Family of 4-Part 1

I had the best of intentions of announcing our newest addition through one of the cute, Pinterest inspired photos I have seen out there, but I’m currently lacking in time, energy and inspiration, so this will have to do: We are having another baby! In December! Or possibly November if this one takes after his/her brother!  It has been a crazy road, and I thought I would share just in case it could encourage anyone out there going through similar events, or if you are just interested in what’s been going on with us!  It is a long story though, so I thought I should divide it into 2 parts-but rest assured, the new baby is healthy and very active, but more on that tomorrow….

Let’s back up: I shared here about my first pregnancy that sadly ended in miscarriage in July of 2010.  Once we were through all of that, conceived Jude and delivered him, I remember so clearly thinking, “I learned a lot about the difference between what I have control of and what God has control of, it brought Dustin and I closer together, it gives me more compassion and understanding for those who have gone through a similar loss, BUT I do not want to go through that again!” Pretty obvious, I know, but after being able to deliver a full-term baby, I was just hoping beyond all hope that all future pregnancies would be just fine-that it was just a glich as my body geared up for it’s mommy years.

I was one of those crazy women who was ready to get pregnant very soon after having Jude.  My feelings were that I would just as soon experience the really exhausting up all night, nursing day & day stuff all together while I was still used to it, rather than wait until I was rested up and used to sleeping all night, etc.  Of course, my doctors had recommended that after a c-section I should wait an entire year to conceive, but I just honestly wasn’t that worried about it, so we didn’t do anything to prevent pregnancy.  Crazy, I know, but I think after going through a miscarriage I was just so afraid to take any measures to prevent any pregnancies God would give me.  But, low and behold, I had a “side-effect” from nursing for 13 months that I completely wasn’t expecting-to put it delicately-my female cycle didn’t return for an entire year, and when it finally did it was very sporadic and spread much farther apart than before I had Jude.  It was a huge blessing, don’t get me wrong, but when Jude’s birthday rolled around in July, I was really beginning to feel anxious about wanting to get pregnant again, but it just wasn’t happening with my crazy cycle.

Fast forward to December 23-I finally had a positive pregnancy test, and I actually was thrilled about the timing.  My sister was coming home for Christmas that day, and I couldn’t wait to share the news with her.  It had taken much longer than I had hoped, but the baby would come just a month or two after Jude’s 2nd birthday, which I was happy about.  Because of my history of miscarriage, my doctor’s office wanted to see me pretty early, but it ended up being close to 8 weeks (based on my cycle) that I went to the doctor for the first time.  At this appointment we saw a heartbeat, however, the measurement was way off-instead of measuring 8 weeks the baby measured closer to 6 weeks.  Surprisingly, my health care professional wasn’t that worried about it.  After we discussed my crazy cycle, she said that it simply sounded like my dates were off, and the standard procedure is to be scheduled for a formal sonogram (which is much more precise) and adjust the due date if necessary.

I scheduled the sonogram on Martin Luther King Jr. Day because I had off school that day, and my plan was to drop Jude and day care, have the sonogram, and pick him back up to spend the day together.  However, this sonogram that I had will forever be remembered by me as the hands-down worse medical procedure I have ever had.  To begin with, I drank all the water they recommend you drink before such a procedure, but the sonogram technician was almost 20 minutes late in calling me back, and I was so unbelievably uncomfortable that I wasn’t sure I could walk back the hall without having an accident.  I explained this to the technician but she just told me that she needed my bladder full and I would need to wait.  So she started the exam externally, but after about a minute announced that I was too early for her to see anything externally and told me to go to the bathroom.  Then she looked around internally for a few minutes and then told me that she didn’t like the sonogram machine in this room, and would I mind moving to another room, which we did.  She then proceeded to look around internally again and then instructed me to go to the bathroom again because my bladder was full again and she couldn’t see anything.  This would be the moment that the tears came.  She assured me that all this didn’t mean that there was a problem, she just couldn’t get at the part she needed to see.  I was not comforted, but on with the exam we went.  She finally found the corner of my womb she was looking for.  I asked if she could see the baby and she curtly replied that she wasn’t able to give me any details.  She wouldn’t show me the screen-nothing.  And then she started asking questions like, “so you said you had a miscarriage….” You don’t have to be a genius to know what was going on.  So I left the office feeling utterly defeated, albeit with no clear information or diagnosis.  About 20 minutes later I received a call from my doctor’s office asking me come back in right way.  Thankfully because I had been through a miscarriage before they didn’t keep me very long-just reviewed my options, we decided on another D & E procedure which we scheduled for the next day, and that was that. Having been through it before at least meant that I new what to expect with the procedure and recovery, and this time around I had my sweet little boy to comfort me.  The only thing to add is that I have some amazing friends and family who saw us through that time-we needed that support and you were there.

A few weeks later a had my follow-up appointment at my OB-GYN and I wasn’t dreading this appointment, in fact I remember being so encouraged at my follow-up appointment after my first miscarriage.  It was a lot of “this happens to a lot of women” and “stay positive” discussion.  This time was different.  Having had a second miscarriage I was now in a higher risk category and instead of a “good luck & keep trying” speech we discussed possible causes, possible medications to try, and instead of trying again immediately, it was recommended that we wait 3-4 months to see if my cycle would even itself out on its own, have a full medical exam, and possibly start medication at that point if necessary.  More tears.  It was just so much to take in that not only had I endured miscarriage twice, but my chances were now actually higher of miscarrying again and there could actually be something wrong with me causing the miscarriages to happen.  Again, so grateful for those who walked beside me during this time.  I was also stressed about needing to make decisions about medication.  Dustin and I just do not take a lot of medication, and I felt very unsure about it.  I spent a lot of time praying during this time that God would make it very clear what I was supposed to do.

I don’t really consider myself to be that much of a rebel, but despite being told to wait a few months, we didn’t really do anything besides watch the calendar to prevent pregnancy (which if you think about it is kind of hilarious because with my crazy cycle, and I don’t know what we were basing any of this on!).  My 30th birthday came and went and sometime around Easter I had three mornings in a row where I was slammed with a wave of nausea as I was trying to get Jude and I out the door in the morning.  Finally on the third morning it dawned on me that maybe it was time to take a pregnancy test.  Which I did on Good Friday, and for the first time since we have been married I had the first result that I thought was inconclusive (and let’s just say that I have taken a lot of pregnancy tests over the years).  It was a test where one line is no pregnancy and two lines is a pregnancy.  Well my result was the faintest second line you could imagine.  I thought it counted, but Dustin was skeptical.  So I waited until the next Monday-and there it was two clear lines, two months before we were supposed to conceive =)  You would think that after having been through miscarriages that I would be nervous or anxious that I was pregnant again, but I just can’t help but be excited every time.  New Life!

And so concludes Part 1, happy ending and all.  Tomorrow-my story of this pregnancy, and it has been a doozy!