On The Day You Were Born

Saturday January 2, 2016. I just woke up, it’s around 5:30am and I have a belly ache and cramps. (Yesterday was New Years Day and Ian & I ate crappy Tex mex b/c it was the only restaurant open in Lancaster). I assume I am just having a belly ache from the food. I’m going back to sleep.
8:30am, still crampy. Today I am exactly 36 weeks pregnant, and something is always achy so I’m chalking this up to growing pains, however I am a little concerned. I’m calling Nicole & Erin (my 2 best friends whom have 5 kids between the two of them), my mom and my midwife. Everyone is saying, “you’re fine, it’s normal”. (And kinda laughing at me and saying “chill out first timer”).
9am. So we’re out to breakfast, as per our usual Saturday morning. We’re sitting in a booth at a diner. I’m miserable. But at 36 weeks pregnant, I’m just always  this uncomfortable. But today I feel just more uncomfortable, uneasy. 
10:00am, we’re heading to the farm (where we now live but at the time we were still living in the city). It’s a mild and sunny January day. (Ian often rides through the fields on Saturdays to get an idea of any changes to make to the stock list.) I’m on the Gator (bumpy ride) for some fresh air and sunshine. It feels good to be outside. I’m mildly crampy but it’s escalating quickly into so much pain…I’m starting to have tears roll down my cheeks. I’m getting off the Gator and going in to the house to rest. Ian’s mom just asked if I have my bag packed? She thinks I might be in labor. Am I ? 
12:30pm We are heading back home to Lancaster to chill. This 35 min ride home is extremely uncomfortable. I just want my sweatpants and my bed. 
1:30pm. I’m calling my mom, my friends, my midwife, again. They are all kind of humoring me and say, “if you only think you’re in labor, you’re not! You’ll KNOW!” I say, “oh…ok?!” 
2:00pm, I’m on all fours on the floor gripping the side of my bed. I’m getting surges of pain every few min. I still kinda think I’m in labor. Ian is calling the midwife, again. She is telling him if I’m having pains every 5 min that last more than 30 seconds then it’s a good idea for us to come in. 
2:30pm. Ok. Let’s time it. I’m having pains every 2 minutes that last 45 seconds. Ummm. Yeah. Let’s go! I’m back in this damn car for another 25 min ride. I’m not enthused about being in this car…this box…at all! All I want is to be taken to a field or barn full of cows. Haha I know it’s silly and as I voice this request to everyone they all think I’m crazy. I just want to be around female animal energy. My idea is to envision that I’m a cow in a field and that is how I am going to deliver my baby! For now, I’m gripping Ian’s arm and the door handle. I still think I’m in labor. And I’m thinking these are contractions?! Yeah. Pretty sure. 
3:30pm. We arrive at the birth center. My midwife is checking to see if I’m dilated. 7.5 cm! Thank you! I am in labor…at 36 weeks! Alright, this is all happening so fast that I have no time to plan, worry  or panic. Thankfully the the nursery is 90% done. We did have the bag  packed and the car seat has been installed.  (Ian by the way, I’m pretty sure, is still in denial.) I take my pants off and just have on a sports bra and I slip into a birthing tub. I’m feeling this. It’s calm and warm…. but I need more control. I only last in this tub a few minutes. I need to get out. Im putting on my shirt. (My favorite comfy shirt…a v-neck tie dye t shirt my friend Erika made me.) I am remaining pant-less. I’m going over to the corner of the queen size bed in my birthing room, and I am camping out here. On all fours, on the floor, my head pressed down into the corner of the mattress, gripping the sides of the bed, eyes closed, steady breathing. (Which by the way I highly suggest as a birthing position). It’s very quiet and I want no one to touch me or talk to me. Ian is sitting in a chair next to the bed. He keeps coming over on the bed and is rubbing my head during these contractions and giving me water in between. My midwife and nurse have come down to sit on the floor with me and are there hanging out, chatting. I actually am enjoying their banter. I keep asking if I am doing good. They both keep telling me that they cant believe this is my first baby! After each contraction, I shake it off. I stand up after the surge and liquid rushes out of me, I’m guessing this is my waters breaking? I never really know. It’s every time I stand up and there is this gush. I feel another one coming, I’m getting into my position. All fours, head down, gripping the bed. I’m saying, almost in a chant, “oh Ian oh Ian oh Ian”. Then as quickly as it comes, it goes. I stand, I shake it off. I chat a little with my midwife & nurse. I have a routine. The pains are getting more intense but I have a good handle on it. (I have zero medication. I’m at a birth center.) My room is very dim. There is a bathroom, a bed, and big tub. There is this tree painted on the wall. I chose this room (1 of 4 options) because of the tree. I’m the only one birthing tonight. It’s just Ian, the midwife, the nurse & I. 


6:30pm. I’m asking to be checked. I am 10cm! It’s time! Time to push. 
I dont even know what that means…to push?! It’s like wiggling your ears…I’m not sure I know how to communicate with, much less command, that part of my body. So my midwife is taking me to the bathroom, she is telling me to sit on the toilet, and says on my next contraction, push as if i’m going to the bathroom. I follow her directions. It’s an awful feeling. I feel as if I stay in this position that I will rip in half. But this is very useful as a way to get me in tune with this part of my body. I’m going back to my base camp. Back to my bed. This time I am off of the floor and on top of the bed, I’m still on all fours. Ian is standing next to me. I’m holding his hand and I’m digging in. All fours, face down. Pushing my baby. In this position with my head down and straining to push, I’m getting crazy reflux. It’s all I can think about is how my throat burns. I’m just finishing my second contraction while pushing and I have decided that I never want to push again! I’m at the end but I feel like I just can’t do this. It’s not that it hurts buts it such a powerful sensation. At this point my birthing room becomes like a sporting event. Everyone is behind me commentating my progress and cheering me on. Another midwife and another nurse have arrived. They’re exclaiming, “I see her head” and I’m so excited like finally, I’m done! But it’s just the tip of the iceberg… literally. I start to get sort of mad because It’s like I’m in charge, I’m doing all the work and have all these feelings, yet everyone else gets to see my baby before I do. I push a 3rd time and her head is out!! Her eyes are open. Ian is seeing her and he’s so excited! At this point I say, “I’m done! Hells no!” “There is no way I’m pushing again. I can’t! I can’t.” That pain, sensation…it’s unexplainable yet I feel so accomplished. It’s the first time I say, “I can’t”. I’m not discouraged but I just can’t I don’t want to feel that feeling. Ugh. The feeling that I had just experienced, pushing out her head, I never want to feel that again. But with this little human dangling out of my body, I really have no choice. I think to myself 1 more push, and I’m done. 1 more. 1 and done. Ian sees her and he is excited. He is telling me about her. Another midwife comes in and holds my hand. I have my face buried, I feel this unfamiliar hand in mine and I turn to look up and it’s taking me a second to realize that Jamie Lynn, my favorite midwife, is here and holding my hand! She exudes this confidence and commands the room, I have her by my side, Ian is at the foot of the bed with the baby. I feel good. I CAN do this! I am doing this!! I push with everything I have. 

7:50pm. The noise. The sound that came from my body. I will forever remember. I’m not screaming so much as I am grunting really. This animalistic primal sound, a groan coming from my mouth..and from my physical body, that’s a whole other sensation and feeling. It feels like a thousand gallons of liquid and the entire inner contents of my body are shooting out along with my baby! I ask Ian immediately if she flew out out b/c i feel like there is this amazing force that just pushed her from within me. He actually says she did in fact come flying out! Still on all fours, they ask if I want to see her and I’m in such shock over the physical feelings of pushing my baby from my body that I say, “I need a minute.” Ha! It wasn’t the pain, it was more of a “holy shit did that just happen wtf?!” I compose myself and flip over. Laying on my back now, I take my baby in my arms, still attached to the chord. She is laying on my belly. We take a few minutes to let the blood course through me through the chord and through her. The midwife and Ian begin to cut the chord. I’m pulling her closer to me, to my chest, my heart…and she is wiggling over to my right breast and latching on! I can’t even believe it! I’m floating on a cloud. We’re floating on a cloud! I immediately erase all the pain and anxiety and sensations and I’m so serene and chill. I feel like I could get up and go for a jog or make dinner. It’s literally like nothing happened and she appeared. Adrenaline I guess. Love, really. I just had a baby. 4 weeks early. And she, Goldie, is breastfeeding. I’m breastfeeding! How do I, how do we know how to do this?! My midwife begins to push on my belly and do a few things, this is extremely painful. This is after I deliver the placenta. She is totally killin my buzz! I ball up my fist and scream just out of reaction. My midwife says “sorry, I guess i should have warned you”. Karen, Ian’s mom is in the room. They are giving me a shot to stop bleeding because I’m not clotting. Luckily I have no rips or tears. And Goldie is being weighed. She is PERFECT. A little small, but perfect. 
10:30pm I take a picture of Goldie for the first time. Im counting her fingers and toes and feeling all over her. Holding on to her. Loving her. 

From here I don’t remember too many details. Ian’s mom and dad were both in the room by that point and I remember laying in bed with my baby like no big deal…I made a human! Ian crawled into bed with me and our baby, and a jar of peanut butter! We literally shared the jar and I’m pretty sure we ate most of it. Our last meal had been about 11 hrs earlier at 8:30am. Goldie was born at 7:50pm. We were in a birth center so we were allowed to leave that night. Ian, Goldie & I took a nap and around 1:00am we packed up our 5 hour old new baby and went home. She was 4 weeks early and 5 lb 11 oz. The outfit I packed didn’t fit. She was swimming in it. I hated putting her in that car seat. It was January and so cold. She only cried the last 5 minutes of the almost half hour drive home to our loft apartment in the city. I stared at her the whole way in the back seat. I can’t imagine what Ian was thinking as he drove his new baby home on a freezing January morning. When we got home I dressed her in 3 different outfits. All huge. Nothing fit. I laid her down in a bassinet. Then I moved the bassinet to a few different spots. Next to me, between us. Then I took her out and bundled her up, put her in the nook of my arm, and I laid down. We slept that way the entire night. (1 year later and she sleeps right next to me every night, snuggly between Ian & I.) 
December 30, 2016. 4:30pm She is actually asleep next to me taking a rather late afternoon nap. Nursing in her sleep. comfort suckling. She is a healthy baby. You would never have known she was early. Chubby cheeks, and always happy. It’s 3 days before her first birthday. They don’t know why I went into labor early. (I think maybe because I waited tables just the night before on New Years Eve and was on my feet for 10 hrs… which by the way when I was in labor I actually called into work to let them know I wasn’t going to make it into work that night! ) It’s been an amazing journey so far. Motherhood. Parenthood. 

(Side note): Ian & I met March 28, 2015 at Central Market in Lancaster, PA. We were buying goat cheese. Both of us had just left pretty toxic relationships, both in our mid 30’s and both had just moved into our own tiny apartments in Lancaster City. If you notice the date that we met, and the date that Goldie was born (taking into consideration the fact that the baby arrived 4 weeks early) then you can see that it’s been a whirlwind. 40 weeks. Ha! Love at first sight? Maybe the Universe had a hand in the course of events? A midwife friend of mine has suggested that Goldie, our baby, chose us to be her parents. Maybe Goldie orchestrated the meeting of Ian & I. Here we are. Early August we moved into Ian’s family farm and we live with his parents. (Along with 5 cats, 8 cows & about 40 chickens!) I’ve been on my own since I was a teenager. I’ve always been a bit of a loner. In less than 2 years I went from being an individual to being a couple to being a herd!! The adventure is just beginning. It’s cool because Ian & I are still celebrating “firsts”. It’s awesome. It’s not traditional. Is not for everyone, I’m sure. I was originally writing this just for myself. To have it down, in writing, my birth story. So I hope you enjoy it and feel the love. 


-melanie 

Feast

Feast Daily Writing Prompt…

What does feast mean to me? What doesn’t it mean? It’s my life. Every good memory I have, and every story I tell is almost always surrounded by what I ate. Just about every meal I eat, is a feast. Sometimes I think I’m unusual in my preoccupation/obsession with food, but then I realize that almost everyone I interact with shares this similar attraction.  Chefs, farmers, friends, and family.

Mamma always had a Sunday Feast. (Mamma, that’s what we called our grandmother, some called her Mamma Salmon, her name was Betty Jean Salmon- I think even once or twice I heard someone refer to her as Mean Betty Jean, she was about 5’2″ and married to my 6’7″ grandfather whom I never met-she was already a widow when I was born). Anyway,You know how Holiday feasts at someone’s home is usually buffet or potluc style meals, and are always a big spread? Well, every Sunday was like that. My mom was 1 of 8, so once all her siblings and all of their kids were in the same house, there just simply had to be a lot of food on hand to feed us all. This lasted until I was about 12, then she passed, then we moved, and I think I’ve been looking for that feast ever since. I’m always hungry.

When I was 31 I moved to Boston all by myself. I knew a couple people but I had set out to the city from a smallish town to be alone and to find out something about myself. For some reason I find comfort in being alone in a City, surrounded by strangers. It’s kinda lonely, but not completely. I’ve been in the restaurant business since I was 14, so I pursued a serving job. I made really good money and worked all the time. One day a week I would start in 1 neighborhood  and work my way across the city. My own personal feast. Kind of like a potluc, but spread out. I’d have oysters here, salad there, a small plate next door, hop on the train or walk a bit to grab another plate of food. I usually sat at the bar. You can always count on a bartender to keep you company. Once the sun begins to set and the wine begins to flow you always make a friend at the bar. Someone passing through the city or another lonely single diner, often a much older man or woman looking for company. Sometimes I brought a book or magazine if I was feeling especially interverted. You start to find spots you enjoy and you become a regular at certain bars. I can still remember the feeling of certain bar stools or worn wooden ledges of certain bar tops. I recall good conversations with certain bartenders and strangers. All this transpired over food. Within my traveling feast. Perhaps because I’ve worked in restaurants my whole life or because of my fond early memories in the kitchen, I always feel very comfortable, literally at home in restaurants and kitchens. Every meal I have I try to make special. I think I have been trying  to recreate that feeling of comfort in Mamma’s house on Sunday’s.

Now I have my own family, a new baby and we are often at my in laws. Their home is a farmhouse, we’re actually moving in in about 19 days.  They grow food and provide for many of the restaurants in Philly. So, there are often Chefs and restaurant folk in the farm house which is about an hour from the city. Someone is always cooking, the table is always set and a feast is always just a moment away. I have found a feasting family that enjoys the simple pleasure of setting a table, reading cookbooks, planning dinner while you’re eating breakfast, talking about which butcher is the best, and reading the food section of the paper. There are usually at least 5-8 people around the table. I have fond memories of my one woman feasts, although looking back they don’t seem as warm now as they once did.

Popsicle Summer

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Last summer I was pregnant. Hot, sweaty, grumpy, tummy achy—-> pregnant! I bought a Popsicle maker thinking it would change my life. I made one batch and it was just one of those pregnancy taste bud things where I took one bite and and I wasn’t feeling it. It was really quite tragic actually. (However, looking back those Popsicles were made with Sheeps milk yogurt and this organic low sugar version of Nutella-no bueno! I was OBSESSED with yogurt when I was pregger and was trying every possible version, needless to say, the sheep milk yogurt had a little funk that I’m just not that into)

This summer I’ve dusted off the ole Popsicle maker and I’ve been going to town! It all started with a vision…Jello Pudding Pop! What happened to them?!  Where are they?! Does Bill Cosby have a stash in his freezer that are going to be auctioned off once he is imprisoned for his heinous crimes?! Sorry, I’m still really bitter about all that…anyway….so like I often do I become obsessed, this time with the idea of the puddin pop. I’ve made Martha Stewart’s pudding recipe several times and it’s really delicious, rich, and most importantly pretty quick. So I made the pudding, poured it into the Popsicle mold, popped it on the freezer, and for 24 hours I dreamt of creamy frozen chocolate childhood bliss. The next day after dinner, it was time. My partner, Ian, and I reached in the freezer and unveiled what was to be, aside from the birth of our child, the greatest moment of our lives. The re-awakening of the chocolate pudding pop. Since that day I’ve made peach, mango, raspberry and I have all these dates that I need to use so I think at some point I am going to make this date caramel I keep hearing about and incorporating it into a Popsicle…how bad could that be?

Chocolate Pudding Pops:

•Popsicle mold/maker

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-I use (and LOVE) the Zoku Classic Pop Maker, it makes 6/3oz pops, it takes overnight so you do have to do some planning. I found it on Amazon for around $16, but they have a pricier version, the Quick Pop Maker, and that will give you a pop sooner. You can always go old skool and use little paper cups and wooden Popsicle sticks!

• 1 recipe for Chocolate Pudding

http://www.marthastewart.com/314077/vanilla-or-chocolate-pudding

-As mention before I use my old standby recipe from Martha Stewart, I provided the link. Any pudding recipe should work, I’d imagine you could even get away with using a box mix. I’m not judging!

Make the pudding, fill the mold, throw it in the freezer, wait……then enjoy!

Once you do one batch you’ll be obsessed and throwing everything in there! I use fat free Greek Yogurt as a base, honey as a sweetener and whatever fruits I have on hand. Full fat yogurt does make a creamier pop FYI. Sometimes I use just a simple purée of fruit and nothing else and I justify that as a healthy breakfast treat! (I think breakfast Popsicles are on the verge of being the next cronut). I’ve added chunks of fruit, peanut butter, nuts, cookie bits….its endless! Pinterest has a ton of Popsicle recipes and some even have booze!

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Tomato & Quinoa Salad w/ cumin vinaigrette

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My herd, Ian -my partner, Goldie-our baby, and I, decided Friday evening that as soon as the baby woke up in the morning we would head to market to beat the crowds and the heat, and then not leave the house for the rest of the day. It was expected to be one of those 88 degree 75% humidity situations. A real buzz kill in the kitchen. Aside from whipping up some peach Popsicles and a turkey sandwich I haven’t cooked all week. Maybe it’s the heat, lack of inspiration, or lack of sleep (teething baby).

Today however it seemed like inspiration was everywhere. My partner is a farmer and he often brings home little handfuls of this and that from his family farm and I make use. Today I looked over and caught a glimpse of these beautiful little tomatoes. I popped one in my mouth and it was just so perfect, so sweet, so summer.  There were just about a handful so I thought maybe a salad. We had just had a pretty hardy lunch earlier and agreed that dinner should be somewhat healthy. Two whole fish made their way home with us from market, so we knew the evenings main attraction, and that it was going to be light, fresh, simple, and prepared by Ian. So it was then my duty to prepare a side dish to suit. I often make a grain salad of farro or wheat or spelt berries with feta, currants, walnuts and a cumin vinaigrette. I asked him if something like that would work with how he was thinking of preparing the fish…And then he started going through the spice cabinet delighted and said that he thought, “cumin & fish go great together!”  I had on hand the feta, some quinoa, and of course my handful of sweet tomatoes. I stayed with my flavors for my vinaigrette: cumin, olive oil, honey, lemon, red wine vinegar and a pinch of chili.

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On one side of the kitchen, I plugged in the rice cooker and threw in the quinoa to cook while I prepped the rest of the salad. Halving the tomatoes and prepping the dressing. He was on the other side of the kitchen toasting enough cumin seed for mine and his recipes. I tossed my toasted seeds into the grinder while he reserved his to go into the mortal & pestle, along with about 6 other things. I did see dried lemon grass go in but I missed the rest (he’s famous for his spice blends). He rubbed the whole fish down with the blend after cutting small slits on the sides of each fish and then gave each a pan sear to crisp up the skin in the cast iron that had been anointed with a good glug of avocado oil. My quinoa tomato salad was composed long enough before the fish was done in order for me to change the baby and set up her seat at the table with us.

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Tonight was only her second time at the table in her own seat. (Her first being a few nights ago at a dinner party at Grammy’s house) We just began to use one of those seats that attaches the table. So, tonight was our first time at home seated all together at the table!!  She’s an exclusively breast fed 6 1/2 month old who is just beginning to dabble with foods, tonight she dined on homemade applesauce. The table was set with plates and the fish arrived on the table on a sheet tray. We flaked white chunks of flesh and crispy skin off of the fish with our fingers and never really used our plates except for the humble pile of quinoa that was studded with sweet tomato gems. There was a red snapper and a Bronzini. We exchanged opinions and comparisons about texture  and flavor of the two fish. I occasionally fed Goldie tiny little spoonfuls of applesauce while she scrunched up her nose and closed her eyes and Ian wiped her face. Each fish eventually had been picked clean and Ian grabbed the bowl of quinoa and suggested that we polish it off, since there was just a few spoonfuls left. every morsel that had been prepared was eaten and I was proud of my little salad I threw together. It stood out next to his glorious fish and was definitely not an afterthought.

Salad:

About 2 1/2 c cooked quinoa (3/4c pre cooked)

1 cup chopped tomatoes

4 oz feta

Dressing: combine all in jar, shake. Add dressing a little at a time, may not use it all.

6 TBSP olive oil

2 TBSP red wine vin

1 tsp cumin

juice of half lemon

pinch chili flake

1 tsp honey

1 shallot diced

1/2 tsp dried garlic flake

s & p

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sky

I started to feel the dampness cover my skin, at first like a mist then slowly becoming fuller drops. I kind of squealed and began to pick up the pace from a leisurely stroll to a jog. I held her tighter, she was already bound tightly to me. I looked up to the sky the whitish clouds quickly turning a dark grey. I knew we’d never make it home before it became an all out pouring rain. I looked back down to my baby strapped to me in her sling, knees wrapped around my hips and she was delighted. The drops landing on her face. Was this the first time she was really experiencing rain? This odd panic that had come over me vanished. It was just a little late spring shower, but in my new mom brain I felt as if it were about to be some sort of  catastrophic event and I needed to find immediate shelter in order to protect my baby. We were a block from home. Soon arriving  safely and only somewhat soggy, smiles on our faces. I realized I needed to chill out. That I need not sweat a small rain shower, because bigger storms are undoubtably to come. It was the first of many lessons I’m sure she’ll teach me.

Sky

When Daddy brings home the bacon, Mamma’s makin Carbonara

Well, that’s the ideal plan, but Mamma sucks at making Carbonara. And I have given it quite a few tries. So,  it’s Spring here, and the next best thing pasta, sweet sugar peas & bacon. (We have a new mushroom purveyor working with us on the farm so all of a sudden mushrooms are in every dish.)

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The picture doesn’t do justice to the thickness of this bacon. 1 slice would add plenty of that nice bacon flavor but I used 3, I am breastfeeding after all and my appetite is unruly. (perhaps the reason I’m toting around an extra 28 lbs but whatever…mamma gotta eat). I cut the bacon into lardons (chunks) and render all that goodness. Throw in some mushrooms, a few peas so I feel good about myself that I ate something green, fresh pasta…and boom. Dinner. It’s actually a really quick 15 minute dinner. And of course you veggie heads can do it sans the bacon.

Let’s do this…

FullSizeRender (25)Now when i say, “I woke up one day as a mom on a farm in Pennsylvania”, it wasn’t like a Kimmy Schmidt situation. It was just a very sudden life change, and in comparison to the previous 35 years of my life,  a real 180. The one common thread through all of my adventures and lives that I have lived however, is that I have eaten very well,and enjoyed cooking. Hopefully this blog is a place where I can express my love of cooking, what I am learning everyday on the farm, and my journey into motherhood. Now, I often find myself having to say, “I’m just joking” (even though most of the time I’m actually not) so I also hope that my wit, humor,  and of course my charm, come across in my words, and that people get me. Or not. I am not pretending or trying to show that I have this perfect life. If anything, the goal is to celebrate my mistakes in the kitchen and to be relatable  to anyone who has ever spent the week planning on making a recipe then really screwing it up and having to order a pizza. Nothing is worse than a really thin Carbonara. Yuck! Which leads us to my next post….