Monday, March 5, 2018

Trying to Stay Sane

I have been reflecting a lot and writing about the process of how I have felt my sense of dignity slowly erode as I have gone through the process of this fertility journey. I found myself pondering the ways in which my body, which I used to have such an appreciation for, has shifted to resentment that I feel so strongly.  It's hard not to feel like your body is failing you when it isn't doing the one thing biology has told you it should be able to do so naturally. And every day I wake up wondering what kind of day my body is going to have. There are days I don't even recognize my body.
The last round of IVF I actually said what I was thinking out loud (that comes with the exhaustion of fertility treatments, you lose your ability to filter and keep those thoughts in your head, oops did I just say that out loud!?!). The new nurse came in for my internal ultrasound, a procedure I have had more times that I can even count, and I actually said, "Oh great someone who hasn't yet seen my vagina!" Awkward... But we all got through it... I know the nurses and doctors do their best to be respectful of ones dignity and privacy, but there isn't a single part of this process that isn't totally physically invasive and you are at the peak of vulnerability.

My constantly bruised and swollen stomach is often the determining factor in what kind of day I am going to have. How much pain or discomfort do I have? Can I hide that much bloating, is there really an outfit for that? Is the discomfort at a level that I have to adjust or cancel my plans? Can I not have a panic attack while I jab numerous needles a day into that sore, swollen belly, please? I won't even go into the level of exhaustion, and emotional upheaval that comes with the medication.

I have been thinking a lot about the link emotions have to our body and how I have been carrying my grief. I decided it was time for a change and to let go of the heaviness my hair was carrying, so 7 inches gone... It definitely feels lighter and better, although I miss the laziness of throwing it into a ponytail, haha. I plan on going even shorter, but having had really short hair previously I know it is higher maintenance with regular cuts and I am not ready for that yet. I joked with the doctor when he noticed I had cut my hair and said, you know what they say, if you build it they will come, hence the mommy bob, he chuckled. I chose not to say that hair laying all over the floor carried away a lot of heart break and tears with it. Humour, a very important coping strategy I have deeply appreciated.

I really can't emphasize enough how lucky I am to have the spouse I have. I want to cut off my hair, or stay home for days in my pajamas because that's the only thing I can comfortably wear, I am not up for social activities because I am feeling emotionally drained from all the poking and prodding, or recent news that once again it didn't work, he's all hey no problem, is there anything I can do for you? I am having a meltdown and he drops everything and anything to comfort me. I truly feel like we are on this journey together, and I can't imagine not having him with me every step of the way. When I don't feel like living anymore, he gives me a reason to. This journey has been heart wrenching, but it has also brought us closer together. I must admit that before this process began we were solid, and that has only grown with the challenges we have come through. It's easy to see how couples could struggle through this process and even separate, but one thing and maybe the only thing I know for certain is that we are stronger then ever, and can get through anything so long as we have each other. He is what I am most grateful for, and I know that if this fertility journey that is coming to an end doesn't go as we hope, we will have each other and that is what is the most important.

These two fur balls always seem to know when I am having a rough day and surround me with their purring love. Sometimes they help bring me back to a space that is more mindful and present, which makes it easier to see my gratitude for the little things. Hard to beat kitty cuddles and a cup of tea!

Cooking truly helps me stay grounded and gives me something positive to focus on as I try to create delicious meals that will nourish us. I find there is currently so much in my life I feel like I have no control over, but food gives me something I can control and yet be creative and have some fun with. Sometimes I totally flop and that's okay! Luckily I have sweetie who is very open to trying new things and eats anything I put in front of him with a smile on his face (for the most part). He never complains, even when I bomb a recipe or experiment, and just seems happy that I have gotten exploratory with food. When we met I was strictly a meat and potatoes kind of girl with limited options and no sense of adventure to try new things, so it has been quite a process of growth for me, one that has enhanced our life (or so I like to think).

This Slow Cooker Creamy Tomato Basil Tortellini Soup is a fav in our house! I have never liked tomato soup, but this recipe was a game changer for me.  It's an awesome crock pot dish, and you can change it up by using different tortellini. I have done it with cheese filled and prosciutto filled, and you can add as little or much of the tortellini as you like.  My fav is a large package of cheese tortellini. It make a large batch so as soon as the tortellini are cooked I scoop out single portions into containers for the freezer, and then leave enough out for 2 meals for the 2 of us. This time I didn't add the cream to the batch I put in the freezer, just the batch we were eating fresh. I like it even without the cream, so you can definitely get away with making this soup dairy free if that is your preference.  Just skip the cream and use beef or prosciutto filled tortellini, and don't garnish with grated Parmigiano Reggiano. Trust me it's delicious even without the dairy. The freshness of the basil is such a good pairing with the tomato and the texture of the tortellini sets it apart from standard tomato soup.

We serve it with fresh biscuits or some sliced foccacia bread dipped in oil & balsamic.

I threw together this Spaghetti Squash with Lentil Bolognese. I cut a spaghetti squash in half lengthwise and drizzle it with olive oil, sea salt, & pepper. I place it face down on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. I bake it at 375 degrees, but the cooking time really varies depending on the size of your squash. I just check it every 20 minutes or so to see how tender it is and how easy the strands pull apart from the edges.  Once cooked through I let it sit for about 10 minutes & then scrape out the insides with a fork onto a cutting board.  While the squash was in the oven I fried up some diced onion, mushrooms, zucchini, carrots, and celery, and when tender added 2 cans of tomato sauce, a can of lentils, Italian seasoning, seas salt, & pepper to taste, and if I have it on hand (which I did this time) a genreous handful of fresh chopped basil.  It can simmer until the squash is ready. This could also be done in a crock pot with dried lentils you just may want to add some extra liquid such as stock of your choice. The flavours could meld together beautifully cooking all day in a crock pot.  Some days I plan ahead for meals other days, not so much, and this is a good one for those days because I generally have all the ingredients on hand.

I like to serve it with some fresh grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese. A little tip: we get a block of Parmigiano Reggiano at Costco and I grate it and keep it in the freezer in a ziplock bag and take out what I need when I need it.

Baked Pork Tenderloin  and Cabbage Wedges with Onion Dijon Sauce , were delicious and we will be having them again.

We had these alongside some roasted carrots, beets, and cauliflower. I just love to roast any and all veggies. I just toss them in olive oil seas salt & pepper, and pretty much every veggie comes out tasting awesome when roasted in the oven at about 400 degrees!

This one is a long standing recipe in our house.  I have been making it 3-4 times a year for the past 5 years of so, Turkey Meatballs & Cranberry Gravy. I like to use ground chicken instead of turkey, but that's just a personal preference, both work with this recipe. We had the meatballs with mashed potatoes, steamed green beans, and roasted brussel sprouts. I made enough for 2 nights and the leftovers were just as good as the first night. I will also make just the meatballs and use them in a pita with tzatziki and veggies, or make them into patties for burgers. They are quite versatile and can also be kept prepared in the freezer for a quick grab dinner!

I've learned a lot this year... I've learned that things don't always turn out the way you planned or the way you think they should. And I've learned that there are things that go wrong that don't always get fixed or put back together the way they were before. I've learned that some things stay broken, and I've learned that you can get through bad times and keep looking for better ones, as long as you have people who love you. ~Jennifer Weiner

Thursday, February 15, 2018

I'm Still Here...

It's been a while. A long while. Something you may not know about me is that when I am really struggling, I isolate. I isolate to contain my darkness, because who wants to be around that? I isolate because I don't have the energy for the pleasantries. To those in my life who have wondered where I have gone, I am still here trying to pull myself out of the darkness. There are moments that I can see the light, and I will get there. In time.
I haven't been in touch.
Because some days all of my strength is used to get myself out of bed, and the last thing I want is to answer the polite nicety of how are you. I don't have the energy to lie anymore, and I don't want to actually say how I am.
Because my body feels like it's being held hostage by the hormones I inject and ingest daily, or it's attempting to recover from the hormones before the next round. The hormones that make me want to cry uncontrollably because I just happened to turn on the tv and saw a diaper or pregnancy test commercial, or when I went to the grocery store I nearly parked in a spot until I saw the parent parking sign, which just reinforced my lack of child, and once I managed to get into the store I have to try to get in and out as quickly as possible because the longer I am in there the greater the chances of crossing paths with someone who is pregnant, or with a baby.
Because gauging a good day verses a bad day has become measuring how many times that day I thought about wishing I wasn't alive, and less then 3 is a good day, don't ask how many can be in a bad day...
Because I am still trying to work through the grief and loss of a pregnancy that ended, and never happened again...
Because I really don't want to hear that things happen for a reason, or my challenges are making me stronger, or that I have no idea what tired or busy is.
Because this roller coaster ride has been going on for two and a half years, and I no longer see the point in pulling others along for the looooong ride.
Because 'my person' who I have gone to my entire life for support, guidance, and encouragement is deceased and not only am I trying to navigate the grief around that and I need her more then ever and she's not there.
Because I am driving three hours or more to an appointment that takes fifteen minutes so I can turn around and drive home... and I may have to do it over again tomorrow, and the next day, and the next...
Because even though I want to make plans to meet up for a coffee I can't (see the previous or first 'because' to know why) and if I do there is a good chance I will have to cancel, and eventually I will have cancelled too many times.

Those 'becauses' take every ounce of energy I have. So it's just easier to disappear into the wood work, until I get through this darkness. Yes I know it won't be this way forever, and that is what keeps me going. Two and a half years of ths has taken it out of me.

At this point I am focusing on one day at a time and not thinking about the next day, week, month, or year, and that is how I am getting through. I am meditating, walking, cooking, going to therapy & acupuncture, writing (with an actual pen and paper), and spending time with my sweetie, and on occasion time with family or a friend. This is helping me keep my head above the water.

I have been spending a lot of time in the kitchen and trying out a fair number of new to me recipes. These are my dad's chicken wings, and they are mouth watering delicious! They are dipped in egg and then flour and cooked in a sauce that combines soy sauce, vinegar, water, and sugar, and then cooked low and slow turning regularly. MMMMMMM I will be making these again soon.

I made this recipe for Skillet Pork Chops with Mushroom Gravy, which were excellent. I served them on mashed potatoes, and steamed some sliced carrots and frozen peas.

I tried out this delicious recipe for Baked Scallops.  While they baked I roasted brussel sprouts and fennel tossed in olive oil sea salt & pepper, and toward the end of the vegges cooking I added 2 prawn skewers also drizzled with olive oil sea salt & pepper. When there was a few minutes left on the veggies I cooked packaged stuffed portabello mushroom ravioli and then tossed in olive oil & fresh basil and served it with the veggies, prawns and scallops, and drizzeled some of the scallop sauce on everything.  Best dinner EVER!

I made a new spin on my sweeties favourite breakfast for dairy free eggs benny. I usually make it with sauteed mushrooms and spinach, and smoked or candied salmon. This was a much simpler version with avocado and bacon. I am not sure which version I prefer but they are both pretty darn good!

On one of my trips down island I stopped in one of my favourite places to go for a walk.

I spend a lot of time in the car and have come across some great podcasts. I listen to a huge array of podcasts including a variety of true crime podcasts, The Secret Life of Canada, The Good Life, On Being, Night Time, Lore, Radiolab, Stuff You Missed in History Class, and Historical Figures to name a few. I like to listen to podcasts when I am in the kitchen or the numerous hours I spend in the car. It's a nice escape from the everyday life.

If you are looking for an interesting listen I suggest:
CBC Podcast Out in the Open hosted by Piya Chattopadhyay Pregnancy Loss

Or an interesting read:
How Infertility Kills Your Self-Esteem by Aela Mass

There are years that ask questions, and years that answer.
~Zora Neale Hurston

Sunday, November 12, 2017


Things have been a bit crazy lately so I haven't had much opportunity to work on a couple of posts I started a while ago. My mother's health has been very up and down and I have spent a lot of time in hospitals, sometimes due to calls at ridiculous hours of the night.  She was improving and set to head home and then came internal bleeding which took her recovery off the rails. So I have been pretty low key and sluggish the past few weeks.

I have been feeling rather frustrated with the current situation and how busy and tired I am given I had decided to take time off work to focus on my own wellness. I'm not frustrated with my mother, I know she doesn't want to be sick, I am frustrated with the situation. Watching my parent wither away slowly and painfully to a person I barely even recognize is a difficult thing.  I don't even see the vivacious woman she once was anymore and it hurts my heart. I do not turn off the sound on my phone because the two times I have turned it off I missed calls that my mom was critically ill. Every time the phone rings late at night I anticipate hearing she is gone. It as been a long journey, and my heart and soul are tired. I feel selfish for wanting to focus on my own health, when I am her person. Hopefully things level out a bit and I can get my wellness back on track.

I had some physical issues brought on by running and have started physiotherapy. It appears I have aggravated my piriformus muscle and it is quite inflamed. This sacrum pain started very early in my running, but I was in denial that the running was causing it, until it got so bad that I couldn't sit without horrific shooting pain. It only hurts when I sit, but spending long hours sitting in a car or at a hospital it got to the point I couldn't handle it anymore. I went to my doctor and the x-ray showed it was clear so it was a muscular problem. I have been going to massage therapy regularly and my massage therapist suggested I add physiotherapy so I did. I have been twice and have been given some exercises, and then some adjustments to the exercises as my piriformus once again was inflamed. I have a goal of getting back to running for January and my physiotherapist thinks that is a reasonable goal. A friend is trying to talk me into doing the Goddess Run in Victoria in June and if I am back to good health by January that should be a reasonable goal. I will keep you posted on my progress. Strangely I have found myself missing it, so I am very hopeful that will be back in my routine in the new year. My sweetie and I have been getting out for walks which is good, and most days I am meeting my goal with my step tracker, so I am still staying mobile.

Recently I listen to a very insightful podcast on Pregnancy Loss by CBC Out in the Open hosted by Piya Chattopadhyay. I encourage you to give it a listen.  I really appreciated the different perspectives and a lot of what was shred resonated with me. For a moment I felt a little less alone.

Despite the craziness I have managed to continue eating healthfully, for the most part...
This past summer I was having toast with peanut butter and banana and a boiled egg for breakfast nearly every day. Lately I have been changing it up and adding Raisin Bran cereal, and Red River cereal with maple syrup and added ground chia seeds. 

I tried out a new Pinterest recipe which is a Slow Cooker Jambalaya, I only made one adjustments to the meat, and used prawns and scallops instead of chicken, and used chorizo sausage. I had basmati rice on hand so that is what I used. I found after the suggested cooking time the rice was still a bit crunchy, so I would add a bit more broth and cook it a bit longer next time. I added the cooked prawns an scallops just before serving. This was so delicious, and we will be sure to make it again.

I purchased pumpkin filled ravioli triangles from Superstore and made a brown butter sage butternut squash sauce to go with it.  I roasted cubed butternut squash tossed in olive oil, sea salt & pepper at 425 until browned. While the butternut squash cooked, I put butter in a frying pan and once hot added fresh sage. Once the sage had browned and was crisp I took it out and cut it up and set it aside. When the butternut squash had browned I put the cubes in the Vitamix and added veggie broth until the desired creamy consistency. I also added some of the melted butter from browning the sage, chopped yellow onion, and 1/8 tsp dried red pepper flakes. Once the pasta was cooked according to the package directions I drained it and put it back int he pot. I added enough sauce to cover it and the fried sage. once plated I sprinkled it with fresh grated parmesan cheese. I served the yummy pasta alongside roasted asparagus, mushrooms, and fennel tossed in olive oil, sea salt & pepper. I had lots of sauce left over so I popped it in the freezer for another dinner.

I'd love to tell you my Russian Broscht recipe is an old family recipe handed down through the generations... but it's not. My grandma's borscht recipe is more red and I am heavier on the purple ingredients. I think borscht is something people are often quite particular about (myself included). I love this recipe!

In place of the one cup tomato puree I add one can of organic tomato sauce.

I serve mine with a generous helping of cashew cream and dill. This time I had a slice of sour dough bread with cheese broiled in the oven.

The only way out is through. ~Robert Frost

Thursday, October 12, 2017

An Upcoming Project

I don't know about you, but I loooooove the fall. The beautiful autumn colours, the cooler nights that give you a good excuse to curl up with your sweetie, soft cozy fall sweaters, delicious soups & comfort food, and if your anything like the bears (and me) preparations for hibernation.  As I hibernate in my home I have some big plans for this winter...

October 11 was a day of reflection. It marked 2 years since we received the gift that changed our lives forever.  Had you told me then that I would experience such a devastating loss and continue to endeavor this arduous road to experience the gift of being a parent I would not have believed you. I would not have believed I was strong enough, determined enough, courageous enough or perseverant enough, and yet I am still here and still rising up to the challenge. It has been a challenge like no other in my life, and has shown me that I am built of strong stuff. I don't always feel that way but we have not yet reached the point where enough is enough (trust me this is a topic I have contemplated on numerous occasions).

It is a part our life we have quietly navigated with the support of a very few close friends. It has meant that most of my friendships have gone by the way side because I can't ever make plans and often have to cancel, because our life revolves around fertility treatments, and all the things that go with that, including the emotional highs and lows, that can knock me off my feet for periods of time. When I do actually get out an socialize people ask me what I am up to and I don't even speak to the biggest part of my life, which leaves me little to talk about. I have never been very good at the small talk stuff and am a person who yearns to connect with people on a deep level so I can only discuss the weather for so long. I have gotten very skilled at the art of deflection, and generally speaking it's actually quite easy because we live in a time where people rarely ever feel like they are heard or have someone to talk to. Besides I was born to be a listener so it's easy for me to fall into that role.

27 months, 13 procedures, 1 pregnancy, 1 devastating loss, more vitamins, essential oils, supplements, pills & injections then I can count, numerous acupuncture, chiropractic & massage therapy sessions. It has been a very tumultuous journey, and I have reached the point that I am going to bare my vulnerability... I am writing a book!

I have been working on an outline and pulling bits from my journals and blogs and have decided that if one person can feel like they are not alone on their fertility journey it will be worth it. I am making a conscious choice to be my most vulnerable self, and write about the journey at the most raw level I can. I know that I will be judged, but if I can't be my authentic vulnerable self then why bother doing it? I will not censor the ugly darkness and moments I no longer wanted to live, or the moments of joy, hope and strength. This story is for the person walking the fertility journey and having to make difficult decisions every step along the way, and asking themselves when is enough enough? This story will be for the person walking the fertility journey and wants to punch the person in the face who tells them it will all work out in the end. This story will be for people who want to connect with another person's most raw vulnerable self.  I also intend to speak to what has helped me get though this journey including the grief and loss, and the things that I found helpful and unhelpful along the way. So here's to my winter project! I have no idea how long this will take, it could be years, but I intend to follow it through until it feels ready to share. If nothing else I suspect the writing will be a big part of my healing.

My sweetie and I were lucky we had a little getaway to Saltspring Island at a friends place, which gave some time to disconnect from the outside world and truly relax. It was a great 4 days with lots of sleeping, reading, writing, walking in the woods, wildlife watching, sitting on the dock, and yoga. It was exactly what we needed, and I left recharged with a great sense of grounding.

There was an abundance of beautiful crabapples in the orchard.

We left Saltspring with a bag of crabapples so I decided to make one of my childhood favourites, crabapple jam.

My mom no longer has her crabapple jam recipe so as usual I turned to Pinterest.  I used this recipe for Crabapple Jelly but didn't strain it as much and made a jam. I also didn't add quite as much sugar, but it was still sweet enough for me.

Mine turned out pinker then my mother's did when I was a kid, but it was still yummy.

Since I had the canner out I figured I might as well make cranberry sauce too. This was my first time canning cranberry sauce so I thought I should try a recipe for canning. I found this Jellied Cranberry Sauce recipe on Pinterest and it was very similar to my usual recipe so I went with it. It was so good that I was eating spoonfuls of it!

Finished crabapple jam & cranberry sauce.

I quickly made a turkey dinner for my sweetie and I.  I put a breast and thigh in the slow cooker and cooked it with some chicken broth & poultry seasoning & a bit of butter under the skin. I was short for time so I cooked it on high and kept my eye on it with my meat thermometer. While teh turkey cooked I sauteed some kale in olive oil, sea salt & pepper, and then set it aside to add to my mashed potatoes.  I cut up brussel sprouts, parsnips, and carrots to bake in the oven, potatoes to boil for mashed potatoes, and sliced green beans for steaming. I took 2 cheats and used stove top stuffing, and a package of gravy. Honestly I only had a few hours, so something had to give in the name of efficiency. When the turkey was nearly at temperature I got the vegetables going & shazaam before you knew it turkey dinner was done! This was the perfect opportunity to break out that cranberry sauce:) This dinner was the perfect amount for one dinner a night of leftovers, and a few turkey sandwiches. No turkey overload.

So in the spirit of giving thanks, I am thankful for those who have helped me stay strong along this journey, most especially the love of my life who helps lift me up when I feel I have nothing left in me.

Owning our own story can be hard, but nearly as difficult as spending our lives running from it. Embracing our vulnerabilities is risky, but not nearly as dangerous as giving up on love and belonging and joy- the experience that makes us the most vulnerable. Only when we are brave enough to explore the darkness will we discover the infinite power of our light. ~Brene Brown