Last night, the Chef and I sat in our backyard, near midnight. We sat with plates balanced on our knees and nibbled at our dinner: cold roast chicken; a bacon-roasted corn-goat cheese salad; sweet wine-dark cherries. To the side, in the grass, sat saucers of chocolate-banana cake. Moonlight loomed around us.
We had already debriefed the day on the car ride home from the restaurant. Now, I turned to him and said, “What are some of your favorite memories of this last year?”
Where do we start? What a year it has been. My first book being published. Book publicity trips. A honeymoon in Italy. Time in his home town. Two more book deals. And of course, finding out in the dead of winter that we were going to be having a baby in the blaze of summer.
But, as our memories tumbled out, we realized they weren’t the big moments. Most often, they weren’t the moments I have written about here. Some stories are public, and others are private. When we first fell in love, everything felt like a story for this site, at times. (Well, not everything.) But as our relationship has deepened, and we have known each other for longer, we leave more and more off the site. The focus is the food again, not us.
So those memories we spilled out — a glass of wine on the piazza in Montefalco; a conversation at the dinner table in Breckenridge; a moment of vulnerability between us that turned into something raw and real — will stay with us on that moonlit grass.
Mostly, as we laughed and marveled at how full our lives have been, we stopped frequently, and looked at each other. “Can you believe it has been a full year?”
After we finished our meal — the cake the same recipe we used last July 16th — we stood up and held each other, in front of the Buddha in the bathtub. Spontaneously, I took off his ring, and he took off mine. I looked in his eyes and said words for only him, and he did the same. Under the moon, we agreed to marry each other all over again.
“Happy Anniversary, my love.”
And then he slapped my butt, we grabbed plates from the grass, and we went inside.
Just as we cannot believe that it has already been a year (and only a year) since we were married, we cannot believe that next week we will meet our child.
How did this all go so fast?
I have been blessed. I have loved being pregnant, including the bouts of nausea, the gas up in my ribs, the waddling toward the end, the swollen feet. Because I waited so long to be pregnant, I decided to notice every moment, to live within it with as much peace as I could.
This has been the most extraordinary journey of my life.
Now, the journey’s almost done. I’m going to let go of being pregnant, fling my arms open wide, so that I can hold Little Bean, and not the possibility any longer.
As you can imagine, after the baby is born next week, we’ll be taking some time off from this website. I’ll tell you more about this later.
But before I go — since so many of you have asked — I thought I’d write a bit about what I have found helpful through this process. Most of the books and gadgets associated with pregnancy and newborns seem silly to me. So much plastic and singing tinny recordings. I’m not going to advocate diaper genies or special creams to you.
As with everything else important in my life, my healthy happy pregnancy has been about other people and the matter of mind.
I have been part of a team through the last nine months.
No woman is ever pregnant alone. It requires someone else participating to take her there. But what has annoyed me most about the majority of the pregnancy books I consulted through this process is that the father just disappears. It’s as though his duty is to impregnate the woman, and then stay away until the kid comes out and needs the first diaper changed. Everything is about the woman.
But when I say to people that a baby is coming, I always say “We’re having a baby.” Everything has been about the we, not me. About the baby, not the mother. Not only me and the Chef, but this third person sitting in my belly. I have not felt alone in my body for months. The relationship between the Chef and me has shifted because of this. We’re partners more than ever, two people working for a common cause. We have been through this together.
I read a quote from Angelina Jolie on the cover of a magazine while I stood in line at the grocery store, something along the lines of “I have a partner who happens to regard being pregnant as very, very sexy, and that helps me to feel sexy.” Yes, that’s true. I feel pretty blessed. It doesn’t take Brad Pitt to make you feel that way.
But feeling sexy — and I have felt that way: ripe and voluptuous, truly a woman — pales in comparison to the feeling when the Chef calls me from the restaurant to talk to Little Bean. I put the cell phone near my belly, and he talks to LB. Every single time he sings or babbles or makes silly jokes, the baby kicks. Every time.
And his belly has grown bigger through the process. He’s clearly pregnant too.
Yes, I realize that the physical experience of being pregnant is mine. But I do not believe that this is all about me, a celebration of womanhood, with my oafish spouse standing off to the side. Instead, we are a team, two people whose love made a third human being.
I’ll never stop being amazed about going through this process with him.
I have an amazing family.
Not everyone is lucky enough to have a strong relationship with her parents before becoming pregnant. But if you are fighting with your parents, your sibling, your in-laws? Try to find a way to forge a new relationship with them. You’ll need them.
My parents and I have been at ease with each other for years. I adore them. But through this process, they have been delighted at every turn. And in particular, the conversations with my mother through all these months have connected us even more firmly. When she was pregnant with me, there were no ultrasounds or pre-natal tests. She had to go on faith, sheer indomitable will, that I would be fine. And she was only twenty when she was pregnant with me. Good god. I have known that all my life, but now that I am pregnant, I feel for that kid she was, more deeply than ever.
And protest though we did about the money they wanted to spend, the Chef and I certainly appreciated the trip to Target they splurged on when we needed the basic items. Thanks, you two.
The Chef’s parents have been equally excited and beside themselves. Talking with them has made me feel more solidly part of their family. And he and I both cried the morning a big box arrived on the front porch. His mom and dad shipped the rocking chair they had owned for forty years, the one she had rocked the Chef in when he was a child. They sent it to us for Little Bean.
No gift registry ever lists that.
This huge, loving community.
If it takes a village to raise a child, we live in the best village in the world.
Both the Chef and I have been blown away by the comments on this site, the emails that have poured in, the gifts that have arrived by surprise at his restaurant. It’s one thing to feel the support of friends, but to think that there are perfect strangers all across the world who wish us well with the birth of our child? We feel surrounded by love.
And our friends? Oh, our friends. Thank you, all of you, in Seattle and beyond, who have given us boxes of baby clothes, enough educational toys to last Little Bean for two years, beloved books, adorable hats, and everything we need. We’re pretty thrilled that almost everything baby-related in our house (aside from that shopping trip with Mom and Dad) is recycled and already loved.
Mostly, it’s the stories we have heard, about the rough first few weeks, the delight of the first smile, hilarious mishaps, and a love so big that the heart threatens to burst. When we share our stories, we share ourselves.
We’re also damned lucky to have friends who love food, as well as us. The first two weeks after Little Bean’s birth — the Chef is taking two weeks off from the restaurant for us all to be together — we have a different set of friends bringing us meals, snacks, and fresh produce from the farmers’ market. That is such an enormous gift. (And thank you, Molly, for organizing this.)
We feel so loved. And we’re opening all of that to Little Bean.
I trust my body.
Sometimes, I read accounts of pregnancy and childbirth from women online in forums, and I feel like I’m reading the collected complaints of victims.
I’m not sick or injured. I’m pregnant.
Sure, there have been aches and pains: badly stretched belly muscles; headaches; nausea; searing gas; and overworked inner thighs that make me feel like I have been riding horses for days. That doesn’t even include the desperate need to nap, the swollen feet, or the waddling.
But this process has made me love my body even more than I did before. Deep in my bones, I know why I have this body, why I am a woman. And it just seems to me that every strange new sensation is a chance to remind me that I am growing a human being in my belly.
My perceptions of my body have stretched along with the skin on my belly. For most of my life, I struggled with my self-image, like most of us. Most of us women are held hostage by our ideas about our bodies. Luckily, I had come to terms with myself, and the body I have, before I became pregnant. I let go. That’s a large part of the reason I have loved this so much, I know. But if you feel held hostage by your body, you’re going to feel held hostage by pregnancy too.
And then there’s the fear. Sure, the first trimester, I fought the urge to turn every little flutter into a disaster in the making. But after the fail-safe point passed, I have relaxed into my body. Instinctually, I have felt that the more at ease I am, the more Little Bean will feel at home in my body. So I have thrown away the notion that every single little ache and pain is either a sign that something is going wrong, or that I am suffering.
It’s surrender. And saying yes.
Every one of us arrived on the planet through this process. I think our bodies are stronger than we believe.
I have not eaten gluten.
Being diagnosed with celiac sprue over three years ago not only paved the way for me to become pregnant, but it also made eating well through pregnancy an easy task.
I have heard this story from many of you: once we are diagnosed and stop eating gluten, the body seems to need about nine months to heal before a baby can be conceived. Isn’t that funny? We have to give birth to our new selves before we can make room for another self. But it works.
Undiagnosed celiac is the leading cause of unexplained infertility. If you’re trying to become pregnant, you might want to look into this.
Once I became pregnant, I never once ate gluten, deliberately. I haven’t “cheated” once since I was diagnosed. And after three years of experience, and even more caution on behalf of the baby, I didn’t get any gluten by mistake.
We were at a friend’s birthday picnic on the Fourth of July. We were all sprawled on the grass, talking and laughing, eating casually. Someone pointed to a bag of potato chips, which I really haven’t eaten much during these past nine months. Thankfully, they were made by Frito-Lay, who have taken the trouble to identify gluten-free products on their website. I knew from that, and from reading the back of the package that I could have the thin slivers of potato and salty fat goodness. A few moments later, someone suggested the sweet chili Doritos. I took them into my mouth without thinking.
It was only the next day I looked them up online and found out they contain soy sauce.
The weirdest part is that it took me until the next day to realize I had gotten some gluten. Normally, I’m the canary in the coal mine, the one who can tell within ten minutes if any gluten has crossed my lips. I blotch bright red, I suffer from an instant headache, my intestines start to hurt, and I’m in the grip of it right away.
But this time, I didn’t feel anything off until the results of it left me in the bathroom for hours on end. What happened?
Apparently, during pregnancy, our immune systems relax. Otherwise, our bodies would reject the baby. And so, it became clear to me that I can’t tell immediately if I’m getting gluten.
And some of us, I know from hearing, decide to eat gluten while pregnant, because we don’t feel that bad.
Ooh, I wouldn’t.
The internal damage continues on. From what I have read, one or two accidental doses of gluten won’t damage the baby. (However, I’m not a doctor, and I don’t know for sure.) But an entire pregnancy of eating gluten? No damn good.
I have eaten better than ever in my life.
I’m also really grateful that I found out that I cannot eat gluten long before I became pregnant because I have learned so much about food in the past three years.
Years ago, I ate my share of junk food, preservative-stuffed snacks, and meals out of a box. I’ve been there, and I don’t want to go back.
Just after I was diagnosed with celiac, I decided to regard the food I ate as a way of feeding myself, and healing myself.
I don’t need to write it all again. Check out the archives of this site, the Monday ingredient posts, the exuberant discoveries of new grains and vegetables if you want to know more. Over this time, I have fallen in love with real food.
That’s why, for the most part, when I have experienced cravings during this pregnancy, I have craved grass-fed beef, cold organic milk, bitter arugula, and sharp local cheeses. I’m not saying that to sound sanctimonious. That’s honestly what my body has wanted.
(There was the two weeks of needing a Tootsie Roll every day. And you know what? I listened to my body.)
There have been times this past month when I have stood at the farmers’ market or the grocery store, and thought “Oh, go ahead. You’re pregnant. Get something crazy.” I searched, and reached for candy bars wanting to want them. I thought about milkshakes and big packages of snacky salty food. But when I really allowed myself whatever I wanted, I found myself stretching out my hands for a pound of Rainier cherries.
For example, I can’t stand the thought of soda pop right now. My idea of beverage heaven?
This lemon-mint water that my friend Francoise made for me last week. She simply threw in ice cubes, tap water, several slivers of lemons, and a few sprigs of mint from her garden. Gorgeous.
I’ve made it since with sparkling water, ice cubes made of coconut juice, ice cubes of strawberry puree, and lemon verbena. They’re all wonderful. And they all feed us.
A few gadgets and creams aren’t bad.
Here are a few of the books and bobbles that have helped me through this most:
On an obstetrician visit, the doctor lifted up my shirt to hear the baby’s heart and saw my white band beneath it. “You know, if I had been smart, I would have invented this years ago and retired.”
I laughed. Seriously. I could not have made it through this without this slight restraint, a way to hold my belly muscles in close, instead of stretching painfully outward.
About month four or five, I just didn’t like vegetables. It was the end of winter, and I couldn’t stand one more root vegetable. I learned quickly that the only way I would get the produce nutrients I needed was to buy a juicer. This one rocks. So does apple, ginger, carrot juice, first thing in the morning.
Oh gad, without this long pillow in the shape of a question mark? I imagine there would have been far more sleepless nights for this pregnant woman. But being able to clutch it, and rest my belly upon it, from month four on, has meant that I have slept through nearly every night without a problem.
(And I can’t wait until I can put it away and snuggle up to the Chef again instead.)
Look, let’s face it. Nothing can stop stretch marks. I already had some before I got pregnant, so maybe my belly simply grew into them, plus more. But I never grew new ones. That’s probably genetic. Or maybe it’s because I didn’t gain too much weight.
I’m not sure this cocoa butter prevented them. Unlike the exorbitant creams that promise miracles, this lovely organic, fair-trade cream doesn’t claim anything. It just smells good on the skin and feels good too.
It’s also the least expensive of the bunch. I’m using it forever, now.
This was the most scientific of the books, the least fluffy, the most helpful. It’ s wonderful to think what might be happening in my body at each week. This one told me.
Parts of this are pretty silly. But at least it had a sense of humor. And a real voice. Unlike most of the other books.
This book is clear-eyed, kind, and doesn’t inspire hysteria, as so many pregnancy books do. I felt good reading it, like an adult had written it for a fellow adult.
About my sixth month of being pregnant, I realized I could read about the nature of pregnancy forever. But the point is not to be pregnant, but to have the child. I started reading books about newborns and children. This one is so damned lovely and based on common sense that I can’t wait to read more and more as Little Bean grows.
“let all go dear….so comes love.”
Over these nine months, I have learned one lesson most clearly: let go of my expectations. They stand in the way of true joy.
How many of you who have been pregnant were convinced that by the baby came, the house would be perfectly organized, the finances arranged perfectly, the nursery bright and gleaming, everything in its place, and every single surface dusted? I’ve never cared much about creating a sterile field in our house. But about two months ago, the nesting instinct kicked in and went off like a time bomb in my brain.
I imagined that perfect house, ready for a magazine spread. But professional work kept piling up, I found I needed more time for private writing, and I needed to see friends for lunch and walks. Pair that with a rapidly de-escalating energy level, and much of what I wrote out on lists simply didn’t get done.
I have a feeling Little Bean really won’t care.
What’s going to make me relaxed? Crossing everything off the list, even if it meant me being exhausted and running the Chef ragged on his mornings off? Or letting go of some of those silly expectations and allowing the fact that the baby will live in the same house we live in?
I have learned to say yes to that too. It took me longer to come to that calm conclusion than I would have hoped. But I have let go.
Here’s the big one.
When I had the giant fibroid tumor removed, five years ago, by the doctor who saved my uterus, she told me in the follow-up visit: “Because of the huge vertical incision we had to make, if you ever get pregnant, you’ll have to have a c-section.” Thrilled that I was still capable of becoming pregnant, I nodded and thought nothing of it.
Maybe it’s because I knew this long before I even met the Chef, but I have never found this hard to accept. I’m convinced it’s a miracle that I have him in my life, that I’m pregnant at 41 with such ease after such struggle, and that Little Bean is almost here.
But it saddens me, deeply, to read other women talking about c-sections, as though they settled for a secondary birth when the surgeon cut them open and pulled out a baby. It’s rampant, this feeling that “natural” childbirth is the only way, and anything else is only a pale comparison.
Next week, on a particular day we don’t want to share here yet, the Chef and I will walk hand in hand into the hospital, calmly check in, settle into our room, listen to music we love, talk to the doctors, and talk with Little Bean about what this birth experience might be like. And then we’ll walk to the OR and meet our child.
This feels so calm and intentional to me. No drama. No trauma. Sure, there will be recovery from surgery, but that’s small price to pay for a child to be born. And besides, I don’t have to go through labor.
People have been asking lately, “When’s the baby due?” When I say the day, and they seem surprised we know the exact date, I say, “Oh, it’s a planned c-section.”
It still amazes me that everyone has one of two reactions: I’m sorry, or why?
Why? Do I really have to explain to the bank teller my medical history? When I say it’s medically necessary, people are mollified, no longer about to lecture me about the better way to be born. But why should I have to explain that?
And I’m sorry? I refuse to believe, with every fiber of my being, that my child is having a stunted or muffled birth. Little Bean will be in the world. That’s all that matters to us.
This isn’t about my birth experience. It’s about a baby being born.
“What in this world is perfect?”
Silence on the site.
Next week, when we are ready, we’ll make an announcement, sharing our joy with the world. We’ll let you know that Little Bean is here and healthy (one hopes). We’ll tell you who Little Bean is. And share photos.
And then after, no more photos of Little Bean on this site.
We hope you’ll understand why. This little one isn’t even in the world yet. Little Bean isn’t capable of choosing to be an internet presence. In these times, with some of the nastiness of the internet, we have decided it’s right to keep the child to ourselves.
I’m sure I’ll be writing how being a mother has changed me. It already has. But this won’t be a mommy blog. This is still a food site. Food is the deepest inspiration here. Stories related to food and the kid? You bet. Constant reflections on being parents? Not here.
After Little Bean arrives, we’ll be taking at least a month’s hiatus from the site. We need time to learn our family, to revel in exhaustion and stare at the baby. We need time to figure out who we are in the midst of this enormous change, without having to document it.
But not everything will be dormant. There will be thrice-weekly posts on Gluten-Free Girl Recommends. (psst…. I’ve written them ahead of time.) And here, dear friends whom you have read about many times — Sharon, Tita, Nina, and Brandon — will be doing guests posts, about food and love and pizza, on Thursdays.
We’ll be back when we can, when it feels right.
So that’s it. For now. When I write again, Little Bean will be in the world.
We can’t wait for everything in our lives to be changed by this.
I’d like to leave with the Mary Oliver poem that has been running through my head for months, and particularly right now. This is where I found the line “But what in this world is perfect?”
What day doesn’t need a reminder that imperfections are nothing, the light everything?
And it sure feels like a kind way to raise a child.
are so perfect
I can hardly believe
their lapped light crowding
Nobody could count all of them –
the muskrats swimming
among the pads and the grasses
can reach out
their muscular arms and touch
only so many, they are that
rife and wild.
But what in this world
I bend closer and see
how this one is clearly lopsided –
and that one wears an orange blight –
and this one is a glossy cheek
half nibbled away –
and that one is a slumped purse
full of its own
Still, what I want in my life
is to be willing
to be dazzled –
to cast aside the weight of facts
and maybe even
to float a little
above this difficult world.
I want to believe I am looking
into the white fire of a great mystery.
I want to believe that the imperfections are nothing –
that the light is everything — that it is more than the sum
of each flawed blossom rising and fading. And I do.”