Tuesday, August 25, 2009

14 weeks

So, yes, dear readers. Paul and I are having a baby. And every second of every day we are feeling all of the rapture and fear and bliss and ohshitwhathavewedone joy that comes along with having a baby.

Right this moment, I am 14 weeks along this insane/beautiful/strange/miraculous ride of pregnancy, and even though he or she is only the size of a large lemon (all curled up and snuggling inside me), this baby is the biggest thing that's ever going to happen to me.

And today, with my hands on my growing belly and an English muffin with creme fraiche and homemade strawberry jam in front of me, I feel as good as I've ever felt. I can now tell you wonderful things, like how I knew I was pregnant because only days after conception, I felt the most overwhelming waves of pure joy, and that I kept getting chills of elation for no apparent reason. I can tell you that I grabbed a piece of paper, and wrote "I know in my heart that I am pregnant, because I just felt you," and carried it in my wallet through weeks of false negative pregnancy tests before getting confirmation that I was right. I can tell you that I feel safe, and calm, and protective (as well as protected --Paul is really good at this), and that I can't stop touching my belly, can't stop imagining the million different things that the little lemon is going to bring to our lives. The books we'll read. The lullabies. The feeling of a newborn sleeping on me, the rhythm of our breaths together.

And more - the first trip to the beach, summer camps, dropping him or her off for the first day of college. All day now, I think about the beautiful possibilities, the things I can't predict, a life I don't even want to guess. I can tell you, at fourteen weeks along, that this baby is the most incredible gift I could have ever imagined.

But the last ten weeks are a whole different story.

I can also say now that ten weeks of this pregnancy were some of the most miserable weeks of my life. I was nauseous 24 hours a day -- so nauseous that I could feel it in my toes, in my bones, in my ears, in my teeth. Have you ever been really sea sick? It was like that, but relentless and lasted for over two months. I'd have to pull over on the way to work to throw up. I couldn't go anywhere other than work and home, and I missed my friends and vitality. I was so unbelievably exhausted that my arms would give up on me as I was combing my hair, and I'd lose entire weekends to sleep.

I did not feel at all connected to what was happening to me. Half the time I was convinced I'd made the pregnancy up, that really I just had the worst flu of my life.

I did my best not to have any negative thoughts. I failed quite a bit. I'd hold secret conversations in my head, mad at myself for not being better at pregnancy, for not remembering to think about the baby inside of me. And every once in a while, when I was sick and miserable and exhausted, I actually had to stop myself from completing the thought, "I don't want to do this anymore." It felt like it was never, ever going to end.

And this is especially horrifying to me: I had thoughts about not wanting to gain weight, worried about not looking like I'd always hoped I would look when I was pregnant. I wanted to be a CUTE pregnant woman, not a puffy, bloated, spotted-skinned blimp. I would think these things, and then yell at myself for being such a horrible, selfish, vain person.

None of this was what I had ever expected. None of this was what I'd thought I would be. It was as if all the worst parts of me were being revealed right at the very time in my life when I'd want to be at my very best.

And food, my source of inspiration and creativity, suddenly became the enemy. I lived on cereal, toast, and plain pasta for two months. I wrinkled my nose and gagged at everything I once loved. When my nutritional intake was supposed to matter most in my whole life, I suddenly had the palate of a picky five-year-old. No crusts. No meat. No veggies. If I saw, smelled, or even THOUGHT of a cooked or roasted pepper, I'd start gagging immediately. Food became a chore, instead of my inspiration, and I lost my ability to do what I love most: cook.

And all I could do was try not to take it out on Paul, and listen to everyone who promised me it would all get better after 14 weeks. And somehow, the weeks passed, and one day, two weeks ago, Paul pointed at my tummy and shouted, "You're showing!!!" I found myself daydreaming about food, and I made my way back into the kitchen, slowly, and sure enough at 14 weeks I'm finally feeling what I'd always hoped to feel: A glow.

A warm, brilliant, miraculous glow. And I kind of realize that maybe that's what those ten weeks are for... so that you won't take a moment of this for granted. Because now I'm here. I'm right where I've always imagined myself. With big boobs and a little belly and the sweetest little lemon inside me. I have love at my side and also growing within me, and I feel GOOD about all of it. So who cares how I got here, I'm here.

And holy crap, it's so much better than I ever could have imagined. I got a tiny glimpse of it, when I got those first few waves of joy so early on. That was just a hint of what was to come.

So, that's what I was doing the last couple of months. If you go back and read earlier posts, I was dropping some pretty serious hints. In this one, from back in June, I actually told you I had a bun in the oven. I'm honestly surprised more people didn't pick up on that.

But one person did. My dearest friend, Marilyn, from Simmer Till Done, guessed very, very early on that I was pregnant. And when I secretly confirmed her suspicions were correct, she gave me the most beautiful gift, right at the moment I needed it most. When I was at my sickest, my most confused, my most negative, she sent me into my future, showing me that it would all be worth it. She gave me The Baker's Alphabet, the sweetest confection, which she wrote during her own days in the nursery as a brand new mom.

Her beautiful rhyming words, and the colors from her sketches lifted me right out of my fog and took me into the nursery - a nursery brought to life with the colors and smells of a baker's kitchen. I read her words, out loud, and finally felt connected. Marilyn's Baker's Alphabet is full of love and delight and wonder, and will always be the very first thing I read to my baby.

And I'm certain it will be read over, and over again in those first few months of life. You can read it here: http://simmertilldone.com/2009/07/12/the-bakers-alphabet/

And now that we talked about that, I can tell you that Culinerapy is not going to become a pregnancy blog, or a mommy blog. What I write about here will no doubt reflect the changes in my life, but this is still the place I come to escape, to share, to sit down with something delicious and talk about life. None of that will change.

And as I ease my way back into my place at the stove and at the table, I'm offering up something very simple and sweet. Homemade Fresh Strawberry Jam. This isn't even really a recipe, but I wrote out what I did to help you along if you've never made your own fresh jam. There's no canning involved - just stir together some fruit, some sugar and a little orange liqueur (I know, I can't have alcohol, but it's only a tiny amount and it cooks off) and cook until gooey delicious. It's also good with a squeeze of lemon :)

This makes your kitchen smell heavenly. And it's delicious mixed with Greek yogurt, or poured on waffles or pancakes, or even with ice cream. Or, you can eat it like I have every morning this week: On toast, spread with a little creme fraiche. It's my Welcome Back to Food breakfast of choice, and I can't stop eating it.

I also can't stop rubbing my belly. Or smiling. Or thinking of names for the little lemon. And wondering, Is it a boy lemon, or a girl lemon?


Simple Strawberry Jam

1 pound fresh, ripe strawberries
1/2 - 1 cup sugar
2 tablespoons Grand Marnier (or any orange liqueur)

Rinse and hull strawberries, cutting largest strawberries in half or quarters, leave smaller berries whole (I like mine chunky!). The amount of sugar you need it based entirely on how ripe and sweet your berries are. If they're sweet and ripe and at the peak of berriness, you'll only need 1/2 cup of sugar. If they need a little help, try 3/4 to 1 cup. (Don't fret - this jam is delicious no matter how much or how little sugar is in it.) Put berries, sugar and liqueur in heaviest pan you have (Dutch oven, if you've got one), and toss to coat berries.

Bring berry mixture to boil over medium heat, stirring often. Skim off any white, sticky foam that bubbles to the top and along the edges, and remove. Simmer for about 25-35 minutes - you will notice the berries will begin to break down, creating a thick, chunky, vibrant red gooey sauce. Remove from heat and let cool.

Spread on toast, ladle onto yogurt, pour over ice cream. Will keep for two weeks, refrigerated.

*This recipe yields a modest amount, about 1 cup. If you want more, simply double the fruit, add another splash of booze, and sprinkle on more sugar. You really can't mess this up.


  1. I love your writing and your honestly. So heartfelt and open. Congratulations and I personally won't mind if you continue to update us on your little lemon as he/she develops into larger pieces of fruit!

  2. Sara, your strawberry jam is exactly right for this moment and all the happy ones ahead! So glad you're doing better - and I'm especially fond of any recipe that includes "You really can't mess this up."

  3. I went back and read the English Muffins again and smacked myself on the forehead. You totally alluded, and I missed the hint! Bonus points to Marilyn.

    So glad your body has come back to food. The weeks ahead are the most fun, when things suddenly taste better than they ever have, ever, for some reason. Enjoy it!

  4. Oh sweet little lemon.


  5. Congrats we have a 2.5 yr old who has been helping me cook for a while now- he is the best at throwing the salt near the dish and can work a peppermil with the best of them-My wife just started getting sick this week-HMMMM can not imagine what that means-LOL

  6. Sarah, I am so happy for you and Paul! Thank you for your lovely words and this recipe and I agree with Maria at Fresh Eats. Keep writing about your pregnancy!

    Note: any good recipes like the jam one, for rasberries. Because of all the rain here in New England I have a bumper-crop of rasberries. I can't eat them fast enough!

  7. Welcome back to the kitchen, lady. This is the most precious post, ever. Congrats again on your little lemon.

  8. I loved reading this post. It brought back so many memories for me. I too went through days of negative pregnancy tests yet knew I was pregnant. I too took photos of the positive one I finally got. I was fortunate that I didn't feel sick like you did - how awful for you! I'm glad you are past the worst of it and that food is your friend again. I also struggled with the body image thing and finally just gave up and let myself enjoy being pregnant and ate the things I don't normally let myself eat. You can worry about your weight later... :) Best of luck to you!