Monday, July 16, 2012

Sakura Bloom Sling Diaries: History

When I was thinking of how to incorporate history with my Sakura Bloom post, I was inspired to go back to where our story began. In the East Village, NYC. This is where Scott and I met, where we grew to know and love one another, our first apartment together, and the place where Phoenix was born. We moved out of our precious neighborhood after P was born (across the river) but we still visit all the time and like to show him where his roots lay.
These photos are taken in front of the house that Phoenix was born in. The building is from the 1850's and was once a tenement building. Who knows how many other babies were born there, how many kids ran down this street, and how many other sweet couples build their first home here.
My heart always feels so full as soon as we turn down this block. It's truly a special part of our family history. 

I am wearing the Sakura Bloom Pure Linen Sling in Driftwood

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Gluten Free Coconut Lime Tea Loaf

I bring you this delicious summery tea loaf today. I adapted the recipe from one of my favorite baking books Cakes: River Cottage Handbook No.8. I made a few changes to the already lovely recipe.

It's gluten free because I have a bunch of rice flour in my freezer that Scott keeps complaining about. Must use it up. It's coconut lime because I had both coconut milk and limes that also needed using up. Serendipitously for me, all of these "clean-out-the-fridge" items made a fantastic treat. It is also very low in fat since I didn't use any oil or butter. Just light coconut milk. Another bonus! I can't be expected to eat an entire tea loaf and still put on my bikini this weekend, can I? Well, yes, now I can. I have been enjoying slices of this bread with jam in the morning, toasted along with milky tea in the morning, and even as a base for another favorite of mine, Trader Joe's Frozen Yogurt, in the evening.

I'm sure this recipe would work with regular flour and would equally be good with orange or lemon juice also. And if you happen to have pineapple juice, I would definitely try that combo and then bring me a slice. Let me know if you make it!

Gluten Free Coconut Lime Tea Loaf
(adapted from Cakes: River Cottage Handbook No.8)
For the cake:

Serves 10-12
1 cup rice flour
2 tsp gluten-free baking powder
1 tsp xanthan gum (To prevent sinking. I recommend it for gluten free baking.)
3/4 cup light coconut milk (You can also use full fat if you have it.)
Finely grated zest of 3–4 small limes
1/2 cup caster sugar
3 eggs
1/4 cup desiccated coconut
For the drizzle
1/2 cup coconut milk
the juice of about  3-4 freshly squeezed limes

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. 
Sift together the rice flour, baking powder and xanthan gum, if using, into a bowl. 
In a mixing bowl, combine the coconut milk and lime zest. Add the sugar until the mixture is light and creamy.
Add the eggs, one at a time.
Carefully fold in the remaining flour, then fold in the desiccated coconut. 
Spoon the mixture into the prepared tin, lightly smoothing over the surface with the back of a spoon.
Bake in the oven for 40–45 minutes or until the surface is nicely golden and the cake feels springy to the touch. 
Shortly before the cake will be ready, prepare the drizzle by combining the coconut milk and lime juice. 
When the cake comes out of the oven, prick the surface deeply, but not to the bottom, all over with a skewer.
Spoon half the syrup over the surface and leave to cool for 10 minutes before spooning the remainder over the top and down the sides. Leave until cool before turning out. 
This cake will keep for 5 days in an airtight tin.

Monday, July 9, 2012

Thoughts on Breastfeeding at (Almost) Nine Months

Nursing a 1 week old at the pediatrician's office. Notice how delirious I look.

(This is a long post and one I've been wanted to write for a while. It's often difficult to put down on paper what I feel in such a deep part of my heart but here it is.)

It's not been easy. And it's also been the easiest, most natural part of being a mother. It's like everything else that comes with parenting - confusing, daunting, and without much time to research or try things out. You just jump in and hope you can tread above water. Kind of how the past nine months have felt. I don't mean for this to sound as though I hate breastfeeding or that it's impossible. It's just been such an amazingly humbling experience for me, so far.

When I was pregnant, and had all the time in the world to leisurely read everything I could find on labor, birth, breastfeeding, and newborns, I became fixated on breastfeeding. Every woman has something, right? In retrospect, I wonder if I manifested my challenges in the beginning by being so worried that I would be inadequate. In any case, the first few weeks and months were the greatest exercise in trust I have ever witnessed.

From the first nursing session with Phoenix, the experience was both painful and incredible enough to bring me to tears. A mixture of hormones and difficulty latching made for an intensely emotional start. Every time I would hear his little whimper of hunger I would cringe for what was about to come. As much as I loved it once he was latched on properly, I dreaded the excruciating 15 minutes that it took to get him there. He would be screaming from frustration, I would be crying from pain, Scott would be sitting with us doing everything he could to calm both of us down. In a word, it was exhausting (on top of being exhausted).

After what felt like the longest few weeks of my life, Phoenix and I had finally worked it out. But there's more. I know I previously wrote about the fact that I had mastitis (twice) that turned into an abscess and resulted in two failed rounds of antibiotics and hysterical calls to my midwife, ending in her draining it in her office in the middle of the night (with a giant syringe) and a scarred breast. That's the short version. What I failed to mention previously was how I didn't even notice at the time how huge all of this was, as it was happening.

I am not writing any of this because I was a medal or a pat on the back. I am by no means an expert or mother of the year. But I was determined to do everything I could to "fix" my breast. Personally, I was not interested in giving Phoenix formula. Even when my pediatrician said, "It won't kill him." Even when my mom friends said, "Breastfeeding is more trouble than it's worth." Every time I researched formula or looked at the ingredients at the supermarket, I was both terrified/overwhelmed to give Phoenix any of those millions of chemical ingredients on the label and also couldn't imagine paying so much for something I could give him myself, for free! I know that many women can't breastfeed or have to give their baby's formula and I have no judgement on anyone who chooses to do so. I think you need to do whatever is best for your baby and family. But I decided that Phoenix and I were going to figure this out.

And we did.

I told him everything that happened as it was happening. I made sure he was aware of what we were both going through. Even when I had an open drain above my nipple and there was disgusting infected pus coming out (I still cringe just imagining this actually happened), I made sure he could nurse from that side and held onto his tiny hand the whole time so he wouldn't touch it. Luckily those were the early days and he didn't flail around like a fish out of water every time he nursed, like he does now.

After the draining, the healing began. Rubbing the area with castor area every night. Applying hot compresses, taking tons of herbs and inflammation reducing foods. And all the while nursing baby boy day and night. The emotional healing came later. Much later.

As the months progressed, nursing became automatic. What once took an hour, now could be done in 5 minutes flat. At his four month well visit, Phoenix had tripled his birth weight. That was confirmation to me that all that around the clock nursing and perseverance had paid off. I have a healthy boy. Not to say that he would be unhealthy had we gone the formula route but I was just happy knowing we had gotten to to other side, Phoenix and I. We were a team and we were now in the clear, as these things go.

Since then, our nursing relationship has grown even stronger. As my tiny baby gets closer to being a toddler every day (noo!!!) I am reminded of how important this special bond is between us. When we traveled to Holland a few months ago, he nursed throughout both plane rides. Nursing has gotten us through two bouts of teething (6 teeth!) and also while being sick and having a fever last week on vacation. Now that P is about to walk, we are experiencing quite a few tumbles and falls. If there are big tears, I know baby needs that closeness. If we are out longer than expected and I have no food packed, I always breastfeed him. It's both a comfort and a source of nourishment, the best multivitamin he will ever take and his safe place.

I say that it was an exercise in trust because in the thick of it, with an infected breast, a hysterical, hungry infant, an exhausted but incredibly supportive husband, a worried midwife, and little hope, all I could do was trust that it would be okay.

After my miscarriage, I trusted that I would have a healthy pregnancy. Having an unmedicated home birth, I trusted baby and I would safe. In the intensity of labor, I trusted that the pain would eventually end and the baby would come. Throughout the first months of motherhood, I trusted that my body could conquer all those things and that I was made to breastfeed as well. I trusted the process and the lesson.

It has been humbling and powerful. Phoenix still nurses day and night, whenever he wants really. He eats three "meals" a day now so it's not as frequent as it once. There were days that I felt were impossibly long and he was attached to me the whole time. There were nights that I cried to Scott about how frustrating it was that Phoenix would only calm down or fall asleep if I nursed him. I now understand that it is all a part of my role as mama. My scent soothes him, and as much as he loves his papa, sometimes mama offers a comfort that he can't. I get it now. And those nights that I wished that we just cared less and could give him a bottle, I whined and I cried and I got over it. We never did give him a bottle. If not anything else, being a parent has made me much stronger in my convictions. And when I decided I was going to master this foreign thing - breastfeeding. I did it. We did it. And I am so grateful for all the days and nights so far. All the tiny scratches, as of late. All the nibbles now that he has teeth. All the sweet looks of love and gratitude I get when I look down. I cherish all of these.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Full Circle

"Each moment of motherhood, whether they be exhausting and mundane... or magically rewarding, all work together to make up the beautiful tapestry of motherhood we are weaving day by day, crazy minute by crazy minute."

I read this quote recently on another blog and it spoke volumes to me. Phoenix has now lived outside of my body just as long as he was in. It, all at once, feels like forever and a second has gone by. Now that this funny little boy of ours is almost nine months (what?!) old, I feel like I have this whole thing a tiny bit figured out. Just a bit. I'm careful not to get too comfortable with anything, as I have learned that it can change within a day, an hour, or the blink of an eye.

Just last week P was still my gummy mouthed 8 month old with just two little bunny teeth, and all of a sudden he is entering the last quarter of his first year with six big boy teeth. It's bittersweet, as these things go. Every day that passes is one less day that he is my tiny baby and one day closer to being a toddler.

His eagerness to move and be independent is undeniable. At any given time, he is ready to go, see, and do. Constantly exploring and discovering. I love watching him focus on new details and poor over things like ribbon and spatulas for days.

These days are so precious that I find it difficult to keep up with my "old life" sometimes. Tasks that once took an hour now take days, sometimes weeks to finish. Blog posts idle in my drafts folder unfinished, rendering them old news but the time I am ready to update them. Recipes that I want to try sit bookmarked on the coffee table until they are no longer "in season" (how about those valentine's day cookies now?). Our apartment is still unfinished since we moved here in March. But still we savor this season that we are in. These moments with our little one. The slivers of time that feel like they are slipping by too quickly every day.

Our darling little boy is becoming so much sweeter and funnier than we could have imagined. It's true what they say, it does keep getting better. It's strange to remember the beginning, the challenging days. When it felt like it would never be "better" or easier. Those days had no beginning or end. They were an endless stream of sleeplessness and nursing, enveloped in a fog of butterflies-in-the-stomach love. Those days are ones that I will not soon forget. But they were difficult.

Now we don't have as many diapers to change and we sure do laugh a lot. Our challenges are different, and that's okay. We have to watch the little guy all the time, and as daunting as that sounds, it's also an exercise in being present. Often, I find myself trying to watch Phoenix out of the corner of my eye as I am scanning my email or preparing lunch. Even though multitasking is necessary at times, it stops me in my tracks when I look away for a second and I look back and see him looking up at me with the hugest grin on his face. Heart melting. Or I catch him completely engrossed with a wooden spoon. It may take a little longer to prepare lunch but I have to remind myself to slow down, to put away the to-do list, to worry about the blog later.

Some days are so long (and exhausting) but man, the years really are short. It's proven to be the truest cliche of all the cliches that come with parenthood.

So enjoy the happiness in coming full circle, my love. While I loved growing you inside my belly for almost nine months, it sure is rad having you on the outside. We watch with bated breath as you approach your first birthday in a funny crawl-walk hybrid. Always laughing. Our hearts smiling.