Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Deep Freeze

One of the best pieces of advice I received as a pregnant lady was to stock my freezer with meals before the baby arrived. Of course, when I received this advice and thought it was a great idea, I realized that I would never actually get around to doing it. But then, after reading this, I became convinced that a Foodsaver would change my life.

So we bought one.

Even with my handy new/totally unnecessary kitchen appliance, I questioned whether I’d be able to come through with freezer meals. Then it happened. I went through an insane nesting phase that literally made me the most organized and time efficient person on earth for about a week. I have never been so on top of my shit in my entire life. And with that burst of energy, I made ALL THE FOOD.

MM and I ate homemade meals four to five nights a week with minimal prep for a solid five weeks after Emme was born. After years of grand plans, weekly shopping lists, and post-work fatigue and ambivalence that led to many a night of spaghetti with sauce from a jar (not to mention wasted groceries), we were eating a home-cooked, healthy dinner nearly every single day. I realized then that freezer meals are the secret to almost everything, ever. So why stop at maternity leave? Since those first batches, I’ve been doubling and tripling recipes for freezing.

So what about the Foodsaver? Unlike so many products before it, it turned out that I was right about this one: It actually changed our lives. I’ll be honest, these appliances can be a bit finicky, and we ended up returning one that broke almost immediately. But after closer review of a little something called “the instruction manual,” our second Foodsaver has been spared an early demise.

You do not need a Foodsaver to effectively freeze meals; however being able to vacuum seal food does keep it fresh longer and totally prevents freezer burn. The special bags--yes, they require that you use special bags--can be boiled, so for some meals (chili works well with this) we often don’t even bother to defrost, we just toss the whole bag in a pot of boiling water.

If you do not use a vacuum sealer, the best freezing technique I’ve found so far is flash freezing. This works great for individualized items like lasagna rolls, muffins, etc. I’ve used this technique and then frozen items in a regular gallon-size freezer bag. Flash freezing also helps to lessen freezer burn.

We actually often flash freeze or refrigerate items so they have cooled below room temperature before vacuum sealing them, as it makes the vacuum sealer more effective. The squishier/warmer the food, the more the Foodsaver will try to suck out the moisture and the looser the sealing will be. One final Foodsaver tip: for items that are highly moist (like chilis or stews, we still haven’t attempted to freeze soup using the Foodsaver), we often put a paper towel between the food and the opening of the bag. This helps prevent moisture from seeping into the appliance as it sucks out the air, which keeps the Foodsaver working properly.

Here are several recipes we’ve had freezing success with:
Cincinnati Turkey Chili

Turkey Meatballs (I don’t make the sauce used in this recipe)

Individual Meat Loaves

Beer-glazed Black Beans (Mark Bitmann’s recipe from How to Cook Everything)

Whole Wheat Blueberry Muffins

Spinach Lasagna Rolls

Pasta Bake with Sausage and Spinach

Really, the possibilities are endless. I freeze in portions suitable for two people, which means we get three to four meals out of one casserole, but we never actually have to deal with leftovers. Keep in mind that the cooking instructions change based on whether you are reheating a frozen versus defrosted meal as well as if you freeze prior to cooking (or finishing cooking) or after.

Wednesday, December 05, 2012

18 Weeks Later: Postpartum Recovery

Chances are if you're reading this post, you've landed here after Googling "pelvic organ prolapse" or "postpartum prolapse" or "prolapse after having a baby..." or some iteration of those search terms. I am blogging at Mommy Sanest now where you can find an update to this post.

I know. It’s been awhile. Here’s how it happened: I started working; we fell (fairly easily) into a new routine; baby got a cold; a major holiday happened; new routine was a bust; baby’s sleep patterns were a mess; mom got the cold; mom became increasingly despondent about life; mom got better; mom realized it’s time to start making self-care a priority; routine was reinstated; baby’s sleep patterns got a little more predictable; life returned to sort-of normal.

And… we’re back.

Today’s post comes with a TMI warning, but I'd like to talk about why I really stopped running. I’ve thought about whether or not I actually want to post about this, but here’s the deal: I have a decent number of friends and acquaintances who have given birth in the last few years. And if there’s anything new moms can talk about, it’s their birth experience in (sometimes horrific) detail. And really, the ladies on deck want to know these things because it’s helpful to have an idea of the range of birth experiences you can have, from the no-big-deal to the DEAR-GOD-HELP-US-ALL-OH-THE-HUMANITY.

Going into having a baby, I thought I had heard a fair number of “horror stories” about the birthing process and what to expect postpartum. Maybe I'm just living under a rock, but what happened to me around eight weeks postpartum is not something I had heard anyone talk about, though according to websites and doctors it’s not uncommon among women who recently gave birth. At the time it happened, I didn’t actually have the words to describe what was going on.

Anyway, TMI, you’ve been warned.

I stopped running because I had a bladder prolapse. From WebMD:
In women, the front wall of the vagina supports the bladder. This wall can weaken or loosen with age. Significant bodily stress such as childbirth can also damage this part of the vaginal wall. If it deteriorates enough, the bladder can prolapse, meaning it is no longer supported and descends into the vagina.

Leading up to the prolapse, whenever I ran or did higher intensity cardio, stuff in that area felt... loose. Loose enough that I wasn't comfortable. Loose enough that my attempts to run quickly became walks. But I figured it was just a normal part of postpartum recovery. That is until I was hanging out one day, minding my own business, when I felt a "thud," like something had fallen out of place, and sure enough it had. YOU WERE WARNED. Honest to God, I had no idea what was happening, could not even wrap my head around how to describe this to the Google, and thought I was going to be rushed into surgery to fix whatever it was that was falling out of me.

Turns out, it's not that serious (at least not the kind of prolapse I have, there are other kinds that are far more serious). My lady doctor told me it was "no big deal" (which she annoyingly has a habit of saying about a lot of stuff, which I'm sure is really "no big deal," but feels like a big deal to me) and that because I was only eight weeks postpartum there was nothing they would do at that point. I told to "keep doing kegels" and call at 12 weeks postpartum if it was still bothering me, and sent on my merry way. I resolved to stop running, in the hopes that it would help me heal because it's pretty impossible to support your pelvic floor (hold a kegel) while participating in higher intensity cardio. I went to yoga; I did kegals; I waited for it to get better. It didn't get worse, but it didn't really stop feeling uncomfortable either.

More than anything though, I was angry. I'm lucky enough that I don't have a lot of experience feeling like my body has failed me. But that's exactly what it felt like. I couldn't do the things I wanted to do (i.e., run) because of the prolapse. It was affecting my quality of life. Of course, my maternity leave ended at 12 weeks and I went back to work, and our family had to readjust and I didn't get around to calling the doc for a few weeks.

But then, after neglecting self care for a few weeks, I hit a wall. I knew that working out couldn't be top of the priority list, but after not working out at all for almost a month, my mood was starting to suffer. And since it's harder with baby/work/family/life to be on a gym's group fitness schedule, I decided it was time to start running again. So I called my doctor who referred me to a specialist, a urogynecologist.

Who knew that was a thing, right?

The news is pretty good. First off, my prolapse is mild to moderate, skewing more toward mild than moderate. My pelvic floor strength is good, especially considering I'm only 18 (I think?) weeks postpartum. Apparently, it can take a full nine months for your pelvic floor to recover from childbirth, longer if you're breastfeeding, so I'm actually doing pretty well. The doctor also reassured me that nothing I did (like running or Zumba during or post-pregnancy) caused this to happen; I can blame this on pushing out an 8 lbs+ baby, 100 percent. The symptoms I have will get better with physical therapy (yes! there are PTs who focus entirely on the pelvic floor, who knew?), but the bad news is, like so many things, things aren't ever going to be exactly the same as they were before Emme.

So what now? I don't feel angry anymore now that I have some answers and an action plan. I start PT this weekend. And I'm getting fitted for a pessary, which will make exercise more comfortable. And with the doctor's reassurance that it won't make anything worse, I've started running again.

Anyway, as much as I'm not super comfortable sharing this embarrassing issue, I figured if I had no idea what this was, other people out there are similarly confused/horrified/upset by their own postpartum prolapse experiences, and maybe it would help to know that they aren't alone. And this blog started as a place to chronicle my fitness journey and this directly impacts that. So, there you have it. Real talk.