Thanks for stopping by.
If you follow this blog regularly, you may have been wondering what rock I crawled under after my last post.
I certainly did not mean to leave you hanging for so long (or to leave really ridiculous pictures of myself up on the homepage for more than two months), but the roller coaster of life has been taking me for quite a ride.
The story is very long and very personal, but I want to share it. If you are squeamish or sensitive to personal details, by all means, skip this post--it's definitely a departure from my usual recipes and ramblings. However, Being the Secret Ingredient has always been dedicated to food, life, and love, and this, in all its unpredictable glory, is life.
Hoosband wrapped up grad school in May, which meant the first few weeks of the month were spent space-bagging clothes, cleaning out the fridge, and generally preparing to say goodbye to our 600-square-foot home of the last two years--all while stuffing my mouth with Saltines in an attempt to stave off morning sickness.
We discovered we were pregnant in late March, but we had no idea how far along we were--I was still breastfeeding, and my monthly visitor hadn't come calling since I became pregnant with Oia in 2010. An ultrasound eight weeks after our positive home pregnancy test determined a gestational age of six weeks.
It didn't add up--at all. According to WhatToExpect.com, most pregnancies are in their forth week before a pregnancy test yields a positive result. That meant I should have been at least 12 weeks along at the time of the ultrasound. I was bothered, confused, and concerned but chalked it up to some combination of my own inferior math skills, a raging case of pregnancy brain, and the furious whirlwind of house-hunting stress.
When we got the call with the ultrasound results, we were several days into a cross-country house-hunting trip, running out of sanity, hope, and clean underwear. As a few nights at the Dallas Super 8 stretched into nearly two weeks, we'd had about as much of house-hunting and hotel breakfasts as we could take. The market was on fire. Houses we liked in the morning were under contract by the afternoon. We spent so much time pouring over online listings, I couldn't even bring myself to look at the computer in our few moments of down time. Emails went unchecked, the blog was neglected, and social media was a foreign concept.
One thousand miles away, our apartment in South Bend was waiting to be packed. Hoosband was required to oversee the movers in person and had already pushed the packing date back once, as the house-hunt raged on. We were down to a maximum of two days to find what we were looking for and seal the deal, or we'd be leaving Dallas with even more up in the air than when we arrived. Stress was high.
The following weeks were a welcome change of pace. While we still had to wrap up all the odds and ends of inspections, appraisals, and financing, we'd managed to leave Dallas with a signed contract on our very first house. Hoosband made it to South Bend in time to meet the movers, clean out the apartment, turn in the keys, and book it back to Nashville for our belated wedding-anniversary date, a fabulous show at the Grand Old Opry. We planned to split the next four weeks between North Florida and Nashville, catching some rays and catching up with family and friends before our July 1 closing date.
Two weeks at the beach provided some much-needed decompression. I stocked up on maternity-wear at the outlets and diligently avoided the raw oysters and daiquiris at the restaurants. We frequented our favorite spots for hushpuppies and gumbo, let the grandparents watch the little one, and spent as much time as possible with our toes buried in crystal-colored sand and our gazes fixed on turquoise water.
We got back to Nashville late on a Thursday. Monday morning I went to the emergency room.
I'd had two small hemorrhages early in my pregnancy with Oia, so a large part of me expected everything to be fine when I saw the blood. I figured minor bleeding in the first trimester must just be my norm.
But there had been clues all along that something wasn't right.
On a scale of one to 10, my morning sickness had staggered around a three. With Oia it had been a relentless 11. I knew that no two pregnancies were identical, but the drastic difference read like a warning sign.
Then there was the question of the gestational time frame. How could I have only been six weeks along at the time of the ultrasound when I'd known I'd been pregnant for eight?
I had even confided to Hoosband at various points that I felt strangely disconnected from this pregnancy. I told myself it was because we were so preoccupied with our two year old and our move and all the life changes, but looking back now, I know it was more than that.
I went quickly from triage to examining room to ultrasound.
The ultrasound technician was friendly and upbeat with a welcoming manner and a warm British accent. I asked her hopefully if the heartbeat I heard was the baby's.
"No. It's yours," she said and quickly changed the subject to my ovaries before rolling me back to the examination room.
When the ER doctor came in to reveal the results, I know I should have expected what I heard next--I blame my hypochondriacal nature for my surprise. I've gotten so used to hearing I'm fine when I think something's wrong that it took a few moments for the doctor's words to actually sink in.
"No cardiac activity."
I nodded silently, trying to listen as he continued to speak in gentle but definitive tones, my tear ducts in overdrive as each word spun around in my head and landed with a heavy thud on my heart.
The ultrasound that day indicated the gestational age of the fetus was nine-and-a-half weeks. We had known we were pregnant for 13.
We met with an obstetrician the following day to discuss the next steps. I could wait and let my body expel the baby on its own, but it could happen at any time--could be days, could be weeks. As far along as I was, it would likely also be messy, painful, and long-lasting. The alternative would be a quick, scheduled surgery. With a 10-hour car ride to close on our house in Dallas a mere four days away, surgery seemed the only option. We scheduled the procedure for Thursday because Wednesday was my 30th birthday, and I planned to spend it trying a much-lauded new restaurant for lunch with my mom and making fresh ricotta and homemade ravioli for dinner with Hoosband.
Wednesday morning my brother, dad, and step-mom invited us over for a birthday breakfast. On the way to their house I began to feel like I was in the early stages of labor.
I had just sat down with a large glass of water in hand and a bountiful platter of the Donut Den's finest offerings in front of me when the obstetrician's office called to confirm my Thursday appointment. I was bleeding heavily and cramping intensely and asked the nurse if I should be concerned.
A few minutes later my surgery had been rescheduled for two o'clock that afternoon, and I had been advised not to eat or drink ANYTHING until after the procedure. I reluctantly set my glass of water down on the table and looked wistfully at the donuts as I called to cancel my lunch reservation.
When I woke up from the anesthesia, Hoosband was standing there with a stuffed fox and a vase of flowers. He took me home and forced me to eat a bowl of leftover potatoes (the nurse said they'd be gentle on the stomach) and walk in a straight line (he was worried I'd be too wobbly to safely cross the street) before he took me to my favorite ice-cream spot. One scoop of Brown Butter Almond Brittle and one scoop of Brambleberry Crisp later, I decided there could be worse ways to spend a 30th birthday.
On Friday my mom took us to Husk for a belated birthday lunch of bone marrow, homemade rolls with pork-fat honey butter, and the best ham sandwich I've ever had.
Saturday we drove to Dallas, Sunday we closed on our house, and we've been unpacking and settling in (with a few quick trips to Austin and Houston thrown in) ever since.
We've been up and down and all around these last few months, but I'm forever grateful to the family and friends who have helped us get through it with prayers and words and love. I'm grateful to God for the family He's given me and for the hope I still have that He'll help us expand it in His time.
We're still digging ourselves out of boxes and trying to get things up and running around here, but I'm hopeful I'll be back in the kitchen-to-keyboard routine soon.
Thanks for your patience, and thanks, as always, for reading. Here's to Being the Secret Ingredient in your life,