How To: Meal Prep for the week

How’re those New Years resolutions going?  Still eating good?  Still hitting the gym?  It’s ok if you’re not…change is hard.  I know, I’ve tried and failed before.  They say abs are built 80% in the kitchen and 20% in the gym.  You also can’t out-exercise a bad diet.  So how do you maximize your chances of success in the kitchen?

Try prepping meals for the week.  It’s an old bodybuilder trick that’s getting more and more popular among Crossfit, weekend athletes and soccer moms.  You plan 3 meals a day for each person and do one or two cookups; one on Sunday and one on Wednesday or Thursday.  You end up with every meal being ready for you and minimizing the chances of takeout because you don’t feel like cooking.  Oh, and you control what you’re eating…portions, macronutrients, calories, whatever!

So how do you start?

You need 3 things.

  1. One, 8 1/2 x 11 sheet of paper
  2. Pen, pencil, marker, chicken blood or other writing instrument.
  3. Recipes.

Grab that sheet of paper and fold it into quadrants (in half lengthwise and across)

Top Left:  Find 6 recipes.   Write the names and cookbooks/pages or YouTube links.  (I’m going to suggest Fit Couple Cooks to start.)

Top Right:  That’s your shopping list.  Put all the stuff you need to buy there.

Bottom Left: Make a grid:  Monday-Sunday, breakfast, lunch and dinner.  Check off each one you have planned.

Bottom Right:  Make notes there.  I usually put stuff like “Beef Satay and Chicken Nuggets are in containers.  Chipotle chicken and beef salad is ready to go (not in single serving containers) and Buffalo chicken and beef w/sweet potatoes is cut up and ready to cook on Wednesday.)

Congratulations!  You have a plan!!!!  You’re 50% there!

Now go shopping and get everything you need.   Come home, arrange it nicely and throw it up on Instagram!

Then get to work.  Cut up all your meat.  I grab my scale and measure out 4 portion batches.   Then I start any brown rice or quinoa while I start chopping my veggies.   It’s wasteful, but I find paper plate and bowls help out here.  I try to keep 2 things cooking at once.

2 hours later, I’m putting 8-16 fully cooked meals in single serving bowls or lumped into food containers.  A piece of blue painters tape on each tells me what it is, how many calories (since that’s what I’m counting.  You can do macros or whatever.) and all that’s left is the cleanup.  My meals are ready, portioned and my head is clear for other things.

As of this writing, I have every meal for my wife, kids and I planned for the week.  For Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday, we have 4 different lunches and dinners ready.  We tend to eat the same things for breakfast, so any pre-prep for that is done for the whole week.  I’ll cook the rest on Wednesday or Thursday…give us meals on Thursday, Friday and Saturday.  I leave 3 meals out so we can have flexibility: yes we order pizza or make pancakes for breakfast.   Hey, we gotta live and it doesn’t make sense to obsess over this stuff.

If you want to give it a shot, I’ll link to the online recipes I’m using this week, below.

If you have any other recipes or ideas, I’d love to hear them in the comments.

Good luck!!!!

 

Beef Satay (I subbed the beef for chicken and adjusted the calories

Kangaroo (I’m using cow…c’mon now.)

Chicken Nuggets

Buffalo Chicken

Beef with Sweet Potatoes

 

 

 

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Jumpstart those Resolutions

Show of hands, how many of you are planning on losing weight/building muscle/getting fit?   Welcome to the club…it’s called ‘MOST OF US’ and we meet at Taco Tuesdays at Planet Fitness in about 3 weeks.

Look, there’s a lot of reasons why we make these resolutions.  They’re the same reasons we don’t keep them year after year:  We’re the problem and think we can be the solution.  Think about it; most of us ‘know’ how to fly a plane; pull the stick back to go up, push forward to go down….don’t crash.    I own a Canon EOS digital camera that I paid $1000 for, so I can take as good pictures as any photographer.  I’m out of shape, so I know that all I have to do is go to the gym and it will all take care of itself.

Let me save you the time, effort, money and disappointment now.  If you’re planning on JUST joining a gym for the new year and don’t have a plan, program or coach….just stop.  You most likely are not capable of making the changes you want.  There’s 1000% nothing wrong with that; you simply need the right information and advice.

I’m planning a few posts to get me (and hopefully you) through the new year.   I have my circle of influence…and I’m sharing it with you here.  These are the blogs, books and people that I go to for help, advice and education.  I promise you there are no gimmicks, get ripped quick schemes or flawed logic here.   Every link here contains enough to help you reach your goals.  In no particular order:

NerdFitness.  I love the way the site is laid out and really appreciate the one time fee for all the resources.  If you’re a total newb, the free workouts are a good place to start.  They fly their Paleo flag, and if you’re into that, great.  If you’re not…there is still a lot of solid eating advice here as well.

Sandbag Fitness.  Matt hasn’t updated it in awhile, but this was the site that started it all for me.  I have a few of his books and sandbags from Brute Force, and really, you don’t need much more.  If you want to get started, cheap, pick up an athlete bag and never pay a gym membership again.

Blondponytail.   Moms, this ones for you. Jess is a mom to 2 young kids and understands that not everyone has hours a week to spend at the gym.  Her home and gym workouts will have you gasping for breath, seeing results and coming back for more because you can fit this into your schedule.

SKFitlife  Stephanie and Steve have one of the best podcasts on fitness.  They promote smart eating and exercise, no shortcuts and getting the root of your obstacles so you can achieve results.  You won’t find much in the way of workouts here, but you’ll be overloaded with good advice to get your head on straight.   They are Spartan racers and recently launched a killer podcast for anyone interested in getting started with Obstacle Course Racing.

Men’s Health Power Training.   This is my favorite fitness book of all time.  This was written by someone who knows his stuff and at a time when Men’s Health wasn’t trying to create the next Insanity or Boot Camp or whatever.   You’ll find nothing but clear advice and a plan to maximize your gym time.

Ok folks, you have 3 days to peruse these and decide what you’re going to do come the new year.  If you choose to follow any of them, let me know!   I don’t get any money, but I’ll be happy knowing I set some people in the right direction.

Good luck and Happy New Year!!!!

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Halloween Costumes

Alright, I’m going to get soapboxey here.   I don’t think little girls should be dressing up as Harley Quinn for Halloween.   It sends all the wrong messages, encourages all the wrong behaviors and sexualizes them way to early.

“But Sean!   It’s Halloween.  If we follow that logic, kids, even girls, can’t dress up as zombies, Jason, Freddy, werewolves or mad scientists.  Get off your soapbox and rethink your position!”

You’re right…I can’t decry all the Harleys and allow the slasher-flick characters.  Well, I can, with some explanation.  First, I need you to do an image search of Harley Quinn.  I’ll wait.    Ok, THAT is what I’m talking about.  If you’re 21 and hitting a club like that, more power to you.   If you’re 9…no.

Let’s take a look at the character of Ms. Quinn.  She was the Joker’s psychotherapist, fell in love with him, helped him escape and was treated truly horrible by him at every turn…only to fight even harder for his attention.  Everyone who every loved someone who treated them like crap and kept going back; she’s that times one million.   The version of Ms. Quinn that girls are dressing as is portrayed by Margot Robbie in Suicide Squad.  As good as Ms. Robbie is in the character (note: I haven’t seen the film, but what I have seen and been told, she’s FANTASTIC) she’s eye candy and exists, at least partially, to be gorgeous and lusted after by male characters.

Hey, I’m a dude, I like a beautiful woman just as much as the next guy.  This isn’t about objectifying adult women.

So, you have your 5th grader dressed as Ms. Quinn in her “Daddy’s Little Monster” tshirt (shudder) and pigtails and shorts and smudged makeup and baseball bat.  THINK ABOUT THAT!!!!   Is it not just the least bit creepy?   Anyone who knows the character is going to think of (in some order) her appearance in the film, her truly damaged psyche and that she’s essentially a battered lover with no self-esteem.

Really???   That’s appropriate?

“Um, Sean…is a werewolf, devil or axe murderer appropriate?”  

Yes, in context.   Not many of us are going to be identified by our horns, bloody aprons, chainsaws or rotting flesh.  Ok, a lot us dudes are going to have to deal with back hair, but that’s really very minor compared to what women will have to deal with.  These little girls are going to grow up being judged by appearance..and the more attractive they are, the better.   In too many ways, the things that identify Harley aren’t the things we want our girls to least identify with…especially at a young age.

“Why is it ok for boys to be violent characters but girls can’t be ‘sexy’ characters?”

Yeah, I know.  Part of it is our culture.  As a child you probably see mom or dad, brother or sister naked in a non-sexual way.    You (hopefully) don’t see Mom hack up the neighbor with an axe, or Dad turn into a wolf and eat someone.   Go to a movie and you’ll see people killing each other in ever more creative and violent ways, but a glimpse of skin is forbidden.

A few years ago there was a backlash against the Disney Princesses and how they were (up till not too long ago) passive characters in their own stories who were waiting for a prince.   Then came Mulan, Merida, Tianna, Rapunzel, Anna and Elsa; quite the opposite of damsels in distress waiting for a man to save them.  I TOTALLY get that!    As the dad of two girls, I want nothing more than for them to be self-sufficient.  Not in the man-hating “I don’t need you and all your Neanderthal habits” way, but in the “I can take care of myself.” way.

So where were these characters?   I saw some princesses (note: I’ll lump all princesses together as a relative positive role model) and the usual cats, hotdogs and hippies.  Didn’t see too many Reys or Supergirls.  Wonder Woman and Agent Carter were missing in action.  Unscientifically, I think there were just as many Harley Quinns as all female heroes combined.

Moms and Dads….pay attention.  The hearts and minds of our daughters are being won over by all the wrong characters.   We can, and need to do better.

*steps of his soapbox and goes back to his day*

 

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Better Days

“Now a life of leisure and a pirate’s treasure
Don’t make much for tragedy
But it’s a sad man my friend who’s livin’ in his own skin
And can’t stand the company
Every fool’s got a reason for feelin’ sorry for himself
And turning his heart to stone
Tonight this fool’s halfway to heaven and just a mile outta hell
And I feel like I’m comin’ home”

~Better Days by Bruce Springsteen.

Last week I attempted my first Spartan Beast and failed.  For reasons both within and without of my control I came up short, and I’m stuck with a sour taste in my mouth for the whole thing.  I’ll spare you the details, save for one important one:  technically I DNF’d (did not finish) because I didn’t reach the last checkpoint in time.   I had gas in the tank, so I know I would have finished if the clock had been on my side, or I’d been faster earlier on.

I was really angry.  I had the bumps, bruises, scrapes and aches that Finishers had.   I had no shirt or finisher medal…and no real chance at a Trifecta this year.   It was a helpless anger, that led me to a lot of thinking, reflecting and realizations I needed to come to.

For a long time now, Spartan Race was dictating my exercise, my goals, my fitness levels…and everything has been slipping.   I lost the joy in exercise!!!   I knew this last summer and thought I had time to get it back…I didn’t.  The race hanging over my head, a several hour event I was dreading, was an anchor; dragging me down and slowing my progress.

I don’t know that I’ll ever get a Spartan Trifecta.  I’m very, very okay with that,  I don’t want it bad enough.  Sour grapes?  Nope.  I wasn’t having fun in my last 2 races.  Seriously, I wanted them over before they began.   I was subjecting myself to this, and would continue to do so!   If I’d finished on Saturday, I’d have booked a back to back Super and Sprint in July, just so I’d have the trifecta and wouldn’t have to wait for September!  This stopped being about health, fitness and fun and became about 3 pie shaped pieces of metal!!!!!

And it’s over.  Ha, I un-liked Spartan Race and several related people and sites on Facebook.  Is this what breaking up is like now?   Didn’t have Facebook when I was dating.  IMG_3987

Haven’t figured out all my next steps.   Going to do some running because I used to enjoy that a lot.  Gonna throw around the heavy sandbag (which I got signed  by my friend Stephanie and the rest of Team Charleston Warriors!!!) and my goals will be 1: Do something about my midsection and, 2 have fun doing it.   In August I’ll be doing a Warrior Dash because they’re still fun for me. Till then,  I’m thinking of trying yoga, and getting back on the mountain bike.

IMG_3996

I’m the one that DOESN’T look like a fitness guru.

IMG_3995

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

“So Sean, why the song?”   I’m getting there.   I crapped out at mile 11 of a 15 mile mud run over obnoxiously hilly and rocky terrain.  I’m not one to undermine my troubles by thinking someone else has it worse.   But, in context, not many people would have bothered to do 11 miles last week.  I’m pretty lucky that here, at age 43 I have the health, time, money and sense of adventure to even try something like this.  Spartan didn’t give me those, I cultivated them.  Spartan was simply a way to express them….and now I want a different way to do that.

My good friend Ed ran a much earlier heat and texted me that night, the next day and several times since.  This level of athleticism comes easier for him and he struggled with the course.  (Edit: This is not to diminish his hard work and sacrifice to get to where he is.  In truth, I’m envious at times.)  Had I finished, my time would have been respectable compared to him, and I’ll take that as a small victory.  He’s going for the trifecta and I’m wishing him nothing but a great time doing so, and an amazing feeling when he crosses those finish lines.

I did the race my friend Cheryl as well.  She DNF’d as well and was my ride home, so we had 90 minutes to talk.   We really didn’t talk about the race.  She let me sulk and then we slipped back into the nonsense we joke about all the time; whatever guy she’s met online, some dumb thing we’d done in the past, or breaking into long winded diatribes on simple things.   By the time we got to my house, I was definitely better than when we left the mountain.

As I walked up the driveway and saw what my wife, Heidi, and daughters had done.   The front door was plastered with signs of encouragement.

spartan door

This fool has every reason for feeling sorry for himself….but I just can’t.   I can’t call it unfinished business or a personal failure.  I took a shot, didn’t make it, and am opening new doors within myself because of it.   I don’t want to go back down the Spartan Path right now.   I started OCR for the excitement of something new and completely different.  That led me to running for fun for the first time in my life; even to doing a half-marathon!   Right now, I’m missing running for fun and lifting heavy weights because I feel like it.

The fun is just starting; I got some ideas, a sense of adventure and proof I can do some amazing things and most importantly, friends and family who care.   Let’s see where this takes me.

 

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Wandering in the Wilds of Miscarriage: Part 7

Going through this, we connected with several people who were dealing with infertility.  One suggestion kept coming up…given to us or suggested to someone else from a doctor, family member, etc.  “Stop trying, relax, take some time off.  When you’re not trying, that’s when it will happen.”   I don’t know if there’s science behind it, but anecdotally I know several people who can attest to this working.

We got back from Disney, tried in Feb, no luck, tried in March, pregnant for the 5th time.  Testing began anew; good hCG levels, ultrasounds showed a heartbeat…all good signs.  For anyone else, there would be a little bit of concern in the back of their minds, but not us.  We don’t get the happy pregnancies, we spend our time waiting for the other shoe to drop.

Heidi started spotting again.  Tests and ultrasounds, everything seemed ok.  Still she bled.  Weeks went by, I can remember us talking to her belly “stay in there…we want to meet you but not yet.’    The spotting continued and on an ultrasound we finally learned the source; a subchorionic hemorrhage.  It’s not completely uncommon, and usually resolves itself.   We breathed a sigh of relief, but there was never complete relief.   We made it to 21 weeks, which we knew was a point where if this did go south, a NICU could probably keep the baby alive.

In November of 2010 we welcomed Evangeline Violet to our family.   This happy, healthy, vibrant baby girl completed our family and is the perfect ending to this horrible story.

What did we take from this?   A greater appreciation for our children.  Evie had reflux, and any parent who’s dealt with that knows how miserable it is.   When we got frustrated, we’d remind ourselves ‘We waited a long time for her.  Don’t be mad at her for something she’s not happy about either.”  We’ve probably spoiled Giada and Evie, making sure we show them as much love as we possibly can.

We wouldn’t have done it without the help of our families.   They never gave up and were there for us when we couldn’t be.

We learned the incredible important of a good doctor.  Dr. Brian Wilcox is the man…plain and simple.  He understood that we were both his patients through this…not just Heidi and not just Heidi’s reproductive system.  When we discuss all of this with his class each year, he stresses treating the whole patient.

Why do we talk about this?   We do it for the doctors-to-be so they can see that there’s more than just the science and meat involved here.  They’re dealing with people who are going to respond in as many different ways as there are ways to respond.  We hope that our story helps them be better, more compassionate doctors.

We talk about this because so many people won’t.  People don’t know what to say.  It’s a fear all parents have and I’m sure there’s a touch of ‘there but for the grace of God go I.’  when they think of it.  Some friends have told us they didn’t know what to say, and said nothing out of fear of saying the wrong thing.  I completely understand that.   Heidi and I don’t hold ANYTHING against anyone for what they said, through good intentions.

We don’t let this define us.   We’re a family of 4 now and completely happy with that.  Once in a while someone will say ‘when are you going to try for a boy?”   We smile and say we’re done.  The world was built for families of 4.   We joke that I don’t want to lose my home office and move the subject along.

That’s our story.   If you’re going through this, or have gone through this, please leave a comment with your thoughts and insights.  We’d love to hear it.   We hope you find a bit of hope, or at least shared misery here.   If your wondering ‘What do I say to friends going through this?”  It’s pretty easy.  Be their friend.  Tell them “I’m sorry, I’m sure it’s not your fault, I’m here to do that thing we do as friends.”

Thank you for reading.

 

girls on beach

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Wandering the Wilds of Miscarriage: Part 6

What does this do to people?

Since starting this series of posts I’ve had a few friends reach out and thank me for sharing this.  They’d experienced miscarriages in some form and told me “people don’t talk about it.”   I’d love to know why.     I understand that some people want to keep certain things private.  You don’t need to know all the dirty details.   But this isn’t something shameful.  This isn’t something we chose, or acted in a way to cause.  This is bad luck for so many of us, yet we keep it quiet and people prefer not to acknowledge it.

But the pain remains.

We came to learn that people really don’t know how to talk about it.  People try to be understanding.   They usually end up saying all the wrong things.  Yeah, we’re Catholic and believe in Heaven…spare us your comments about Limbo or the chances to meet the babies when we die.   While you’re at it, yes, we’ve considered that maybe a biological sibling for Giada isn’t in the cards….no need to tell us to give up.   And, for the record, I’m pretty sure God isn’t sitting there with a furrowed brow muttering ‘I planned for one kid for the Gowdens and they just keep trying!   When will they get it through their thick skulls I didn’t plan it that way!”

Your tastes change:  Right around this time the game Dante’s Inferno came out and a friend told me I HAD TO PLAY IT!!!   Read the reviews….level with unborn baby-zombies trying to eat you.  Yeah, no thanks…thematic fail for me.   I also tried to get into the Walking Dead; all my friends said how great it was.   3 eps in and I decided I had enough misery in my life…didn’t need it from my entertainment.  My tastes were changing…I was softening.  I can tell you that 6 years later, I’m still not watching Walking Dead and other shows that heap misery upon the characters and audience.

Here is a paragraph I’ve been trying to write for 2 days.  What does it do to a marriage?   It does all the horrible things you can imagine; fights, selfishness, distancing   There was no single, memorable moment to tell you about…it was simply months of trying to cope, understand and keep moving forward.  We were fortunate to have the support of our families, to have never blamed one another and never gave up on each other.   Looking back, its very easy and understandable to see how this could devastate a relationship (and ends a lot of couples.)  We’re thankful we walked away bruised, but not beaten.

Back to the story….

Pathology report came back within about a week.  Baby#3 suffered from Triploidy.   triploidyA lot of the common genetic defects involve an extra chromosome somewhere.  In Triploidy, you get 3 of EVERY chromosome.  Life span, IF the child is born is measured in single digit hours. Most end in miscarriage; I guess you could say the more merciful result.

So what did that mean to us?   Nothing!   It’s another fluke!   As our doctor said, we did nothing wrong and nothing to cause this. Were the odds comically against our favor?  Yes.   Was there any evidence anywhere to say we wouldn’t be successful with another pregnancy?  No.

Heidi and I talked, a lot.  We needed time off from this.  We agreed that after a year of miscarriages, her body, our marriage and our sanity needed a break.   It was late September, maybe early October and there would be no talk of babies till after the holidays.   Giada would get our combined attention and we’d spend some time healing.  We’d spend time as a couple, party it up and refocus on us.

Along with this came the decision that we needed a Disney do-over.  Heidi couldn’t look at the pictures without feeling the pain and loss.  The trip was tainted for her.   We settled on another trip, in January of 2010, no pregnancy, no stress, just the three of us and a magical time.

And it was.

To be concluded….Princess Giada Sophia 2010

 

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Wandering in the Wilds of Miscarriage: Part 5

I’m a firm believer in balance in life.   Call it Karma, call it whatever, but I believe that for every action there is an opposite and equal reaction.  If something good is happening to you, chances are there is an equal amount of bad that has happened, or that will happen.  It’s cumulative, so it’s not like blessings lead to tragedies…just that in the big picture, things are balanced.

That day in Celebration Hospital in Florida cemented that belief.

To recap; pregnancy #4, score is 1 kid, 2 blighted ovums and this one is going south…fast.  We’re waiting in a triage room with a bunch of strangers after a hasty, uncomfortable experience with an ultrasound tech.   And we wait…..and wait.

I don’t know how long, but the next moments stretched on for days.

“Mr and Mrs. Gowden?”  the doctor boomed.  He was a tall dude with a deep voice and African accent. “I have reviewed your ultrasound.  Your baby has expired…” and then he quoted Scripture…something about returning to dust.  Neither of us can remember it exactly and many online searches have come up empty…close but no direct quote.   We’re stunned….trying to process this.  We discuss options, the hospital is willing to send us home and let nature take its course.  We’re on vacation…leaving for home in 2 days, we don’t need nature taking its course on the plane.  (Seriously…explain THAT to the TSA!!!!)   Their OB is busy, come back tomorrow.  ‘NO!” Heidi demands….channelling Ralph Kramden.  ‘Get it out!”

Out of nowhere, a nurse grabs our hands…and the hands of anyone else around and starts a prayer circle.  We’re religious….but this wasn’t our thing.  We wanted to make plans for a procedure that would get Heidi back on her feet and test the baby to see if there was a cause for this.  We wanted to call our families.  We wanted this to set in and let our emotions catch up. Instead Nurse Prayercircle is droning on.  As awful as this is, God/Karma/whatever is giving us an absolutely bizarre experience to soften the blow.

Finally they agree to bring in a doc that day who will do the D&E.   I remember they asked if we wanted the remains.   Gallows humor at this point…because, heck, you need to laugh or you’ll go crazy.   I recall thinking “Are they going to give us a little box?   A tube?  Baggie with the biohazard label on it?  Does it go in carry on or checked luggage?  Probably checked because it’ll be more than 3 oz of liquid.”

Heidi was taken for surgery and G and I had something to eat and waited.   Soon enough and nurse came to us, told us everything had gone well and we’d be able to see Heidi in a few.   2 hours later we were on our way back to Port Orleans: French Quarter; no longer pregnant, pathology ordered and hopefully some answers in our future.

We’d been given some temporary ‘balance’ by way of the Hospital staff’s behavior.  We can look back now and shake our heads…and it gives us something less painful to remember than the calls to our families, the hurt in their voices, the empty feeling in our lives.   Disney was about to step up in a major way to cement some positive memories.

Our taxi driver told us that Disney would take care of the cost of the taxi.   We went to the front desk, gave them the short version of what happened and they said they’d take care of things.   We went back to the room and went to bed.   The plan was for me to take G the next day and meet up with some friends.  Heidi would stay back in the room and rest, possibly meeting us all for dinner.  We knew the routine and this was G’s trip…let her enjoy it.

At Magic Kingdom and my phone rang.  DSCF0108Heidi called to tell me that Agata (wish I had her last name) the manager called to check on her, sent room service, free wi-fi (it wasn’t free in 2009) and told her to call if she needed anything. DSCF0109 Then all of a sudden a couple of people showed up with a gift basket for us and toys for G.

Disney outdid themselves over the next 48 hours.  They made sure Heidi was taken care of, but also Giada and me.  Knowing Heidi was in good hands was HUGE for me and Giada was thrilled with dolls and coloring books.

For all the terrible news we’d had on this trip…the stress Heidi had felt knowing something was wrong, the worry about something happening on our trip.  The sadness of finally getting the news and having miscarriage #3, which happened to be 364 days after our first…Disney did what it could.   For all the awful memories, we do have some good ones and I guess it all did balance out.

Some would say 3 strikes and your out.  Not us.   To be continued…..

 

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Wandering in the Wilds of Miscarriage: Part 4

In the first 6 months of Giada’s second year of life, we’d suffered 2 miscarriages.  This took a lot of attention from her and we were feeling pretty bad.  She was our first kid, and completely and totally awesome in every way.  She deserved better than to be put on the back burner while we healed physically and emotionally.

When it comes to miscarriage, women tend to share the experience when someone ‘joins the club’ so to speak.  We’d tell people and so often they’d tell us “Yeah, I/my sister/someone close had one, two, three, etc”   But…guy don’t talk about it.  And kids?  They definitely don’t talk about it.  We don’t know to what degree G processed it, but we’d told her she was going to be a big sister and there was a baby in Mommy’s belly….and then she wasn’t, and there wasn’t.

We chose to make things special for G for her 3rd birthday; a trip to Disney World.  Keep in mind, for a 3 year old girl…Disney is all real!  That’s really Ariel!   Cinderella just gave her a kiss!  Holy crap that’s MICKEY MOUSE!!!!!

And then, we got pregnant for the 4th time!   We joke that Heidi called the doc while peeing on the stick, within moments of conception.  It was that early.   We were happy…as happy as we could have been at this point, and went on with our Disney plans.   Heidi went for hCG level testing and the numbers were good…not spectacular, but good…good enough not to be too concerned (though she knew something was wrong.)  We had also gone through the usual battery of genetic testing to see if there was there anything funky hiding in our genes.  Nothing…genetically, we were normal.  (Heidi will argue that’s the only normal thing about me…)  We were paranoid, or is maternal intuition that strong?

Time came for the ultrasound and there it was…a heartbeat!   We had a baby in there!!   This was definitely NOT a blighted ovum!!  Wooohooo!!!!

Except it was tracking a week behind.   It was exactly one week behind, but Heidi knew her conception math wasn’t off by a week.  Still, there was a heartbeat and we’d be back for more ultrasounds.   Note: Our doc was awesome.  He’d give us ultrasounds just to make us feel better.  Sadly, they rarely did, because the baby was tracking, consistently, 1 week behind.  Heart-rate and size were fine, for one week earlier.

Then Heidi started spotting.  She knew something was really, really wrong and we were 2 weeks away from our trip.  She took it easy, ultrasounds were consistent, and there was no explanation for the bleeding.  We went on with the trip (the doc said it was ok) and decided to make the most of things!

Akershus in EPCOT; princesses are coming by the table and Heidi excused herself.  Several minutes later she returned “I’m bleeding…bad, we have to leave.”   Please, dear God, no…not here, not now, not this.

We called her doc who advised us to get to a hospital.  Disney got us a cab and sent us to Celebration Hospital.

That’s when things got weird.   This was during the Swine Flu scare and we were moved into a common triage room.   Giada was out cold in her stroller (Thank you Disney for exhausting her….having a sleeping child was the saving grace of this day), Heidi was in a chair next to someone vomiting their who knows what into a bucket.   Someone came to take us for an ultrasound; the tech was ALL BUSINESS.  I tried to look and see what was going on, and she kept moving the screen or adjusting the wand so I couldn’t see a heartbeat.   I saw the baby…head, 2 arms, 2 legs…looked just like G’s ultrasounds at this point.   ‘Ok, a doctor will take a look at these and be with you in a bit.”  she said while hurriedly packing up her equipment.  ‘Wait, ” Heidi said “can I just see the heartbeat?”   ‘No ma’am, you came through the ER, not for a regular checkup, we can’t allow that.”

Now, for the second time we were completely alone in a hospital full of people.  I didn’t see a heartbeat…but that’s not to say there wasn’t one.  We knew something was up.   We had that sick, worried feeling while waiting for a doctor in a room full of strangers.

To be continued…..

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Wandering in the Wilds of Miscarriage: Part 3

Miscarriage one behind us, it was time to try for Gowden Child #2 again.  Come early January, sure enough…there was a positive pregnancy test.  Celebration all around…but a little muted this time.  We felt optimistic and things were good….till they weren’t.

Heidi was accepted into the EAGeR study.  It was the study of aspirin on the effects birth rates.  They were checking to see if a baby aspirin could help with conception.   Apparently, it didn’t hurt.

Something you have to know about my wife.  She knows her cycle.  Open her calendar and there’s little dots every couple of weeks.  ‘Hon, what are there little periods for…OOOOOHHHHH!!!!”   So, she KNEW when she was due and when to test.   She also called our doc.  He ordered the hCG bloodwork and the first couple of results came back. Low…but not terrible.  And not quite doubling every 24 hours like they’re supposed to.  Heidi remained a pin cushion for a few more days and it became obvious, her numbers were not tracking the way they should and something was wrong.

Onto another ultrasound….and another empty sac.  WTF!??!?!?!!?   REALLY??????

This one was quick.  It’s funny, we went out for our friend’s (who was still pregnant) husband’s 40th birthday that weekend and drank like fish.  Like…some serious liver damage because we were angry and sad and just didn’t care.  Heidi felt strange because technically she was still pregnant and you’re not supposed to drink…especially the way we were, but come Monday, the pregnancy would be over and it’s not like she was going to do any more damage!!!

This is called Wandering the Wilds for a reason.  We found ourselves in so many situations we just weren’t prepared for.  A positive pregnancy test for most couples trying to have a family is a joyous celebration.  For us, now “that’s great…lets get another hour of sleep and hopefully this one will work out.”   When do you tell people?  We’ve kinda’ cried wolf twice…and we know it’s a bummer when we have to tell you things ended badly.  Oh, and in the absence of information and explanations, you kinda’ create your own.   “Maybe we shouldn’t put the laptops on our laps anymore?”  “Maybe we should take this (or that) vitamin.”  Then there’s the joke that she flunked out of the EAGeR study!

Let me pause here for some mad props to my Heidi.  The D&E was on Monday and on Tuesday, Giada was taken the hospital with respiratory infection.  I was at work all day (our choice…I could have taken the time,) and that left Heidi to hang out at the hospital for 4 days and carry the burden of the situation…48 hours after another dreadful experience.   Her strength has never ceased to amaze me.

That’s something I want to close with.  Life goes on, regardless of how you feel here.  Had we experienced the loss of living, breathing child (God forbid), would we have had the discussion about me going to work while G was in the hospital?  Would she have been alone at all in the hospital or would the family have swarmed in, making sure her needs were being met?  Mind you, we weren’t forgotten; our families have always been supportive.   But there’s just something different about this.

To be continued……

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Wandering in the Wilds of Miscarriage: Part 2

We had our first daughter with no problems.  Second month of trying, slipped one past the goalie and 9 months later, there’s little Giada.  “This is easy!”  we thought.  We wanted at least one more kid and planned on waiting till G was a bit older, 2 years old or so.   Right before her second birthday we started trying again, and sure enough, the second month, SCORE!   Come April of 2009 she’d be a big sister!   Heidi called her friend, G’s Godmother and told her the great news.   She thought ‘Hey, I’m a few days late, come to think of it…” and soon they were cheering on the phone ‘We’re gonna be pregnant together AGAIN!!!!” (their first daughter and G are 2 months apart.)

We got this pregnancy thing figured out.

We headed in for the first ultrasound, planned on seeing a little  circle with a piece of rice inside, and tiny flashing thing…the heartbeat.

Here’s the first time you feel completely alone in a hospital full of people.  The techs aren’t really qualified (on paper) to tell you anything. They’re there to take measurements and leave the explanation to your doctor.  We kinda’ knew what to look for…I think any second time parent knows, and we didn’t see a baby.  We saw an empty sac.  ‘This is a blighted ovum!” Heidi whispered to me…panic setting in for both of us.  The Tech had gone into all business mode and was doing things as fast as she could.  “You’ll have to talk to your doctor” was all she’d say to us.   Then she packed up, told Heidi to get dressed and vanished.

Fear, confusion, sadness festered in that room.   We had a worst-case idea of what was going on, but no direction, no guidance…no idea what came next.  Our awesome doc told us that it was early, there’s no clear reason to panic, and to get some hCG level testing done.  If the numbers are doubling, Heidi’s conception math was off.  If not, we’ll take things from there.

They didn’t double.   We had a sac with no baby.   Heidi and her friend weren’t going to be pregnant together.  G wasn’t going to be a big sister yet.

We opted for a quick D&E procedure and were home later that day.  Think about any time you’ve suffered a loss of a family member.  The family kinda’ converges around you, there’s meat trays and bagel baskets.  You’re not alone in any way.   That’s not the case for miscarriage.  Sure, our families were supportive and made sure there was nothing we needed.  But we found ourselves going about our usual Friday night routine.   G was at my folks, we were free to do whatever we wanted.  Wings?  Beers?  Target?  How about a movie?  Yeah, let’s see Tropic Thunder, something funny and get our minds off things.

We didn’t laugh.  I try not to blame the film.  We went to visit a friend at work.  What do you say?  “Hey, how’s your day?  We had a miscarriage and D&E…like you do.”  It was a lonely feeling.

Our doc was good, he told us that we didn’t do anything wrong.  We didn’t cause this, it wasn’t or fault.   That helped us move forward and start thinking about trying this all again.  We did it once, quite successfully, why shouldn’t we be successful again?  This miscarriage thing…bad roll of the dice.  We’ll do better next time.

To be continued.

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