Sunday, November 25, 2012


Now that I'm a homemaker ... a Stay-At-Home-Mom/Wife if you will ... I find I "have the time" (not really, but we make the time, especially since Tim doesn't come home at 17:30 like a "normal" job, more like 20:30 ... 21:00 ... depending on when he gets off), to make things from scratch.

Last week I made bagels. They're not half bad! And it wasn't quite as hard as I thought it be (mostly just the timing, since Shelby kinda needs me a lot, seeing as how she's a baby). Kneading the dough for five minutes made drops of sweat run down my back and reminded me that my mom has my Kitchenaid mixer! They aren't as "pretty" as store-bought, but I'm pretty proud of them:

For Thanksgiving, I made dressing, pumpkin pies, and ginger ale. Sometimes I have trouble feeling like I made some things (like the dressing and the pie) "from scratch" if they have something in them from a can or box. I don't know who I think I am ... am I going to only consider something homemade if I grow the grain, thresh it, and grind it into flour myself too?

Even then - I didn't create grain. Only God can do that. So really everything is from Him. Maybe that's a roundabout way to think about it, but I like to. Even when I bake a pie, that pie is from God! And that, if you ask me, is one of those things child-like faith is about. God gave me this scrumptious piece of pie. He created pumpkins, my grandma whose recipe it is, and my hands that put it together.

 So currently my "signature" homemade item is my ginger ale (which is more like ginger beer). If you don't like ginger, you wouldn't like it - I like it pretty strong. It really isn't that hard! I'd be happy to share my current recipe (it does change a bit here and there over time):

You'll need:

  • 3/4 a cup turbanado* (raw) sugar
  • Unchlorinated water
  • Fresh ginger root
  • Champagne yeast**
  • 2 lemons
  • A thoroughly cleaned 2 liter bottle
  1. Add the sugar to 1 cup of unchlorinated water in a sauce pan.
  2. Grate "enough" ginger (I'm not even sure how I judge when its "enough", but I'd say two inches of good thick ginger root is a decent guesstimate). I highly recommend a ginger grater for this. Crate & Barrel sells (or at least sold at one time?) one for about $5 made of porcelain - I just love the "vintage" look. Though when we moved someone put it in the bathroom, probably thinking it was a soap dish.
  3. Heat the water, sugar, and finely grated ginger just until the sugar dissolves. Cover and let steep for an hour or so.
  4. Strain out the pulp using a fine mesh strainer. I've never tried it, but cheesecloth might work? Really press it and get all the syrup out!
  5. I like to go ahead and add some water to my 2 liter before adding the syrup using a funnel.
  6. Add the champagne yeast through the funnel, and wash it down with a little more water. At this point I like to fill the bottle about 3/4 of the way up. In my mind this protects the little yeasts from the acidity of the lemon juice by diluting it as it comes in ... but that may just be silly?
  7. Squeeze in the juice of the two lemons. I love my funnel, as it came with a strainer with openings a great size for catching lemon seeds. Tim taught me a trick for really maximizing the juice output while minimizing the hand-crampage ... roll the lemon on a hard surface firmly before cutting it.
  8. Fill the 2 liter the rest of the way, leaving about two inches of air from the lid.
  9. Replace the lid, and give the bottle a gentle shake. Place it in a warm area where you won't forget about it ... it can explode if forgotten!
  10. Squeeze the bottle from time to time, and when it gets tight, burp it! Watch for carbonation in your ginger ale, and when it is to your liking refrigerate it to stop the process.
*I've found turbando sugar shortens the process to about 24 hours rather than 48 and gives the ginger ale a beautiful caramel color. And I like that it is less processed than white sugar.

**I use champagne yeast as it lends less of its own flavor to the drink ... I don't want my ginger ale to taste too "yeasty."

If you like adult drinks, Tim found me one that uses ginger beer which my homemade ginger ale is great for called a "Moscow Mule." Squeeze the juice of 1/2 a lime over ice in a tall glass and add 1.5 oz your choice of vodka. Fill the rest of the glass with homemade ginger ale and enjoy!

Now if only I could grow sugar cane and ginger ... and start a little champagne yeast colony. Actually speaking of colonies ... if anyone has some good suggestions for where to get or how to start a sourdough, and some recipes for using it ... I'm all ears!

Friday, November 2, 2012

Shelby Hope's Dramatic Birth - She's Here!

“Your husband said you’d want to nurse her right away … would you like to do that now?” Needless to say, Tim is my hero. He was with Shelby the moment they let him be in the nursery. Thanks to my family eagerly watching through the nursery windows I have pictures of some of those first sweet moments. I later found out Carrie called from the surgery to let him hear Shelby crying for the first time.
Nervous Dad ...

Baby Shelby!
First I remember seeing dark hair, still damp and slightly curled. And tiny, perfect fingers. We needed no introduction … the nurses helped me on my side to nurse her, and she immediately found me and latched on like a champ. Our daughter.

The days following were a frustrating blur, but the hospital was amazing about letting Shelby and Tim stay with me as we waited for my blood pressure to stabilize. Coming home was a shock … “home” the day I left work was the second story of an apartment and a downstairs neighbor named Phil … now home was a restored Craftsman in a small town. I walked gingerly into my new life with our parents greeting us on our new front porch … carrying our new family member in my arms.

I don't have the wonderful proud papa pictures, so until I find them here is Shelby's first bath!

 I will never be able to thank everyone involved enough ... our family, our selfless friends who not only helped us move, kept us company, and communicated for us, but also who filled our freezer so we didn't have to worry about food that first month ... and the protection of a God who loves us. Thank you for praying with us - we have a lot to be thankful for this year!

Three months later

Shelby Hope's Dramatic Birth - The Decision

Sometime during the night Friday, my nose started bleeding. I’ve never had a nosebleed, so that was weird. I didn’t really think anything of it at the time … even though Tim held my nose for 20 minutes and it wouldn’t stop. “It’s pretty dry in here” I told myself. The fact that platelet levels were part of HELLP didn’t cross my mind – which is just as well. The only way Shelby was going to know anything was wrong would be if I started to get upset. Staying calm was the best thing I could do for her.

Saturday – the day we were supposed to be moving from our 2nd floor apartment to a cute house in the country. Saturday morning the Pitocin did not get started at 6am as planned. I don’t remember what time it was, but one of the doctors from the practice I go to came in (I think our wonderful nurse was there too) and told me I had a choice. My platelet levels were basically in the toilet – there was blood in my catheter, and last night’s nosebleeding episodes, as evidence. I was losing the ability to clot my own blood. I was given a choice.

I could try the Pitocin until 4pm, at which time a C-section would be performed. I could not have an epidural even if I decided I wanted one because of the risk of hemorrhaging into my spine.

Or we could do a C-section under general anesthesia. Tim could not be in the room (in our Bradley birth classes we had to say what we were most afraid of, and I was most afraid of being separated from Tim).

Not a choice I was excited to make. No one said anything at the time, but my family all thought the choice was pretty clear and were surprised I was even being given a choice given my deteriorating condition and the risks involved.

Still not realizing exactly how sick I was, I asked a few questions:
  • Could my condition worsen between now and 4pm? It most assuredly would.
  • Could my deteriorating condition affect Shelby? Yes.
  • Did I progress any yesterday on the Pitocin? At this point they obliged me and did a pelvic exam. Now, I knew this can mean nothing – but this was never a naturally progressing birth. I felt like if I had made a good bit of progress there was a chance I could deliver her by 4pm on the Pitocin. I was at 1.5cm and 50% effaced. In over 48 hours, I had only progressed less than 1cm and an extra 10% engagement of her head. To me that didn’t point to her suddenly exiting quickly and safely.

The fact that Shelby could begin being affected sealed it for me, and I haven’t looked back at our decision. She would be here very shortly via C-section and I would not be awake.

Things began moving very quickly at this point. My Dr, who was working on his racing trailer, came in even though it was a Saturday and he was not on call. I can’t tell you how much I appreciated this! He is an excellent surgeon and has pretty much been my OB/GYN for about a decade now. I would be going back to surgery at 11:30am. Shelby was about to have her birthday!

I remember the moments before the surgery surprisingly well. At first I was numb, in a whirlwind of information about what was about to happen, friends and family coming to excitedly but nervously tell me goodbye and that they can’t wait to meet Shelby, and my own emotions about having a C-section after so many months of practicing for a natural birth. Tim and my Mom’s tearful goodbyes began to give gravity to the situation … I was going to be undergoing major abdominal surgery, with donated platelets being quickly eaten up in my arteries, under general anesthesia where I wouldn’t hear Shelby’s first cries and Tim couldn’t join me. And I might wake up in the ICU?

Once I was wheeled out of the room that had been my home for three days, I paid close attention to the fluorescent lights passing by overhead until it made me dizzy. Tears were forming in my eyes, but not falling … I was calm, practicing my abdominal breathing.

Then we burst into the surgery suite and a controlled chaos enveloped me. I saw the bags of blood clearly labeled “O-neg” waiting for me if I began to hemorrhage. With assistance I moved to the table, where I was shocked to find I was asked to spread my arms as if on a cross. The anesthesiologist’s assistant was immediately by my head, telling me what was going on … and I saw Carrie, the nurse from my room. I truly believe these two comforters kept me from panicking as my arms were tied to the table.

Various nurses swirled around the room preparing for the surgery and the assistant told me who they were and what they were there for. An oxygen mask was lowered over my face, and he reminded me to breathe deep. A drape was spread over me and stuck to my stomach, but then a discussion over a hole ensued and eventually it was taken up and a new one found.

A sharpie was drawn over the area that was to be cut. Instead of thinking “My stomach is going to be cut open!” I told myself “This is where Shelby will be coming into the world!” I heard my doctor’s voice as they joked about finding sterile scrubs his size (he’s tall) and the assistant told me that as soon as I was out they would be taking her as quickly as they could to have as little of the anesthetics in her system as possible. Suddenly I smelled the gas …

Shelby Hope's Dramatic Birth - HELLP

When the door opened, I took in a breath, ready to listen to the hospitalist and then refuse anything he or she wanted to do. Instead, there was my doctor. I breathed a sigh of relief! We may have had some tense moments in the past eight months when discussing things like episiotomies … but I’ve been his patient for a long time and I really trust him. I figured he’d say his nurse practitioner was being overly cautious and we’d be checking out and on our way to Chic-fil-a in no time.

Instead, he informed us that the blood work indicated I have developed HELLP (Haemolysis, Elevatated Liver enzymes, and Low Platelet levels) syndrome. My elevated blood pressure, coupled with elevated liver enzymes indicated that my liver is in distress … during pregnancy this is caused (they think) by the placenta, and the only cure is to deliver the baby – even strict bed rest doesn’t help. I would not be leaving the hospital until Shelby was born. I tried not to panic, picturing the packing awaiting me at home.

I was given some ugly yellow anti-skid socks and allowed to walk to a regular L&D room. Room 26, which would become my “home” for the next week. I was given a slow saline drip to keep my IV open and informed that once labor started, I would need to be on magnesium sulfate … again, to prevent seizures. Dang it – I was being induced. So much for 100% natural birth … but that didn’t mean I had to have an epidural or anything like that – so I focused on what I was (so I thought) able to control.

The next several days are pretty blurred for me. I remember letting work know I wasn’t coming in (I remember my boss saying “So, do you want to start your FMLA now?” … heh, yeah – I guess so. We didn’t even make it to August). I remember ordering “Hawaiian chicken” from the hospital … oh yeah, a portion sized piece of grilled chicken with a slice of pineapple on top. Actually – some of the hospital food wasn’t half bad (chicken quesadillas, pineapple upside-down cake) as long as you knew what to order.

Thursday morning, I was started on a lower-than-normal dose of Cytotec. I had planned to refuse Cytotec if they wanted to use it after reading horror stories – well, that went out the window. Their plan was to ripen my cervix (which was currently dilated 1cm and 30% effaced) in preparation for inducing labor with Pitocin. I forget now how many doses it was, but I was on the Cytotec all day. I was having contractions, but I only know because they showed me on the monitor. I was barely feeling anything. My doctor came in as I was finishing my breakfast and said I had good timing, because he was putting me as “NPO” (Latin … nothing by mouth).  And I was given a catheter because the magnesium made me a fall risk so they didn’t want me getting up to go to the bathroom. So much for my great relief months previous when we were told on the hospital tour that they encourage laboring moms to move around … that apparently only applies to “normal” labor.

Friday I was on Pitocin, again at a low dose, for the entire day. In the afternoon I did start being able to feel the contractions and needing to concentrate during them. Tim did an amazing job as my coach. We spent a good couple of hours laboring together as he described a beautiful field of flowers, a tree, and a lamb – our little lamb! The excitement that we might meet Shelby today helped me ignore the increasing interventions … I’ve never had so many wristbands and now knew why IV poles have so many hooks.

But, as the day drew to a close … it seemed we were no closer to meeting Shelby, though her steady heartbeat on the monitor was reassuring to both of us. My doctor stopped the Pitocin and let me eat. Tim once again pulled out the little love seat and we settled in for a long night, interrupted periodically by the alarm going off on my blood pressure monitor, nurses coming in for various reasons, etc. At 6am we should be starting the Pitocin again … maybe tomorrow we would meet our strong steady little girl.

Meanwhile, that day, a group of Tim’s coworkers (psh - our FRIENDS) was moving us along with my in-laws. I will forever be thankful and indebted to those selfless friends! They told us not to think about the move, and for once in my life I let go and let myself be dependent on someone else. Was this how I pictured this? NO! I was counting on Shelby being at least 4 days late and assuming I’d have about a month to get the house situated before she arrived. I was going to finish my thank-you notes, unpack, and have everything “perfect” for her arrival. I was going to fix meals and put them in the freezer so I didn’t have to cook right away. Ooooh the plans we make!

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Shelby Hope's Dramatic Birth - Admission

Shelby Hope Schreiner was due on August 18th, 2012.

We were planning to move into our house in a new town about an hour away on July 28th, 2012. Tim and I had been talking about if we should make a brisket on the grill/smoker for those that were coming to help us. I was looking forward to having a few weeks to unpack and get the house ready before Shelby arrived – and assuming that, like most first babies, she’d be later than her due date. Six days late is the average, in fact.

On Wednesday, July 25th I went to work like any normal weekday. I had a few protein bars and my phone’s charger in my lunch box but nothing else, because Tim and I were planning to eat lunch together after my now weekly appointment with the obstetrician. Around 11am I locked my computer, with an email I had been working on open so that I could finish it when I got back. I obviously had no idea what was about to transpire.

My blood pressure had been up for the last few appointments … not dangerously, but borderline. So we had been keeping an eye on it. Tim had started to frown a little when he checked it at home, but I felt fine so I didn’t think anything of it. Sure, my feet and ankles were swollen – but that’s just part of pregnancy, right?

Our appointment that day was with my Dr’s nurse practitioner as my Dr typically schedules surgeries for Wednesdays. We should have been in on Monday, but he had ordered a biophysical profile for Shelby to make sure my elevated blood pressure wasn’t affecting her growth and one of the sonographers was on vacation.

At the sonogram, Shelby looked great – estimated to be 6 pounds 12 ounces and her heart was ticking away steadily. We watched her almost stick her toe in her nose (how did she have room to do that?) and with new pictures in hand went on to my part of the appointment.

The rest of the appointment is a bit of a blur now. Upon taking my blood pressure and being alarmed, the nurse practitioner had me lie down and took it again. Then she tried my left arm instead. My blood pressure had climbed to a more concerning level. She wanted to admit me into the hospital (which my OB/GYN’s office is housed in) for observation.

I remember following her down hallways, up the elevator, and into labor and delivery triage with tunnel vision. I had my purse, and that was it. My stomach was growling as I dreamed of the Chic-fil-a lunch Tim and I had decided we’d have afterwards. I changed into a hospital gown, scoffing as I bundled up my clothes and rolling my eyes at Tim. We’d had a friend go through this observation recently – I was sure we’d be home in time for dinner. Besides, I had a baby shower at work on Thursday! I had to be there!

Blood was drawn, and the nurse continued to monitor my blood pressure. Meanwhile … people kept coming in the room. Someone came in to ask about my insurance (and they somehow still had me as working for Pflugerville ISD? I’m not even sure how they got that information – that was years ago!). The nurse continued to ask questions about my symptoms (like headaches, etc – which I hadn’t had the entire pregnancy!) and talking about how they need to start an IV. Oh no … here we go. I asked instead for a saline-lock and refused the admission bloodwork – I wasn’t going to need to be admitted so it’d be a waste of time – right? We were moving this weekend! I may not be able to lift much, but I didn’t need to be in the hospital!

We were awaiting the arrival of the “hospitalist” whom she was sure would want to start magnesium sulfate to prevent me from having a seizure. Seizure? I remember yet again rolling my eyes at Tim, and when we were alone we even discussed leaving the hospital “AMA” (against medical advice)...

to be continued