For those of you who eat at my virtual table most often, you may have noticed a quieter lull from me in the realm of blogging and general digital life. It’s true! I’ve refrained from sharing more intimate moments, and certainly any pictures other than my curly-headed mop. That’s because I’ve been cooking up something extraordinary down below, something that has inspired me to go inward and honor a very personal and very magical experience that comes around once in a blue moon. I’m making a baby!
There’s a story about the grape juice coming …
But first. AHHHHHHHHHHHH! That’s right! Bobby and I will be welcoming a new little soul into our lives around December 27, just in time for holiday feasting.
I can’t quite believe it, and yet, it is the most natural, primal, rooted experience of my life. I feel activated and alive; not always comfortable, but present in the physical, spiritual and emotional changes occurring; more aware of my body than ever before, in all it’s shifting glory. In my first trimester, a dear mamma in my life, Sohkna, strutted down my hallway, bouncing her hips side to side and throwing her shoulders into her runway walk. She said “Don’t you just love the feeling of walking with purpose? As you fill out, you can really feel yourself pulling the weight of the world.”
Yes, yes I can! My light, springy self is carrying a small globe, and I love it! I squeal with laughter every time my baby dances inside my belly, marveling at the personality blossoming inside me, intertwining its heartbeat with mine. There is so much to say, and nothing to say at all. It is entirely novel, and yet, universal.
At first I was shy. I thought people might find me less capable of following my dreams or “doing my job.” Perhaps this is a residual effect of our society’s stance on maternal leave and women in the workforce, but Sheryl Sandberg’s Ted Talk encouraged me early on to keep my foot on the gas. As I began to share the news beyond my inner circle, I quickly realized that children and family are glue thicker than any shared interest. I found relationships with colleagues could reach new depths on the subject of pregnancy and kids. Friendships took on new meaning with unconditional support. After ten years of being together with Bobby, our marriage has evolved to include a quality of tenderness, sincerity and connection unlike ever before. The phrase “I’m going to have a baby” opens doors and builds bridges. Now that I’ve popped, my belly alone is a beacon for kindness, generosity and consideration. “Can I help you bring those things to the car?” “Would you like to take my seat?” “Can I fix you a glass of bubbly juice?” Um, yes, why surely! “Would you like an extra scoop of ice cream? You’re feeding two!” Duh. Bring it on!
And of course, I’m the maker of my dreams and more capable than ever of achieving them – whatever they may be. (It’s a lesson I’d like to share with my children.) One year I might dream of competing on Food Network Star, while the next year I might be manifesting an eco-hotel, Firelight Camps. I’m also acutely aware that raising a child may be … will most certainly be … will 100% be the most important undertaking in my life. Shortly before I became pregnant, I was sipping a cappuccino at Gimme! when a couple burst through the door feathered in scarves, hats and snowflakes. My serious-computer-working face and earbuds lent no signal that I was in the zone. They plopped down next to me, shedding snow, and said, “We’ve been asking everyone today, ‘who is the most influential person in your life?'”
Without hesitation, I said “my mother” and then added, “my twin sister too.”
They exclaimed, “See! Almost everyone says ‘my mother!'”
This was perspective-shifting for me. Despite being head-over-heels in love with my nephew, I had started to think that perhaps my energy would best be directed at the whole wide world than just one little being. Like Mother Teresa, or the Dalai Lama. You know, truly altruistic, the mother of all. Well ok, my aspirations weren’t that lofty, but the notion of where to dedicate my energy was a serious consideration because children take up time, money and more! But the energy we as parents put into our progeny – our future – is more focused, more genuine, more intentional and more fulfilling in spirit. It is unrivaled. It is pure love. And that’s what the world needs.
So I got pregnant. Well, it didn’t happen quite like that, but this tiny coffee shop conversation sparked a maternal switch … and plus winter was lagging on with dreaded record lows and nothing much to do outside apart from cross-country ski with my best friend and philosophize on the subject of motherhood, that suddenly … I found myself with child. (So did she!). Bobby and I were ecstatic and bright-eyed.
Very quickly we began to think about how we wanted to welcome our baby into the world. Who would care for us, who would help us deliver our child, where would we deliver? These questions just scratched the surface, but they were front-of-mind as we embarked on this journey.
For some reason I was never one of those girls that dreamed about her wedding, but I had always had this idea that I would give birth to my children at home. It was just a fact tucked away in the vaults of my mind. Once I’d convinced Bobby that it might be a possibility, we starting learning together about the merits of home birth versus hospital birth. We explored both routes, meeting with different midwives, nurses and doctors at their respective clinics, homes and hospitals. I fell in love with my nurse at the OBGYN, but I never had a chance to meet the doctor. I won’t go into much detail about the options and considerations for each approach (unless you ask), because I think it’s important for every new parent to make their own informed decision.
Ultimately, Bobby and I resonated more strongly with a home birth. However, we quickly discovered that the few local midwives in town took vacation over the holidays, precisely when our baby is expected to arrive! After waiting and searching and gently prodding my best friend’s midwife (“You never know, this baby may be born in January!”), she introduced us to a midwife and local legend who agreed to attend our birth.
Linda has been delivering babies – thousands! – since before I was born. We trust her entirely, and of course, we are ready for anything (being 10 minutes from the hospital on main roads). One of the most profound lessons pregnancy has taught me is that very little is in my control. The experience of pregnancy (and eventually of parenting) is a constant reminder that we can set intentions and boundaries, and do the inner work necessary to be fluid and present in the outer world, but we cannot control the outcomes. Does this make sense? It’s a realization I have difficulty articulating, but one that has repeatedly presented itself to me. For example, no amount of prenatal yoga or acupuncture could have prevented my hips from eventually feeling unfathomably sore. But my attitude towards this physical change is within my ability to control. I can embrace a slower pace and pamper myself with baths instead of being frustrated that I can’t set out for five-mile hikes at peak foliage. Things happen, small and big, and the best we can do is to stay aware and move through them without expectations.
Of course it’s scary. The love I feel for my identical twin’s son is mind-blowing and heart-overflowing. I can only image how I will fall in love with my own child, even in its tantrums. And starting now, in my womb, this baby has a soul of it’s own that I can only promise to love and guide to the best of my ability – and that’s it! The rest is beyond my control.
But back to Linda and one of the many reasons I am so happy we are having a home birth with a midwife.
Linda has encouraged me to embrace a sense of fluidity and peace throughout my pregnancy, and most importantly, stick to my integrity when it comes to food and nourishing my baby. This is a small story about grape juice and the reason why I made Grape Rosemary Focaccia. You were starting to think this was just about babies, weren’t you?
My last visit to the doctor’s office was at 28 weeks, when patients are scheduled for a glucose test to screen for gestational diabetes. The nurse placed a bottle of fluorescent orange liquid on the counter that reminded me of Dayquil, and explained that I would drink this before having my blood drawn. The thought of downing a bottle of synthetic sugar was not appealing, and the nurse also suggested that it was highly unlikely I would test positive given my diet and lack of symptoms. So I decided to wait until my next appointment with our midwife.
When Bobby and I arrived at her home for our appointment, buckets of newly-harvested Finger Lakes grapes filled her foyer. She handed me a bottle of fresh-pressed concord grape juice, and said, if I wanted to do the glucose test it would be best for me to drink this bottle in one sitting (much better than the Dayquil-look-alike!). But after having seen me for several months, she did not think I was at risk of gestational diabetes based on my diet, former test results and other signs and symptoms she’d collected in each of our hour-long sessions. The benefit of working with Linda is that she can spend much more time getting to know me, where as the structure of my doctor’s office always left very little time for deep inquiry. I decided not to do the screening, but Linda sent us home with the grape juice, urging us to drink it cold over ice. “It’s the best way!”
I mean, come on! Are you as excited as I am about having my prenatal care provider hand over a bottle of fresh-pressed, rich purple concord grape juice? My baby is dancing about it for sure.
With the first sip, I immediately thought back to a recipe I’d spotted last autumn for Grape Focaccia. It sounded intriguing, and my appetite has been wildly restored since the first trimester. So I opened the pantry, and started cooking …
- 3/4 cup lukewarm water
- 2 tablespoons milk, lukewarm
- 1.5 teaspoons sugar
- 1.25 teaspoons active dry yeast
- 2 cups all-purpose flour
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 6 tablespoons olive oil
- 1.5 cups red or concord grapes, halved and seeded
- 3/4 cup shredded Parmigiano-Reggiano
- 1 tablespoon rosemary needles, fresh or dried
- 1 - 2 teaspoons coarse sea salt (I used grey sea salt or sel gris)
- In a medium bowl, stir together the water, milk, sugar, and yeast. Let the mixture sit until foamy, about 10 minutes.
- Add the flour, salt and 2 tablespoons of the olive oil to the yeast mixture and mix together with a spoon until it comes together.
- Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead with your hands. It will be sticky at first, but continue adding flour to the counter and knead with your hands for a few minutes. Gather into a ball.
- Grease a large bowl with olive oil. Transfer the dough to the bowl and brush the top with more olive oil. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and place in a warm place, allowing it to rise for 1 1/2 to 2 hours until it doubles in size.
- Turn the dough out onto a floured surface and divide it into two balls. Brush a large baking sheet (or two small ones) with olive oil, and place the balls of dough on it. Brush the top of each ball with more oil and set aside for 20 minutes, lightly covered with a kitchen towel.
- After 20 minutes, dip your fingers in olive oil and press and stretch each ball of dough into a 8 to 9-inch circle or rectangular. It will be dimpled from your fingers. Cover the dough again with the towel and let it rise for another 1 1/4 hours in a warm place.
- Preheat the oven to 450°F. Brush the surface of the dough with the remaining olive oil and evenly garnish with the halved grapes, parmigiano-reggiano, rosemary needles and coarse sea salt.
- Bake for 15 minutes, until the crust is golden brown and puffed around edges. Serve toasted or cooled. Reheat for breakfast, lunch and dinner!
This recipe is from Smitten Kitchen, with a few minor adjustments and additions, plus a smattering of Parmigiano-Reggiano on top. Don't be intimidated by the "prep time" - it is mostly inactive waiting around for dough to rise.
I was hoping to make this with Finger Lakes concord grapes, but I missed the window by a day or two to pick them up at the market, so settled on organic red grapes. Grapes are heavily sprayed, so I would highly recommend choosing organic from the grocery store. Especially if you are making a baby.