Monday, November 26, 2012

A triumphant return!

So tonight marks the first "real" dinner that I've made since becoming pregnant and not being able to think about food. I was inspired this afternoon.. and boy was the hubby happy to have someone else make dinner for once! I've got a pretty big sweet tooth this pregnancy (not so much with my first one), so I wanted something that had a sweetness to it, but was still full of good stuff. This stew was my answer... feel free to customize as you see fit - don't have any purple yams? Just add in sweet potatoes, or even regular potatoes... with stews, it all works!

Butternut Squash Stew
Yield: 12 ladle-sized scoops (about 6 servings)

1 L vegan butternut squash pre-made soup*
1 small purple yam
1 large orange yam
1 very long carrot, or two regular sized ones
1 cup (250 ml) red lentils
1.5 cups (375 ml) water
1 cup (250 ml) frozen corn

*I used Pacific Foods brand - it's vegan and fairly tasty on its own.

1) Chop up the yams and carrots into small, bite-size pieces. Isn't that purple yam pretty? I'd planned on using more of it, but the other ones rotted. So sad! Interestingly, they smelled like guava when they began to rot. Note to self: do not store yams in a plastic bag in a cupboard near the dishwasher!

2) Put the soup, chopped veggies, red lentils, and water into a large pot.

3) Stir, cover, and bring to a boil.

4) Uncover, reduce heat to low, and simmer for 35 minutes, stirring occasionally.

5) Add the frozen corn, then simmer for another 5 minutes.

6) Serve hot! I had some Persian bread on the side, which was very tasty.

The stew was not only appetizing to my still somewhat-nauseous tummy, but hubby liked it too. You could also try spicing it up a bit with some paprika! Or add a bit of curry powder for another flavour dimension. Soups and stews are a lot of fun since you can really add anything you want. Happy cooking!

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

A Vegan Miracle!

Sorry for being rather absent from the blogosphere for the last few months... I've been so nauseous that I could barely think about food let alone write about it! Yes, folks, I'm pregnant! But there's a whole lot more behind that statement....

To really understand why I believe my pregnancy to be a "vegan miracle," you need to know a little more about my history. When I was a teenager, I never had regular cycles. I remember going through entire summers without seeing good ole Aunt Flo, which really, was awesome back then. I mean, who really wants to get a period every month, especially during bathing suit season? Every 3-4 months, that's way easier! Unfortunately, what was excellent as a teen and young woman became a bit of a liability when my hubby and I decided it was time to start a family. After trying for six frustrating months and only experiencing one period during that time, we decided to see our family doctor. He looked at my history and decided to refer me to a fertility specialist. 

I didn't quite know what to expect when we made our first appointment with Pacific Centre for Reproductive Medicine, but was very pleasantly surprised when we walked in the door - the office was gorgeous! All beautiful wood and calming greens and whites. Really pretty. And luckily, the doctor and the rest of the staff were pretty nice too. He looked at my history, decided to send me for some blood work, and also did an ultrasound of my ovaries. Turned out that not only was my thyroid very off - I was barely producing any thyroid stimulating hormone (that explained the tiredness and joint pains I'd been experiencing), but my ovaries also looked like I had Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS). With PCOS, basically my ovaries do not ovulate normally - they create lots of little "cysts" with immature eggs inside of them, which is normal, but normally at least one of those eggs will mature and burst out of the cyst... which is when ovulation occurs. My eggs never matured so I was just left with a bunch of little cysts - not painful and not cause for concern, but they did get in the way of trying to conceive naturally! We corrected the thyroid issue with medication that I'll be on for the rest of my life, but the PCOS was a little more difficult to deal with. There really is no "cure" for PCOS, so the doctor decided to try me out on the first step in combating infertility caused by "lack of menses." This first step is called clomid, and it's basically just a pill that you take for a few days at a certain time of the month that gives your ovaries a kick-start to ovulate. After a couple of tries with getting the dosage right, it finally started making me ovulate and a couple of months later, I was pregnant with my son. Awesome.

When my son was one year old, we decided to start trying right away for a second since we'd had a hard time getting pregnant that first time. Everyone had always told me that likely I would have no problem getting pregnant a second time since my body "knew what to do now." Boy were they wrong. We tried for a couple of months on our own, but I still wasn't getting a period (and I'd stopped breastfeeding), so we went back to clomid. After raising the dosage on the clomid repeatedly over several months, we finally faced the reality that it had stopped working for me. Apparently, this is not uncommon, but it was sure inconvenient!

After that, we went on to try Intrauterine Insemination (IUI) - which is basically artificial insemination - our own eggs and sperm, but no fun part. We tried a few rounds of this, none of which had any success either because I only produced one egg or produced five or more - apparently my ovaries were "fragile" and very sensitive to changes in the medication dosage. This did lead my doctor to believe that I would be a good candidate for in vitro insemination (IVF) since apparently my ovaries were good at producing multiple eggs with higher dosages of the medication. So, we tried that as well - I made 17 eggs, 11 of which were fertilized. First round, we transferred two fresh embryos. I did get pregnant, but miscarried very soon after. So we tried again with some "kidsicles" as we liked to call them. We transferred another two and again I got pregnant and miscarried very early. Well at this point we were understandably rather depressed about the whole situation, so we took a break for a few months. Eventually we decided to try one last frozen embryo transfer but this time with three embryos for a better chance... and nothing took at all in that last one! We were out of embryos (some didn't survive the thawing process), and my body was a mess. IVF involves some pretty heavy dosages of hormones and I decided I needed a real break to get my body healthy. We weren't sure where we were heading with still trying to have a child (we never gave up hope that it would happen someday for us!), but I knew it would be a while before I would feel ready to face the prospect of more infertility treatments, which seemed to be the only possible course of action for us.

So this brings us to this past year in the spring. Have a look at this post for my story about why I became vegan... and the other back story is that I just really wanted to do some good things for my body. So after a couple of months of eating exclusively plant-based, I had a near-normal cycle - just 32 days. This was entirely unheard of for me, so I said to the hubby, "maybe it will be normal next month too - why don't we just try and see what happens?" Well, famous last words... it happened! Just one month of "trying" completely naturally and I was pregnant. We were shocked, to say the least!

Now I'm sure there are some naysayers and skeptics out there who won't believe that going vegan is what made it possible for me to get pregnant naturally. Well, here is a list of why going vegan is EXACTLY what helped me get pregnant...

  1. Skeptic: you'd stopped trying and it always happens when you're not really trying. Fact: we hadn't stopped trying - we'd never given up hope and were actively trying the month that I did get pregnant. 
  2. Skeptic: you must have lost weight on your new vegan diet and losing weight helps you get pregnant. Fact: while I did end up losing about 10 pounds before becoming pregnant, when my cycle originally normalized I had lost no more than five pounds, and probably less. Five pounds is so little that it would have no effect on my fertility. 
  3. Skeptic: you weren't so stressed when you were trying naturally as you must have been when you were doing infertility treatments. Fact: we conceived during the first week back for a new school year. If that's not a stressful time, I don't know what is!! 
  4. Skeptic: you weren't eating much processed food and that was probably impacting your fertility. Fact: while I might have eaten marginally more processed food as a non-vegan, really it was just marginal. I was never a huge processed food eater. 
  5. Skeptic: you were exercising a lot more with boot camp three days a week. Fact: while I was definitely exercising more around the time I got pregnant, I don't think this was what helped. When I got that first near-normal cycle of 32 days, I hadn't yet started boot camp. I'm sure the exercise helped because really, how could it not, but it wasn't the only thing that helped. 

Convinced yet? I could probably go on and refute anything the skeptics could come up with, but the fact remains that at least for me, cutting meat and dairy out of my diet helped my own natural hormones to work properly. Makes you wonder what is in our meat and dairy, eh? I've found at least one other blogger who had a similar experience to me... you can read her story here. We'd spent over $10,000 on trying to get pregnant, but all it took was changing what I ate. Go figure!

So, suffice it to say that I am thrilled with the unforeseen side effect of my plant-based diet, and still in a state of shock. I think it might become more "real" once I start feeling those first little flutters of movement. I'm due around June 4, 2013, so as of this posting I am at 12 weeks, just about to start in on my second trimester. The nausea is starting to dissipate slowly, so hopefully I can get back to cooking and posting here soon! I'm trying to remain as vegan as possible during the pregnancy, but have definitely been tested by this "all-day" sickness since NOTHING has looked good to eat and my body apparently isn't able to currently digest beans and legumes (I tried them - it wasn't pretty). I have indulged in real cheese and several Filet o'Fish (oh the shame!), but my hope is once my body becomes more receptive to food in general that I can get back to full-time veganism. I bought a book called The Everything Vegan Pregnancy Book by Reed Mangels which has been very informative. She also includes lots of recipes, so I plan to start trying some of those out soon!

And now I think I'll leave you to let this all sink in... there's a bowl of vanilla soy frozen dessert calling my name!