A mere three weeks ago, I was engaging in my recently acquired nightly dinner ritual: crying over a plate of food my husband had so sweetly prepared for me and lamenting over our terrible decision to have unprotected sex three months prior.
I am pregnant.
We decided to “pull the goalie and see what happens” right around Thanksgiving. We had been married for four months and were apparently bored with life as newlyweds.
“Why not?,” we asked ourselves. “It will be fun,” we said. “We are ready for it,” we agreed.
New Year’s Eve was spent eating Crockpot curry and watching TED Talks on Netflix. The perfect aphrodisiac for educated Gen-Xers. We didn’t even make it to midnight before retiring for the evening and applying our newly acquired knowledge of the neuroscience of sex, bonding, and love. At 12:03 am, as we were dozing off in one another’s’ arms, I asked my husband, “Wouldn’t it be funny if we just made a baby right at midnight on New Year’s Eve?”
“Mmmmphf” he replied.
I knew I was ovulating, and the idea of playing semen Russian roulette excited me. I had spent my entire womanhood trying not to get pregnant. Doing the opposite felt dangerous, romantic, and empowering. “What if I am pregnant?” I thought. “How amazing would that be?”
My suspicions were confirmed several weeks later after five positive pregnancy tests (I am a thorough <okay, obsessive> person). I almost couldn’t believe my body was a viable vessel to create human life. How much alcohol had I consumed in my early 20’s? All the stupid decisions I had made in my youth…was this baby sure it wanted to settle into this womb for the next nine months? It must be mistaken!
For those of you who have been pregnant, or know someone who has been pregnant, or know of the basic concept of pregnancy, you know how different the experience can be from one woman to the next. Some women barely notice early pregnancy and continue on with an interrupted day-to-day routine with their life-changing “precious vessel” status.
I am not one of those women.
I was almost immediately nauseous. Perhaps because the reality of vaginal birth, sore nipples and sleepless nights began to sink in.”Oh my god,” I thought. “My life is over.”
I nannied for awhile after grad school, and cared for several infants. I love babies, but my god, are they ever a lot of work. I loved giving them back to their parents at the end of the day. If I had my own, I would not be able to do that. I would have to keep them. All…the… time.
The nausea only got worse as they weeks progressed. By week 8, I was unable to swallow solid food without gagging. I could not for the life of me look at an onion or even walk down the potato chip aisle without the saliva in the back of my throat becoming thick and stringy. Our local pizza restaurant became unbearable to even sit in. I was subsisting on saltine crackers, Greek yogurt, popsicles, and ginger ale. Every day was like the worst hangover I ever had, except this time I couldn’t drink a beer, eat a plate of greasy food and nap it off. It was all encompassing, and I could not escape its clutches, no matter what I tried (and believe me, I tried everything).
Cooking has long been one of my favorite activities, but during early pregnancy, it was completely out of the question. Just pouring milk over a bowl of cereal made me want to cry. I avoided the kitchen at all costs, and let my husband do all of the cooking (and dishes, because remember – “precious vessel” status). He would kindly try to make things that appealed to me (nothing), and encouraged me to eat them. This is where my nightly ritual of crying over a plate of food began. The exhaustion of constant nausea and vomiting combined with the mounting guilt at not being able to feed my baby and myself overwhelmed me. By 7 pm, it was too much to take, and I would lose it.
“Why did we do this?” I would beg him, through sobs. “It will get better,” he would promise. “What if it doesn’t?” I would ask. “It will,” he would reply.
And it did.
By 14 weeks, I had turned a corner. I was no longer living in a wetsuit of nausea, and started to have interest in food (beyond saltines and yogurt). Meat finally looked appealing, and I could even stomach onions again! I slowly began to cook again – easy, bland stuff at first, and within a week I was making beef ragu with gnocchi and blackberry lemon cheesecake bars. (And people think childbirth is a miracle!)
At 15 weeks, I am happy to report that I am cooking several nights a week and even attended my first “Belly Yoga” class yesterday. Food and exercise – just like a real human!
Tonight I made asparagus and kale stuffed shells. They were delicious, and so easy to make! And yes, I washed it down with a glass of wine (gasp!).
Also, I am skiing this weekend so judge away…and bon appetit!
ASPARAGUS AND KALE STUFFED SHELLS
There is something utterly charming about stuffed shells I think. Little seashells stuffed with cheese and smothered with marinara….wonderful! And it makes a ton of food, so you can have guests or leftovers, player’s choice.
Asparagus and Kale Stuffed Shells adapted from Edible Perspective // yields 6-8 servings
- 1 box gluten-free jumbo pasta shells
- 2 1/3 cup full-fat ricotta cheese
- 1/2 tablespoon ghee/oil
- 2 cups finely chopped lacinato/dino kale, lightly packed
- 1 1/4 cups chopped asparagus, 1/4-inch pieces
- 1/2 cup shredded parmesan cheese
- 1 tablespoon chopped fresh basil
- 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder granules
- 1/4 – 1/2 teaspoon salt + black pepper
- ~8oz fresh mozzerela, cubed
- ~48oz thick marinara sauce
- pesto, optional
1. Add ghee or oil to a large pan over medium heat.
2. Once hot add the asparagus and cook for about 3-4 minutes stirring frequently. Stir in the kale for 30 seconds, until just wilted.
3. Pour out onto a large plate and let cool.
1. Cook your pasta shells al dente, according to package directions. Rinse with cold water to help prevent sticking. *Make sure not to overcook because they will cook a bit more in the oven.
2. Mix the ricotta, kale, asparagus, parmesan, basil, garlic, salt, and pepper until combined. Start with 1/4t salt + pepper. Taste, then add more if needed.
3. Preheat your oven to 350* and take out a 9×13 pan and a 9×9 pan, or a variety of single serving oven-safe bowls.
4. Pour out just enough sauce to coat the bottom of each pan.
5. Gently fill each shell until the mixture is flush with the bottom.
1. Place the shells stuffed side down in the pan so that they are slightly touching one another.
2. Coat the top of each shell with a scoop of sauce.
3. Place mozzarella [about 1/2-inch cubes] around the shells.
1. Cover tightly with foil and bake for 15min. Uncover and bake for another 15min.
2. Turn your broiler on low, move pans to the top rack and broil for 3-5 minutes watching closely until the cheese is bubbly.
3. Garnish with fresh pesto, basil, or parsley if desired and serve hot.