When we started eating plant based last fall, my cravings for crock pot white chicken chili all but vanished. Luckily my pantry is brimming with dried beans, so I popped onto Google to quickly grab a recipe for a vegan white chili. The meaty, dairy-laden version I previously enjoyed was easy to throw together in the slow cooker, and that was a big criteria for my recipe search.
But Google came up short (just like I did when photographing this chili in the pot used to reheat it and NOT in the crockpot). Apparently it is REALLY hard to come by a white chili recipe that has ALL of the following characteristics:
- Uses dried beans (not canned)
- Made in the slow cooker
In our food blog world, it’s rare that a recipe search basically fails, and I was really bummed. White chicken chili is a great family staple, typically milder than a red chili, so was it really that hard to veganize it? In a crock pot? With dried beans? Doesn’t everyone have dried beans in the pantry during a pandemic??? I was undeterred, but what I thought would be a quick search, grocery order, and assembly had expanded into a recipe development project.
I already knew how to cook dried beans in the crock pot, a skill, in my opinion, that you MUST acquire if you’re to survive long as a plant-based eater (it’s easy: I learned from my favorite cookbook). So I worked in the flavors I love in a white chili and some quick tricks I’ve picked up along the way to really make this a thick CHILI, not just a misleadingly named white bean SOUP.
Baking and Birthing
Before you read on, make sure to catch up on Part One here!
Monday morning I woke around 4:30, realizing excitedly that this was not just my body telling me to get up and pee AGAIN. I was having waves (the Hypnobabies word for contractions) different from all the “practice” ones I experienced throughout pregnancy. I was still totally comfortable, but I knew with near certainty–it was birthing day.
Knowing from Hypnobabies and from Evan’s birth that saving my energy now was crucial, I laid in bed listening to a track or two, trying unsuccessfully to fall back asleep. Around 5:30, I got up and stumbled in to Steve, telling him I was up (duh) but not about the waves (my mind wasn’t functioning apparently). I came to my senses soon after and went back in to let him know today might be the day, but encouraging him to sleep a little more–an easy sell.
Comical in hindsight, my next move, in a quiet, dark apartment, was an internal debate over whether I’d be able to get through baking banana bread. Now, it’s not just any banana bread–Evan MUST have this stuff for breakfast every day of his little life, or in his mind the world is ending. If I’m honest, it’s totally flattering–he isn’t crazy for anything else I make except this bread. We were about to run out, softened butter and ripe bananas were ready, and in true symbolism of motherhood, I felt the need to start MY big day fumbling through a baking project for my child in between waves that would send us his sister. So could I do it?
Of course I could. My waves were getting noticeable enough to mess with my concentration, but I had made this bread dozens of times, and the Hypnobabies tracks coming through my AirPods were keeping me comfortable, even if I did have to pause for some of the waves now. Somehow the sacred bread made it into the oven. Evan was still asleep, but Steve had come out, also restless, and started to time my waves. They were around six minutes apart, varying in duration, but I want to say 30 to 45 seconds was common.
While pregnant with Evan, one thing I most looked forward to was beginning the birthing process at home, in a familiar, cozy environment, with my own food, my own bathroom, my pups nearby to keep watch (or freak out, depending on the pug). That was one of the biggest losses to me when our birth plans changed, and I hoped it would be different this time. The midwife on call reflected my sentiments exactly when we called later that morning, and, with my chart obviously in front of her, the first thing she exclaimed was, “Your water didn’t break!” She must have known how happy I was to still be at home.
I can’t say that it was the serene atmosphere I had pictured: there was a toddler to contend with, we were in a small space (our temporary apartment), and we really didn’t grasp how far along in the process I was–thank you Hypnobabies! If we knew how close we were to meeting our baby–just hours away–we probably would have prioritized getting me a little more peace and transferring all decision making to Steve, along with getting the doula and photographer there. In the end, though, it was the right morning for us.
After Evan woke, I had a minor crying meltdown when HE had a minor crying meltdown. I thought it was because he was overwhelmed seeing me like this, confused about what was happening, but Steve informed me he had simply stubbed his toe–ha! Typical Mom response. We knew enough, though, to get him situated with my parents, so my mom came over, gave me some encouragement, predicted that today was the day as I lay on the couch dealing with increasingly intense waves, and took a somewhat oblivious and totally delighted Evan away for a day with Nana and Papa (it had been months since they spent a whole day together). I choked out a goodbye from the top of the stairs, suppressing the urge to run after and squeeze my firstborn without letting go, and completely lost it when he was gone. I knew that was going to be one of the most difficult moments of our new baby’s birth day, and it didn’t disappoint.
Steve comforted me until I recovered, then proved that he had done this before (albeit a bit differently) by observing my state, letting me move and rest as needed, timing the waves that he could see (all of them, haha), making calls and texts to the midwives, doula, photographer, and family, and preparing our things and the house for our departure. My waves were all over the place. They varied in intensity, duration, and frequency. When I laid in bed late morning, getting deep into my tracks (and my pug snuggles), they spaced out to ten minutes apart, but a little more intense. That spacing had me doubting that today would be this baby’s birthday.
It was one call to our doula that finally convinced us we should make our way to the birth center. I said I was coping pretty well, but when she asked if I was feeling pressure, I immediately recounted THAT feeling from Evan’s birth. Yes, I was DEFINITELY feeling pressure! If she was alarmed, she hid it well, but from my response she knew she should head straight to the birth center (not our apartment), and that we should do the same.
Car Ride Contractions
I knew with total confidence as we left the house that I wanted a tuna sub with cheese and pickles. It had taken some adjusting to get comfortable in the car at first. The previous 24 hours, for no apparent reason, I had been telling myself that a theme of this birth would be “no panic”. It just felt like something I needed to affirm, as there were definitely some moments of alarm during Evan’s birth, and I really wanted this birth to be confident, without unnecessary stress. I can honestly say that was mostly the case, although I did freak out a little as waves set in, Steve had already begun driving, and I couldn’t find a good position. Why wasn’t he helping me? Did we leave too late?
In the running for the highlight of Eloise’s birth: chowing down on a tuna sub and sipping iced coffee in the backseat on the way to the birth center, only to discover on arriving that I was almost completely dilated. Truly the best moment, though, was meeting our baby girl only a couple hours later, caught completely off guard by her head of dark hair and an altogether unexpected reason for my tears.
From the beginning, I had high hopes for our second baby’s birth. Evan’s birth had been one change in plans after another. This time, I hoped to spend our early birthing time at home, in peace, followed by the uneventful birth center birth that never came to pass for Evan. I wavered for weeks over whether Hypnobabies birth method was worth the investment of time and money. Our doula, who specializes in Hypnobabies, never pressured us, but I’m so glad I pursued it in the end, and I pretty much owe sole credit to Hypnobabies for enjoying that tuna sub in such comfort.
My terminology follows the Hypnobabies course language–it might sound a little funny, but it’s not hard to follow, and is totally worth using to reflect the natural event that childbirth is.
I had baby fever as soon as I forgot the discomfort of Evan’s birth. I wanted SO badly to be ovulating, and I would take embarrassingly frequent pregnancy tests on the fluke that we’d gotten so lucky without trying. That was never the case (a blessing in hindsight for our family), and when my period returned at 16 months postpartum, we got right to work! Easier said than done when a nursing toddler is keeping you up at night more than he did as a newborn. On our third wedding anniversary, I surprised Steve with the news of a positive pregnancy test. We were a bit stunned and so excited that it was finally time to add to our family. A couple weeks later, I called him on his work trip in Dallas, with the news that I wouldn’t get the chance to share a birthday with this baby, after all. I had started spotting, then bleeding, over a couple of days. Steve came back as soon as he could catch a flight so we could process this early loss, a chemical pregnancy, together.
It was tough, but not devastating. We knew we wanted to keep trying, and I felt so fortunate that we conceived my very next cycle. I had a crippling case of “food poisoning” in early December, during some round of tainted salad greens in the news. Steve had to take over mid-diaper change at bedtime while I curled myself around the toilet, calling my mom in tears to see if she could bring Saltines. The incident came and went, but when we pieced together the timeline, positive test in hand not much later, we realized that it must have been a case of some strong implantation!
And so it began. I was slow to call for the first appointment, and took several more tests to confirm, I think waiting to see if this one would “stick”. I was hesitant to even state factually that I was pregnant for a few weeks. It didn’t feel like it counted yet, given what we had just been through. But it began to count, and quickly, as my belly popped right out and–I hate to even recall it–I lost my taste for cheese. Or really much food at all. As we shared the news, and how sick I was feeling compared to my first pregnancy, we got a few it-must-be-a-girl’s, and the wives’ tale holds true this time. We opted not to find out the gender until the birth again (it’s the best surprise), and the nausea came and went and eventually faded, giving way to some unsightly and painful varicose veins, a maybe-real case of gestational diabetes, and much less rest than I got while pregnant with Evan. I otherwise took my health much more seriously this time around, not willing to give up our birth center birth for ANY reason that I could control. I ate as best I could, I took my blood sugar faithfully, I lifted weights, and when I didn’t feel up to strength workouts anymore I walked…and walked…and walked. Usually upwards of two or three miles a day.
We bought a house, we took Evan to the beach in Florida with a few days planning, and as home renovations progressed, we decided baby would join us in our temporary apartment near my parents, baby’s Nana and Papa.
And Papa–before he got his new grandbaby girl, he got a diagnosis of stage 4 kidney cancer. It put this new little life into glaring perspective, but Papa got to see her in person often, and we hope he’s somewhere watching with a smile as we celebrate Eloise’s birth every year. Eloise will carry a little Papa wherever she goes: Eloise Scot, whose name she got from mama Tessa Scot, whose name I got from Papa Scott.
So basically the pregnancy was super eventful but entirely normal. The tracks I listened to daily as part of Hypnobabies made it impossible to picture anything BUT a beautiful, natural birth at the birth center. They put my mind in charge and gave me an incredible calm about the birth. I KNEW I would have the right birth for our baby, and although I took on Hypnobabies to equip me in the case of an intense birth like Evan’s, I was intent that the right birth would indeed be the one we planned.
…before we get back to the food. Yep, you read that right! After two years of pouring myself into figuring out this parenting thing (or sometimes having a child suck every last ounce of energy out of me), I’m going to be back to this space in some capacity. Of course, I envision posting regularly three times a week, but I may be settling for posting our very favorite recipes or dinner plans once a week, for starters. You can expect recipes of the same nature–comfort food and new favorites with a healthy twist–but in a lot more family-friendly prep time. Because I’m certainly not GAINING time in life: we’re moving soon and there’s a new baby on the way, due around the end of summer.
So all of a sudden here we are, living in Minnesota, with a two-year-old, and a baby on the way–let’s back up for just a few minutes and try to fill in some of the gaps between Evan’s birth and…today.
The biggest theme of the past two years is that parenting ain’t easy. I have gained so much respect for alllllll of the mamas and daddies out there doing your best for those kids, whatever that looks like. In total honesty, Evan’s first year of life was extremely isolating for me. Sure, we occupied ourselves with some travel, visits from family, outings to the park and baby yoga and sometimes our old favorite restaurants, but those things were just a temporary reprieve from the day-to-day that not even being a stay-at-home blogger can prepare you for. My husband was gone 12+ hours a day working hard, sometimes traveling while I tended to Evan’s every need, primarily for milk. Lots of milk. We were lucky to have a bit of help from a post-partum doula and a babysitter/assistant/fellow mama, the adult interaction of which probably saved my sanity overall. I never fell hard and fast into post-partum depression, but, looking back, I was likely teetering on the brink (and will be much more prepared to tend to my mental health with baby number two).
Click here if you missed part 1!
Hospital, Here We Come
Perpetuating my nerves, Steve was going to drop me off at the entrance with my stuff and run to park the car. Although I wasn’t in labor yet, I didn’t want to be alone for even a few minutes. Strange, because I’m normally an introvert who loves solitude. In the first of many demonstrations of how perfectly orchestrated Evan’s birth would be, my fears were relieved when I spotted our birth doula, Dawn, walking toward the car as we began to unload. Over two months (okay, now TEN as I edit this) later, all the emotions are getting more difficult to recall, but I’m pretty sure I couldn’t decide whether to shed tears of joy and relief or jump up and down in excitement. My giant belly made jumping nearly impossible, so we settled for a hug and I think I tried to articulate just how happy I was to see her.
If I can pause for a moment and make one recommendation to pregnant women, it’s that your support team is everything. The plans you make for the birth of your child are 99.9% likely to be different from what you envision, but there can be a constant. A supportive partner, your Mom, your sister, your best friend, excellent midwives, a practice whose doctors you’re ALL totally comfortable with, and, my personal must-have, a (well-trained, experienced and/or familiar) doula: THESE are the people who will get you through the most intense, life changing experience you’ve ever been through, no matter what happens. Stay tuned throughout the rest of the story to find out why Steve, Dawn, and so many others were critical to a positive, if unimaginably challenging, birth experience for me.
I can’t remember the exact details or chain of events; whether I carried a bag or if others insisted on doing it for me, or who did the talking at hospital check in. I do remember that it was about dusk on that Monday night (March 27) when we made our way in to Danbury hospital, past the security desk, and up to the “family birth center”—one last reminder that I was not to give birth in an actual birth center (apparently hospitals are allowed to slap whatever label they choose on their maternity ward). We had to get past a few reception areas once in maternity, and I was thankful that we took that hospital tour months ago, the one I was sure would be irrelevant, but that I admitted at the time eased my nerves surrounding a hospital birth significantly. The hospital tour convinced me that it wouldn’t be SO bad, and I was about to find out that was precisely the case.
When our pediatrician found out that we ended up with quite a different birth than we had planned, she was genuinely sympathetic. But, until that point almost a week after the birth, I had hardly questioned our experience, except when I flipped back to the birth chapters of a few baby books, or got a birth newsletter in my email with a list of ideal birth practices (lots of which I didn’t experience). While I believe our minds were created with incredible abilities for visualization and even the power to shape our experience, I’m also confident that sometimes God overrides our best laid plans and intentions for a more perfect experience than we could have dreamt. In the case of Evan’s birth, that’s exactly what happened.
The Original Plan
You can read the details of our original plan in this post, but, in summary, we were planning a birth center birth free of any pain medication, as well as minimal fetal monitoring. Through 40 plus weeks of pregnancy, we were clearing all the hurdles to birth at the birth center with flying colors, until, somewhat quickly, we weren’t.
A Long Beginning
Evan hardly ever had the hiccups in utero, most likely because he was saving them all for his entrance into the world.
On March 5, 2017, almost a week before my supposed due date of March 11, I spotted a bit of blood when I went to the bathroom and was ecstatic. I spent my whole pregnancy praying I would never see a drop of blood (I didn’t), and then at 37 weeks, arriving at term, that mindset flipped and I was desperately hoping for any sign of spotting. I took a shower, dried my hair, and let our doula know, hoping and praying that things were about to start happening, and Steve was seized by the reality that there was a baby arriving in our very near future. The car was promptly organized and all our birth bags laid out, ready to go at a moment’s notice.