Aria’s Birth

Aria’s due date, March 5th, passed without event.

Days went by without any changes, and our doctor scheduled us for an appointment to induce labor on the morning of March 10th. My delivery with Alexandra was induced with pitocin, and I wasn’t excited to repeat that experience, so I hoped that I’d go into labor naturally.

Around 1am that morning, I started feeling regular contractions. By the time Steve and I showed up at the hospital at 8am, contractions were pretty painful, and I knew that I was close to delivering our baby. The nurse checked, and told us that I was 6 centimeters dilated (over halfway there). To help labor along, the nurse recommended a low dose of pitocin via an IV. She asked if I wanted an epidural for the pain. After a moment of consideration, I said no. No epidural. The pain was bad, but I figured if I could do it with my two previous births, I could do it again.

Soon after receiving the pitocin, contractions came faster and stronger. Around 11am, I was asking (probably yelling, actually) if I could start pushing. When you say this to the nurse, a flurry of activity is set in motion. The doctor and aides jumped into action, setting up all their medical gear, breaking my water, and finally saying, “Okay, go for it…start pushing!”

Side note: our actual doctor was running late, and so a different doctor did the delivery. That happened with ALL three of our births.

I pushed with each of the next 3-4 contractions, and Aria came out. Healthy, calm, and alert. Steve cut her umbilical cord. She was wiped down, and wrapped up in a blanket, and handed to me.

Oh, the joy and relief and burst of love at meeting our daughter!

Her name, Aria, means “lioness,” in Hebrew, and “air” in Italian (also used as a musical term for an operatic solo). A blend of strength, beauty, and nurturing. All our children have Chinese middle names, and Aria’s is Li Mei, meaning “strength and beauty.”

This third delivery was just as painful as my others. I fantasized about the baby just slipping out without much effort, but alas, that was not my experience. Contractions, pushing, and an episiotomy were all really rough. But in the end, I had another un-complicated, non-pain-medicated, healthy delivery, so count me grateful.

In this first week since Aria’s arrival, we’ve had an influx of friends and family (namely, Steve’s mother, who is the BEST), around to help with meals and other practical needs.

We are enamored with Aria. Aaron and Alex are adjusting to having a newborn sister – with some grace and some turmoil. Steve and I are living on less sleep and figuring out how to parent “zone defense” style.

Chicken and Smoked Sausage Gumbo


A strange ritual of sorts has emerged for me during late pregnancy.

It’s not the ritual of freaking out about how messy our house is, and we urgently need to clean and unclutter (though that happens). It’s not the ritual of cramming our infant car seat into the car, and cursing because “why are these things so damn difficult to install?” (thankfully Steve is our resident car seat installation expert).

I’m talking about the weird ritual of cooking gumbo. Every time I’m in the last month of pregnancy, I have the urge and instinct to make a huge pot of gumbo. A week before I had my firstborn Aaron, I made gumbo that served as our final meals before going into labor. I also had the foresight to freeze batches for later, when we were in the throes of caring for a newborn. Later, when Alex’s arrival was imminent, I did the same thing. Here I am with our third child on the way, with a newly made stock pot of gumbo sitting in the fridge.

Gumbo takes a lot of time and love. Maybe that’s a metaphor for us preparing to welcome a new baby into the family. I dunno, my brain is fried these days. Anyway, gumbo. It’s a long, slow process of chopping, searing, roux-stirring, and simmering. You can’t rush it, so it becomes a practice in slowing and meditating. But oh how the result is worth the work.

This gumbo is rich in flavor, owing its deliciousness to the dark roux and perfect Creole spice blend. I’ve made this with various meat combinations, including shrimp or other seafood. But I think I like the simplicity of chicken and sausage best.

Chicken and Smoked Sausage Gumbo

Adapted from Emeril Lagasse

print this recipe

1 tablespoon plus 1/2 cup vegetable oil
1 pound smoked sausage (such as andouille or kielbasa), cut crosswise in 1/2-inch pieces
4 pounds chicken boneless and skinless thighs, cut into 1-inch pieces
1 tablespoon Creole seasoning
1 cup all-purpose flour
2 cups chopped onions
1 cup chopped celery
1 cup chopped bell peppers
8 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon cayenne
3 bay leaves
6 cups chicken stock
1 28-ounce can stewed tomatoes, drained
2 cups frozen sliced okra
1/2 cup green onions
1 tablespoon file powder (optional)
White rice
Hot sauce

In a large cast iron Dutch oven or stock pot, heat 1 tablespoon vegetable oil over medium-high heat. Add sausage, and cook until well browned, about 8 minutes. Remove sausage and drain on paper towels. Set aside.

Season chicken with Creole seasoning and add in batches in the oil remaining in the pot. Cook over medium-high heat until well browned, about 5 minutes. Remove chicken, let cool in a bowl, and refrigerate until ready to use.

Combine the remaining 1/2 cup of oil and the flour in the pot over medium heat. Cook, stirring slowly and constantly for 20-25 minutes to make a dark brown roux (the color of chocolate).

Add onions, celery, bell peppers, and garlic, and cook, stirring until wilted, about 4-5 minutes. Add the sausage, salt, cayenne, and bay leaves. Stir and cook for 2 minutes. Stirring slowly add the chicken stock, and cook until well combined. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium-low and cook, uncovered and stirring occasionally for 1 hour.

Add chicken, tomatoes, and okra to the pot, and simmer for 1-1/2 hours, skimming off any fat that rises to the surface.

Stir in file powder and green onions. Serve over rice, with hot sauce as needed. Makes 6-8 servings.

Thoughts at 34 Weeks Pregnant

Today I invite you into the mind of a woman in her third trimester of pregnancy.
  1. I can’t remember the last time I saw my feet or bellybutton.
  2. I have decided that chocolate cookies and coffee count as a reasonable breakfast.
  3. It’s 9:30am, so I think I’ll take a nap now.
  4. Do I have to pee again? I swear I just went 10 minutes ago.
  5. Ow, for someone so tiny this unborn baby can really jab my ribs.
  6. At what point do I get to drive one of those motorized carts at the grocery store?
  7. There goes another shirt that doesn’t fit. Whatever. Nothing goes with my zombie eyes and walrus waddle anyway.
  8. If anyone tells me, “This will be your third? Wow, you’ll have your hands full!” I. WILL. CUT. THEM.
  9. The worst part of my day: every time I have to bend down to pick something up off the floor.
  10. This third birth should be easy, right? RIGHT?
  11. Okay, I definitely have to pee again.