Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Still Flying the Flag: Tortilla Bandera

"I came to explore the wreck.
The words are purposes.
The words are maps.
I came to see the damage that was done
and the treasures that prevail."   -Adrienne Rich, "Diving into the Wreck"

In the wee hours of the morning today, my minister and his wife welcomed a healthy little girl into the world, their second child.  It was a pretty uneventful pregnancy, as far as I can tell.  The mom is healthy, by any standards: I think she competed in a triathlon in her late first trimester.  I suspect that she'll be back on her feet in no time, gracefully chasing around their preschooler while she wears her newborn daughter.

My relationship to these children is complicated.  While I'm celebrating just like everyone else, I see the event through a different lens.  The couple's first child was born when I would have been due, too, and it was during her pregnancy that I was diagnosed (if you can even call it that, because really, it was more like a non-diagnosis) with secondary infertility.  I spent her first pregnancy watching her belly swell and her skin glow, feeling like I'd been robbed of my own child, but also like I had a constant reminder in her of what never came to be for me.  And though I've long since dealt with those feelings, and though we are done building our family, I find myself strangely envious of the ease with which this second pregnancy and birth transpired.  It's not a very graceful feeling, but I can't ignore it.

It's not, as my husband might say, that misery loves company.  It's more that I just wish more people fully understood what they seem to take for granted.

The "after" in "parenting after infertility and loss" is a tricky word.  Because there really is no "after."  It's not like something you can leave behind.  There is only "with."  And "through."  When you lose someone else you love, like I lost my father to cancer, people expect you to remember them, to be sensitive on certain anniversaries, though your experience of that loss changes with time.  Why should this be any different?

I've referenced my father here before.  I've been thinking about him a lot lately; something about Easter coming soon and putting in the garden has stirred memories of him in me again that make me smile, and that make me a little sad he never got the chance to meet his grandchildren.  Much as our relationship was a difficult one, sometimes I wish he was here to offer some of his officious (!) advice.  So I spent a week eating his kind of food (more to come in the next posts), appreciating the daffodil blooms with my daughter, and honoring him the best way I know how.

(I will add here that my husband is the one who performed the architectural feat that is this dish.  There was swearing in the kitchen, but I think it turned out great.  The colors are meant to symbolize the Mexican flag, hence the name.)

And to my minister's daughter: welcome to the world, little one.  May you know joy, and beauty, and the love of a community who will teach you to live a life full of grace.  Perhaps a little more gracefully than I do it.

Tortilla Bandera

3 small heads broccoli
1/2 large head cauliflower
olive oil
2-3 large peppers, stemmed, seeded, and cut into 1" squares
salt and pepper
12 eggs

Separate broccoli and cauliflower into florets and cook separately in lightly salted boiling water until just tender.   Drain and keep separate.

Heat 1 T. oil in a skillet.  Cook peppers until soft, lightly sprinkling with salt and pepper to taste as they cook.

Heat 1 T. oil in a 10 inch heavy skillet (preferably cast iron) over medium-low heat. 

Beat 4 eggs with salt and pepper to taste.  Combine peppers with eggs and pour into the hot oil.  Cook until set on the bottom.  Put a plate over the top of the skillet and invert the omelet onto the plate; slide it back into the skillet and tuck the edges under with a spatula.  Cook until set.

Beat 4 more of the eggs and combine with the broccoli.  It will seem that there aren't enough eggs, but don't worry.  Season with salt and pepper to taste.  Arrange egg-coated broccoli on top of the red pepper omelet, leveling it with the back of the spatula.  Cook for about 8 minutes.  Turn the whole omelet over again, using the plate as you did before.

Combine the cauliflower the the remaining 4 eggs, adding salt and pepper to taste.  Don't worry that there doesn't seem to be enough eggs.  Pour the cauliflower mixture over the omelet and flatten with the back of the spatula.  Cook for about 10 minutes, occasionally running the spatula around the edge.  Turn the whole tortilla over one last time using the pate, and cook until firm (you may need to turn it again so it becomes golden).

Serve warm or at room temperature.
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  1. Brocolli and cauliflower are 2 of my favourite vege's right now! Since my diagnosis for insulin resistance, they are vege's that keep the blood sugar normal and digest much easily. I never considered the term "after" until now and yes, I think I would prefer "with" instead. Afterall, my miscarriage is still "with" me, never to be forgotten as it shaped who I am today and how much of a miracle my living son truly is.

  2. You make a wonderful point about how other losses can (and we expect them to) be remembered and how other losses are things we're expected to get over or passed.

    I think the minister's wife also has to fit into a different category because they are such a visible family in the church. The most visible family. Sometimes people even start to stand in for the space itself, representing it. So I would imagine that child might bring out something different emotionally than a random child. In both directions -- I think people could end up putting that child up on a pedestal of love inadvertently as well.

    For us, it isn't the rabbi's family but this other family who has become our visual touchstone to represent the shul as a whole. And her pregnancies affect me differently from everyone else's. I don't know why, I just know it happens.

    1. Interesting. If the shower was any indication, you're right ... though I feel that *all* children are treated with respect and love in our church (more so than in some churches I've attended over the years), there is something about being in the spotlight that makes you different ... e.g., you often show up as the example of a particular point during the Sunday sermon.

      Glad to know it's not just me.

  3. I have the same feelings about most pregnancies, though it's a bit easier now that I know I'm done being pregnant. I certainly felt that way watching you breeze through your pregnancy with I. And yet I almost never feel that way about my doula clients. Emotions are weird.

    1. I've wondered what that has been like for you as a doula ... though your compassion and understanding makes you feel like a natural fit for that work, to me, I've always thought it a brave, selfless choice. I'm sorry that my pregnancy with I. was hard for you ... though I thought of you and Walla often through those nine months, and felt almost guilty that things went so well, I don't think I fully appreciated how lucky I was. I'm really glad that you stuck around, hard as it was.

  4. My partner has asked me many times what I want from people who don't struggle to build their families - I mean, they can't help that they have it easy and we, and others, don't. But you pinpointed it in this post - I just want them to be grateful for what they have, to not take it for granted, to not assumed it was what they should have expected and mostly to not assume it's what everyone experiences to reach parenthood. My partner says it's not our business to have those kinds of expectations on others and that if I want people to feel that way I will certainly be disappointed. And he's probably right. But that doesn't make it any easier to let go of those feelings.

    1. Your partner IS right, but I also don't think we can control how we feel. We can acknowledge those feelings, and deal with them in the open ... I think that's as good as it gets.

  5. I have people that are a similar point of reference...we all started trying at the same time and both of them have a 4 year old and a 2 year old...what we would have had if things didn't go awry. It's funny how the one to two years we waited seemed like an eternity and now...looking at these doesn't seem like that much time. Sigh. Jealousy is a terrible, gnawing sin. I find the only way to deal with it is to lean into it and accept my humanity, acknowledge the pain that causes me to have such a terrible emotion.

    1. I like that ... lean into it. I use the term "feel what you're feeling," by which I think I mean more or less the same thing. I wonder if there are people in the world who *aren't* jealous ... I want to know their secret. Buddhists, I bet. :)

  6. "The 'after' in 'parenting after infertility and loss' is a tricky word. Because there really is no 'after.' It's not like something you can leave behind. There is only 'with.' And 'through.'"

    So true.

    I also have people in my life that serve as points of reference, as RunningMama said, especially those who have had healthy babies/children born around the time our daughter Molly was due and the EDD of our other earlier losses. It is bittersweet and I know it is possible for me to be both happy for them and sad for me at times.

    Honoring your father's life and memory with you. Thank you for sharing some about what he means to you and I am sorry he never got to meet his grandchildren.

    From what I know of you, I think you live life very gracefully. I think there is much grace in living an imperfect, honest and genuine life.

    There is a line in the song "Chasing Cars" by Snow Patrol that speaks about grace that I have been pondering lately:

    "I need your grace to help me to find my own."

    I hope that you have a wonderful weekend. I am a fairly picky eater, but look forward to trying one of your recipes someday, when I am feeling adventurous!

    1. Thanks for commenting on this, Kathy ... it's good to know that I'm not alone in this strange sort of envy (or whatever it is) I feel.

      Love that song, by the way. I don't know that I ever really caught that line, but it's particularly apt today; I was teaching a lesson at RE about social action and the fact that we need to rely on others to help us stand (or find grace) ... that we can't always stand up with and for ourselves.

      Hope your weekend was refreshing!

      (And: my daughter seems to be a picky eater at the tender age of one. It's a whole new adventure for me to figure out how to entice her to try things! I welcome any tips or requests. ;)

  7. Lovely post as always. It's hard not to project our own longing on to other people's lives, even when we're sharing in their joy.

  8. This post resonates with me on so many different levels. I am currently fighting the green-eyed monster because a dear friend is pregnant with her 4th and it was a total accident. I feel horrible that I'm jealous but, I've resolved that despite my jealousy that I will be supportive and loving throughout her pregnancy. I guess we can't really help how we feel. We can only help how we behave.

    1. "I guess we can't really help how we feel. We can only help how we behave." Oh. Simple truth. These two sentences just bonked me in the forehead. Thank you.

      (my green-eyed monster has been rearing its head an awful lot lately)

    2. So true, Kristin. Great point. The "accidents" are hardest, in some ways ... and I admire you for facing this head-on. Your friend will be grateful for your support, I know.

  9. It must be so bitter sweet to do all these things that remind you of your Dad. Good for you for honoring him in that way. It makes you wonder what our kids will do someday to honor us. You just never know what "things" will stand out in their minds.

    I totally get where you are coming from regarding loss and remembering. I was supposed to be in a friend's wedding and the day before we found out about my ectopic pregancy. I was still in the hospital the day she got married. Every year on her anniversary I suspect I'll feel that little twinge of sadness mixed with my happiness for her.

  10. It's strange how certain times of year take us back. In good ways, sometimes. And in hard ways, too. I'm sorry your dad didn't meet his grandchildren. And you're right about there not being an "after" really. There might be getting beyond, but there's no getting over.

  11. I picked up on the same thing Kathy did: "there really is no after."

    Your post helps me work out a similar situation.

    I always salivate when I visit here :-)

  12. I'm working on the new PAIL website updating links, and as I was scrolling through your blog looking for your children's birth months/years, I came across this post. I just thought you'd like to know that PAIL will now stand for Parenting/Pregnant through Adoption, Infertility, and Loss. We, too, thought that the "After" was a misnomer.


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