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Pregnancy as an Amputee

December 5, 2011

I’ve been thinking about writing this post for a while now. It’s one of those posts that is so personal, it just doesn’t write itself in 15 minutes.

We're 13 weeks and due in December!

October was the month that marks 15 years of remission from osteosarcoma or bone cancer. That means I have now been an amputee for 16 years, over half my  lifetime. When Anthony and I decided to head down this road of starting our family, I didn’t know quite what to expect being an amputee while pregnant. There are a few reasons for this:

  1. There are not a ton of female amputees.
  2. In that group, there are even fewer that are of the age to have children.
  3. Even fewer of those have my specific amputation.

In my search to find information on pregnancy and being an amputee, I looked at the library and online. The most I could find was that I could maybe expect some carpel tunnel. I guess this was from using crutches and the swelling that often happens during pregnancy. So I figured it would be good to write about my experience as an above-the-knee amputee. Now that I’m entering the last week (or so) I’ve learned some things along the way.

First, I want to start with my overall lifestyle. I’m fairly active and very mobile. Anyone who has spent time with me when my leg isn’t working or uncomfortable knows how much I hate giving up my hands while on crutches. I’m willing to live with quite a bit of pain before I’ll take off my leg and be stuck on my crutches.

So one of my first fears was that I would quickly grow out of my leg, and be stuck on crutches for most of the pregnancy.  I feel really grateful that this was not the case. I did grow out of my leg, but not until the 6-month mark. I ended up getting a new socket (the part I fit into) and maintained both my mobility and the health of my back. When a leg is not fitting properly, I often compensate by using my back muscles more than what is good for them. It has been important to me not to put any additional strain on my back during the pregnancy and maintain the long-term health of such an important part of my body.

Baby Hat

I also had a few problems with water retention. When I retain water, my leg is one of the first places it shows up. Of course, that affects the fit of my suction socket. For the first time since I first had my amputation I was forced to wear what is called a shrinker, a compression stocking for an amputated limb.

I’ve had to think a lot about contracture. This is when the front muscles of the limb contract because they are not getting stretched with the weight of a leg. I usually stretch these muscles while laying on my stomach. Since that is no longer an option, I’ve had to find some different ways to stretch the front of my limb.

In the last month of my pregnancy, I can feel my hips and joints relaxing. Since I bear my weight on my sitting bone, this has also started to create some discomfort. Mostly, my hip seems to get very sore, and feels like it’s been pulled out of joint during the day. My hip muscles also have gotten very sore and tight over the course of the day. Since I have a very sweet husband, he usually helps me work out the knots.

37 weeks

There are several things I’ve been very surprised I can still do. First, I’m very thankful I haven’t had to use my crutches more than usual. I am also surprised at how I can get up and down off the floor easily. I’m a lot slower than usual, but it isn’t a problem. This is especially great because I am often on the floor as I teach.

Even though I wasn’t sure what to expect, there were a few things I did to help it go smoothly. I was lucky enough to get monthly massages from a wonderful massage therapist. She often was able to help me know what was going on with my muscles so I could make sure to stretch or massage them in between appointments. I also worked closely with my prosthetist. She made a huge difference in this experience and definitely helped to make my life more comfortable.

Overall, I have had a very smooth pregnancy (hello: no morning sickness!) and sometimes feel I’ve cheated in some way to have it go so smoothly. Here’s to a smooth birth!

Pickling Day

August 16, 2011

Just a quick update on the belly. Here’s my 20 week photo from Myrtle Beach.

20 weeks

I’m 23 weeks today and the belly has really been growing fast! Will post another picture soon.

This weekend we had a lovely pickling day. It was overcast and cool which made it a perfect day to have the canning pot steaming.

Chopping

I have never grown my own pickling cukes. We go down the road to the farm and get a 10 pound bag. The nice thing about this is all the cucumbers are close to the same size, fresh and ready for pickling.

Fermenting Pickles

Last year, we fermented all of the 10 pounds using a recipe from the Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving. This year, we have discovered Linda Ziedrich’s books and they are now my favorite canning books. We put together 4 pounds of cucumbers to be fermented using the upper east side full sour pickle recipe.

Pickling Spices

Did I mention I love this book? These recipes came from The Joy of Pickling but we have also tried several from The Joy of Jams, Jellies, and Other Sweet Preserves. Overall, our success rate from this and her jelly/jam book has been much higher. I love the ingredients she uses. Plus, we didn’t have pickling spices, and of course, she includes how to make your own. Making it completely customizable.

Fermenting Pickles

The rest of the pickles were processed using a recipe from our local newspaper: Damn Good Garlic Dills. Most of these were processed, and a few jars were placed in the fridge ready to be eaten as soon as we finish of the few jars left from last year.

Garden 2011

August 14, 2011

We’ve been having a great garden year here and while I can’t send all of you veggies in the mail, I can share pictures of some of our bounty. It’s been nice having such a great year since last year was only mildly successful.

Raspberries 2011

We had a great raspberry harvest this spring. Since the canes have been growing for 3 years, they are really established now and producing beautifully. This was what we picked toward the end of the harvest. One of the varieties we have will produce again in the fall and has tiny berries forming already.

Potato Bags

We ended up with 13+ pounds of potatoes this year. I do think this is the last year we’ll be doing the potatoes in the bags. While we don’t have to dig (we dump out the bags) we end up moving a lot of dirt around. We also don’t get the yield per bag that I would expect. Especially for how many seed potatoes we plant.

First Artichoke

Our artichoke produced it’s first arties this year. I really would like to plant a few more of these. I think they are beautiful plants as well as so very yummy. Our homegrown artichokes were delish and I can’t wait to harvest a larger crop next year.

Garlic Harvest 2011

We planted a TON of garlic in the fall and this was the result. We always plant one hardneck variety and one softneck. Our softneck variety had smaller heads than I would have liked, but otherwise I was very pleased with our harvest. Garlic is super easy, stores well and we use it a lot. I’m hoping this will be close to enough for the entire year and am looking forward to seeing how long it’ll last.

Garlic Braids

I like storing our garlic in braids. This year we ended up with two braids (one huge and one medium) that are gracing our kitchen with their garlicky goodness. My garlic braiding skills improved a ton by watching this video and buying this little booklet with my last seed purchase. By the way, if you’re looking for a great seed source that is independently owned, Nichols is wonderful.

Summer Squash Galette

Finally, we have had lots of crookneck squash and zucchini coming out of the garden (who doesn’t). I had been dreaming about this recipe for a Zucchini Ricotta Galette since TheBon tweeted the link to me a year ago.

Summer Squash Galette

It is absolutely as amazing as it looks. It takes a little time, but is not hard. There were several steps I left out (didn’t freeze the flour and the dough didn’t sit in the fridge for a whole hour) and the dough was easy to work with plus delightfully flaky. I will most definitely be making this again (possibly this week). There is something so intensely satisfying about cooking with our homegrown food.

Pre-Pregnancy Sewing

August 4, 2011

Back when I made my robe I started really thinking about making more of my own clothing. In high school I made a few dresses (with varying degrees of success) and worked on costumes crew in order to do more sewing, but more recently I had only done small projects. Things for around the house and babies and I felt ready for some new sewing challenges.

Now that’s not to say that I wasn’t thinking about sewing clothing. Awhile back (probably during one of the many $1 pattern sales) I picked up McCall’s 4444, fabric, and all the notions I would need to complete the project.

I chose the top middle view, put the fabric in a bag, hung it in my stash closet and let it marinate. I haven’t quite figured out why I feel fabric and projects need to have some marinating time in the stash, but I rarely buy something and dive right into the project.

When I decided to do some more clothing, it made sense to start with something that I had all the materials for and would need minimal changes.

McCall's M4444

I lined the whole dress with white cotton batiste. There are a few fit issues in the bodice, but they don’t bother me enough to not wear it. I also used black bias tape for the hem, which I really like. I will definitely be doing that again. I also love the fabric! It’s a linen blend, gets a little wrinkly, but it was great to work with and I love the print.

McCall's M4444

Even though this was pre-pregnancy sewing, I’m actually about 11 weeks pregnant in these photos, just not showing yet…

After buying the vintage patterns, I decided to try my luck at finding some at thrift stores. I found a several and at $1 each you can enhance your pattern collection quickly!

During one of my shopping trips, I picked up Butterick See and Sew 3095. I needed to size this up and since it’s a pretty simple wrap skirt, I thought it would give me some more experience with resizing a pattern. In the same thrifting trip, I found a brand new red cotton twin sheet, so I used that for this skirt.

Butterick See and Sew 3095

For the most part, I’m very happy with how this turned out. Wrap skirts can often be fiddly (always wondering about flashing) but with the closure in the back and plenty of wrap, this one really stays put. I love the pockets and the fact that it doesn’t tie. Making the button closure is a nice decorative and functional touch.
Butterick See and Sew 3095

The cotton sheet is SO comfy to wear. Lightweight, but not see-thru. It does wrinkle really easily though (I had just pressed it before these photos), but a few wrinkles don’t bother me. I would definitely make this skirt again. Super easy, quick and a great staple.

I was able to wear both of these a few times before I no longer fit in them and they will get more use once I’m back to my old size.

Zucchini Bread

July 17, 2011

I’ve been meaning to do this post for ages. I actually uploaded this pictures to flickr in March!

Today is the perfect baking day here. While the rest of the US is having scorching hot temps, we are having a rainy grey day. Remember the massive zucchinis? Well, we still have some in the freezer, so we decided to pull some out for a day like today. (I haven’t even got blooms on my zucch plants, let alone zucchinis.)

Zucchini Bread

I usually do them in normal loaf pans (2 loaves per batch) but I have been also known to sprinkle a bundt pan with sugar and do the whole batch that way. If you wanted to be super fancy drizzling a little glaze over the top would make it more cake like.

Zucchini Bread

I’ve always received lots of compliments on this particular recipe. It is never dry and always well spiced. Don’t let the pineapple turn you off. It’s there for moisture and is not a strong flavor in the bread at all. When you have the zucchinis already grated it goes together super quick. The recipe also freezes well so make some ahead. Hope it serves you well!

Zucchini Bread
from my old neighbor in Albuq. Nita

  • 3 eggs
  • 1 c. vegetable oil
  • 2 c. sugar
  • 2 tsp. vanilla
  • 2 c. coarsely grated zucchini
  • 8 1/4 oz can crushed pineapple
  • 3 c. flour
  • 2 tsp. baking soda
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp. cinnamon
  • 3/4 tsp. nutmeg
  • 1 c. chopped nuts

Set oven to 350°. Grease and flour two 5×9 loaf pans. Beat eggs. Add oil, sugar and vanilla, beat until thick and foamy. Stir in zucchini and well drained pineapple. Stir in all dry ingredients. Stir gently into zucchini mix until well blended. Divide dough between loaf pans. Bake for 1 hour or until toothpick comes out clean. cool in pan 10 minutes then remove to rack.

Variations: I love using 1 c. wheat flour and 2 c. all purpose. I’ve also often reduce the sugar in this one. First, by accident (only put in 1 cup) and now I almost always make it with 1 1/2 cups of sugar. Today we ran out of nutmeg, so we’re trying a little cardamom instead.

Ooo! It’s smelling good now. Can’t wait for it to come out of the oven. :)

Baby Project the First – Cloth Diapers

June 20, 2011

I’ve said before that this spring bit me with the sewing bug. It really started with me trying to do some more clothing for me. (I have a few projects I still need to share from before the belly started growing.) Then that got put on hold (body changing) and I needed another sewing project to pour my energy into. So I started making these.
Pocket

This was actually my second one (which almost looks identical to the first). It’s a newborn pocket diaper with a PUL exterior and a suedecloth interior. If you have ever ventured into cloth diapers now, you know that there is a staggering amount of information out there. This particular diaper was made from the Cloth Revolution pattern (a freebie!) which I really liked and was a pretty good place to start.

Cover

This diaper is a cover with a PUL interior and a flannel exterior. Even though it is super cute, I don’t actually think this one will work very well. It very well may have wicking issues. This is from the Tighty Whitey Hipster pattern (also a freebie). I did it backwards from their instructions (bigger on the inside and smaller on the outside) hoping the PUL would curl around to the front. As soon as I cased the elastic, that eliminated any movement of the PUL.

Cover

After that I broke down and purchased the Darling Diapers Unlimited Pattern. It was so worth the purchase. The pattern is 80 pages long, and a ton of that is instructions and tips. Although I’m kind of glad I started with a few others, because it may have been overwhelming at first. This diaper is a cover with a PUL inside and cotton outside. I did the rolled elastic just right so that the PUL will come around to the outside and that will help eliminate any wicking on the cotton.

I’ve also made several inserts, but they’re not as cute or interesting. The tricky thing about making the diapers before baby gets here…I have no idea if they will work! So I plan on making a few, having a good understanding of how to make them so I can whip them up quick, and having materials ready. Not to mention, these are all newborn size and there are no small babies in either of our families.

Big Announcement!

June 11, 2011

A lot has been happening here in the St. Clair household. I always get a little crazy busy close to the end of the school year. One more week of teaching then I’m on my summer schedule. However, there have been other exciting things going on here!

We're 13 weeks and due in December!

Anthony and I are expecting! We’ve been super excited and it feels so good to be able to talk about it now. I will be 14 weeks on Monday (woohoo 2nd trimester) and have been feeling great. I won’t rub it in, but I’m one of those lucky women that doesn’t get sick and has very few pregnancy symptoms. Here’s a better pic of the belly at 13 weeks.

13 week belly

I’m not really fitting into my clothes very much anymore, and of course I have grand plans to make a lot of my own maternity clothing. I’ve already started working on a few things. :) I’ll be sharing lots cute baby things, but first I want to show you how I made the shirt.

First I got the inspiration for this shirt from a fabulous tutorial on DIY Maternity. This site is so great if you think you’ll be making maternity clothes. Even if you just want to thrift a few things and modify them instead of starting from scratch, DIY Maternity has a ton of great tutorials.

I decided I didn’t want to go the freezer paper route. The idea of cutting out every single number just didn’t sound fun. So instead I decided to use my new found love of hand carving stamps. I picked a font that I liked (American Typewriter) and and printed it out at a size I thought would fit well across the shirt. Plus the stamps are reusable, who doesn’t need a good set of numbers?

Hand Carved Stamps

You can find several tutorials for carving stamps online. I got interested in t when I found this book; Printing by Hand: A Modern Guide to Printing with Handmade Stamps, Stencils, and Silk Screens.

However, you can also find several tutorials online. I especially like this one by Ishtar Olivera; Part 1 and Part 2.

Finished Numbers

I wasn’t too fussy about measuring and making the numbers in a perfect grid. For some reason 4 was the hardest to stamp and always wanted to go a little crooked. I don’t mind though, you can hardly tell when I’m wearing it. Now every Sunday night I paint off one of the numbers and have a great way to keep track of the pregnancy progress!

12 weeks

(12 week belly)

Can’t wait to show off more of the things I’ve been working on for baby!

Sewing Weights Winner

May 25, 2011

It took me a lot longer to get back with this than I thought! First, I got the spring crud, then I got behind in work because I spent a week just trying to survive. Plus, I’ve entered the end of the school year, which means more work planning and events to put together. Whew! The important thing is that I didn’t forget, it’s just later than I though.

First the weights that will be sent out to the winner.

Sewing Weights

The winner is. (Drum roll please…..)

The Winner

Penny! I’ll be emailing you to get your snail mail so I can send these and a few other goodies your way.

Sewing Weights Tutorial

April 26, 2011

I recently wanted to try out using some sewing weights instead of pins for cutting out patterns, but wanted to make something cute. At first I was going to make some with pennies inside, but a friend suggested using fishing weights and I’m very pleased with the results. I’ve put together a little tutorial so you can make your own. Not interested in making your own? Scroll down for details on a set I’ll be giving away.

Pattern Weights Supplies

First you’ll want to gather your supplies.

  • Fabric Scraps (get out the scrap bin!)
  • Pinking Shears
  • Compass or circle to trace (about 2″ diameter)
  • Fishing Weights – size 7 – 2 packages (10 per weight)

First press your fabric scrap since it was last crammed into your scrap bin.
Trace a Circle

Trace your circle on the back side of your fabric. If you’re making a lot of these, it’ll be easier to make a template.

Clip

Cut out your circle with your pinking shears and flip the fabric so wrong sides are facing each other. Now we’re going to sew!

Sew

Find a coordinating thread color and sew a 1/4 inch around the outside of your circle. Make sure to leave a small hole (about 1/2 inch) so that you can put your weights in. Put 10 fishing weights in your fabric pouch. Finish by sewing over the hole and make sure to overlap with previous seam.

Sewing Weights

Repeat until you have desired number of sewing weights. I made a set of six and have found that to be sufficient so far. Ten would be more than enough. You could also make them any shape, I just happen to like circles.

I’ve made another set of six to giveaway to a lucky blog reader! Just leave a comment before midnight on Thursday April 28th to win your own set. Winner will be chosen by random number generator.

New Robe – Vintage Pattern

April 12, 2011

I recently bought several vintage patterns from What I Found. (Watch out, that website is a trap. Fair warning.) I blame these bloggers (here and here too) for my new found love of vintage patterns. All the inspiring sewing out their has me sewing up a storm!

Since resizing, tracing and using an older/used pattern were all new things for me, I decided my first one should be the easiest out of the bunch I purchased. This wrap seemed right up my alley. I have been in need of a new robe (mine was a lavender store bought one that had definitely seen better days) and decided this looked like just the comfy thing to wrap around me on weekends and in the morning.

I could definitely see making one for the beach too… Especially the sleeveless version. The normal version I could make into a top to wear any time!

Well, I’m not a 32 inch bust, so I used this tutorial on how to size up patterns. It was incredibly helpful. First I traced the pattern pieces. Then I slashed them and retraced them in the larger size onto my Swedish tracing paper.

After all that, it was time for some fabric. I didn’t want it to be light pink terry or that weird fuzzy stuff that’s just a little too soft. If it was terry, I wanted an interesting color, and since JoAnn’s didn’t really have anything of interest, I defaulted to the cotton prints. Since the cotton wasn’t really the weight I was going for, I underlined it with white flannel.

Robe Lining

I also picked out some fun cotton for the bias trim, interfacing, fabric covered buttons and the pocket lining.

IMG_1590

This was also my first time using fabric covered buttons and I love them. I will be using more of these for sure. Of course, we need a modeled shot.

Robe

I am really happy with how it turned out. The flannel gives it a great weight, and makes it super cuddly. The only disappointment was in the bias edge trim. I just couldn’t seem to get it on where it would inclose both the flannel and the cotton in all spots. Then I also used the wrong thread when stitching it to the backside. The bias tape on the pockets was also not very well applied. Before I wash it, I will have to make sure and re-do it so it doesn’t fall apart in the wash.

I did however do my first continues cutting of bias trim. It finally made sense to me when I saw this tutorial from Collette Patterns.

Just a side note for Eugene spinners, knitters and weavers : ETC has a 15% off sale for blog readers. Check it out here.