Banana Oat Bread

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In the last few weeks of pregnancy with Baby N, one of my goals was to fill the deep freeze with meals for after baby arrived. I hoped having a stash of easy-to-prepare meals would make the recovery and transition to motherhood smoother.

After haphazardly throwing together an ingredient list (and making a memorable trip to the grocery store with a very full shopping cart), I spent most of a Saturday in the kitchen prepping meals. Ingredients were tossed into freezer bags to create over a dozen crockpot meals. A soup pot filled with oatmeal boiled away on the stove. The oven ran at a steady 350 degrees for hours. My husband dutifully chopped ten large onions by hand, doing his best to fend off the tears.

It was a production.

With a newly filled freezer, I collapsed on the couch, exhausted but pleased to cross another item off the pre-baby to-do list.

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Ironically, a full three and a half months into parenthood, the deep freeze is still full of freezer meals. Although the breakfast sandwiches and oatmeal disappeared quickly, the rest of the thoughtfully prepared meals continue to wait their turn.

Although we hadn’t anticipated it, the act of cooking dinner each evening helped to keep us grounded. In our new role as parents—where everything felt new and unknown—we enjoyed the familiar routine of turning on the stove and cooking simple meals.

It was a way to connect our new lives with the old, as we evolved from a family of two into a family of three.

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Lately, however, there is increasingly less space for the frozen meals as the freezer space is steadily being replaced with bags of breastmilk. It’s time to start enjoying the fruits of our labor.

While reorganizing the freezer last weekend, I was delighted to find a hidden loaf of this Banana Oat Bread buried beneath a bag of Italian chicken and a marinated pork shoulder. Needless to say, it disappeared quickly (nursing hunger is real). Unfortunately for me, there are no more loaves hiding away (I double checked), so I’ll have to bake up another one to take its place.

With my free time for baking being limited since going back to work, it would be nice to have a reason to spend an afternoon in the kitchen again. My husband already said he’d take the baby for an afternoon so long as he gets a slice warm from the oven.

I think that’s a fair trade, don’t you?

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This Banana Oat Bread is simple in construction and customizable to your taste, The bread itself is subtly sweetened with maple syrup, which allows the banana flavor to shine. The addition of oats adds a comforting flavor to the loaf. My preference is to add chocolate chips and chopped walnuts to my loaves, but you can choose your own mix-ins (or forego them completely). While I like to toast each slice and slather it with butter, the bread is equally delicious served at room temperature straight from the pan.

Banana Oat Bread

Yields 5 x 9-inch loaf

4 large ripe bananas, mashed (about 2 cups or 450 grams)
1/2 cup (156 grams) pure maple syrup
1/2 cup (100 grams) vegetable oil
2 large eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/3 cups (160 grams) all-purpose flour
1 cup (80 grams) old fashioned oats
1 cup (113 grams) chopped walnuts (optional)
2/3 cup (113 grams) chocolate chips (optional)
1 tablespoon raw or demerara sugar, for topping (optional)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (180 degrees C). Grease a 5 x 9-inch loaf pan. Set aside.

In a large mixing bowl, whisk together mashed bananas, maple syrup, vegetable oil, eggs, and vanilla extract until uniform. Whisk in the cinnamon, nutmeg, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Gradually stir in the flour and oats. Fold in the chopped walnuts and chocolate chips. Set aside.

Pour batter into prepared pan and smooth until level. Sprinkle raw sugar evenly over the top. Bake for 55-65 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool in pan for 10 minutes before removing and placing on a cooling rack to cool completely. 

Blueberry Crumble Doughnuts

After two months, I finally feel like I am settling into motherhood. In the foggy haze of these early days, it simultaneously feels like I have been a parent forever and for no time at all. The transition into motherhood was unexpectedly difficult for me. Since I have wanted to be a mother since I was a young child, I anticipated that the transition would be natural and instinctual. It never occurred to me that I may feel otherwise.

While not all women feel the same, I loved pregnancy. I enjoyed watching my body change, feeling the baby’s kicks and movements, and experiencing the joy of carrying a child. It helped, of course, that my pregnancy was virtually symptom-free—as far as I was concerned, there weren’t any aspects not to love.

When we found out our daughter was growth restricted and would therefore be arriving a few weeks earlier than anticipated, my heart grew heavy. I wasn’t ready for my pregnancy to be over, for this part of the journey my baby and I embarked on to come to a close. I wanted to stay pregnant forever. My body didn’t feel ready to give birth; I wasn’t yet ready to meet my daughter.

I told my husband that I needed more time. If I could somehow be pregnant longer, maybe I would find the emotional and physical connection I needed to say goodbye to my deeply loved pregnancy and welcome a new beginning with the birth of our daughter.

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When the big day arrived, I went into the hospital conflicted. Even with more time, I hadn’t been able to shift my unwanted emotions. Yet, I still felt hopeful. After reading so many stories of mothers feeling an instant deep love for their children during birth, I anticipated that these feelings would overtake me when the moment arrived.

During the C-section—when the doctors lifted my daughter over the curtain and I laid eyes on her for the first time—I felt taken aback. While I had no idea what she would look like, her actual appearance took me completely by surprise. The birth experience was shocking to me in a way I did not expect.

When they handed her to me for the first time minutes later, she felt like someone else’s baby. I felt detached and confused. Where was the instant love and connection I was supposed to feel? What kind of mother was I going to be if this is how I felt in these early moments?

I didn’t learn this until later, but over 40% of women do not bond with their babies right away. Even though my husband and I took childbirth education and early parenthood classes, our instructors did not touch on this subject. I wish I had been told my feelings were normal, that parenthood is an enormous adjustment and that sometimes it takes time for emotions to sort themselves out. Instead, I felt like I was somehow failing at this job I just began.

The next couple weeks were rough for me. I had a difficult recovery due to the C-section and resulting complications. I struggled to do the most basic of tasks, unable to sit upright or walk without enormous amounts of pain. Breastfeeding was not going well. Since Baby N was born early and weighed so little, it was vital for her to get the calories she needed to grow, but she also didn’t have the energy necessary to feed. I had to deal with the reality that I would not be able to provide milk for my daughter in the way I had planned.

The postpartum hormones hit me harder than I anticipated. I couldn’t even think about my pregnancy without bursting into tears. I was grieving the loss of being pregnant, of my life before having a child. Even though I’ve wanted to be a mother as long as I can remember (I was ecstatic when I found out I was pregnant), I was dealing with unexpected feelings of remorse—and then guilt that I could ever have these emotions at all. Exhaustion and sleep deprivation only intensified everything I was experiencing.

Life with a newborn is hard.

It was several weeks before I found myself in a better place, before I was able to fully bond with and enjoy time with my daughter. Now, of course, I can’t imagine life without her—her big smiles, goofy mannerisms, and love for sleepy snuggles.

My transition into motherhood was not beautiful or graceful. It has taken time for me to accept that reality doesn’t always match expectations and that’s okay. I expect I will learn this lesson over and over again in my new role as a parent.

Right now, the fog of early parenthood has not completely dissipated, but it is starting to lift. I am still working on finding my new identity both in and out of parenthood. One lesson I have taken away from the transition to motherhood is to have grace with myself.

One day at a time. Everything will eventually fall into place—it always does.

Blueberry Crumble Doughnuts feature a baked, cake-based doughnut. To prepare, blueberries are folded into a vanilla-scented batter. A cinnamon crumble is sprinkled over the top before baking. For best texture, these doughnuts should be enjoyed the same day they are baked, but I still savored the leftovers a day or two later.

Blueberry Crumble Doughnuts

Yields 6-8 doughnuts

Blueberry Doughnuts
1/3 cup (70 grams) granulated sugar
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 large egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 1/4 cups (150 grams) all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup (120 mL) milk
4 ounces (113 grams) fresh or frozen blueberries

Crumble Topping
2 tablespoons butter, room temperature
1/4 cup (50 grams) granulated sugar
1/2 cup (60 grams) all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (180 degrees C). Grease a standard-size doughnut pan.

In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the sugar, vegetable oil, egg, and vanilla. Stir in the flour, baking powder, and salt. Stir in the milk until uniform. Fold in the blueberries.

Transfer the batter to a pastry bag (or large resealable plastic kitchen bag with the corner snipped off). Fill the depressions in the prepared pan with the batter until 2/3 full (alternatively, you could spread the batter into the pan using an offset spatula, but this results in more unevenly shaped doughnuts).

For the crumble topping, beat together butter and sugar until well combined. Stir in flour and cinnamonuntil crumbly. Crumble the topping evenly over the batter. Bake for 18-24 minutes, or until crumble topping browns and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Cool in pan for 15-20 minutes before transferring to a cooling rack to cool completely.

Oh, Baby!

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My husband and I welcomed our sweet baby girl into the world before the end of 2018! Baby N has completely captured our hearts, and it is already hard to imagine life before her. It has been amazing watching her grow over the last six weeks—each day she is changing and learning new things about the world around her.

Like most birth stories, Baby N’s story is one I could not have predicted. I had an incredibly easy pregnancy. Besides some typical lower back pain, I had no other symptoms except for the growing baby bump—no morning sickness, food cravings, or exhaustion. I feel especially fortunate for this outcome because this pregnancy was considered high risk from the beginning, so Baby N and I were watched particularly closely over our nine months together.

As the weeks passed, we learned that N was going to be a smaller baby. Each ultrasound showed her overall growth percentile decreasing, but her size wasn’t going to become a concern unless she dropped below the tenth percentile. We also learned that N was breech, with her butt down and her head and feet comfortably tucked up under my left ribcage.

While it is possible for babies to flip into the correct position before birth, it becomes less likely in the latter weeks of pregnancy. Even though I didn’t really believe the old wives’ tales on how to flip a breech baby, I spent many evenings positioned upside down anyway, with a bag of frozen blueberries above my bump trying to coax her to flip around to avoid the chill. This method was wildly unsuccessful, along with half a dozen others I tried. Baby N was comfortable and would not be moved.

During our 34 week appointment, N dropped to the eighth percentile and was subsequently diagnosed with intrauterine growth restriction (IUGR). The doctors believed this was due to increased resistance to blood flow through the placenta. We were cautioned that it is possible for the resistance to become so great that the blood flow can reverse direction, which is a very serious situation that calls for an emergency C-section to preserve the health of the baby.

This news hit us especially hard—baby N wasn’t due for another six weeks! Along with weekly appointments to closely monitor her health, we were told to pack and bring our hospital bags to the rest of our visits, just in case.

The reality that we could have a baby in a single week’s time was very overwhelming for me, especially since I assumed I would have several more weeks to prepare everything for her arrival. I spent the next week making lists of each task that needed to get done and frantically tried to get everything in order, both at work and at home.

I hoped that Baby N would be allowed to stay snuggled up under my ribcage a little longer. I still felt blindsided by the news and wasn’t ready for the pregnancy to end. I needed more time to enjoy her kicks and soak up my last few days as a non-parent.

Fortunately, my wish was granted. At our 35 week appointment, we learned the resistance was unexpectedly measuring less than it had before. At 36 weeks, the resistance was measuring completely normal, which no one (including the doctors) had anticipated. However, because N was still measuring so small for her age, the doctors believed she would do better outside of the womb. Our induction date was set for 37 weeks exactly. Baby N was going to be an early (full) term baby.

Since N was still breech, I opted to try an external cephalic version (ECV), in which the doctor manually tries to turn the baby into the correct position for birth. After two failed attempts (where Baby N refused to budge even an inch), she was born via C-section shortly thereafter.

Our little peanut was in perfect health, weighing in at a smidge over 5 pounds with a head full of fuzzy hair.

After spending a few nights in the hospital, we were able to return home in time for a quiet holiday. While the shift to parenthood was a huge adjustment, I’ve enjoyed getting to know and learn all about this little peanut. She loves to stretch for minutes at a time when she is unswaddled, clothes are her worst enemy, and her endless goofy expressions make me laugh. Who knew that simple things, like N discovering her tongue, would bring such joy? In the last couple weeks, she’s graduated to newborn sizes, and we discovered she loves to “dance” to music as she lays on the floor and kicks her legs.

Over the last six weeks, I’ve given myself a leave from the blog and social media to spend much needed quality time with Baby N. Parenthood is certainly going to be a balance, but I’m ready to start devoting more time to myself and get back to doing the things that I enjoy—like baking and sharing it with you.

All photographs are ©Amber Rishavy.

All photographs are ©Amber Rishavy.