As a certified total white girl, I’m totally okay with my PUMPKINEVERYTHING love affair that hits each September. While I try to restrain myself somewhat, I adorn my house with candles and Wallflowers and fill it with baked goods and pumpkin-y ale. Although I can’t indulge in a cinnamon-sugar rimmed glass of the brew this fall, I urged Davey the Hubbers to store away a pack, so I can enjoy it post-baby girl arrival this winter.
But these pumpkin muffins were among the first pumpkin items to make their way into the Arey household this fall during a complete White Girl Night, replete with Diet Dr. Pepper, The Mindy Project and a bubble bath later. I did try to work “turnt” into my equation, like, “Yeeeah, I’m getting so turnt with this baking,” but my friend Lanaire advised me that that was not the correct usage. Alas. Pumpkin for everyone.
Baking has been a great distraction the past eight weeks, along with my typical routine of work, working out, walks with DTH, time with friends and prayer. Our last ultrasound was our 18 week anatomy scan, and we left the appointment brimming with love and excitement for our tiny, growing daughter. Davey has accompanied me to every single appointment throughout our pregnancy, but I urged him to stay home instead of coming to my 20 week check up. I reminded him that it would simply be a weigh-in, blood pressure check and heart beat monitor, and then I’d go home – silly for him to attend.
Dun dun dunnnnn (cue dramatic music and tone shift).
Following those three assessments, my doctor walked in, sat down, and without hesitation instructed me first to not freak out (a word of caution I greatly appreciated but that also went unheeded, naturally) and let me know that when she was reviewing our 18 week ultrasound she found cysts on our girl’s brain. Then she let me know that she would prefer not to even tell us that they were there, but she was obligated to. The brain cysts COULD be normal (she stressed that more than once). OR they COULD be an indicator of Down’s Syndrome or, worse, Trisomy 18. Naturally, sitting there alone on the table, that was what my brain latched on to… Down’s Syndrome. Trisomy 18. A sick little girl. But since I’d been instructed not to freak out, and as I’m nothing if not a people pleaser, I remained outwardly calm, nodded, murmured some words in affirmation of what she was saying, and internally tried to gasp for air.
Our doctor let me know that we would do another ultrasound at 28 weeks to determine whether the cysts were still present, or whether they had disappeared. If they were gone, we were in the clear. If they were not, we’d do further testing to determine whether they were signs of defects. I don’t remember the rest of the appointment. I don’t remember feeling my hands or speaking any other words, though I’m sure I did. The last instruction from my doctor was not to Google or look on the internet for answers, because it would serve only to scare me, and we really needed to not freak out. I should have found assurance in her calm, steady and easy tone, but instead I just felt rocked.
I walked to my car through a haze of tears and distress, called my mom, explained what was happening, and I cried. And cried. When I walked in the door, Davey came to greet me and hear how the “simple” appointment had gone. I was still standing in the entryway choking back tears and was able to haltingly form the words, “She. Has. Cysts. On. Her. Brain.” I cried some more, while he quietly led me to the couch, and I quietly shushed the first wine craving I’d had since getting pregnant. Once I had steadied myself I filled him in on what was said at the appointment. We hugged and prayed and talked and comforted each other, and I wondered how in the world we would make it through 8 weeks without more answers.
When we were walking through infertility, the monthly two week wait felt like the cruelest, longest waiting period in the world, but multiplied by 4, and I wasn’t sure how we would stand it. In the meantime, my mom had broken the DO NOT GOOGLE rules and let me know that it was safe for me to do so because there were so many message boards addressing the choroid plexus cysts and what they meant. We learned the 1-2% of normal, healthy pregnancy show the cysts in early ultrasounds. We also learned more about their ties with Downs and Trisomy 18, but what we made ourselves re-read the answers about the healthy pregnancies.
But 8 weeks is still a really, really long time. I felt so helpless, because there wasn’t anything I could do to help her. But during those 8 weeks we felt her move for the first time – an incredible assurance that she was there and growing – something I clung to. I cried on the way to work more than once. I listened to Matt Redman’s “10,000 Reasons” about 10,000 times, and I crooned Steven Curtis Chapman’s “Fingerprints of God” to her numerous others. We moved forward with nursery plans, registered, prayed a lot, comforted each other and tried our best not to think of the “what if.” We knew that regardless of the diagnosis that may come, this girl was and is a promise from God, and as He knit her together in my womb, He was doing so perfectly and purposefully. And we would love her. Oh, how we would love her.
The 8 weeks slowly dwindled to mere days, and although I had a real peace in my heart about our appointment, my anxiety still grew steadily. As we walked in yesterday morning, I was excited and nervous and fidgeting constantly (which may have been a direct result of the glucose drink I chugged pre-ultrasound). Our tech knew we were there to check the progress of the cysts, and immediately found her brain. And just as quickly, announced confidently, “The cysts are gone. There’s nothing there.” My mom, who accompanied us, asked her to repeat herself, because our hearts all needed to hear it again. And we all cried. There was such a sweet relief in knowing that she’s healthy. We watched her for nearly half an hour, squirming and stretching and yawning and practicing her inhales and exhales and licking her lips (she was a fan of that fruit punch glucose, apparently), and we were in awe.
Going into my third trimester we have a healthy, wiggly daughter growing. We have pumpkin beer in our fridge, cooler temperatures on the horizon, college football on Saturdays and pumpkin muffins en masse.
We’re doing pretty great. And we’re in awe.
Adapted from a Cooking Light recipe
2 1/4 c. all-purpose flour
3 tsp. pumpkin pie spice
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1/4 tsp. cloves
1/2 tsp. nutmeg
1 1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp. salt
1/4 c. golden raisins
3/4 c. dried cranberries
1 c. brown sugar
1 c. pumpkin puree (NOT pumpkin pie filling)
1/3 c. buttermilk
1/3 c. canola oil
1/4 c. honey
1 tsp. vanilla extract
Preheat oven to 400. Combine flour, all spices, baking soda, and salt in a medium bowl and set aside. In a mixing bowl combine brown sugar, pumpkin puree, buttermilk, canola oil, honey, vanilla and eggs, and whisk well. Add dry ingredients and stir until moist. Fold in raisins and cranberries. Grease muffin tins and add batter. Sprinkle each filled cup with granulated sugar. Bake 15-17 minutes.