It’s not about being a martyr

As we approach 40 weeks of pregnancy, and baby’s rapidly approaching eviction date (please come out soon, naturally and nicely baby!!) I can’t help wondering what it’s going to be like.

I’ve said to my friends, midwife, consultants and anaesthetists time and time again that I want to feel it. The little I have on my birthing plan is not about walking in there and wanting an epidural straight away – although I don’t doubt for a second that my low pain threshold-self will rapidly change her mind and demand all the drugs. Others, including the common-known-“helpful”-stranger to us pregnant ladies, have told me not to be a martyr and accept all the drugs – ask for all the drugs! And to be fair, I’ve said myself that it took all the drugs to get the baby in, so I’ll happily take all the drugs to get the baby out!

But it isn’t about being a martyr. For me I’ve always wanted to experience pregnancy and labour – and I never thought I’d get the chance. Never for a second did I think anything would ever work to make me fall pregnant. And so now that it has, I want to feel and experience every last ounce of it. Of course I hope it will happen again – but there is no guarantee. But it most certainly isn’t something I’m saying light heartedly. I don’t want to be drug free to gloat about it – I don’t even expect I’ll manage to be drug free, but it is 100% not about being a martyr!!

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OHSS

Bare with me a little, as I’m writing this from mostly notes, 7 months after I experienced Ovarian Hyper-stimulation Syndrome (OHSS).

OHSS is a condition that affects women undergoing fertility treatment. Because during fertility treatment (IVF/ICSI) your ovaries are stimulated to produce as many follicles as possible, your ovaries become enlarged from the extra work they are doing and stimulation they are receiving. Once you have triggered ovulation and had those eggs collected from the follicles, those follicle sacs are left empty. If a successful pregnancy then occurs, the HCG pregnancy hormone floods your body, filling all of those empty follicle sacs back up with fluid.

I never asked but I would assume this does happen to every women when they’re pregnant… but as most women only release 1/2/3/4 (and likely only 2/3/4 if multiples run in your family!) then it goes unnoticed, as one follicle filling with HCG is nothing compared to 20+…!!

The OHSS I experienced was only ever considered mild-moderate. And I was fairly uncomfortable, scared, and poorly. I was hospitalised for two days/nights and placed on a protein transfusion drip due to low proteins in my blood. All fluid intake and outtake was monitored quite strictly which meant lots of peeing in cardboard potty’s!

I had not been a particularly high risk – as such – for OHSS, as at egg collection, 15 eggs were collected. With my clinic (and, I would think/hope all responsible clinics), if any more than 20 eggs were collected a “freeze all” approach would be taken and a fresh transfer of embryo/blastocysts would not go ahead within the 5 days after egg collection, giving your ovaries and follicles a chance to shrink back and return to normal (ovaries) or disappear (follicles).

At my final scan pre-egg collection however, I had been advised that 25+ follicles were seen and thus it was unlikely I’d be able to go ahead with a fresh transfer. I was disappointed to say the least, but now I understand why! And with hindsight, we wonder perhaps if all 25 eggs had been released from those 25 follicles, but for whatever reason 10 or so got lost or weren’t mature enough or what not… but then those 25+ follicle sacs started filling with the wonderful pregnancy hormone. Because… yes! We were finally pregnant!

After egg collection, I was given medication called Cabergoline which I took each evening for 8 days as prescribed. The day I stopped taking the cabergoline was the day I noticed OHSS symptoms kicking in. I was bloated and uncomfortable with sharp pains all over my tummy. After a call to our clinic, one of my favourite nurses advised this was a good sign, as if OHSS symptoms worsen, the chances are, you’re pregnant! It’s a funny position to be in; uncomfortable and ill, hospitalised, but really, it’s all good because you’re pregnant!

By the early hours of the night after, good old V&D had arrived. At 6am that morning I was convinced nothing could have survived the amount of vomit and diahorrea is expelled from my body that night, and that is when I first peed on a stick. Having peed on the stick, I felt like I was about to faint, so I left the test on the side of our sink and belted it back to bed. When I left the test, it was negative. Minutes later I felt more sickness coming so ran back into the ensuite, only to stop dead at the POSITIVE pregnancy test staring me in the face! I couldn’t believe it!

yes, I did SEVEN tests in the end! ❤️

Completely empty, the V&D finally stopped, but the OHSS didn’t disappear. Throughout that day I was progressively just feeling worse and worse – I actually can’t remember a lot as I was pretty out of it! I just remember being quite uncomfortable/quite a lot of pain, my temperature couldn’t be controlled and I felt swelteringly hot, despite it being December – 4 days before Christmas! James eventually called our clinic in a worry and they called us up, which is when it was noticed my proteins were low. On the journey up, I couldn’t have anything touching my stomach – I had a loose fitting dress on and had to hold the seatbelt away from my belly area – for the entire 40 mile journey! I was pretty weak and faint, and when I was finally admitted to the ward – which was literally across a small car park from our IVF clinic, I had to be wheel-chaired over as I couldn’t walk!

For me, I was bloated. Hugely. And that seemed to cause crazy discomfort and heat! That was the most noticeable thing about me. I was 4 weeks pregnant, but I looked 5 months! My ovaries were quite dramatically enlarged, and follicles were filled with fluids. A woman’s ovaries usually measure between 3-4cm. Mine were each 11cm+, covered in follicle sacs which were filled with fluid, some of which were measuring up to 6cm! My belly circumference when I was admitted to hospital was around 38″!! Pre-pregnancy, I was about 27″!

After a couple of days in hospital I was determined to get out for Christmas, but also so we could host our annual neighbourly Christmas drinks! In hindsight this was probably not my best idea as I wasn’t much fun – still bloated and uncomfortable but very glad to have the drip out of my hand and be home for Christmas! The hospital and our clinic were quite pleased with me as I was eating EVERYTHING – no longer a concern for underrating, I couldn’t get enough food, and whilst a high protein diet is recommended for OHSS, they were happy for me to eat what I needed (carbs!). Again as an avid avoider of carbs (particularly white!) pre-pregnancy, this also probably wasn’t my best idea as it would have been such a shock to my system and bloated me more – but that’s all the baby wanted for 20 weeks and so needs must! It’s also recommended that sports drinks help with OHSS, and I have to say – I found the below pictured electrolytes added to water helped me massively – I thought those electrolytes were destined to go out of date as I was no longer running long distances, but they were used up quickly to reduce the OHSS!

IVF

I was recently tagged in a blog post (from someone I don’t know – not sure if it was an accident!) about IVF and how she felt like it was a dark, dirty word. Like she had failed herself and her family and society in being unable to do what we are placed here on earth to do: reproduce.

I have to say, although it is a living hell finding out that it just isn’t going to happen without some help, and I wish upon anything we had been able to conceive naturally and just been able to start our family 3 years ago as per my ideal. I have never, ever, been ashamed of IVF. Quite the opposite – I am proud of it. Fascinated. I could talk about it all day and I LOVE when people have a million questions for me about it! I think it is incredible what the powers that be of science and medicine can achieve. That without their little bit of help we wouldn’t be able to have the family we so desired. That the words “Baron Karen” that always echo around my head, are a thing of the past thanks to science. I forget if it is 1 in 4 or 1 in 8 couples trying to conceive struggle to do so, and do need some help. So those that do need help are far from alone.

A card which my husband received for his birthday that we found funny… and which won’t be true for our children! Another woman knocked me up! 🤣

And I guess – alongside the fact that I appear to be quite the “oversharer”! That this is why I share about it, talk about it, and write about it openly. Because we aren’t alone. When I first started blogging about IVF I had two old friends inform me they too had struggled and had IVF. They are two pregnancies I remember distinctly being announced and thinking that it wasn’t fair – “when is it our turn?” So sometimes not everything is as plain as the eye can see – others struggle too, and knowing we weren’t alone suddenly made me feel better – and bad; for making the assumption!

There isn’t a day goes by when other pregnancy announcements hit me hard – when it appears that everyone else conceives so easily, which is why it was/is important for me to share that for some – it just isn’t so easy, and that really, if we don’t laugh about it, it just makes it all harder.

Spotted on instagram 😂

Therapy.. and why I’m done

Throughout our IUI/IVF TTC/Fertility journey, we (in particular, me) were encouraged several times – well meaningly – by some of our lovely nurses to see the therapist. And every time I refused. I just do not see the point.

Yes, I was often a crying mess. Frankly, I’m not sure I know many couples where at least one of them is not a crying mess to have gone through/be going through the hell that is infertility. But;

No therapist in the world was going to make me pregnant.

No therapist in the world is going to change my mindset. In my opinion, therapists help but no one can change you.

At the points in which I underwent counselling, CBT (Cognitive Behavioural Therapy) and CAT (Cognitive Analytical Therapy), I was just learning to talk about these things. These feelings and emotions and behaviours that had essentially been locked up for most of my life – ALL of my adult life! I had bottled them all up for so long that they caused huge breakdowns in me, and so talking to a therapist felt like the only option. At that point I couldn’t have discussed some of those things with anyone, and the leading questions you are offered from a mental-health trained therapist to get you talking are next to nothing expert level! At that point in my life, that’s what I needed. But now I’ve learnt to talk, and write openly. To not be ashamed or scared of what my mind is telling me. It’s still not always easy but I can discuss things far easier now with those around me, than ever before. But often because, everything I’ve been through is quite open, so everyone knows. Everyone else is now almost-expert at leading questions/being open and accepting of discussing subjects that may not have been discussed before! I’m definitely a pretty open book now – nothing is off limits for discussion here!

Don’t get me wrong, my therapists were great. And some time in the future I may need therapy again. But I’m quite picky about what I need from a therapist and wouldn’t just stick with anyone if it wasn’t right for me. But right now, I’m back to Karen. I’m pretty good at talking to anyone and everyone about anything and everything, so therapy is just not needed here. The question of “will our baby have a severely mentally ill mum?” Has crossed my mind. But for now, I’m good. I’m not worried about post-natal depression, but I know if it happens that support is out there.

A favourite extract from Matt Haig’s “How to Stop Time”. ❤️

Babymoon – Mykonos

I have wanted to go to Mykonos for ages – so babymooning was an ideal time, as I wanted something with guaranteed nice weather, without having to travel too far, or stopover anywhere. You can fly direct to Mykonos from Heathrow, which is how we travelled. I was surprised as I was expecting to have to stopover in Athens so when I discovered direct flights, I was sold.

Given that we booked “last minute”, this holiday wasn’t cheap.. especially given the Greek economy is meant to be awful (though not sure how, as it’s so beautiful, weather is by and large always good and tourists are ripe!)

As always, travel blog will follow the same format of what we tried and tested, alongside several hundred beautiful pictures, as Mykonos is just gorgeous! I will say though – we wanted nothing more than to completely relax, so other than restaurants and our hotel (and Mykonos itself) we have literally nothing to review.. as we read, snoozed, and made the most of our last holiday for many years to come, child free!

Mykonos Blu Grecotel 😍

This hotel looked lovely online – and really was! Somehow I had accidentally booked some kind of villa and we ended up with two huge beds (ideal as I needed lots of pillows for bump support!), 2 bathrooms, a jacuzzi bath and basically just an absolute tonne of space! I chose not to bother booking a private pool villa like normal, because you can sunbathe topless in Europe anyway, and I guess at some point I must have decided I wasn’t going to bother going fully naked [quite unlike me!!] this time… I’m glad I hadn’t booked one of these in order to sunbathe naked as they were all overlooked, so I couldn’t have been starkers anyway… not unless I was prepared to seriously shock some strangers!

Anyway, all in all, the hotel was just beautiful. White washed walls as you’d expect for Greece surrounded by beautiful blossoms. Neither of us thought the food was too badly priced as you normally find in-hotel the price of food is ramped up. This was useful as whilst I would normally have just breakfast and dinner on holiday, baby and I tended to get hungry at 3ish for some lunch! So we didn’t end up spending an absurd amount, but we didn’t go hungry!

The hotel has its own two-tier infinity pool, as well as having its own little private-beach/bay (Psarou: shared with two other hotels) for those sea lovers! This is where we spent most of our days as in a sucker for the sea/beach! The only downside to the beach was that it was quite stoney to walk on – I’m a super soft sand girl! Also, as we visited in May, the sea and pools were freezing (but beautiful and fine once you were in!) I expect if you visit later in the year the sea will be a beautiful temperature! The water was crystal clear beautiful.

Also – this hotel was fairly far out (5k) from Mykonos town itself, so you pretty much need to get a taxi in/out. This was €10 each way and pretty quick, although we did discover at some point that the hotel seemed to have a car which would drop you in for free… but mostly when we asked, they’d just call us a taxi…!?!

Lastly, one thing I would say overall about Mykonos is that it’s not ideally set up for young children. There was a couple in our hotel with a toddler, but to me it seemed like hard work as there are lots of steps, particularly in hotels getting up and down to the beach etc!

breakfast at the hotel!

The only other things we have to review for this holiday, are restaurants. So here is where we went;

Nikos Gallop Restaurant

Nikos was across the road from our hotel. We actually went twice in the end as it was so cute with really great food – lots of different daily fresh fish choices, plus when we drove past it one evening when headed into town, it was absolutely packed, so we figured that was a good sign! They also are super extra friendly and welcoming to you when you go back, which was really sweet.

Eating on the boat at Nikos!

James was also pretty chuffed he got to eat out of a giant shell!

Mediterraneo Restaurant

Now, I apologise for doing this, and you’ll notice it as a theme, but some of the restaurants we chose were not exactly traditional Grecian. This Italian, is one of a few we visited, because little baby Marks wants CARBS. At this point, we loved a good pizza, and a good pizza this restaurant did. Everything you’d expect from a proper Italian pizza, and deliciously greasy which went down well with baby! They did however, struggle to comprehend having a cocktail without the alcohol – frankly, who can blame them?! – but we did get there eventually!

We also noticed as a bit of a theme in quite a few restaurants, being served “Mastika” as an after dinner shot. Some places it was nicer than others (particularly good at Nikos Gallop!) considering it smelt like Sambuca!

Petinos Taverna/Blue Myth Restaurant

This restaurant was within walking distance of our hotel, located within Petinos Beach area. The restaurant itself was slightly odd in that it seemed to be in some way affiliated with two restaurants across the road from it.. the menu’s were slightly different, but they seemed to be sharing waiting staff and the food seemed to also come from that direction! Decor wise they were quite different too, with the two across the road being a bit more super new-modern. Whilst Aggeliki was more modern classic..

When we visited neither of us were particularly hungry (but hungry enough to need something!) so we both just had starters, which were good, but the menu overall had looked really yummy, and staff were friendly but not pushy to get you to eat with them!

Trio Bambini ice cream!

There were a couple of these dotted around Mykonos old town. Normally I’d prefer traditional, individual ice cream shops on holiday, rather than a chain, but we’d be dammed if we could find after dinner these little unique ones we had kept walking past before dinner! Instead we kept stumbling upon Trio Bambini which had a huge selection of ice creams (sundae’s, crepes and waffles, come to think of it; think Treatz/Creams/Sprinkles/Kaspa’s dessert places we now have in the U.K.!) which more than did the trick.. I may have even had on our first night in Mykonos town, eyes bigger than my belly and requested one too many scoops! Who’d have thought that possible given the current size of my belly!!! Portions weren’t scrimped upon!

Pepper Souvlaki

We chose Pepper Souvlaki one night based largely on appearances… it was slightly hidden up cute little alleyways, plus I fancied Greek food dripping in yummy houmous/tzatziki etc. I wasn’t thrilled with the lamb feta burgers I ordered, but James had souvlaki (which I largely lived on at lunch 🤤😍!) which was really good. I guess baby reallly wanted carbs.. 🙄😂

Mykonos Dove

This restaurant looked the part, from the outside, but really, wasn’t great. Once again it was down on Petinos Beach. They didn’t have a lot of what was offered in the menu, which I can only assume is because they’d only opened within the last week, but did have wood fired pizzas, so yep, you guessed it, pizza once again for me! Not that I was complaining as it’s what I wanted. The pizza was good and the restaurant was beautiful – although unfinished (more noticeable when you walked inside/used the facilities) – but I was just a bit miffed that most things I asked for from the menu, they didn’t have.

Casa di Giorgio Restaurant

Yes you guessed it – Italian again! I am gutted we didn’t stumble upon this restaurant earlier though, as you’d probably have found me there every night! The restaurant was packed full but the service was still really attentive and fast. And the food was FANTASTIC! Fresh pasta and delicious pizza’s that I’m salivating over as we type.. must get James to make some fresh pasta sometime soon! I would happily eat here forevermore – the menu was huge and so hard to choose from! I’d 100% recommend finding this restaurant whilst in Mykonos and enjoying the delicious fresh pasta!

Everywhere you look, it’s beautiful!

Cut the crap! 💩

Whenever I see or hear something sad about dogs/animals I have to scoop my fur baby up for a big cuddle. This is what happened yesterday. Cellulite and all.

Reason for this post though (the cellulite kind of plays a part here), is because I have just overheard a young girl/teenager on the phone talking about some “miracle cream” – someone had a baby 2 weeks ago and she’s used the cream non-stop since and her stretch marks are “almost gone”. If the girl had hung up I 100% would have turned around to her and told her the truth.

OH MY GOSH I am so fed up with products being marketed like this. That is WHAT WOULD HAPPEN NATURALLY OVER TIME ANYWAY 🤦🏽‍♀️ once you’ve got stretch marks – they ain’t going anywhere (ok maybe they will with some laser surgery or something) – a cream is NOT gonna make them just disappear. Stretch marks stretch and fade over time. As your belly returns to its non-stretched state over time, the stretch marks will reduce and fade. I know this, because not only have I had them on my thighs since puberty, but I’ve been there with every stupid diet pill and miracle cream there is for cellulite/stretch marks (I never even had cellulite until I was pregnant. My dysmorphic brain just thought I did.) I won’t lie – I hate them, but they’re part of life. I moisturise a fair bit anyway, and when my thighs are slimmer [through running] they are fainter. To be fair, they’re quite faint now (considering how slim my thighs ARE NOT 🤣). I am moisturising like a crazy person whilst pregnant in a bid to not gain any more – but if it happens, it happens. They’ll be a mark of what my body has grown. I’ll probably still hate them, but at least I got the chance to finally be pregnant and carry our child: something I never thought would happen. I honestly don’t seem much difference in creams being marketed as a miracle cure for stretch marks much difference to that of bloody Kim KW and her stupid appetite suppressant lollipops.

It. Is. All. Bullshit.

Moisturise, exercise, eat a healthy, balanced diet. Get outside and [safely] enjoy the sun. Don’t waste your hard earned cash on miracle BS.

Love x

Pro-Choice.

As a non-Irish woman, living in England, I don’t know what else I can do other than use my social media platforms to add to the right for #prochoice

I have never had an abortion. As a woman who, without the aid of fantastic fertility clinics and the development of science, would not be able to have children, it is unlikely I will ever be faced with what I can only call a dilemma as to whether or not to abort my unborn child. As a woman who is currently 26 weeks pregnant with our miracle IVF baby, I am grateful for this – because I honestly do not believe it is a choice I could ever make. But a choice which, would be mine nonetheless.

I describe abortion as a dilemma because, not for a second can I imagine that any woman would blindly enter into aborting her unborn child without a lot of reason, thought, and heartache going into it. Aborting a child won’t just end there – with the baby gone; I’d imagine that no matter what circumstances surround the need for abortion, that the knowledge of having done so will live in within you forever.

Physically, it might seem easy. Mentally; not so.

But, as a human being – who doesn’t believe herself to be particularly intelligent, but does pride herself on her common sense – I understand. I understand that whilst we can all be so similar, we also can all be so different, and thus, we need choice. I have never, ever understood why individuals find themselves so worked up and concerned with the matters of other individuals; it does not concern them. Which is exactly why I love this image – if you don’t like/want something: don’t do it. That is YOUR choice. Why does anyone feel they have the right to decide how another person – female or male – should live their life? Lesbian, Gay, Straight, Bisexual, Transexual, In need of an abortion, in need of a home, in need of medication to stabilise your health [i could go on] – by and large – who’s choice should that be but that of the individual(s) involved?

For those fighting for pro-life… I too, am pro-life. However, once more, that is, MY CHOICE. I have never been raped, and thus never fallen pregnant with a child conceived from rape. I am so, so thankful that I am not pregnant with an “unwanted” child. That I am not pregnant with a child so deformed it would not survive labour. I am lucky that I have not had to make the difficult decision of whether or not to abort a child, and I hope that is a decision I will never have to make. For me, the second we knew we were pregnant at 3 weeks 6 days, that was our baby. It was a life, one we had finally created. Our perfect, miracle baby. But, medically, it is deemed an embryo until 8 weeks, and a fetus until birth. Not a baby, an embryo, then a foetus. It is MY CHOICE to consider it our baby from the word go. It is MY CHOICE to consider it a life worth fighting for, or not fighting for. Choice, is what’s important here.

It’s 2018 for goodness sake – why can’t we get on with our OWN lives without consistently having to battle for such simple human rights; choice. At the end of the day, that’s all it boils down to. The same as the choice I make to run. To own, walk, look after and love a dog. To pop to the shops or not. It is my choice.