“So, you’ve had IVF?”

This is the question I am constantly asked after trying to explain our fertility journey. The answer is no but I find myself just agreeing, especially when met with the baffled expressions of numerous midwives and consultants.

I have read so many inspiring blog posts and stories written by strong couples, who have experienced a multitude of different journeys. I decided to write my own experiences as a sort of outpouring but also in the hope that even one person reads and takes something from this, I will have repaid the favour.

I first found out I was pregnant in February 2015 after 6 months of trying. Obviously, we were overjoyed, blissfully happy and painfully unaware of what was to come. It’s a feeling that I envy, even now, when I see glowing happiness from couples on Instagram – those that have never experienced difficulties. I felt robbed of that.

I miscarried a week later.

This was to be the beginning of 3 miscarriages that year, all very different but equally as devastating. My third resulted in an ERPC. I remember sitting in Lewisham Early Pregnancy, my regular haunt, reading the definition ‘Evacuation of Retained Products of Conception’ and feeling like such a failure. What was wrong with me? Why couldn’t I do this? Everybody else could (it seemed). The staff at Lewisham were so kind, but the process was brutal. We had become slightly hardened, but the pain of lining up next to those swollen, lucky ladies, waiting for their 12/20 week scans was soul destroying. Sitting in the waiting room, listening to the looped video of how to put your baby’s car seat in safely. And the final straw, being given a pen to complete a survey, with the words ‘pregnant? Now call the midwife’ on it. Now I was being tortured for being a failure. My husband threatened to rip the TV off the wall – it’s no longer there – I wonder if someone did it in the end…

Anyway, fast forward to New Year’s Eve 2015. I had a consultants appointment to discuss the results of my ERPC and to begin investigations into my recurrent miscarriages. I was told that the results of tests on the ‘retained products’ hadn’t been carried out. I walked out sobbing, probably our lowest point.

After a quick google on recurrent miscarriage, I came across the Zita West clinic. They pioneer a holistic approach to fertility and for the first time, I felt as though I was taking my health into my own hands. My head was a mess and I needed something to focus on. I was become angry, bitter and twisted. We were deleting friends from social media platforms if they announced pregnancies and refused invitations to gatherings if we knew children were going. A slightly difficult approach when you’re both teachers. I had to do something.

We initially met with specialist fertility nurse and midwife, Jane Knight. After some initial blood tests, we had an appointment with the wonderful Dr Simone Rofena, who simply explained that three miscarriages was not normal. Something was wrong and we needed to fix it. I could have jumped up and hugged him right there and then. Yes. Finally. Someone was backing me. I wasn’t a failure, I just needed some help.

I was sent for level 1 and 2 testing, which I still find difficult to explain (because I was never very good at Science). This included:

Natural Killer (NK) assay and TH1/TH2 Intracellular Cytokine ratios. NK cells are one of several types of white blood cells in the immune system. They play a useful physiological role in the body but some research has suggested that raised NK levels or cytotoxicity (“killing capacity”) in the peripheral blood and raised NK infiltration in the endometrium (womb lining) may be associated with recurrent IVF failure and recurrent miscarriage. Cytokines are chemical messengers secreted by immune cells. Cytokines produced by the group of immune cells called TH2 are thought to be “baby-friendly” and support pregnancy whereas the cytokines produced by the group of immune cells called TH1 may inhibit pregnancy. For successful pregnancy it has been suggested that the TH2 (“baby-friendly”) cytokines should be dominant. If the TH1 cytokines are dominant this may impact adversely on pregnancy outcomes.

My NK cells were unusually high, so I began immunomodulation treatment, which began with an intralipid of a sterile emulsion of egg proteins, soy oil, glycerine and water. My boss nicknamed this my ‘pancake batter’ treatment. Two rounds of this, then three cycles to fall pregnant naturally.

I fell pregnant on my third circle.

I phoned the clinic and by that afternoon, I was on a cocktail of Prednisolone (steroids), Clexane and progesterone pessaries. This was combined with further Intralipid infusions at appropriate stages during early pregnancy. Injecting was particularly unpleasant, my belly was black and blue. But at 7 weeks in, it all became worth it…

There was my little flickering mushroom. An actual heartbeat. Not an empty sack or a, ‘when did you get a positive pregnancy test?’ I knew the statistics. A good start.

By nine weeks, the mushroom resembled more of a jumping kidney bean.

And at 12 weeks I was in possession of a scan photo that I had only ever dreamed of sharing with my friends and family.

….

My pregnancy wasn’t without difficulty. I bled, I had suspected DVT, I suffered from preeclampsia and ended up having an emergency c-section and a baby spending its first week of life in the neonatal ward. But the fact that I had this incredible bundle of life changing beauty, was all down to Zita West. This is not an NHS bashing – I love the NHS. I love Lewisham hospital and all the staff. But I needed to take my health and my fertility into my own hands.

I have since suffered another miscarriage but with the help and support from ZW, I’m 21 weeks pregnant with a little girl. I still get very twitchy when explaining my treatment to my dr. I don’t want to be judged or it assumed that I’m an inpatient rich girl. We begged, borrowed, stole and (most importantly) worked very hard to pay for our treatment. We received extremely kind gifts from our family to help pay for drugs, test and appointments. My current consultant at Lewisham and heard all about the clinic and simply said to me, ‘something worked – that’s all that matters’.

Advertisements

Five Things – July Wish List

So, I am absolutely skint at the moment. However, that doesn’t stop me from window shopping and writing a monthly wish list. Should anyone want to treat me, please feel free…

1. La Redoute ‘Afaw Berber Style Rug’.

The instagram rug of dreams. Look at any Nordic styled home on insta and you’ll find this gorgeous piece of carpet heaven.

£99-£269 (currently with £35 off £100 spend | £60 off £150 | £100 off £250 with code SAVE).

2. Rocket St George ‘Antique brown mirror with shallow shelf – portrait’

I have been looking for the perfect bathroom mirror since our remodel. I am blaming the fact that I need my first ever filling on the current lack of bathroom mirror! Get on my wall.

£120

3. Jupiduu slide – white (The Modern Nursery)

Okay, massive extravagant purchase – but this is just a wish list, right? George is obsessed with slides at the moment, so this would cement my position as favourite parent (jokes).

£215.

4. Pretty Little Knots Co – Macrame wall hangingI love macrame (much to my husbands distain) and I particularly love this hanging, made by the fabulous Samantha at Manchester based Pretty Little Knots. She takes custom orders and runs classes too!

From £15.

5. Cox & Cox ‘Raw Steel Firepit’To be honest, I don’t have the best track record with firepits. When we first moved into our house, we bought one from Homebase and didn’t shut our back door. Our house stunk of smoke for weeks after that. This is aesthetically incredible and I would happily smoke out our neighbours with this beauty!

£375 (Cox & Cox are currently offering 20% off – use MOBJUNB at checkout).

So that concludes this month’s five things. August is my birthday, so you never know… *must buy lottery ticket this weekend*.

Recipe // Delicious Chocolate Brownies

I desperately wanted to make an Easter cake. I spent 3,000 hours and my life savings on George’s birthday cake, so therefore I now qualify as a master baker. I spent hours browsing and salivating until I came across a recipe for chocolate mini egg brownies, that I already had most of the ingredients for.

Unfortunately, the addition of the mini eggs was a disaster (even though I froze them beforehand). They simply burnt, lost their colour and went rock hard.

However, the brownies were delicious – moist and chocolatey, without being too sweet and sickly.

Ingredients:

150g light brown sugar

225g caster sugar

225g unsalted butter

150g dark chocolate, chopped (I used Lindt 70%)

3 eggs

125g plain flour

75g cocoa powder (I used Green & Blacks)

Method:

1. Preheat the oven to 200°C/180°C fan/gas 6 and line a 20 x 30cm tin with baking parchment.

2. Put the sugars and butter into a large saucepan and heat on medium until the butter has melted. Simmer the mixture for five minutes to allow the sugar to begin to melt, stirring all the time. Remove from the heat.

3. Add the chopped dark chocolate to the warm sugar and butter mixture and stir it in until it is completely melted. Leave to cool to room temperature.

4. When the mixture is cool enough to touch comfortably, beat in the eggs. Add the flour and cocoa powder before stirring briefly to combine. You don’t want to overbeat the mixture or your brownies will become too ‘cakey’.

5. Scrape the mixture into the prepared tin. Bake for 20–25 minutes or until the top is shiny and slightly cracked.

Nursery Styling

Planning and styling our nursery was/is definitely an ongoing process. We didn’t find out the sex beforehand but knew we wanted something neutral anyway.

The obvious place to start was Pinterest but searches of ‘white and grey nurseries’ only brought up images of huge American bedrooms, something which our tiny little box room would never replicate.

We knew that we only had room for two pieces of furniture, so opted for the Silver Cross Nostalgia cot-bed and wardrobe – £1050 as we could buy a Cot Top changer from John Lewis – £49 and save space.

We knew this would be a perfect set up as the baby would be sleeping in our room for the first six months potentially, so changing over the cot was fine. I purchased changing organisers from Ikea – £7.50 and they clipped onto the changer perfectly.

As for decoration, we purchased a picture shelf from Ikea and two prints from the amazing Manchester Based Rory and the Bean. We wanted a scandi feel to the nursery, to compliment the rest of our house. Then we waited until baby arrived before adding anything else…

So at 11.14pm on February 18th, after a vile induction, painful labour, sepsis, pre-eclampsia and emergency Caesarian, our beautiful son George Roy entered the world and landed straight into the NICU. A week later he was home with us and the adventure could begin.

The first thing I wanted to buy now he was here, was something personalised. Through the magic of Instagram, I found This Paper Book and their beautiful personalised pennant flags – starting from £14.

That, paired with some of the most beautiful wooden treats from the magical Styled by Naomi really started the ball rolling. It was no longer just ‘the nursery’, but it was becoming ‘George’s Room’ and I hadn’t ever imagined how important a process that would be for me. If you don’t already follow Naomi on Instagram, you definitely should. She’s hilarious and her fertility journey is inspiring and courageous.

Scandiborn and The Modern Nursery became the two major go-tos as far as furniture and large accessories over the year but Instagram introduced be to a whole world of small, independent makers (and a maxed-out credit card). Prints from Lovely Ink (as well as her beautiful Christmas, Mother’s Day and Father’s Day collections) and Little M Paper Goods. Wooden toys from Sarah & Bendrix Kids will be great for George when he’s a little older, but until then, they look fab on display. Also Scottish based Ciao Bambino and The Milk Collective have a great selection on modern and stylish toys, to compliment any nursery.

I know that accessories will change and adapt as George grows and he personality and interests develop. But up until now, this has been an opportunity to flex our interior muscles in the first real purposeful room in our house. It’s a work in progress but one I can finally get some joy out of. A little sanctuary and safe haven for our baby and a celebration of the tiny human that we have managed to keep alive for the last 13 Months.

What are the favourite parts of your baby’s nursery?

Eating Our Way Through Prague

Prague is easily one of the prettiest cities in Europe – with its beautiful cobbled streets and fairytale-like gothic architecture. However, its quickly becoming one of the hippest food capitals in the continent. Many people know that Prague is already famous for its cheap beer, attracting many a stag or hen do. Czech cuisine is meat-based, and there were plenty of places offering ‘traditional’ dishes. However, don’t fret travelling vegetarians – there are a number of vegetarian and vegan restaurants, as well as a large number of Asian eateries. We found that many restaurants were promoting ‘raw food’ dishes on their menus too, to cater for all. I didn’t think we’d find somewhere to rival Budapest for its great restaurants at ridiculously cheap prices, but we were wrong!

Before visiting, I always do my research – especially as a fussy vegetarian. I want to know the best places to sample the local cuisine. Here we’re our favourite places to eat. Please comment with your thoughts and additions.

Cafe Louvre

Arguably, the best thing about Prague for me was that magical feeling of being transported back in time. You feel part of a forgotten era. Cafe Louvre was the perfect example of this. A Parisian style cafe and billiard hall, dating back to 1902, quintessentially epitomises Prague cafe culture. In its hay-day, it attracted visitors such as Franz Kafka and Albert Einstein. However in 1948, it was closed when the communists came to power and wasn’t fully revived until 1992.

Cafe Louvre is open daily, offering a wide variety of dishes and beverages. I had the decedent Cafe Louvre hot chocolate and delicious apple strudel, while my husband had the club sandwich and a latte. Both were amazing and I would have happily eaten it all over again. The bill came in at just under CZK300 (£10).


Cafe Louvre, Národní 22, Prague 1
Lokál

If you’re looking for good, cheap beer and exceptionally fresh Czech cuisine, look no further than Lokál. We visited the Dlouhááá branch several times during our stay, as it was literally metres from our air bnb appartment. Lokál opitomises old Czech culture from the 1960’s and 1970’s, with its simple interior. It’s extremely popular, and although extremely big, fills up fast. It’s also a great spot for people watching. Both the drinks and food menus are extensive – even offering a range of non-alcoholic ciders – and the service is excellent. A really cool spot in the centre of Prague’s old town.

We feasted on the highly recommend Lokál speciality of fried cheese, with homemade tarter sauce and the Goulash of beef cheeks, with bread dumplings. The latter I’m assured was incredible. All washed down with a large Pilsner Urquell and homemade lemon soda, came to just over CZK300 (£10). An unbelievable price for homemade top-notch Czech cuisine, sourced from local suppliers. A must.


Lokál, Dlouhá 33, Prague 1.
Sisters Bistro

Just under our apartment, was the incredible, yet tiny Sisters Bistro, founded by a famous Czech food journalist. We gourged on their amazing chlebíčky (open-sandwiches) daily, and were always convince to buy more than we had intended initially. The light, healthy sandwiches were in high-demand and just too pretty to pass. We enjoyed the vegetarian beetroot and goats cheese, as well as the egg and ham.

Sisters Bistro, Dlouhá 39, Prague 1
Naše Maso

Alongside Sisters Bistro, lies Naše Maso “Our meat”. Both are located in the new Gastro Pasáž, a hip mini-shopping complex for foodies. Currently, only a few units are occupied, but they’re extremely popular and trendy places to visit. Naše Maso is an exceptional butchers and fast food eaterie, that serves beer on tap. The takeout burgers, steaks and particularly the meat loaf is very popular, with queues forming outside the shop throughout the day. As a veggie, I can’t vouch for the food, but I did find myself fascinated by the art of the butchery on display throughout several of the units. Quite an odd observation from a vegetarian, but the window displays were unintentionally captivating works of art. My husband, on the other hand, dived straight into the meatloaf at the first opportunity. It’s basic simple food, taken to a different level, without the hefty price tag. His words, not mine. Would highly recommend a visit – if not for the food – for a glance through the windows.


Naše Maso, Dlouhá 39, 11000 Prague

Grand Cafe Orient

Housed in the beautiful homage to the cubist movement, The House of the Black Madonna, is another of Prague’s ‘step back in time’ masterpieces. The Grand Cafe Orient originally closed in the 1920’s when cubism fell out of fashion and was renovated in 2005, retaining its original brass lanterns and buffet-bar. A truly magical experience for anyone looking for a light-bite or coffee. We visited the Grand Cafe Orient twice as it was so close to where we were staying. If you can, try to grab a booth by the window, as it provides a great vantage point both inside and out, helping you to reflect on what life was really like in 1911. I ordered the cheese panini and lemonade, followed by another delicious apple strudel. One thing I felt let the cafe down was the sour faced waiters, who were probably the only ones we encountered during our stay.

The Lake District – A photo diary

Our first encounter with the Lake District was a memorable one. We were so unbelievably lucky with the weather! Read about what we got up to here, otherwise, enjoy our photo diary. Photos by @foreacharoad.
Stunning skies over Crosby Ravensworth:


Ullswater:

Gowbarrow:


Aira Force:



The beautiful night sky:


What is your favourite destination in the Lakes?

A taste of the Lake District

This year was all about exploring our own country, as well as our adventures abroad. Luckily, we have had several weddings in opposite ends of the country, which has inspired us to make little mini-getaways. This time, after a lovely wedding in Newcastle, we hired a car from the airport and drove 90 minutes across the country to the stunning little village of Crosby Ravensworth, which is in the heart of the Eden Valley and approximately 4 miles from the M6. We booked ‘One Chapel Terrace‘ on Airbnb, which sleeps six for a minimum of two nights. It was a beautiful little cottage, with a hot tub, perfect for soaking aching muscles after a long ramble uphill. 


We ate at The Butchers Arms, a community owned pub in Crosby Ravensworth, and the only place to eat within 11km. It was a stones throw from the cottage and has just been taken over by new owners. The menu was small, but catered for all, with daily specials on the board. The fish and chips were one of the best I’ve ever had from a pub/restaurant. 

The next morning, we drove 26 miles to Aira Force and Ullswater in the Lake District. As soon as you catch a glimpse of  the lake driving through Pooley Bridge, you realise why people rave about the scenary and the tranquility of the region. I am a sucker for bodies of water with breathtakingly beautiful mountainous backdrops, so this ticked all he boxes. We were also blessed with glorious sunshine, although this resulted in half-term holiday makers flocking to the numerous National Trust carparks like the world was going to end. It didn’t help that the sunshine had not been forecast, so everyone was desperate to soak up every ounce of golden ray on offer. 

Aira Force is a 65ft waterfall, accessed by a fairly leisurely stroll through glades and woodland. We continued the walk up, following the stream. Being half-term, many families littered its banks, enjoying the sun. 


Ullswater lake itself, offers an array of different watersports and tiny secluded bays and beaches, to enjoy a paddle or a snooze. We (obviously) went for the latter, after scoffing a huge slice of cake from the National Trust tea room.


Albeit a tiny taste of what the Lakes have to offer, I can definitely see why so many people describe it as the most picturesque region in the UK. I was slightly concerned that I would be left disappointed after our trip to Snowdonia – however this boasted a different kind of WOW factor to that of North Wales. Ullswater was buzzing. Whether it was the half-term or general touristy feel, you felt it embraced the crowds and encouraged them to flock, enjoy and experience the scenary that we are so lucky to have in England. It is celebrated.