have been trying to find the words all day since I heard of the terrible events in my home city... this is the closest I can come to express my feelings. My thoughts are with those who have passed away, those injured and anyone around the area at the time.
Dear Manchester, I have no idea who has done this to so many innocent children and parents and I am so, so sorry.
You are the city I was born in, the city I grew up in. You are the city I went to school and university in. You are the city I lived the first 23 years of my life in. You are the city I was devastated to leave behind when I moved to Australia in 2009. You are still home to my family and the vast majority of my friends.
You have rough parts but soft people with hearts of gold. You were famous for the industrial revolution and home to tough, hardworking but friendly people and you still are full of them. You are dirty, yet beautiful. You are surrounded by natural beauty but you are a man made jungle. You are my heart.
Manchester Arena - I know you best as the Nynex, where I spent time every single week watching my ice hockey team, the Manchester Storm. These are some of my happiest and best memories. You were my second home for so long. I have seen so many brilliant things at your place, from Britney Spears to Marilyn Manson and all sorts of others in between. You are my fantastic childhood memories.
The People of Manchester - I am biased but I genuinely don't think there are any other people in the world like you. I am so proud to call myself a Mancunian, even if nobody else in the world understands, it means a lot to us.
You have survived war, the IRA bomb and you will not be broken by this event. You are strong and if any city can cope you sure as hell can. You are 'my people'.
Manchester you are a city of contrasts, a city of architecture, education, entertainment, fun, sport, multiculturalism, friendship and love. The last two things are what will pull you through. You have already shown this by opening your hearts and homes to those affected. The emergency services have also done a stellar job.
It has been four years since I have seen you Manchester but I still call you 'home'. I miss you and I think of you every day. I hope beyond hope that I can introduce my daughter to you soon, she needs to know how wonderful you are. You may be 10,000 miles away but you will always be my home. I hold you in my heart even closer today.
Manchester I love you dearly and always will.
Socks?! Why would you put a photo of socks in a post about IVF?
Well this is something I did not know before I started treatment but socks are actually really important in the IVF community. They are particularly important when it comes to the embryo transfer. Groups organise 'sock buddies' which are two people that are going through treatment at the same time and send each other a pair of socks. They can be wacky, lucky or IVF specific and there are quite a few people who produce these to fund their own treatment. The reason behind these socks is supposedly because warm feet means you will also have a warm uterus. A warm uterus is a more habitable environment for the embryo and means it is more likely to attach.
People swear by other things to increase their chances of pregnancy, for example, diet is believed to be very important. Eating pineapple core, brazil nuts and pomegranate are all foods people believe increase the chances. To be honest when I went for my transfer I had not heard about the socks, diet or anything else that is supposed to increase success so I guess it is not always important, but I think it can be comforting to think you are doing absolutely everything you can to get pregnant.
My tip would be to research what is said to make a transfer successful, there are lots of people on the internet that are very prescriptive about this. Choose whatever will work for you and go with it. Good luck.
With the prohibitive costs for so many people of IVF, clinics have been trying to think of ways to cut costs. The egg collection is one way they are doing so and fortunately this is opening up treatment to many more people. Traditionally, egg collection was performed under general anaesthetic. This meant that you had to pay for a private hospital bed, anaesthetist, the fertility specialist and the procedure; which obviously was very expensive. However, clinics are now doing the procedure under a local anaesthetic and these reduced costs makes treatment much more affordable.
The procedure itself is a little scary, but the scariest thing of all is when you find out the number of eggs you have. It can either be wonderful or terrible news and you feel like this number is going to be so important to you for the success of the cycle. Obviously the more eggs collected the more chances you have for fertilisation, so people put a lot of emphasis on this number.
Obviously there are a lot of factors that create the final results so my tip is to not put too much emphasis on this number, although I know it can be difficult. If you have low numbers of eggs collected it is not the end of your journey.
I had 17 eggs collected and you will find out what happened to them soon!
I used to be one of those people who was sooo shy about my private parts and if there ever seemed anything wrong 'down below' I would just shrug it off and hope it went away, just to avoid going to the doctor. I was one of those people that would turn red and burn with embarrassment during a smear test. However, like many things with IVF, you basically just have to overcome these things quite quickly!
I mentioned the other day about the scans that you have to check the size and number of your follicles. The scanner looks like this...
Looks comfortable hey?! Well you will become very familiar with this! Generally you will have this to check your follicle progress 3 or 4 times. You will have it again for your egg collection. Again for your embryo transfer. Finally if you are pregnant you have it again for the first couple of scans before you leave the care of the fertility clinic. I think you will agree that is quite a lot!!
Particularly the first time you might feel quite uncomfortable and I would recommend you take deep breaths. Relaxation is the key. Also totally forgetting all your inhibitions completely helps!
Depending on your weight, age, egg quality, infertility diagnosis and many other factors the medication protocol for your cycle will be tailor made to you. Inevitably it will (unfortunately) involve injections... You may end up having more injections than most or you may need to do them for a longer time depending on your circumstances. Either way you will soon be feeling like a pin cushion!
I am not the best with needles and was horrified when I learnt I needed to have injections every day, however, if it helps you have a baby you will quickly learn to deal with it, because let's face it you would do absolutely anything! The first time I had an injection I was so nervous and worried it would hurt but to be honest it was nowhere near as bad as I feared. I know a lot of people get someone else to do it for them but I found it easier to do it myself as I was in more control! I had them in my stomach but I know other people take them in their bottom, that is your own preference I guess.
Each day you have an injection, generally at around the same time and this medication stimulates your follicles, in order to grow more eggs than you would usually produce. If your follicles are progressing nicely, namely of a good size and in number, then you will be ready for your trigger injection after around 2 weeks. The trigger injection is usually a larger and more painful needle and it releases the eggs for your egg collection. This is usually perfectly timed around 48 hours before your egg collection.
I am not going to lie that injections are nice, I don't think anyone on Earth enjoys them but they are a necessary part of treatment and the easier you can make them the better. My tips would be to be fully relaxed when injecting and have ice on hand. Some people end up with tremendous bruises and lumps and it does not look pretty and they can be very tender. Anything you can do to ease this is obviously a good idea! Try not to be too scared, that will make you more tense and usually harder to inject which is more likely to hurt. They really are not that bad!
In America this week is National Infertility Awareness Week... I wholeheartedly believe that this is such an important thing. Infertility is becoming more into the public consciousness because of celebrities speaking out and the debates on funding and ethics becoming more frequent. However, there is still much work to be done in order to get the reality out there, because I really do not think people understand what it entails and how difficult it can be. To do my bit I am going to put some of the puzzle pieces together for those that may not know much about IVF, in the hope you learn a bit more.
IVF generally involves an awful lot of waiting. Many people wait for funding or to save up enough money for private treatment, which obviously can take years. Many then have to wait to get on the list for treatment (some specialists have massive waiting lists). Then you have to wait for your tests to be completed so treatment can be planned. Getting to the point of your doctor actually saying you are ready to go ahead with your first cycle is a massive achievement in itself.
Once your cycle is planned and you either take your bag of medication home or it gets delivered to your home it can feel absolutely overwhelming. There is so much anticipation and excitement. You will probably spend hours organising your medication, finding a special place for it, labelling it, writing a calendar or a spreadsheet and you will take great pride in doing so because these magic things you are holding have the potential to help you conceive the only thing you have ever wanted. You start with so much positivity and feel like there is no other choice... although at the same time, you also know you cannot be complacent, you cannot simply just believe this will be it. You have heard so many terrible stories about people spending thousands, doing cycle after cycle after cycle and taking themselves to breaking point with no success and you can only hope that this will not happen to you.
The overwhelming emotions that begin on day one continue throughout the cycle and I will talk about that more in following days. Enjoy how special it feels to finally begin treatment though, it is a massive milestone and it could change your life.
My biggest tip for the early stages of treatment is to find people going through the same thing, ideally at the same time. Cycle buddies or sock buddies (I'll explain about that too!) are frequently used terms in the IVF world and can be a wonderful thing to get you through. Many people have made lifetime friendships by being each others support at this time. I have found some fabulous groups on Facebook or if you search Instagram for hashtags such as #IVF, #infertility, #ttc, will lead you to a very special community. I cannot stress enough how helpful this is and hope you find one that suits you.
I am sat here very concerned about the future of IVF...
For a while now there has been much controversy regarding fertility treatments in the UK. NICE guidelines clearly state that couples who are infertile should be entitled to three cycles of treatment. However, this very rarely happens. There is a postcode lottery, some health trusts do provide the recommended three cycles but some do not provide any government funded treatment. Further stipulations are placed on couples due to already having children, weight restrictions etc before couples are placed on the waiting list for treatment. Waiting lists across the country are also very different and some couples can wait a long time before commencing treatment.
As anyone who is infertile knows it is certainly possible to have a baby within three cycles and many couples will be successful with the treatment that the NHS funds for them. There are also many couples who will need many more cycles before they have a successful pregnancy. This means that they will have to go to a private clinic and pay for treatment. This also does not really include people that have already had a child, either through the usual process with a previous partner or through fertility treatment. It indicates that once you have one child you should be happy with that and not want another child. Obviously many people want more than one child and it will also mean a private clinic is the only option for these people.
Do not get me wrong, I understand money in the NHS is extremely tight. There are a limited amount of funds to spend on an increasing and increasingly unhealthy population, something has to give. However, having had to pay for treatment in a private clinic, having to sell a house to afford treatment and having to wonder if I would ever be a mother I wonder if the cuts to IVF are the right thing to choose. Unless you have been through infertility it is hard to imagine and you may say "you can just adopt or foster" but that is because you have not had to deal with this longing, this doubt, this pain and this jealousy. It can cause people to become anxious, depressed and very unwell. It is not a recognised illness as such but it can have similar side effects to many serious illnesses and is not something that should just be swept under the carpet.
In addition to these cuts and even scarier is the possibility that the new personhood bill Donald Trump is trying to make law could effectively ban IVF in America. My understanding on the issue is certainly not in depth so I include the following information from the RESOLVE fertility association in America for a fantastic explanation... "By equating microscopic embryos with born human beings, H.R. 586 has implications that pose a serious threat to infertility treatment. If microscopic fertilized eggs/embryos are deemed as human life, anything that puts an embryo at risk could be a violation of law, even if its goal is the undeniable social good of helping someone have a baby.
It is unclear at this time precisely which assisted reproduction technology (ART) procedures would be deemed illegal because of their possible risks to an embryo, but we believe the legal uncertainties stemming from the proposed bill would make it difficult or impossible for fertility doctors to treat patients at all using ART. This law would also drastically change the practice of cryopreservation (freezing of embryos not currently needed for treatment), in ways that would drastically reduce patients' options and could even pit embryos against their own progenitors. Cancer patients rely upon embryo cryopreservation to preserve their fertility before cancer treatments." (link below - RESOLVE)
I think we can all agree these consequences will be far reaching and are a very scary prospect indeed, particularly for the millions of Americans who require fertility treatment to have a baby. We can only hope this does not come to fruition but I would be extremely worried if I was waiting to have treatment in America right now.
I urge anyone in America to argue this at the following link https://secure2.convio.net/res/site/Advocacy?cmd=display&page=UserAction&id=656
I know how hard it is to want a baby more than anything in the world and deal with the pain and uncertainty of ever being lucky enough to become a mum. I know there are millions of other people around the world who feel the same. I know it rips your heart out but at least there has always been some kind of hope... hope that treatment would be funded, hope that you would come into money, hope that you would be able to save enough, hope you would only need one cycle... we all need this hope so much and my fear is this will get taken away completely. I will watch with great interest what happens in both countries over the next few months and I will keep hope alive for all of the wonderful couples out there who need treatment.
I would love to hear your comments...
Children’s books are written about so many topics… some fun, some educational, some with important life lessons and some downright silly. However, I would say that three of the most popular topics are love, friendship and hope. There are so many amazing books with these themes but some of the best quotes are from Winnie the Pooh books by the legend A.A. Milne.
You may or may not know that it is Winnie the Pooh day and I really wanted to celebrate some of the amazing pieces of writing that have made so many wonderful quotes and meant a lot to so many people.
My favourite Winnie quote about love is…
“If you live to be 100, I want to live to be 100 minus one day, so I’ll never have to live a day without you”.
To me this is just absolutely beautiful and could certainly be the best quote to explain ‘broken heart syndrome’. I have heard of many stories of this in the media, most recently with Carrie Fisher and her mother Debbie Reynolds. They said Debbie just could not live without Carrie and she died a day later. This sums up true love to me in one sentence and I think it is a perfect thing to tell someone you love to express how important they are to you.
My favourite friendship quote is…
“A friend is one of the nicest things you can have and one of the best things to be”.
I think we all know how important friends are and we try to be the best friend we can in return. In tough times we want friends that we can count on and when we know our friends are having a difficult time, we always try to help them through. A lot of people would collapse without the support network of their friends and it is lovely to know that you have people to care about you.
Hope and positivity are things that are particularly important to me at the moment and my favourite quotes for these themes are…
Hope – “Never fear the shadows, they simply mean there is a light shining somewhere nearby”. I think this is a beautiful image, that when everything seems dark and you wonder how things will ever get better, there will always be a little light of good waiting for you. You just have to find it.
Positivity – “’What day is it?’ asked Pooh. ‘It’s today’ squeaked Piglet. ‘My favourite day’ said Pooh”. This is a great way to start the day, having so much positivity that today will be a great day. It seems to instill a belief that anything good could happen and it could be the best day ever. I think if we all woke up thinking this way we would be leading different lives.
Obviously there are sooo many other wonderful quotes that you will know and love written by this genius of a man. What is your favourite Winnie the Pooh quote?
You may or may not have noticed that I have been mostly absent for the last few months. I have had a very tumultuous time personally but I am now looking at the change of year as an opportunity and cannot wait to get back on track.
I just wanted to talk about the new year (which we are now well into!). Obviously resolutions are made by many and are often broken within a few days or weeks. Others see the new year as an opportunity, either to rid ourselves of the bad feelings and experiences we have had in the previous year or to forge ahead with anything that was going positively.
Most people will be filled with optimism but there are also people for who a new year can signify complete uncertainty about what will occur and can create much anxiety. Will they be happy? Will they reach their goals? Will they get what they have always dreamed of?
I think for the infertility community the new year can be a very difficult time. You are reminded that yet again you are saying "this will be our year" or "this time next year we will have a baby" or "next year I'll be pregnant" etc. I clearly remember these phrases repeated over multiple year and it was quite crushing in all honesty. However, you really have no choice but to dust yourself off and really try to believe it, or you will crumble. It is extraordinarily difficult to be positive after so many years of pain but faith is often the only way we survive.
If you are struggling with the turn of the year, I really do know how you feel. I know it is not an easy thing to flick that switch of positivity but we all have to hope that better days are ahead.
My only advice is to take a deep breath, think through problems one step at a time, take each day as it comes and surround yourself with good people who will fully support and love you. Self care (sleeping, eating, exercise etc) is also super important too. Try not to put too much emphasis on having a baby (I know this can be almost impossible) and remember to be grateful for the good things you already have in your life. I know it all sounds cliched but I found it to be the only way I could cope. After all it may have taken six years of renewed hope but one year I really did start the new year pregnant and the next year with my little miracle. I hope this is the year that happens for you too.
Whatever you are wishing for this year, I really hope you get what you are dreaming of. I wish you all the best for 2017.