I can

Sometimes it’s so easy to forget how strong I am. How capable and together I am. It’s pretty amazing to hear myself say that. I have so much doubt, so much anxiety most of the time. I find it easy to second guess myself, despite the fact my instincts are usually right. I need to give myself more credit.

I am trying to be less harsh on myself. I think the journey I have been on over the last few years has made me realise how very worthy I am. Going through the loss of Jack, healing and learning to live again. Learning to back myself, finally losing the weight and putting me first has been such a hard yet wonderful process.

Don’t get me wrong, I still do struggle to put me first as much as I should. As an empath I struggle to set boundaries and say no. When I do I often stress think about it later on, guilt wracking me. But I am better than I was. I’ve stopped apologising so much. Stopped saying yes to things and people that don’t deserve it.

I am still taking on more than I should…I’m definitely still working on this one. I think realising your worth is very healing but also disruptive. It’s making me more anxious that others don’t value my mental health more. But being in a better place has helped me to assert myself more, say no and push back. My mental health matters. Having a calm mind and reducing stress is important.

My focus over the next 6 months is to get myself to a good place. To find some peace and calm. Reduce stress and anxiety and let go of things that go against that.

I am determined to get a balance. To get myself in a strong place to keep fighting. We still have a battle ahead of us. Getting that rainbow is not going to be simple. I do believe we will get there, but it’s nowhere near the end yet, just the start of the next chapter.

Allana x

Spring Equinox

It’s been a long time since I updated. I’ve been focusing on my mental health and my body. Getting myself mentally and physically healthy and strong. It’s been a hard but so positive experience and started with some quite dramatic changes. Mainly me setting boundaries and stepping back from sharing too much of my life. I needed a break.

Now seems like the perfect time to post and share a little. I am doing well. Life is good, not perfect but I am stronger and in a positive space. My work life is great and I got a promotion and am doing a course I’ve wanted to do for so many years. My family is loving and so strong, as always we are a tight unit and support one another always.

My biggest update however is…

Finally got to my NHS referral weight. It’s been a long road over the last 2 years of weight loss and self care, but I did it!

So proud of myself and for sticking to it. I knew I had to be strict and not be half arsed this time. In the past I always caved and had way too many treats. Food has stopped being a reward. That was what was my biggest downfall.

Food should be enjoyed in a balanced and relaxed way, not as a diet bargaining tool. If I want chocolate I have it, I just don’t eat it everyday. If I want ice cream (as I did last night) I have it and enjoy it. Moderation.

Learning about balance and throwing out all the fad diets has been my biggest achievement. You do not have to cut out food groups, shake diets will screw up your body and mindset, cutting too much almost always ends in a binge. You can do it with a calorie counter app and good planning alone. No need to spend loads on meal replacements or ready made foods.

Nourish to flourish! Good food in, good things will return. Understand that weight loss is not a downhill slope, it’s a mountain range and that’s normal and ok! Move more and eat less. Reduce white carbs but still allow some when needed. Increase green veggies. Eat lean protein. Gluten is not the enemy. Reduce red meat and sugar. Have eggs and dairy, yes especially full fat!

My main advice? Focus on your why. Why do you want to get healthy? Why are you doing this? Why is it important to you? With a strong why, you cannot fail.

You can find balanced and no nonsense diet advice in the book It Starts With The Egg. This has really helped me to stop cutting so much abs learning that food is just that, food.

So this is where the next chapter starts in our journey

Healing naturally

There are a wide range of things I wish I had known a year ago. Today I want to tell you about the amazing power of castor oil packs and fertility massage! I can not recommend these enough. They help to ensure your womb is fully emptying after your period, release toxins and promote good digestion.

The mini fertility massage is included below and should be done everyday from when you finish bleeding to just as you see your pre ovulation temperature rise. Do not do again until after your next period. To track bbt, I use the Femometer app as it syncs with my thermometer and offers much better tracking than flo or ovia. I only track bbt and do ovulation strips.

Only do castor oil packs after you finish your period for 4 days max before you ovulate. Never do during or after ovulation or during your period. Only do for 30mins as it can end up making you have an upset stomach. It’s important to combine with a fertility massage prior to doing it.

You need organic castor oil, 1 large towel, 1 small towel, flannel or a cloth, plastic tub and a hot water bottle. You can also use plastic wrap over the flannel to protect your hot water bottle, but I don’t bother as mines older and fabric covered.

Pour castor oil in the tub and soak your flannel until saturated, needs to be wet but not dripping, be careful as it can stain fabric. I then pop the lid on and place it on top of my hot water bottle.

Do the massage whilst laying on the large towel. Do not rush it, take time to feel what you are doing.

Place the flannel on your lower belly, put the hot water bottle on top, cover with smaller towel and relax. Replace the flannel in the tub and reuse 4x then wash or discard. I do on my front and lower back for 30 minutes each.

You will notice some old material coming away over the next few days, this is normal and a good sign that things are clearing out. You may also feel a bit tired after doing it as the toxins are being released. Do not panic if your period comes a bit earlier or is lighter the first cycle of doing it.

I also get an Arvigo fertility massage once a month as a deeper treatment. It’s so important to get some self care and connect with your body.

Medical approaches are important, but when you hit the wall of unexplained infertility, it could well be time to try something else before more expensive treatments.

Allana x

Finding Hope Again

So it’s been an age. So much has happened. Not only the madness of lockdown but so many other things.

Last time I wrote, I think we were stuck in limbo and just being told to wait. Our alternatives to that being to rush into Clomid and then IVF. Two very expensive and frankly extreme approaches in our mind.

We were deflated. Having spent close to £2,000 on tests – which I am grateful for getting – and 20 minute appointments where we were told that nothing was wrong, that it would happen. Just wait. It‘s probably your weight – despite tests proving the opposite to be true. We couldn’t shake a feeling that we were missing something.

So I asked for advice on a UK fertility forum and was recommended some more alternative methods alongside a medical approach. Now for those that know me they will know I’m all for a more alternative approach. Life experience has proven time and again that there is more than just a black and white view.

So off to Google I went to find out what options we had nearby. I soon found myself on a lovely site for a clinic just a stones throw away from our existing one, great because it is only 15 minutes away. So I typed a huge essay detailing our entire story, from our fast conception of Jack, my struggles with hg, my clotting disorder misdiagnosis, poor care when in labour, Jacks premature birth, his loss, our lives since, the endless tests and dead ends.

To my surprise and delight I received a response the very next day, already a huge improvement. The email was a both reassuring and proactive. We soon arranged an appointment to have a Zoom chat.

Just a week later Mark and I sat nervously waiting to “meet” our new Fertility Specialist. Having gathered all our test results and information we felt prepared but worried, what if this was another path to nowhere?

Almost 2 hours later we ended the call. We felt cleansed, lighter and above all, we felt heard. Going through our story in minute detail, discussing our tests and airing all the concerns and secret thoughts we both had clung to, we were exhausted. But we had a plan.

The wonderful Lucy had enlightened us to a few things that my tests had shown and when combined with my struggles to lose weight, short cycle (average 24 days) and typically early ovulation (days 8-11 roughly) it was clear we had a few things to address.

We had been left with the promise of a plan in just a few days, Lucy wanted to go away and really consider everything we discussed and our medical results.

A few days later a huge essay dropped into my inbox and blew my mind. I was right, something was wrong. It wasn’t just my weight (that is more of a symptom) there was something more. Not “unexplained infertility” but very much explainable. Mild PCOS (it’s a spectrum condition and you don’t actually have to have issues with your tubes or ovaries to have it), short cycles combined with too early ovulation and a possible short luetal phase or both causing implantation and/or egg maturing to be very difficult.

The long and short of it being that these things are solvable with time and some effort. PCOS reacts well to low gi diets and regular exercise. Some supplements are scientifically proven to lengthen cycles and therefore move ovulation. Allowing time for eggs to ripen, fertilise and fully implant before a new cycle begins.

I eat gluten free or low sugar carbs and steer clear of white carbs as much as possible, with lots of lean protein and healthy fats. I track my food and weight daily on MyFitnessPal to keep myself accountable and it works for me. (Macros C 20, 40 P and 40 F).

I still have dairy (it’s a myth you have to give it up on low gi – see diabetes uk) I just go for skimmed milk and lactose free as much as I can, but not always. I balance my daily calories out. I do calorie count but only as a goal, I don’t freak out if I’m 50-100 over. Tomorrow is a new day and I’m exercising anyway.

I also take some supplements that are proven to work well for PCOS and all recommend by my fertility clinic (please don’t self prescribe as some supplements can have the opposite effect on fertility).

It’s already making a huge difference to my body. I’m dropping weight daily and I feel great! I’m also no longer having some of the symptoms I was (chin hairs being one of the more glamorous ones). My cycle has started lengthening and I have managed to move my ovulation day by 3 days this month. Using diet, mindfulness, exercise and supplements alone.

We still have a few months to really let things start working but that’s ok. The more weight I lose the better, less strain on my hips and back ready for next time. Plus being a lower weight reduces my chances of having a premature birth, HG and other complications (although it’s likely that HG is unavoidable).

It’s ok to ask for a second opinion! You know your body and you know when something isn’t right. I have struggled all my life with my weight, I have done every diet and fitness regime. I would be in a calorie deficit and still not losing. It’s been a huge problem and something I have beat myself up with everyday. Having resorted to extreme measures to achieve “skinny” in the past. It’s dominated my life. Why can’t I be normal? Now I know why, I’m not “naturally heavy” I have PCOS. I’m insulin sensitive and don’t deal with carbs well.

The medical advice we got at our last clinic was unhelpful for us. That’s not necessarily their fault, western medicine has a clear route to treatment and it’s a well tread path. Tests > weightloss > time > clomid > iui or ivf. That’s all they have (more or less). For me that wasn’t the way.

Clomid makes you ovulate, I already ovulate. IVF helps low sperm counts or issues with your tubes and ovarian and or egg quality, Mark and I have none of those issues. We would have been like using a sledgehammer to push in a thumbtack. Firing out more eggs each month pointlessly. Wasting them.

We often found our concerns brushed away. I remember at our last appointment that I started crying, so fed up of waiting and nothing happening, I was immediately told to get therapy… ignoring the fact I’m a bereaved mother who has been through a lot and this is supposed to be a safe place. It was the last straw.

I am glad we got the tests we did done at our last clinic as it’s good to know nothing is wrong. But just looking at normal approaches to fertility is not the only way. We now have both a medical plan alongside a more emotional route and it just feels right.

We have time on our side and we intend to use it to be as healthy both physically and mentally as we can. It’s a long game, but it will be worth it in the end.

For the first time in a long time I can see an end to this limbo off in the distance. We will get there, we will be ok.

Allana x

Inner peace

So it’s been an age since I updated. Life has gotten in the way yet again.

Our continuing journey of healing is everlasting and one that has its many ups and downs. Sometimes it’s easy to get overwhelmed and I admit that over the past few months I have struggled a lot. The thought that there was something we were missing kept gnawing at me. I was convinced that there must be something fundamentally wrong with me. Clawing for the whys and having the unknowns became too much. I was angry, hating everyone who was pregnant. Butter that they had what I should. Fury whenever anyone was annoyed with their children. Something had to change.

We decided after having exhausted what our wonderful NHS was allowed to do for us, to go private. We contacted an incredible fertility expert Dr Dooley at the Poundbury Fertility Clinic. He’s a very well respected expert in his field, one of the best in fact. After a few weeks wait we travelled to our first appointment. He read though everything, we came equipped with test results, cycle charts and 2 years extensive knowledge of all things ttc. He quickly got the ball rolling.

Yes we seemed fine, both in very good health. I felt flooded with relief, so often at every nhs appointment my weight would be paraded as the reason. Yes, I am overweight but I workout 5x a week and eat healthily, this is reflected on paper…low blood pressure, no diabetes, no thyroid issues and good resting heart rate. Mark, despite having Crohn’s disease is also in perfect health. Boxes ticked moving on.

I explained that we had been trying to not put pressure on it, almost given up trying. He said you must never do that. Again relief. How many stories has well meaning people told me about people getting pregnant after giving up?! Countless. He said it’s simple, sperm needs to meet the egg. If they aren’t in the right place at the right time that won’t happen. No tricks, no de stress, no magic pills (just folic acid), no standing on your head, just science.

First things first. Check my egg reserves, my progesterone levels and my tubes for blockages. 1 month later and here we are, I have fine egg reserves for my age, no blockages and I do ovulate but very early. The whys, the it’s me, the there’s something wrong with me thoughts have gone. Things are happening and we will get there. I know that now. It just may take a bit longer than we hoped.

My peace of mind has been further improved by some small changes I have made:

  • Removing the Facebook app from my phone so I’m no longer bombarded with baby news and other stressors
  • Yoga and Pilates for some good toning and self care sessions
  • Meditation for anxiety and stress, again taking time for me
  • Swimming and boxing for extra cardio
  • Continuing with reducing sugar and processed foods
  • Eating good quality meat and dairy and not cheap products – leaner cuts mostly
  • Getting a good balance of healthy fats and carbohydrates
  • Loving my figure and nourishing my body correctly, not being so damn hard on myself

Try some of these yourself or make your own goals. Remember it doesn’t have to be all or nothing. Goals can be fluid and changed. Don’t set rules, set life goals and milestones. Above all be mindful and be kind. Life is far too short for conflict and restrictions.

Allana x