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

Grief

I see this a lot. Loss parents in so much pain that they lash out. I’m guilty of feeling it myself. When someone posts about losing a grandparent I admit to feeling like that’s just the natural order. That may be but it’s still a loss and it’s still painful. A child losing its life will always be so so traumatic and wrong but it doesn’t make it a more valid loss. By stacking up reasons and proof that your pain deserves more validity you ignore that pain.

I remember when I was early into this, I was so angry all the time. I would see people with babies and hate them. Every other loss would grate me as it took away from Jack, or so I felt. Sympathetic and often pitting looks infuriated me. But again anger is a distraction technique. To move forward and get to where I am now I had to see what was really going on, break through those walls, heal my heart.

It’s not easy. It’s taking intense CBT (cognitive behavioural therapy) and a lots of safe place visualisation techniques and grounding. Trauma manifests in many ways, one is anger, another is distracting from the issue. It’s hard, it’s painful to have to deal with loss, but take it from me, it does get easier if you do. Getting help is the key, you don’t have to struggle alone.

I’m never going to forget Jack, how could I? But his memory now makes me proud and happy, it is always sad too but that’s ok, that’s normal. I no longer think of him and then am instantly angry and wanting to lash out. I still get angry but I make sure I use my cbt tools to get through that and deal. Anger is ok, hurt is ok, it is wrong that i don’t have my baby, it is unfair, but I don’t want to live my life thinking of Jack that way. I don’t have to hurt or hate others for that to be real.

So next time you see a friend or family member sad that they have lost a grandparent, aunt, dog etc. Be kind, be loving and remember it’s their emotion and it doesn’t take away from your pain.

– Allana x

One day at a time

So it’s been awhile since I’ve posted. Over the last 2 months I have been taking time to focus on myself, going to therapy once a week and getting physically healthy too.

Therapy isn’t without it’s ups and downs. I have found that the hardest and most difficult times are the ones that make all the difference. Finding what feels uncomfortable and unravelling those emotions is progressing. There have been lots of unexpected realisations, a big one being that I felt I let Jack down. Not just by my body not keeping him safe, but by losing hope in the end. This was a surprise to me as in my front brain (what I call the conscious brain) I didn’t and don’t feel that way. That said, it’s always the “what ifs” that play on your mind.

Letting go of my need to comfort and be there for others is a personality trait that I struggle with. It’s how I am, but in being people’s rock and staying strong I have neglected myself. Being able to throw my hands up and say “I’m struggling, I’m angry, I’m heartbroken” is ok. Telling people to go elsewhere for comfort, is ok. Finally knocking down my walls and just being sad/angry/hurt/broken has been a great move forward. It hasn’t been easy for those close to me to handle sometimes, I never realised how much of a resolve I have. How I’ll fight kicking and screaming before I’ll shed a tear and “cause a scene”. Realising that the world will keep turning and that no one expects me to be ok and so strong as I have been is liberating.

I’m still very much a work in progress but I feel more and more like my old self. I feel that fight and need to keep going returning. I’m not quite at a run yet, but I’m definitely at a slow jog.

– Allana x

P.S. I will be doing some fundraising for baby loss awareness month this October. Please feel free to share my JustGiving link or if you have friends who need t-shirts, hoodies or baby grows visit my shop (www.shop4tshirts.co.uk) and 10% will be donated.

PTSD

So there’s a part of this road that I haven’t really shared with anyone. Not only am I traveling on the grief cycle but I also have ptsd which triggers my existing anxiety. It’s a hard thing to live with and be able to grieve fully. This is something we are both struggling with on a daily basis.

Ptsd is when your brain gets stuck following trauma. In my case it means I smell newborn smell and get silent clips of times with Jack in NICU. It’s like when you look at a memory except I can’t place exactly when the clip happened, there’s no narration or sound, it’s a very short memory clip. Anything can set it off and it happens at least once or twice a day. It’s a split second but it’s just stopping my progression though grief to moving on. This then triggers my anxiety which in turn pushes the negative depressive thoughts to the surface.

All in all it’s been a tough time and we are both taking steps to get through. I’m back getting cbt and just looking after me. I tend to try and look after others or make excuses for shitty people so that I can have an easier life. Mark does a very similar thing. No more. We are both putting ourselves and immediate family (including close friends) who matter and are there for us first. We have cut out people who have negatively impacted us. People who care and are important will always understand and be there in one way or another.

Self healing isn’t always obvious, it’s sometimes first accepting you need to let go. That maybe things need to get worse before they can get better. It’s a long road ahead but I truly believe that Mark and I will get there.

– Allana x

Mama Orca ❤️

Not my writing but I felt it appropriate:

This story has been moving millions around the world. #Tahlequah is every #grieving #mum.

Day 10. The female orcas are now taking turns helping the Mama Orca carry her dead baby across the sea… so the grieving Mama Orca can eat and rest.

This is grief. This is love. This is true, compassionate grief support.

THIS – THIS IS HOW IT SHOULD BE DONE.

Sadly this is not usually the kind of grief support the brokenhearted receive in our grief illiterate culture.

This is such a heartbreakingly beautiful visual of love and support. The orcas are showing us how it should be done. Step in. Show up. Lead with your heart. Feel your friend’s broken heart. Let it break you open. Carry each other’s burdens. Grief shared is grief divided. Your friend or family member needs you— more than you know. Literally step in, show up, and help carry the weight of grief. It’s too heavy for one person to carry alone.

The female Orcas are literally carrying this mama’s 400 pound dead baby across the ocean WITH her and FOR her. I have never before seen such a beautiful display of solidarity. Of community. Of compassion. Of love. This is how we need to support our grieving, heartbroken friends.

My wish is that every grieving person in the world would feel THIS supported, loved, held— carried.

It pains me to know this kind of support is not the norm for most grieving people.

We need to do better.

We can do better.

We MUST do better.

FULL ARTICLE: http://www.abedformyheart.com/I-will-carry-you/

#grief #loss #abedformyheart #loveneverdies