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

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

Spring

It’s no secret to those who know me well, that I adore spring. So unsurprisingly I have been full of enthusiasm lately. My mindset has shifted recently, things are changing. The grief cycle is ever turning in a small way, but I would say that I’m no longer trapped in it. I wear it like a ring on my finger, it’s no longer a noose around my neck.

It’s ok to have a shit day. Can we just say that together, loud and proud. I have stopped trying to push emotions down until they explode. That isn’t a healthy way to be. Emotions are there to be felt, to be recognised and let go. I found myself getting angry and snappy and knew it had to stop. I had to breakdown, let it out, walk it out and refresh. You can’t walk around carrying that weight and piling more angst on top. You will crumble.

Part of this change has been adding meditation back into my daily routine. Each time i feel the icy talons of anxiety clawing at my chest I take 3 minutes and refresh. Get some clarity and start anew. It’s been like a deep breath of fresh spring air.

If you want to start meditating I can fully recommend the calm app. There are many others that are free, but this is the best one i have used. You can do a trial initially before you buy it to see if it works for you. Another app I have used is Headspace which is worth a try.

I am loving working out and filling my body with good and healthy things. Sure I still have the odd treat, but it’s ok. You have to live your life and find balance. It’s easy when you have a reason that motivates you more than anything else. My why is this:

  • To be healthy
  • To carry a baby to term
  • To conceive again
  • To be there for my family
  • To love myself
  • To respect myself
  • To fit into my size 10 jeans – got to have one silly one too

Without a decent why, you will never reach your goals. You can follow whatever fad diet, lifestyle choice or exercise plan you want, but if you don’t have motivation, you are very likely to give up.

Through healthy change, I have started to see real progress in my fitness and eating plans. I am enjoying what I’m doing and I genuinely look forward to working out. When you feel great you want that to continue.

Positive mindset, positive life. That doesn’t mean you ignore the bad – quite the opposite – it means you tackle it face on, see it for what it is on its own. Don’t stack up every bad thing that’s ever happened to you as proof of why you should suffer, that helps no one and isn’t realistic. Surround yourself with people who care and check in, this goes both ways. I am so lucky that I have wonderful people around me. We check in with each other, give support or space, as well as a firm talking to if one of us needs it.

You need people who are your safe place. Those who you can be hysterical with, say all the dark and twisty things to, and know that they know you are ranting. They will let you get it out and then give you a hug and not judge. Sometimes you need to get the words out of your head so they can’t fester. No I don’t believe ‘I’m never going to have another baby’, but in that moment I needed to say it out loud. My friends let me say that and more, they didn’t pity me, (no crying emojis, my pet hate) just kind and sane words after I’m done. Find your safe places, hold them close and be theirs in return.

Plant some seeds, get your hands dirty. It’s important to reconnect with the earth and take a few quiet minutes to reflect. Can you be kinder? Is a friend struggling? Could you reach out? Are you being fair? We can all benefit from a little mindfulness. Try slowing down, put down the phone and just breathe.

– Allana x

Now

So it’s been an age since my last update. That’s mostly due to life getting in the way but also a result of me not being sure whether I could keep doing this blog.

It’s been a comfort to me, somewhere I could write what happened, at times vent my anger. Recently though it’s felt like a shrine. Like a grave. I have struggled with that as i don’t have that need to prove Jack existed anymore. I know he did.

I have moved forward and back. It’s a given that I miss him. It’s how it is. I just cannot dwell on it. I’m so sick of everything being a constant reminder of it in the negative. I need to, no, I have to move forward. Not just to heal but to have a happy life.

No one tells you about the after. When you’re in this limbo period that follows the first year. The sudden stretch of minutes, hours, days and years, all looming ahead. You crumble. The last month has felt hellish at times, isolated and not quite real. But I have come to realise that in order to live, to survive I have to put one foot tentatively out into the unknown and let myself fall or fly.

Health comes from finding some inner peace. Ridding yourself of conflict and negative positivity. It is ok to be sad, even if it makes others uncomfortable. Anger is natural, feel it. Happiness doesn’t need to be followed by guilt, let yourself smile.

There was one morning where I woke up and the sun was bright, I could hear nature outside and this huge wave of calm washed over me. I didn’t recognise it at first but I felt so happy and just optimistic. There was a familiar sense of completeness that I hadn’t felt in so long. I am ok.

Going back to the gym and reuniting with the great friends I have made there has been healing for me. I forgot that I had this whole world I used to love. Focusing on that and getting a routine is getting me back on track.

Some harsh truths from those closest to me have really opened my eyes over the last day or so. I have been stagnating. Going backwards. I can’t do that. It’s good to reset and step back and really look at yourself. Only you can change you. No one else.

Things are moving, not always in an upwards line, my steps often falter, but I’m not giving up. And right now, that’s a small victory.

– 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.