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Finally, now we are in the second trimester I feel I’m in a position to write this post. I was so terrified that if I wrote this before our 12 week scan and the worst happened, having this post in writing would just be horrifically painful. Now we are at 15 weeks I’m feeling more comfortable about sharing our secrets of the last 18 months and the story of one of the biggest challenges in my life. This might be a long, emotional post – so if you fancy a read, you might want to grab yourself a cuppa, a couple of biscuits or a slice of cake and get comfy. It’s a bit of a bumpy ride.

The Beginning

Both V and I always knew we wanted children, we talked about it very early on in our relationship and after a couple of years of living together we took the first steps with a visit to the fertility clinic to discuss our options on how to do it. This included all sorts of fertility tests, legal documents and even a counselling session – looking back now I laugh at how nervous I was at such simple tests, little did I know this would be the first of many, many visits to the clinic and way more intrusive procedures down the line. This was just the start to our emotional journey – some of the results of our tests were not exactly as we expected and we were served our first batch heartbreaking news, so before we even began – we had lots to deal with. With long waiting lists at the clinic we had a couple of months to digest and plan a method – this journey was not going to be as easy as we thought.

IUI and Heartbreak

In the new year of 2016, after a rocky end to 2015 following the tests, we decided to go ahead with a procedure called IUI (Intrauterine insemination). This involved ultrasounds every other day to check my cycle and on the day of ovulation, the procedure was carried out. Its a really simple procedure, no worse than a smear test and I had no medication at this point so it was the least intrusive of the procedures. Little did we know it would come with such heartbreak. We attempted two cycles of IUI, with both of them ending in ‘chemical pregnancies’. For some reason, I was getting pregnant but in both occasions it only lasted a couple of days, my body just seemed to reject the thought of it and with excruciating cramps, I lost both of our first potential babies within 2 weeks of the procedure.  We were devastated, I can’t even put into words how I felt. I had every hope and faith it would work but I felt like my own body had let me down, I felt broken like there was something wrong with me. I questioned if I’d ever be able to get pregnant if even the professionals couldn’t do it with perfect timing and accuracy. Around me all of my friends were getting pregnant and this was a real low point in my life. We took a month off to let my body recover and considered our options.

Choosing IVF and receiving the medication

We went back to the clinic for a consultation, they advised us we could try IUI again, but the same thing might happen. I felt emotionally, I couldn’t handle another chemical pregnancy and at £1200 a try we also couldn’t afford to try it with such a small success rate. We decided instead we would put all of our eggs in one basket (literally) and go for the biggest, scariest and most expensive method of getting pregnant – IVF (Invitro Fertilisation). In all honesty, the thought of the procedure absolutely terrified me, but I decided not to overthink it and take each day by day as it came – I think thats the bottom line of how I coped through it all. We signed our names on the dotted line (and paid the excruciating fee of thousands of pounds) and the Dr began to order my medication. With this, she taught me how to inject myself safely and talked through some of the side effects the medication would cause, I was in for a real rollercoaster!

injections-2

injections

One of the most nerve wracking and memorable days of the IVF journey was the day the medication arrived. Delivered by courier, two big boxes arrived packed with various bottles, different sized needles, sharps bins and more. I laid it all out on the carpet at home and just stared at it. The severity of what we’d signed up for sunk in. I was going to have to take all this medication and do some crazy things to my body. Was I going to be able to do it? So many thoughts crossed my mind. I packed the box up and hid it in the cupboard until the Dr gave us a start date and tried not to worry. Secretly, my box of meds was like a little monster hiding in the back of the cupboard, looming over me and reminding me how terrifying things were going to get over the next few weeks.

Injections

If I’m totally honest, injecting myself wasn’t too bad at all. The first one was by far the worst and it really is a ‘mind over matter‘ situation. It took me ages to actually make that first move and sink the needle into my skin, it’s such an unnatural thing to purposely hurt yourself, you get a weird mind-block that has to be overcome. Once I had done one or two, I soon realised they didn’t hurt too much (especially if I numbed the area with an ice pack or numbing cream) and I was able to do my daily injections quicker and easier everyday. During the first stage of IVF I had to inject myself once a day for around a week, then twice a day for about 2/3 weeks. The injections then continued after the treatment, but thats a joy I’ll tell you about later! 😉

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Left – My first injection and my sullen nervous face | Right – A couple of weeks in, I have a little system set up with Youtube videos to keep me company as I numb my stomach with an ice pack and draw up my medication.

So, the first phase of IVF is called ‘down regulation‘ – the injections sort of ‘switch off’ your system, forcing you into a state of temporary menopause. With this phase you get headaches, hot flushes, tiredness and just generally feel pretty awful. This lasted about 7-10 days (I think?) and I felt pretty damn awful like I was living under a cloud of pressure.

Next up you start a phase called ‘stimming‘ – the injections in this phase stimulate the ovaries to produce extra eggs. Usually when you ovulate, you produce one egg, but stimming will cause you to create a lot more, which all come in a follicle the size of about a grape (when fully grown) so you can imagine how heavy and uncomfortable this stage was at the end! At this point, I visited the fertility clinic every other day for an ultrasound to check on my follicles so the clinic to catch them at their very best point!

ovaries

Ultrasounds of my ovaries (left – right) – this shows how the medication works, the black circles are follicles (containing eggs) – Watch them grow! The last picture was my last scan where my ovaries were so full they were ‘kissing’. Uncomfy, but cute, right?

Egg Collection

The final stage of this post (but by no means the last in IVF!) is going to be my egg collection. This was BY FAR the scariest part of IVF. Just as I was a hormonal explosion waiting to happen, the clinic called me in for an operation. As my first ever operation, I can’t tell you how nervous I was. As you will be in the room with your eggs, you have to arrive with no make-up on, having washed in unscented products, you can’t even wear deodorant so it’s all rather strict. I arrived early and was taken to change into my hospital gown and wait in a side room for my operation. Sadly, V was not allowed to wait with me and my operation was delayed for over an hour so my nerves just grew and grew. I felt tearful, shaky and alone. I owe a big THANK YOU at this point to my lovely friend Kirstie who sent me funny Youtube videos to watch and was constantly whatsapping me, it really did save me from meltdown.

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The only photo that I’ll ever show on my blog without make-up – but I really wanted to show the reality of my fear before my operation…..

Soon, my time arrived and I was walked into theatre. My heart thumping I laid on the bed and chatted to the anaesthetist, feeling maybe the most scared of all my life. He was so lovely and seeing my nerves he said he could give me something similar to a ‘champagne cocktail’. He popped something magical into my cannula and within 30 seconds my nerves had disappeared. I found myself chatting away to the nurses about beaches and holidays and all sorts. The next thing I knew, I woke up and the procedure was done! I didn’t even feel myself going to sleep, it was crazy. The team were wonderful and handled my nerves so well. I wish I hadn’t been so scared as it really was not that bad at all – I felt nothing. If I had to do it again, I don’t think I’d be even a fraction as nervous, but I guess it was always the fear of the unknown – plus the long wait gave me time to let my mind whir. If you’d like to know what happens during egg collection, see this link as I thought I’d save you from the squeamish details!

After a few minutes of feeling a bit dozy I was back to my usual self, although somewhat sore (less than I imaged though!). The nurse excitedly showed me the results, I had created 14 high quality eggs (a great result) and my little potential babies to be were already on their way to the lab for the next stages. The relief was just overwhelming, I could have cried – all of those injections WORKED! And, the amazing thing, 14 is my lucky number too. I just had this feeling everything was meant to be and felt so proud of myself for facing my fears. The hard bit is over. Time to have a rest while the lab work their magic.

So, I’ll leave you at this point, I decided to break this post into two section as this has got very long already! We now have 14 little eggs at the lab, I’m resting and eagerly awaiting to hear the process of my eggs. Will they turn into embryo’s in the lab? So many questions!

Join me in my IVF story part 2 – coming next week!

If you are thinking of/or going through IVF or fertility treatment and have any questions, please do email me or tweet me, I’d be so happy to talk to you and give you any advice 🙂

Pin for later:My IVF Story - Part 1

 

GBK

If you’ve not been down to Brighton Marina in a while, next time you go, you’ll barely recognise it. There has been so much work going on and brand new developments, its all looking rather posh these days. Along with a brand new shiny block of seaview flats, has come a hoard of new restaurants to choose from. Over the next few weeks you’ll spot quite a few reviews from the Marina as I’m gradually working my way around them all, working out which are the best new additions to the already extensive collection of eateries.

First up, the brand new GBK (Gourmet Burger Kitchen). Located just off the boardwalk, GBK is in prime position as the first restaurant that’ll catch your eye as you walk down the promenade. The inside is funky, modern, light and airy with plenty of outdoor seating too. I reckon it’s going to be rather popular.

So, a few weeks ago we wanted to take our lovely Japanese student, Aoi, for a farewell night out with us before she travelled back to Japan, so we went down to the marina to go to the cinema (to watch the BFG, which as amazing, by the way)  plus, we were kindly invited into GBK for a pre-movie meal and to treat Aoi to one last ‘British'(ish) experience – burgers by the sea!
menu

The menu has so many different burger-based options, there is something for everyone – even those with specialist dietary requirements. As a vegetarian, I loved that I could choose from 3 different veggie options, or I could chose any meat burger and swap out the beef for a bean patty. Suddenly the options were endless! If burgers aren’t your thing (and you still chose to visit GBK?!) then there are options of salads, or ‘Naked’ burgers without the bun too (loving the strapline for this too –  “Suns Out, Buns Out!“) Plus there are a whole hoard of sides ranging from skinny to chunky fries, coleslaws, salads and dips too. Of note, GBK pride themselves on using only 100% British prime beef, the freshest of ingredients and create all sauces and dips from scratch every day in the kitchen.

inside

window

Burgers at GBK Brighton Marina

I’m loving the scrabble letter signs!

When our food arrived, we soon found out the burgers are just MASSIVE! I mean how do you even start to eat that?! Packed with toppings, salad, cheese and sauces, they certainly do not scrimp when it comes to putting together a mean burger. First up, we have the Taxi Driver – with American Cheese, House Onion Ring, Cajun Relish, Smoked Chilli Mayo, Dill Pickle and Salad. This was our Japanese student, Aoi’s choice of burger. I think from the silence that fell over the table and her clean plate, she thoroughly enjoyed it!

burgers

Taxi Driver with Beef Burger

burger2

Taxi Driver with Veggie Bean Patty

I also went for the Taxi Driver but I chose to swap out the beef burger for a veggie bean patty. I did enjoy my burger but found the bean patty to be a little on the dry side. Think I needed a lot more relish on mine and it was looking a little overdone.

burgers3

V went for the Billy the Kid – with Grilled Goats Cheese, Bourbon Mushrooms, House Onion Ring, Truffle Mayo, Rocket, Pickled Onions. This looked like a much more appetising veggie option and I have to admit, I did have a bad case of food envy, it looked absolutely delicious!

As well as the burgers above, Kirstie also ordered the Classic Beef Burger – with House Mayo, relish, Salad. But being the bad blogger I am, I didn’t get a good snap of it – can you blame me with all this food on our table as a distraction?!

Along with our meal, we all ordered sides of skinny fries, which have got to be literally the skinniest fries I’ve ever seen! V being a fan of the skinny fry was in her element, however I like something a little more chunky, so next time will be ordering the chunky skin-on fries or the sweet potato fries as I like a little more substance to my fry!

burger

Lastly, a snap to show my burger was nearly as big as my face! (Excuse the tired face, this was mid-first trimester, I couldn’t tell if I was sick, hungry, tired, or everything in between!)

Overall, we were in two minds about our meal at GBK – the meat-eaters of our group loved their burgers, with the veggies appreciating all the choice, but wondering if the dry bean burger needs a slight re-tweak in the recipe. We were also divided over the skinny fries and think next time, chunky is the way forward.

These are all minor details and this wouldn’t put me off re-visiting GBK at all  – next time I think I’d choose the goats cheese burger with sweet potato fries though! We had visited within the first week of opening so I’m sure the restaurant is finding it’s feet too, so I’d be keen to go back and give it another go soon.

You can visit GBK on Brighton Marina by just rocking up, or if you are organised you can book online or ‘order and collect’ on their website!

 

We were kindly offered a complimentary meal at GBK in return for an honest review, all words and opinions are my own. 

chill-out

As my life has changed over the last few months, I’ve had to accept that for the time being I need to adjust to a new slower, pace of life. My body needs all the rest it can get, so right now my partying days are numbered. Yet even with that urge to rest, I still can’t just sit around watching endless Netflix series. I have to keep myself busy in some way. With my ever-busy mind, I’ve recently been on the lookout for a few new relaxing hobbies, to replace my somewhat dwindling social life. Activities that still keep my mind ticking over, most importantly – I still get to see my friends (and not turn into a real hermit!) and get a bit of rest too.

Being pregnant doesn’t mean your life has to stop – I’ve realised you just have to make changes and listen to your body. So, this is what I’ve been up to over the last few months. These activities are not actually pregnancy specific at all, so if you find yourself with some time on your hands, maybe you’ll find inspiration from my list too 🙂

  • Pamper nights – As I’ve been feeling pretty rough on the inside, looking after the outside has really made me feel better. I’ve loved the extra time to myself to try new products and look after myself while I still have the time. I’ve been working my way through my The Body Shop At-home facial kit, some goodies from Bliss and doing DIY pedicures, it’s been blissful!
  • Discovering new magazines – With all this extra time on my hands I’ve been popping the kettle on, snuggling under a blanket and immersing myself in wonderful independent magazines, I’ve recently been loving Lionheart and Blogosphere with next on my list to devour being OhComely. I feel so disconnected with ‘mainstream’ magazines, so these beauties have been a real find. movie-night3
  • Crochet – I’ve most definitely rekindled my love of crochet. Not only is the gentle rhythm of crochet so relaxing but I’ve been excited to be making something for the baby too. As we don’t know the gender yet I’ve been making a sweet colourful blanket which is nearly finished. I’ve already picked out my next project (or ten!) and can’t wait to get going on them all!
  • Decluttering and sorting the house – They say you start nesting a little further on in pregnancy but it seems to have hit me already. I’ve been clearing out bagfuls of things I don’t need, giving away make-up and skincare products to my friends and family and making lots of space and room for our new arrival! Suddenly my life has gone into perspective and I don’t feel the need to keep 10 different moisturisers anymore. It’s also amazing how rewarding decluttering can be, I feel a true sense of relaxation when I’ve cleared and tidied a space. We have a long way to go but the house is looking different already.
  • Movie Nights – As I wasn’t feeling too much like going out, I decided it would be fun to hold a movie night for a group of my friends. We got together the snacks, popcorn, drinks and a classic movie, I even opened up the sofa bed in the living room to really make it an old school ‘sleepover’ style, it was just like old times! movie-night
  • Learning to cook new recipes – I don’t have the best repertoire in the kitchen so I thought now is the time to give my culinary skills a brush up. I’ve been trying to teach myself 2 simple recipes per week (mainly all sourced on Pinterest) and learn some new skills in the kitchen. I’ve been teaching myself to make Buddha Bowls, Creamy Garlic Spaghetti and various different blends of overnight Oats, just to name a few of my creations so far! Of course, eating them is the best bit too!
  • Turning off social media – The most important step of adapting to my slower pace of life has been accepting I can’t keep up with my blog and social media all the time. At first, the thought of missing something or being behind on my blog sent shivers down my spine  but now I’m quite used to it. I’ve actually found it works better for me to have time away, then when I do eventually return, I have so many lovely things to read and catch up on. That continual ‘trying to keep up’ feeling is such a pressure, it had to go! As for my blog, I write when I feel like it, I can’t force it at the moment so I try to just go with the flow and not worry too much. I’ll get there eventually!

So thats what I’ve been up to. I feel like I’ve almost painted a picture of being housebound, but it’s not the case at all, I have been busy with blog events, restaurant reviews (hello mocktails!) and a few nights out too, but it has been a big life change already and I find if I go out for one evening, I need the next two at home to recover (even without alcohol – shocker!) so it’s all about adapting and finding a balance.

What do you like to do to relax at home? I’d love to hear your ‘active-but-relaxing’ hobbies!

*Includes collaborative link

Scorching Summer Giveaway Banner

Wahoo, it must be giveaway season as it’s time for ANOTHER giveaway. This time, I’ve joined in with a fantastic group of UK bloggers to offer this ‘Summer Scorching Giveaway’ to you all! This is my first collaborative giveaway with other bloggers, so I’m rather excited! It’s a fabulous idea, mainly as the prizes are so much BIGGER! Please do enter the competition below and check out the links of the other bloggers involved, they are all gems! 

GOOD LUCK!

As the weather turns colder, we decided to host a fabulous competition ‘Scorching Summer Giveaway’ to win some much needed Amazon Vouchers.

Bloggers have teamed up again to offer you an amazing prize, one that you can not miss out on.

Meet The Bloggers

UK Bloggers
Life in a Breakdown
Testing Time Blog
Chilling With Lucas
Mother Distracted
We Made This Life
Bump and Beyond
Precious Little Worlds
Hello Dizzy Miss James
Sally Akins
Hubby Helps
Really Missing Sleep
Spanish Mummy
One Frazzled Mum
From Aldi To Harrods
Culinary Travels
Miss Namy
Big Family Little Adventures
Mums The Law
Ickle Pickle’s Life
Petit Moi, Big World
The Sparkle Nest
Bark Time
My Life As A Mummy
Working Mum
Fizzy Peaches
A Moment With Franca
Cosmic Kick
Suburban Mum

THE PRIZE!

The Grand Prize will be a £150 Amazon Gift Card and the Runner Up Prize will be a £50 Amazon Gift Card.
*If the winner is a Non-UK resident then we will send over the prize through PayPal, equivalent to GBP.

The competition is open world wide, just simply enter via Rafflecopter below and complete all tasks to gain more entries.

Simply Answer the question ‘What is your ideal summer getaway and who would you go with?’

a Rafflecopter giveaway

#BeautifulBloom Flower Arranging Workshop with Marks & Spencers

Since redesigning our living room, I’ve discovered just how much of a difference a beautiful bouquet of flowers can make to a room. Flowers add so much life, colour and style to any space, but I rarely do anymore than take my flowers out of the wrapper and place them in a vase with water. When it comes to flower arranging and aftercare – I admit, I’m pretty clueless.

With my new found love for beautiful blooms, I jumped at the chance to attend a bloggers flower arranging workshop, hosted by the M&S Flower Expert team who had recently worked on the Chelsea Flower Show display, hoping to pick up some tips and tricks from the real professionals.

The event was situated in North London, quite a trek for a seaside girl like me, so I was truly out of my comfort zone. Thank goodness for Uber as I had no idea where I was going but as I arrived at a nondescript street in a part of London I’d never even heard of, the beautiful scent of flowers and light chatter of bloggers and cameras snapping away told me I was in the right place. It turned out, The Greenhouse was a real hidden gem –  the most perfect, light, airy space for flower arranging. It worked just perfectly.

#BeautifulBloom Flower Arranging Workshop with Marks & Spencers

#BeautifulBloom Flower Arranging Workshop with Marks & Spencers

#BeautifulBloom Flower Arranging Workshop with Marks & Spencers

#BeautifulBloom Flower Arranging Workshop with Marks & Spencers

After chatting to the other bloggers, a few nibbles and a glass of Prosecco we were ready to start arranging. First up, a talk by Marks & Spencer’s Product Manager and Flower Expert, Simon Richards to learn some insider flower arranging tips of the trade and to hear about our first project!

PROJECT #1

Our first project was inspired by the M&S display at the Chelsea Flower show. This year the team aimed to create a display to celebrate a ‘Carnival of Colour’. Bringing flowers from around the world together in a burst of colour to really capture the ‘Spirit of Summer’ feel.

Using colourful picnic plates, glasses and placemats along with an array of various coloured blooms, we learned from Simon how to create the perfect picnic table set up, just like the central part of the Chelsea display. I’ve never worked with flowers in this way and at first found it went a little against the grain to take a beautiful bunch of flowers and cut them right down, all to different sizes, some even being pulled apart – but once you get started decorating each place setting it becomes really affective and something I’d never have thought of doing.

#BeautifulBloom Flower Arranging Workshop with Marks & Spencers

#BeautifulBloom Flower Arranging Workshop with Marks & Spencers

BEFORE: My selection of flowers ready for arranging

#BeautifulBloom Flower Arranging Workshop with Marks & Spencers

AFTER: A colourful picnic place setting

#BeautifulBloom Flower Arranging Workshop with Marks & Spencers

From Above

#BeautifulBloom Flower Arranging Workshop with Marks & Spencers

Some of the other designs in the room! They were all so beautiful and so, so colourful and different. No two designs were the same.

Styling this look at home: 

As I don’t have a permanent picnic area set up in my home (although, how amazing would that be?!) I have found this look easier to incorporate by spreading each element out along my mantel piece. Using different size and height glasses with a bright coloured bloom in each gives a really stylish and unique look. I’ve also been placing one or two stems of hydrangea (my favourite) in a colourful bowl. This looks fantastic and they’ve lasted about 3 weeks a time. I think for my next dinner party, a complete place setting would make the perfect centrepiece so I’ll be trying it out again soon.

PROJECT #2

The next project was to style the classic bouquet of Roses.

Simon gave us a detailed talk about the M&S rose collection. He is truly passionate about his craft and knows his stuff. He explained where M&S source their gorgeous roses from, which was an eye opener to me –  I didn’t realise our roses have travelled so far to be with us. M&S stocks most of their roses from three main countries, Kenya and Columbia, with the very best roses coming from the Netherlands.

Next up, we had a go ourselves at putting together our own bouquet, using the spiral technique, taught expertly by Simon. We then hand tied our beautiful bouquets with natural twine and chose a vase from a selection of different sizes. This was SO much harder than it looks, Simon made it look so easy. As we got going I noticed there were a few confused faces around the room! I had thought I’d got my spiral technique together quite well, but when I placed my roses in the vase, instead of forming a lovely spiral they just spread out randomly, like I’d never arranged them in the first place. FAIL. I think I need a bit more practice in this department, but a few of the girls on my table who had done it before said it can take a few goes to master.

#BeautifulBloom Flower Arranging Workshop with Marks & Spencers

#BeautifulBloom Flower Arranging Workshop with Marks & Spencers

Bloggers practicing their spiral technique

#BeautifulBloom Flower Arranging Workshop with Marks & Spencers

#BeautifulBloom Flower Arranging Workshop with Marks & Spencers

My attempt: My spiral might not be perfect but roses looked beautiful nonetheless.

Styling this look at home: 

Something I hadn’t thought of when displaying a bouquet of roses is how different they can look when placed in different shape vases. I’ve been experimenting with different shape vases – finding that if the vase slopes inwards towards the top this gives the best control to the bouquet when creating this look.

TIPS ON FLOWER ARRANGING FROM THE M&S EXPERTS:

  • Trim off all the leaves and thorns to above the water line
  • Trim off at least half an inch (or to size of your vase) from each stem. Cut at an angle to allow them to take up as much water as possible.
  • Clean all vases and containers thoroughly before you place your flowers in.
  • Use the plant food supplied
  • Experiment and be creative! You don’t have to stick to the arrangement from the shop, create your own!

A big THANK YOU to M&S for having us for the wonderful workshop. I learned so much! You can can see the other bloggers creations, plus lots of lovely #beautifulbloom inspiration over on the M&S Pinterest board now.