#GourdGate.

So, yesterday, I had a couple of somewhat, unusual, cultural experiences.  I’m not sure that I’m fully recovered just yet, but, since so many of you loved my experience-oversharing on SnapChat, I figured I’d share it here, for prosperities sake.

I booked myself in for a massage at ‘my’ salon.  It’s the place I go for ALL my beautifying, my mani-pedis, mendhi/henna decorations, to have my hair washed, cut and blow dried and even my threading done too – it’s an all-round kinda salon, and, not only are their prices are great, but the girls who work there are so lovely – plus? They make really good tea, turn the lights off when they know I’m stressed out or tired, and they aren’t too chatty or imposing unless you want them to be.

It’s a tranquil, quiet little haven, in the ‘upscale’ part of town.  They always fit me in to the schedule, whether I give them a couple hours notice, or a couple days, and, typically speaking, I always come out with more than what I went in for – and they always make the extra time, for my extra services.  Yesterday, for example, I went in for a full body massage, and came out with a blow-dry accompaniment.

I’ve had my fair share of massages in both the UK and the US.  You go in, strip to your knickers, lie under a blanket/sheet and enjoy the experience – but the butt and boobs are off limits.  This was my first massage in India and it was, well, it was a little different.  I’m sure you can guess where I’m going with this.

I got a bum massage – and even my boobs got a good rub-down.

It came as quite the surprise!

One friend said she didn’t have it happen during her massage at a local hotel.  One friend said it’s pretty typical of massages in India (she comes here for work sometimes and has experienced it herself) and another friend said it’s pretty common, though typically they ask for permission, or at least give you a heads up.

It was, by no means unpleasant, or, in any way untoward, but it was just a little bit of a culture shock, and felt incredibly odd to be paying another human being to give my boobs a rub-down! LOL!  I guess they certainly aren’t kidding when they say ‘full body massage’! Ha!

Follow this by #GourdGate, within a matter of hours no less, and it was quite an enlightening day about Indian life and culture.

What, might you ask, was #GourdGate?

Well, rapt readers, let me tell you.

#GourdGate, was ordering, what I thought was the pumpkin in the picture below.

Little punkins.  Decorative punkins.  I only ordered one of each kind, because I wanted to make sure it was the right thing before I ordered a bunch for my Thanksgiving table décor.

What I got? Was in the picture below.  ACTUAL, you need to cook with this, pumpkin segments.

Which I promptly handed to Albert, the chef, who turned it in to pumpkin and potato soup.  Thankfully.

Now the hunt for garnish gourds continues… I think I’ve had more than my fair share of culture shock for this week, but? The silver lining? Was that I surely rocked a kick-ass hairstyle for the day…here’s to the next culturally different discovery!

A Woman, in a Man’s world.

img_0042A friend presented me with UFC Fight Night tickets as a “congrats you passed your yellow belt in Krav, here go watch live fighting for a night” gift.

I was THRILLED when my “kid” brother was able to get the night off work to come with me. I’ve taken him to WWE as a kid, but I had no interest in wrestling and didn’t know a damn thing back then, but, he enjoyed it, and I enjoyed watching him, watching something he loved.

Now we’re both older, and we’re both “in to” fighting, I was even more excited to share this experience with him. As adults, and having lived across the pond for so long, we haven’t, and don’t get much “just us” time, and this meant a lot to me.

img_0159The night was going well, and took an unexpected upturn as Rowan came back from a trip to the loo and announced that he had just walked past Amanda Cooper as he was coming back to his seat. Just casually milling around the concourse at the Odyssey, still in her kit, after having won her FIRST EVER UFC fight. He said he contemplated stopping for a picture, but there was a crowd swarmed around her, so he thought better of it.

I didn’t go to the toilet right away, and when I did, I had no expectation of seeing Amanda on the concourse, but as I was walking back to my door, I caught her in my peripheral. She was walking pretty quickly, flanked by two guys and I thought to myself, nah, I’ll leave her be.

I walked in my door, got to the top of the stairs and was one foot ready to descend, when I had a whole slew of thoughts that prompted me to quickly turn on my heel and go back out to see if, just on the off chance, I could catch up with her for a picture.

You see, my gifted tickets were for some pretty epic seats, Row B, in fact, and Amanda had walked past us (we were sat on the exit route from the octagon) after her fight, just as a bunch of lads sat down behind us.

One of them had clearly never seen a fight before in his life. He asked his friends if this was the “sport for people having a midlife crisis”, and while that comment was mildly funny to his friends, what got me and made me want to punch him (and all of his friends in their boy parts) was the fact he was a blatant objectifying, misogynistic douche bag – and they egged him on and found him hilarious.

I sat there, listening to him, my blood slowly boiling from a simmer, loudly objectify the octagon girl. Announcing any number of derogatory comments about her and how he wished he’d sat closer so he could see her, rather than the fighting – because of how “f’ing hot” she was.

And you know what? For the longest time? My entire goal in life was to BE that octagon girl. Skinny, pretty, big boobs – the epitome of everything society and the world tells you that you should BE as a woman.  Plus sized is a dirty word.  You need to BE beautiful.  Plus sized is NOT beautiful.

Even nowadays.

Sit pretty.
Look nice.

Be skinny.

Another guy behind me, boxed for Ireland. He boxed for eleven years and when I asked him if he coached or taught when he was done fighting, he replied no, he had three daughters. He was taken aback by my exclamation of “SO???” and said he’d never have LET them get in to boxing.

Girls don’t fight.
Sit pretty.
Look nice.

He asked us if we came to UFC often and a third member of their group said “well, she (referring to me) is a pro, she knows a lot about this” and I’ll never forget the pride in my brothers voice when he informed them, “she does this” (meaning fight) and the shock on their faces and in their voices when I said, “yeah, I fight”, and told them about my new found love of Krav.

The boxer also said (when the heavyweight class came up), that being hit by a 245lb dude would be like being hit by a “fucking bus”, and sniggered like 245 was so. Damn. Heavy.

And as my 245lb, fitter than I’ve ever been in my entire life, recent yellow belt/level 1 achiever in Krav Maga self, stood at the top of those stairs, ready to return to my seat, I was struck by a lightening bolt.

If the last six months of self discovery and badass training have taught me anything? It’s that I’d rather be a strong, capable badass that men at the very least fear and question my capabilities, but at most, respect.

Than be a woman who’s gawked at, drooled over and talked about like I’m a stupid, piece of meat whose whole existence is to “stand and look f*ckable, like a good girl”.

I’ll admit, the results of the recent US election are weighing on my mind of late. With the president elect being so outwardly degrading to women, and my mounting fear of contraception, abortion and other “women’s things” becoming harder and harder for women to access, rather than easier. I find myself, almost glad, that I don’t yet have a daughter, because my rage and pain for how backward and thinly veiled the worlds attitude towards women remains, isn’t easily translated into comprehensive speech right now.

But bet your bollocks to a barn dance, if I ever have a daughter? I will help her smash through that bloody glass ceiling with our boxing gloves leading the way and shouting a big F U to the men like those I successfully tried not to groin kick tonight at the arena.

img_0072So yes, I walked my butt back out on to the concourse and thankfully, Amanda hadn’t gotten too far. I walked up to her and she made a few guys who were ahead of me, wait a second, so I could take not one, but two pictures with her – my hand was shaking (so sue me, I got a little nervous walking up to her) and I hit the cancel button on snap chat instead of the save button and she graciously granted me a do-over.

In that moment I wanted to hug her, to tell her that she had inspired me, empowered me, and had given me pause to think about things for just a moment.

I wanted to tell her that she was the kind of woman I wanted my future daughters, nieces and Goddaughters to aspire to, pushing the boundaries of what society deems “acceptable” as a woman. Taking societies expectations of what a woman should be, and do and saying screw you, I want to do this instead, and doing it.

I wanted to tell her, that in that moment, she gave me the courage to do something I probably wouldn’t have done otherwise, and snapped this picture.

img_0098Which will forever remind me, that, I too, wish to, (and should) push those boundaries and challenge those expectations, vehemently, and for my kids (of either gender) to learn from example and do the same.

That girls can be both beautiful AND badass at the same time – the two aren’t mutually exclusive like we’ve all been led to believe from an early age.

And mostly? That fighting like a girl? Is a pretty epic compliment after all.

b82a0769copy

To the lady in the line…

Have you ever regretted *not* saying something?

Walking away from a situation and inwardly kicking yourself that you hesitated? Missed the moment? Wanted to have a time machine, rewind the last few minutes and get a do-over? Knowing *exactly* what you’d have said in that moment?

It happened to me, yesterday.

I think part of my hesitation was simply just shock and disbelief.  I just couldn’t quite wrap my brain around what was being said behind me in the Just Between Friends South Houston check out line.

Maybe some of you will relate? Maybe some of you will tell me that it’s a perfectly normal thought  process – and maybe some of you will tell me to wind my neck in and give over.  However, this set my blood boiling yesterday and I woke up this morning feeling no better.

I’m not typically a violent person.

OK, so I beat the ever living shit out of a fella when he hit my sister a decade and a half ago, but I’m not a naturally aggressive person.

But let me tell you about that time I fought every urge to punch a pregnant lady.

I missed an opportunity.

Not to punch her, so much as an opportunity to advocate, an opportunity to defend and an opportunity to educate – and for that, I feel a little guilty and a LOT disappointed in myself.

Let me explain.  I went to JBF yesterday, Col afforded me a couple hours toddler-free to do some shopping.  We’ve had three babies born in our circle in the last couple months, and there’s a couple still to come before the year is out.  While I was flicking through the rails of clothing, I bumped in to a lady a couple times.  We made small talk, she was telling me about just how much money she’d made in her JBF consigning, just how much she was spending on her soon-to-be-born little girl, who was being welcomed into the world by her two older brothers.

Me, being the enabler that I am, nodded and made the appropriate ‘think of all the money you’re saving in the long run’ noises of approval, as she held up some items for a second opinion.  Being more of an over-sharer than myself aside (and that’s really saying something) she seemed a pretty nice lady.

Fast forward to, what felt like, three days later.  JBF is great, don’t get me wrong.  It is.  But spending an eternity in a long, slow-moving line (because everyone is buying trolleys full of cheap kids clothes) is really what does me in.

I hear someone, who I later turn to glare at, and discover that it’s the one and the same lady that I’d chit-chatted to in the aisles of the clothing insanity.

She’s telling anyone who’ll listen (and a rather red-faced, heavily pregnant mother next to her – who clearly wants the ground to swallow her up for being a part of this conversation) that she’s pregnant with her first girl.  She fell pregnant ten years ago with her son and was disappointed that he wasn’t a girl.  When she fell pregnant with her second son, three years ago, she was even MORE disappointed that HE wasn’t a girl and how horribly difficult it is to live for SO LONG without having the baby girl she’s always dreamed of.  How overwhelming her disappointment has been and how at long last she’s finally thrilled to be pregnant.

Finally thrilled to be pregnant? After two healthy pregnancies and two, what I’m sure are gorgeous children.  She’s FINALLY thrilled to be pregnant, because she’s having a girl?

“Lady, are you fucking kidding me?”

I wanted to exclaim.

But, I, stupidly, bit my tongue.

“I’m surprised you didn’t say anything”, I was told three times yesterday.

Don’t rock the boat, I told myself.  Don’t get kicked out of a baby sale, I told myself.  You’ll burst in to tears and be unable to keep your shit together, I told myself.  Maybe you’re hearing her wrong, I told myself – and I listed any number of reasons NOT to confront this trumpet blasting in my ear.

On one hand? Society has conditioned us to stay quiet.

On the other? I’ve allowed myself to be conditioned.

And I stayed quiet.

I should have spoken up.

I should have advocated.

I wanted to grab this heavily pregnant, insensitive, rude and shallow woman and shake her….Ok, fine.  In the moment I wanted to punch her in her stupid face.  But I’d have settled for shaking and tell her what an amazing, precious gift she’s been given – TWICE so far and, God willing, a third time too.  Don’t be ungrateful.  Every child is a gift, a miracle.

I wanted to tell her that 1 in 8 people suffer from infertility and would sell their own mothers to be able to conceive even ONE healthy baby, and here her ungrateful self is bitching to a line full of mothers, many of whom, like me, have been in the position of wanting a child more than anything in the world and being unable to conceive.

I wanted to educate her, tell her, that some people have spent those ten years she was whining over not having a girl, those ten long, painful years, praying to have a child – regardless of gender.  Some people have spent those ten years having miscarriage after miscarriage, procedure after procedure and month after month of getting their period, when the only thing in the world they want is for there to be two lines on the Goddamned stick and she just wants a pink stick?

I wanted to pull up the fertility page, right here on my blog and let her read REAL stories, from REAL people about their struggles to get what she’s been gifted and has absolutely no concept of the value of.

But I didn’t.

I stayed quiet.

Instead? I sat in the car and fumed.

Cried tears of frustration, anger, disappointment in myself for a missed opportunity.

Tears for the me of only three short years ago, a month or so to the day, when I walked in to my fertility doctors office and underwent a procedure which, mercifully, resulted in the conception of my little ‘bubble’.  The bubble who grew into my loving, funny, stubborn, rambunctious, curious, little toddler, who is currently trying to help me type this blog post, while hitting keys and announcing what letter it is each time, repeated louder and louder each time, until I acknowledge that that is, in fact, ‘S’.

I wanted to tell her, that even when you do get pregnant after struggling with infertility, that it’s not the end – and I don’t just mean secondary infertility.  I mean, that for me, personally, and many others, if you do, eventually, GET pregnant, almost every day is a constant battle with fear and stress.  I spent my entire pregnancy worried, terrified that I was going to lose that which I’d tried and fought so hard to get in the first place.

Every morning I woke up, expecting it to be a dream, or some cruel joke.  I took pregnancy tests every day for weeks – even after my first scan – just to be sure they weren’t wrong.

Every time I went to the bathroom, I expected blood.

Later in my pregnancy, if bubble didn’t move for a little while, I was freaking out and hitting the ice cold drinks and something filled with sugar to make him move so I was reassured that he was ok.

I did everything I could to ensure that I had a healthy pregnancy and a healthy baby – including missing out on seeing Maroon 5 at the Houston Rodeo! (Heaven forbade!!)

I’ve cried, uncontrollable tears of relief, gratefulness and joy at each of the RESOLVE Walk’s of Hope I’ve been to since conceiving Lewis.  I’ve also cried tears of sorrow, pain and hope for those who haven’t yet been as lucky as I have, to reach their dreams.  I cried for my struggle and the struggles of any number of women

I think it’s safe to say that this was a steep learning curve for me, and I’d like to think that if there IS a next time, I won’t hold my tongue.  I won’t allow myself to convince myself that it’s OK to let things like that slide.  I won’t let the fact that I may burst out crying at someone, prevent me for bringing to attention how inappropriate and hurtful her comments were.

A friend told me last night that you can’t change the world and you can’t cure stupid.

I’m not sure I buy that.


The world will never change, if everyone and everything stays the same.

Maybe my speaking up would have had no effect whatsoever, maybe she’d have laughed me off and told me I was ridiculous, maybe she’s beyond help.  But maybe? Just maybe I could have been the change.  Or maybe? Even just one of ladies standing around her, (enduring her tales of woe about how she couldn’t have afforded a girl ten years ago, but how she’s in a MUCH better financial position now so she could afford every cute dress she’ll ever want or need) would have taken comfort in my words, and knew that they weren’t alone in thinking that this insensitive mare was OK in saying what she said.


She wasn’t.

Don’t bite your tongue.

Don’t stay quiet.

Be the change.

An emotional RESOLVE Walk of Hope 2016 with my darling son.

An emotional RESOLVE Walk of Hope 2016 with my darling son.

For more information on infertility, please check out this amazing charity, RESOLVE.

Learning to love my plus-sized self.

12642992_10156387774010411_2556516841211561801_nGrab a cuppa, this is a long’un.

Before I start? Let me get a couple of things out of the way, cause I’ve been saying some variation of these points, a lot, since I shared the photos:

1.  You see more at the beach, in a nightclub, or after 11am at your local Walmart.  If you’re offended by these pictures, or think I should be ashamed of myself? Bite me.
2. Before you comment and call me brave, or bold, or daring.  Please take a moment to consider where that comes from inside you, am I brave cause I’m a fat chick showing some skin? Am I brave cause I’m showing a vulnerable and exposed side of myself with the entire internet? Am I brave cause we aren’t used to seeing women empowering themselves? WHY is it that you think I’m brave?
3. No, I didn’t have these pictures taken as a gift to my husband, that was an added perk.  I had them taken as a gift to myself.  I’ve spent way too long feeling like crap about myself and wanted to do something to feel beautiful for a change.

Let me explain;
I typically spend most of my days chasing around an energetic, almost two year old boy.  A boy, who, for the record? Doesn’t like having his hands dirty, so will wipe his Nutella, cheese puff, or paint covered fingers on my clothes if I’m not careful.
And? While I am trying to get into running, I don’t run.  So anything other than flats on my fallen-arched flat feet? You can forget about it.  Chasing a toddler in anything other than my comfy gel-soled Asics, sounds like the seventh circle of hell to my chubby-legged and unfit self.

I live in denim capris, some kind of graphic T-shirt and flip flops.

A friend of mine recently described me as dressing like a college kid.

He wasn’t wrong.

He didn’t stop there, he went on to say that almost my entire wardrobe needs thrown out.  “Maybe keep some stuff for when you go hiking” (no, really, he does know me, I swear!) “but the rest needs to go”.

Again, he wasn’t wrong.

I’d love to say that being a stay at home mum (SAHM) is the reason to blame for my college “style” wardrobe.  Alas, I cannot.  My poor relationship with clothing and fashion began much, much, earlier than I’d care to admit.  I’ve always been overweight, fat, obese, having always had a waist much smaller than my hips and bum, I have what you’d politely refer to as a classic “hourglass” shape, but I never learned to dress for my shape, love my curves, or, without sounding too pathetic, like myself, in spite of my size.

Instead, I learned to dislike, often hate, the reflection I saw in the windows of shops and the mirror.  It wasn’t the same as the images I saw in magazines, on TV, in shop windows.  It was different.  The only time I saw people who looked in anyway like me, was for Weight Watchers adverts in January when people had over indulged over Christmas.

Hot damn girl!

Don’t draw attention to yourself!

I learned to abhor shopping.  No kidding – I mean panic attacks, palpitations and hysterical breakdowns at the mere idea of needing new clothes.    At my smallest I was a 12-14 on top (UK) but on the bottom I never got below a 20.  I was grossly out of proportion.  My narrow waist meant you could always see my knickers when I sat down in jeans or trousers cause I always needed bigger sizes to accommodate my rotund arse.  I lost patience at myself when I could find anything to wear, I’d cry angry tears in dressing rooms wondering why things didn’t look, on me, like they looked on the stick thin models standing in the windows as I walked in the door.

I learned to wear the same half-dozen outfits in rotation (I’m pretty much still wearing the same outfits, decades on), never be “brave” or “daring”, only have “nice” clothes, look “pretty” for special occasions.  If I found something that fit, and looked passable, I’d buy one in every colour and call it good.  Shoes (ok, flip flops) too.

I learned to be ashamed of my body.  To never dare look at bikinis, anything knee length or higher, anything low cut, bright or bold patterned either, for that matter.  Not only that? But you can’t shop at “normal” shops, you have to go to “plus” shops, for “bigger girls”, where the selection is crap, the prices are higher and you almost wonder aloud as to why companies can’t just make the same damn clothes they make for skinny people, just, y’know, bigger?

Dark colours flatter, don’t wear anything that shows your flab or calls attention to your “not normal” shape.

Right? That’s what “they” say.

As a result? I learned to hate and hide my body.  Black dress trousers, then jeans, paired with “cute” graphic tshirts conveying my love for the TMNTs, or the Care Bears, paired with oversized hoodies (at least in Ireland) that covered as much of my shameful plus sized figure as I could manage.

Then you think all your prayers will be answered if you could just lose a bit of weight.  You go on a diet.  You work out.  You drop thirty or fifty pounds, only to realize that your shape? Is still a Goddamned hourglass.  That the weight you so fervently tried to lose, is coming off your pinky finger, your ear lobes, your ankles…everywhere that ISN’T your fat arse, or thighs, or double chin, or bingo wings, or wherever else you’d spent nights praying to God to take it from.  That unless you take a hacksaw to your hips (believe me, I even contemplated that a time or two) those bastarding hips aren’t gonna budge.  “Childbearing hips” they call them, and while they served me incredibly well during a blessed, easy and quick labour, they make clothes shopping painfully frustrating.

Then you find routine.  You get lazy.  Or, you have a baby, your body shape changes, but not in the ways you’ve dreamed about your whole life and you suddenly have the added dismay of a “mummy tummy”, cause life wasn’t unfair enough with your big hips, big arse and big thighs, I guess at least now a big tummy completes the set, and so you hide behind your baby for a couple years.  You justify it to yourself, saying “I’m a mum”, like that excuses you from taking a moment to think about what you put on to wear outside, in front of other people in the mornings.  Like that means you can’t justify carving out some extra cash to treat yourself to an outfit here and there, like it means you don’t deserve to feel girlie or pretty any more.  Like you’re resigned to sweats and hoodies forever, because you don’t have the time, the money, the energy or the wherewithal to go shopping and treat yourself to something that makes you feel human.

And here we are.

wm1I turned thirty-one this year and I still dress like a college kid.  I still wear jeans and flip flops, I still self-hate, am ashamed of and hide my body, I still lust over pictures in magazines wondering if there will ever come a time when I can walk in to a “normal” clothes shop and not end up with hot tears of frustration down my cheeks in the fitting room cause I just want to find something decent to wear out the door in the mornings.

Enter plus sized fashion bloggers.

Ok, one fashion blogger really.  Georgina Horne over at Fuller Figure, Fuller Bust.  I’ve had her on the periphery of my radar for a few years, but lately, she’s been ALL up in my ‘bidness’.  She’s a sassy, loud, occasionally rowdy lady, with large cleavage, a rockin’ waist and an ginormous heart.

She takes a genuine interest in real, every day people (seriously though, the first time she tweeted me back I was all fan-girlie) and she gives great advice (on any manner of things!)

Without realizing it, her “f*ck it” attitude kinda rubs off on you, and you suddenly find yourself believing that maybe you could look half as hot as she does in front of the camera, and suddenly you’re off out down the town, squishing your boobs in to a corset named after an Addams Family character and booking yourself a boudoir photoshoot.

What possessed me?

I’ve toyed and flirted with the idea for years now.

Around my wedding, I even momentarily SERIOUSLY considered the idea, and at 35lbs lighter than where I am right now, and feeling a little more self confident, it probably would have been a more “sensible” time to act.  But I shelved the idea and buried it under ALL of my jeans and hoodies.

My “everyday” photographer, liked a picture on Maribella Portraits Facebook page that appeared on my Facebook feed and I liked it.

I liked it a lot.

So much so, that I went back the next day and stared at it.  And the day after that, too.
It was a picture Maria had taken at dusk in downtown Houston of some beautiful curvy women.  The more I dug into her page, the more I discovered she was keen to empower women, make them feel strong and show to them their beauty – both inside and out.  Her work, her page, her mantra spoke to me.

houston photographerI booked a consultation, had a chat with Maria about what we both expected from the shoot, pencilled it in and hit up Pinterest for inspiration before hitting the shops to frantically search for pieces of clothing to wear to my shoot.

After WEEKS, yes, weeks of searching, I finally had my outfits.  My corsets, sports shirts and underwear for boudoir, a couple of dresses and an outfit or two for Downtown glamour, jewellery, hot rollers, props and heels.  I was good to go.

On the morning of the shoot I was overcome with nervous excitement.  More nerves to be honest, but those quickly dissipated as Maria and my friend Sandra kept telling me I was doing great and looked hot.  They stole my glasses so I couldn’t see my reflection (that’s not why, but it worked) and although at certain points I felt somewhat unnatural and a little ridiculous, I thoroughly enjoyed every moment of getting dolled up and, I guess, almost being someone else for the morning.

Maria was excited by the results, her original two-week turn around, became only days, as she was inspired by the shots she had on-film.  I, on the other hand, felt sick to my stomach.  What if the pictures didn’t come out good? What if they weren’t what I had expected? What if, what if, what if.

There was even a moment of “Dear Lord, what have I done?” Was I absolutely crazy to think that my chubby self could look as good as the other plus size women I’d seen in similar photo shoots?

And then Maria showed me my film.

1151_10156373441335411_5141502942695401336_nThe same friend I mentioned above (who told me to dump my wardrobe) asked me if I learned anything from this experience, and I guess my answer to him, is yes.  I learned a lot.  I learned a lot about myself.  I learned a lot about other people and I learned that you don’t need grand changes to make yourself feel pretty or confident.  Even the smallest of changes, mentally, more so than physically, can make a huge difference to your every day life.  My friend Amber has asked me three times this month if I’ve lost weight, I haven’t.  Maybe it’s because I feel even just a little more comfortable in my own skin.  Maybe it’s because, as she says, “you’re carrying yourself differently”, or maybe it’s because I’ve realized that being fat, isn’t the end of the world.  There are people out there with real, honest to goodness problems and maybe I just need to get over myself a little.
untitled-213Houston friends, I know some of you have said in passing that you would love to do something like this, quit thinking, here’s her website, call or Facebook Maria, now. 
Non-Houston friends? Research photographers in your area.  Interview with them, study their work.  Find someone who ‘gets’ you, whose vision you love.

Don’t delay – everyone should feel beautiful, even just for one day!

Since my photo-shoot with Maria, I’ve worn all the clothes I bought for it.  I’ve even worn two out of three pairs of heels I got too – wonders never cease.

I’ve tried to take a little more care in my appearance.  I’ve continued to shop for clothes – not like a woman possessed – but I’ll saunter in to a clothes shop and casually  browse, which is something I never did before.  I don’t seem to have the same core-melting fear about shopping that I had before.

Most of all? I’ve tried to give myself a bit of a break.

 houston curvy girl glamourI’ve already stated, that I’m fully aware I’m plus-sized, over weight, obese, chubby, fat, whatever label you’d like to stick on me.  I’m an unhealthy weight, I’m unhappy with my size, it’s something I’ve been working on, and will work on, for a long time.

There’s no quick fix.

That said?

Maybe who I am right now? Isn’t quite so bad after all.

IMG_1110Maybe? Instead of frantically trying to change who I am every day and being soul destroyed that I haven’t found a magic cure for being fat yet, maybe I should more frantically try to find a way to like myself a little more?

As is.

Maybe? Being fat isn’t the worst thing in the world.  I’m not a criminal, or a murderer, I don’t kick babies, or burn animals (nor do I share those God-awful burned animal photos on Facebook).  Being fat doesn’t make me a terrible person.  It doesn’t make me “less than” because I’m bigger, because I’m different.

A friend described me as being “not societies definition of beautiful”, who said society was right?
Can’t we all just be beautiful?
untitled-1bw84-2“I am not in this world to live up to your expectations, and you are not in this world to live up to mine”

[Breastfeeding buddies] Courtney and Sophia.

Oh! It’s been an age since I got to sit at my surface and type out some blog posts for the masses.  Visitors, a malady plagued house and more visitors have left me with very little ‘down-time’ to churn anything out.  Or even stop for a breath.  I promised a long time ago to share some real-life breastfeeding stories, from my nearest and dearest friends.  I think I’ll restart my blogging kick there.

No better person to start with than this story from my girl Courtney, living in Cali.  Court is one of my very favorite people in the whole wide universe and I miss her face.  We’ve been pen pals for a long time, but she came out to visit us last year for a few days and, in that time, we became BFF’s.  We clicked.  She is AWESOME and she’s a FAB-tactic mama.

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I am going to be upfront with all of you and admit from the start that writing in detail about my breastfeeding journey was extraordinarily hard for me to do. Though, (for the most part) I’ve come to peace with the outcome of it all (SPOILER ALERT: I failed. Miserably.). I have been able to reflect on the experience with a positive outlook, but it was still difficult to find the words to describe everything without going on side tangents. So I will try my hardest, dear reader, to report just the facts and save the rants for another time.

This was my first pregnancy and like all first mothers, I gorged myself with all the baby related reading material I could get my grubby hands on. I was determined to breastfeed my baby. My husband and I went out and bought all the necessary supplies; we got a pump, creams, pads, containers, wipes, ointments, and anything else related to breastfeeding. We even got two of everything so we would be doubly set. I was ready for this!!!

My due date came and went and still no baby. This little girl was in it for the long haul. Finally, two weeks later I had to schedule a C-section.

I should also pause here in the story to note that at the time of my pregnancy, we were living in Wyoming. My husband, not being fond of the health care provided in the state, wanted to have the baby in California where we were from and where we had family. For some reason, still unknown to me, I agreed. Two weeks before the due date and with the Dr.’s blessing we drove to California and scheduled an appointment with a doctor I’d never worked with.

From the get go I was very upfront with my feeding plan. And I have to give credit to the hospital and all their staff for being supportive of my wishes and listening to my requests. I was lucky to have a good breast feeding consultant who ensured that the baby’s latch was good and I found out that she liked to cluster feed. With that knowledge, I took it to be the norm when feedings were lasting up to an hour or more on each breast. Other than that I did not have any other type of training. I felt like I was getting enough nourishment to my baby and from what the staff at the hospital told me, that was the case. During our stay at the hospital there were no issues and the Dr.’s were happy with our daughter’s progress.

Though my baby was a champion during the first week of her life, I was just beginning a free fall plummet to a mental breakdown. Unbeknownst to me, postpartum depression was playing a part in all of this, but the biggest push down the hill was the pain medication that was prescribed to me. The side effects of this drug was huge; I was unable to stay awake for more than a few minutes at a time, nodding off in the middle of texts or on conversations on the phone. The worst of the side effects were the night terrors, they were so dark and twisted even the most creative (or demented) person couldn’t think up the nightmares I was having. A combination all of this was taking a toll on my mental health.

After our hospital stay, we went back to my husband’s parent’s house. To their credit, they were very hospitable and made every effort to make our stay comfortable. My husband was going through his own adjustments and was very distant as he processed the emotions and change of being a new dad. I was in my own mental state of crisis with the pain meds messing with my head and dealing with postpartum. Staying at the house with a new baby was just plain rough. Everything else made for the perfect storm for failure and despite it all, I was trying my best trying to breast feed our daughter.

Feeding was getting extremely difficult and unimaginably painful. One does not realize the love a mother has for their baby until they are experiencing excruciating pain in their breasts. True love is, despite all impulses and instinct to throw their baby across the room to make the hurt stop, when you keep breastfeeding and holding on to your baby. I was cracking, chapped, bleeding, red, and sore. No amount of cream or ointment was going to heal me. I decided to switch to pumping to try and give myself a chance to heal.

Pumping in its own self was an adventure. While I had read everything about breastfeeding and the consultant at hospital guided me on breast feeding, never did it once occur to me to learn the logistics about pumping! So I did what any first time mother not in her right mind did, I just winged it. On the fly pumping, if you will. I mean honestly how hard could it be? You just hook them up to your milk dispensers and it ends up in the little containers! Working mothers did this every day, sauntering into the barn and letting the farmer hook up the pumps to their utters. If cows could be milked this way, why couldn’t I?!

I found out that, though in theory pumping is very easy, in practice it is not. I sat on my In-Law’s couch for hours in vain and only coming up with a few ounces of liquid gold in each breast. My journey into breastfeeding was looking very dismal. We were leaving back to Cheyenne in a few days so my mind (which was doing better after getting off the meds that were making loopy) was focused on the trip and I felt like finding a breast feeding consultant in a town we would be leaving was pointless. Supplementing with formula was our only option at that time, which we took because at the end of it all our baby needed to be fed.

I worked very hard at processing this failure in a positive way. It was not easy, as my first inclination was to beat myself up for failing my baby, being a mother, and in some ways a woman. But I was able to excuse my shortcomings at the time with the understanding that not all people were cut out for it (my mom was not able to produce enough milk as well) and at the very least my baby was able to get the most nourishing part (though all parts of breastfeeding are important) from the colostrum.

So there you have it, my breastfeeding journey. It was a difficult, though short lived trial, and it was ok for me to fail. The best way to handle that failure for me was to learn from it. Breastfeeding is challenging if you are not properly prepared for it. Despite my failures, my daughter is strong, smart, and healthy. My experiences and short comings have made me better prepared for our next child. To be honest, now that I am a little wiser, I am looking forward to trying breastfeeding all over again.

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The Politics of Pregnancy

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“Getting through the first trimester, without completely losing it, wasn’t easy, but once I heard the heartbeat of my baby for the first time, everything made sense.”

(Please note: I found this blog post in the recesses of my drafts folder, and, even though Lewis is here and three and a half months old, I still feel that it has value, so I’m going to post it anyway!)

I’m exhausted.

And I’m not convinced that it’s all the fault of our little growing bubble.

I feel like I’m constantly battling and firefighting, since we got pregnant.  Don’t get me wrong – it’s not all bad (and I’ll get to that in another post) but it’s bloody tough.

I thought that once you became pregnant, it was ‘easier’.  Infertility is a minefield.  What they don’t tell you, is that pregnancy can be just as difficult emotionally.

Who to tell, when to tell, how to tell, how to tell those who may be sensitive, how to tell before the curse of social media spoils the surprise, WHO to tell before the curse of social media spoils the surprise.

Advice: Tell who you want, when you want and how you want.  Don’t be pressured or convinced to tell early or to tell someone you’d rather not tell, before you tell someone else.  Ultimately everyone should be happy about your wonderful news, even those you are ‘afraid’ to tell or sensitive to the news, even those who are also pregnant, people can be happy for more than one person at a time, don’t feel guilty, this is your time as much as it’s everyone else’s time.  You deserve your moment as much as everyone else does, whether it’s your first baby, your fourth baby, or whether you announce at seven weeks or twenty seven.  Enjoy it and bask in the love and happiness of your circle.

Don’t say this, shouldn’t say that, say this.

Don’t eat that, shouldn’t eat that, eat this.

Even my doctors – my Fertility specialist and my OBGYN – and they haven’t always both agreed on ‘pregnancy procedure’.

Many have advice, questions and many have had it worse and enjoy telling me how easy I have it – which, is fine, it may seem easy to you or compared to you, but this is my first time and, in truth, only some days it feels easy.

Advice: Pregnancy is vague, grey area and every single one is different.  Your pregnancy may be nothing like any one else that you know – this is perfectly fine.  Don’t freak.  I freaked in the beginning because I wasn’t sick, or nauseous, or, really, in any way displaying symptoms of pregnancy.  People say ‘sickness means a healthy baby’, so when you’re not sick, you freak the hell out.  Don’t.  It’s ok.  It’s actually pretty normal.  We tend only hear the war stories of pregnancy, rarely the ones that go smoothly and one of my friends said that people only say that to make you feel better when you’re hugging the toilet and barfing your guts up.

Many have advice on what they did when they were pregnant, what they heard or read that you should do during pregnancy.  Advice on names, feeding, advice on sleeping, advice on what books to read, what books not to read, advice on co-sleeping, attached parenting, home birth, water birth, home schooling, putting your kid in daycare and people are already placing bets on gender.

Advice: Don’t poke the bear.  Regardless of how open and flexible your friends may seem about their parenting styles, don’t engage, question, contradict or criticize.  No one takes it well and they will vehemently defend their choices to you – mothers are like elephants – they never forget.

By that same token, don’t let anyone tell you that your choices, or the choices you will try to make, are wrong, less-than, and even though their advice may be given with the best of intentions, it’s your pregnancy, your baby, your body, eat what you want, drink what you want (alcohol excluded obviously!), sleep when you want and don’t let anyone make you feel guilty for these things.

People seem surprised to learn that I plan on trying to breastfeed – which, in itself starts to open a can of worms, but when I go on to further open the can by adding that I’ll also be, at least in part, trying ‘cloth diapering’, oftentimes, the judgmental looks aren’t enough and people simply *have* to have their say about *our* choices, (which, by the way, have already been made) and proceed to tell me that they never had me down as a crunchy person.

Like they can somehow convince me it’s a bad idea, or that I’m naive to think it’s possible, ‘that’ll change once the baby is here’.

Some people, on the other hand, just need to see a modern cloth-diaper to actually understand that how they perceive cloth-diapering to be, is a thing of the past and that ‘reusable nappies’ these days, aren’t much different to the ‘real thing’.

In short, I’m cheap, if I can feed my kid myself and save money with cloth diapers so I can spend more money spoiling my kid rotten or showing him/her the world, then why wouldn’t I try these things?  I’m not judging anyone for not doing them, one choice doesn’t make you a ‘better’ mother than the other, I’m just making choices that will hopefully work for us, though blog posts like this, keep me grounded and remind me that it’s not easy, it’s a huge challenge, and it doesn’t work for everyone.

Plus – let’s all agree – they’re cute as hell!

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All of the advice is furthermore complicated by being pregnant at the same time as at least 6 other people I know.  One friend, is even due a few days ahead of me.  It takes a lot of my energy, praying that each and every one of us will have a safe and healthy pregnancy and give birth to a healthy, happy baby – who preferably sleeps through the night and is already toilet trained – but, we can’t always get what we want, eh?

Advice (as given to me yesterday by two very dear friends): quit worrying about other babies and other mommas, your priority right now is you, your hubby/other half and your little one.  Do what you gotta do to get your baby delivered in to the world healthy and to have a happy family.  This post, ‘My anti blog‘ about differences in pregnancy resonated with me, it’s funny how ultimately we are all doing the same thing, growing a little person, but our journey there can all be so hugely different.

Listen to all of the advice with respect (sometimes you’ll need to get your game face on) and thank them for their opinion.  Take from it what you need/want and leave the rest.  It doesn’t, as I was starting to feel, make you a bad mother if you do things differently to what people say, or to what other people do.  Find what works for you and be yourself.

Even your OB and nurses will often treat you like you’re on a conveyor belt, they deal with hundreds of people like you on a regular basis.  To them, it’s not really a huge deal that you’re pregnant.  You’ll even find that your friends will say your doctors are wrong in some cases!

People WILL want to touch your stomach (otherwise known as ‘stranger danger‘ over at The truth behind the glow).  It’s started already with friends, obviously, cause they know.  I’m dreading the time coming when strangers *know* and will approach without warning to rub my belly like i’m some kind of good-luck charm.  I don’t do strangers in my personal space.

As the saying goes, this is my first rodeo, I’m just doing what I can, when I can and how I can, during this hugely different time in our lives, to ensure we all get through to the other side!

I found this article, explains things a lot funnier that I ever could, it struck a few chords with me and made me giggle.

This blog post, ‘This wasn’t in the brocheure‘, is also a riot, I find it better to prepare myself with the forthcoming trauma of pregnancy, through humour – it helps me cope with the imminent doom 😉 LOL! Check it out.  I’ve found I enjoy reading blog posts over at ‘The truth behind the glow‘ not only is she funny, but educational, in a non-terrifying kinda way.

In short, there’s no right or wrong way to be pregnant, and, once your baby gets here, there’s no right or wrong way to be a parent – something they don’t tell you in books, or at the OB’s office.  Try to stay calm, take on board all of the advice you get, but only hold on to that which you want to – and, most importantly, go with your gut!

Pregnancy: Hospital preparedness (What to pack in your hospital bag!)

What to pack in your hospital bag is a pretty big decision.
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You’re about to go in to labor – you’re going to spend two to four days, at probably the worst (and, if you’re in the USA, most expensive) hotel of your life.  The bed will be uncomfortable, it’s going to be bright, loud, and you’ll probably sleep very little.  You’ll also likely be in a gown the whole time, there will probably be blood, pain, occasionally stitches, people will be taking blood, urine, blood pressure and pulse information, you and baby will both be monitored, you may have an IV, catheter, or any number of other possible medical treatments while you’re in there – and that’s all the ‘foreseen’ stuff.
My first piece of advice is to have your bag ready to go around week 35.  We packed our bags literally the night before we ended up being induced – dumb luck.  Pack it a little earlier, be prepared.  And – leave it RIGHT beside the front door – complete with a list of ‘additions’ that you have to grab on your way out – phone, charger, etc.  Ignore people who say you’re too early – you may well be, but better to be ready, just in case, than to be caught on the hop and have to panic-shove stuff in a bag!
Secondly – ask your hospital for a very specific list of the supplies they provide for you, this will help you ensure that you pack the things you’ll need, whilst not packing way too much crap to lug back and forth from the house to car, car to hospital and back again.
Thirdly – pack light.  Here’s a list of everything I packed – based on polling I conducted among my friends and family, below that, you’ll find a list of what I used from what I packed.
What I packed:
Clothes
‘Yoga pants’ (high belly) x2
Pair pjs (yoga pant style, loose top)
Cami ‘Shelf tanks’
10x old undies (that you don’t mind getting destroyed)
Regular bra
Wash bag for dirty clothes for parents
Wash bag for dirty baby clothes
Fleece (or jumper, hoody, zippy)
Large black towel x2 (don’t mind getting them destroyed)
Slipper socks w/grippies x1
Slippers x1
Flip flops
Electrics
Phone charger
Tablet and charger
Kindle and charger
Extension cord (we discovered on our stay in the hospital, the phone doesn’t reach the bed from the socket!)
Camera and charger (and memory card!)
Toiletries
Conditioner
Body wash
Razor
Deodorant
Toothbrush + toothpaste
Lip balm
Deep moisturizer
Hair brush
Hair ties
Always infinity pads (recommended by THREE different people)
Nursing pads
Lanolin +
Witch hazel wipes
Other
Snacks + hard candy
Pillow
Notebook (to log visitors/guests etc)
Waterproof pad (for use in the car!)
What we packed for hubby:
2-3 outfits (old/ok to get potentially destroyed, including shoes!)
PJ’s x2
Pillow
Toothbrush
Deodorant Phone charger
Tablet + charger
Button down shirt (for skin to skin, in case mum couldn’t!)
Pain killers (common for the men-folk to get a headache)
Snacks + drinks
What we packed for baby:
Car seat
Premie outfit (Just in case he came out a little small for NB)
Newborn outfit
Outfit to come home in
Blanket (for the trip home)
Sleeping gown x2
Boppy
Dummy/Pacifier
Burp cloths x2
What I actually used:
Toothbrush/paste
Body wash
Deodorant
Yoga pants
Lip balm
Electronics (chargers, extension cables)
Witch hazel pads, pads and Dermoplast spray (provided by hospital)
Col and baby used most of what they brought – Col could have done with a second sweater on-hand, as the first one got dirty quite quickly, my room was pretty cold and he refused to leave our sides to go the three miles home and get a clean one!
I spent most of my time in the ridiculous gown that the hospital gives you upon admission.  I figured with the amount of monitors, bands, tests, epidural and hopefully breast feeding, that I didn’t care that my arse was hanging out, or that I was mostly naked the entire time.  Easy access was the plan!
The hospital provided me with most things that I (and baby) needed, all my post-labor care products, nappies, swaddle sheets, t-shirts for baby etc.  They even gave me sample tubes of lanolin and a Medela pumping kit for their hospital grade pump, so we were set, and realistically didn’t want for anything.
One thing I didn’t bring with me, was a change of clothes for me to go home in.  I had my yoga pants, but no clean shirt, so I left in the shirt I arrived in – pack yourself something clean and fresh to wear.  Don’t forget this one!
There wasn’t anything else that I think I should have brought, could have brought, or feel like I was DYING, or stupid for not bringing.  In actual fact, were I to do it all over again? I’d pack a very, VERY small bag – instead of the rather large bag we lugged in and barely opened!
What was the one thing you couldn’t have lived without during your birthing hospital stay?  Did you over-pack? Did you under pack? Was your hospital a great provider of ‘things’? Or did you have to provide everything yourself?

Pregnancy and Fertility: Fertility whilst pregnant.

I feel that I’m sufficiently deep enough into my pregnancy to remark on the aspect of fertility, whilst being pregnant.  It’s not something I gave much thought to beforehand, (other than contemplating my own fertility while others were pregnant) however, although I am eight (six when I started this) months pregnant, I spend my life continually aware of how I got here, our fertility journey, how long it took for us to finally see those two little lines appear on the stick – especially since I am surrounded by those who either are TTC, or are not trying to conceive, but who have suffered unimaginable losses.

Not that I want to forget my long, hard and educative journey, I’ve seen way too many people get pregnant and forget those who are still trying, suffering, or those who will never conceive.  I’ve tried not to be that person.

What I mean is, that I guess when my fertility was ‘solved’ – even temporarily, (I.E. I conceived bubble), that I expected world-infertility to be cured too.  Not consciously I mean, not *really* as I know that’s a scientific impossibility, I guess I just lived in hope, hope that my friends would all find their fix, because if I, after three years, could conceive this wriggly little boy, then surely everyone else’s journeys should finish soon, right? RIGHT?

But one friend has had six miscarriages (mixed terms), one friend’s sister has just had her second round of IVF, one friend has just had back to back early-term miscarriages.  That’s a lot of loss, especially for people actively trying to conceive, who have tried for a long time, or who are suffering from unexplained infertility.

For me, I’d love to say the worst part of the journey was the monthly disappointments when ‘Aunt Flo’ came to visit, it’s really not.  It’s, the hope.

My cycles, have always been irregular sometimes 14 days, sometimes 38 days, but that one month, that ONE month where it spanned to almost 60 days? That month was my hope.

That month, I dared to dream.

And then the cramping started.  And then the bleeding.  The worst bleeding I’ve had in my entire history of being an ‘adult’ female.

I suspected that it was an early miscarriage.  I talked to Col about it, and, actually, I didn’t grieve all that much.  Perhaps cause I didn’t expect to get pregnant naturally? Perhaps because I didn’t take a test to see? Perhaps because I was so used to having such irregular periods? Perhaps because, at best, I was four weeks? Perhaps because I have faith that my body would only expel a pregnancy for a really, REALLY good reason?

I talked to the fertility specialist about it when he asked for my history at my first appointment, I didn’t get any bloods done to confirm, and, in reality, there’s not much you can do but ‘let it pass’, but he agreed that it was very likely a miscarriage.  Which, ironically in the fertility world, is apparently a ‘good sign’, as it means that your body *can* get pregnant.  Which, while this was positive news for us, I can imagine that hearing that when you *knew* you were pregnant, must feel like a slap in the face.  Especially with unexplained miscarriage.

While I don’t feel like my experience, ‘entitles’ me to be a voice on the subject, I wanted to mention that even if it wasn’t a miscarriage, and it was just a long cycle followed by the worst period of my life, those who suffer from infertility and who haven’t even had any miscarriages at all, have still experienced loss.

Some people feel loss every month when their period arrives, whether it’s the loss of a baby that never was or it’s the loss of a little hope each month.

Loss is loss.

Somehow, you pick yourself up off the dirt and move on to the next month.  You have to.  You have to hold on to the faith and hope that some day, you’ll have the two lines appear on that stick that you desperately clutch on to each month.

You don’t let it beat you.

You can’t let it beat you.

What I never felt during even my darkest infertility moments, that I unfortunately feel now that I’m pregnant, was a sense of competition.  People never really tried to one-up my infertility, or never did huge comparisons of our situations.  Yes, we were all trying to have babies, and yes, we perhaps compared the aftermath of a procedure or medication, but, since having become pregnant, it’s a whole new minefield.  An exhausting one at that.

I find myself being pregnant at the same time as a number of people we know and I have discovered that I often find it difficult to open a conversation with them about something I’m going through, as easily as I thought I would be able to.  If I mention something, they’ll come back with a ‘well I have this’, or a ‘well mine’s worse’, kind of thing.  I doubt it’s on purpose, perhaps they, too, are looking for someone to talk to about something they are going through, but sometimes, it feels like a competition.

I’ve said on numerous occasions that my pregnancy is, comparatively, pretty easy, people always have horror stories they want to tell.  I don’t.  The worst I’ve had to complain about is the overwhelming exhaustion and nausea from my first trimester – which, is perfectly normal.

But, thankfully, I haven’t had to spend my pregnancy close to a toilet or anything, but sometimes, something happens that freaks me out, or makes me smile, that I’d like to truly share with someone who didn’t have a ‘well I…’ or ‘well my baby did this’ in immediate return.

Pregnancy is an apparently competitive business – who knew?!

Not only that, but getting pregnant – just isn’t enough for some people!

I was talking to a friend about this last night, I had previously thought it was just a Northern Ireland thing – a small country, small community, everyone knowing everyone’s business.

But, the older I get, the more I realise that it’s just a *people* thing.

When you meet a boy (or man if you’re not 12), it’s almost an instantaneous bombarding of questions.

  • When are you getting engaged? Then you maybe get engaged (not because they asked obviously – just go with me on this!)
  • When are you getting married? Then you maybe get married.
  • When are you having children? Then you maybe get pregnant.
  • Oh, you’re pregnant, is it a boy or a girl? Then you maybe have a gender scan.
  • Do you have any names picked out?

It’s like a reflex, people can’t help themselves, it’s like they *need* to know – worse, it’s like they feel entitled to know.  As soon as friends find out I’m pregnant it’s ‘What are you having?’, when I answer with ‘boy’  (very proudly might I add, because for the first twenty weeks it’s been ‘no idea’ and I’ve felt such pressure to find out the gender – which, we were doing anyway, but I can see why people just ‘go with it’ and find out) invariably the very next question is, ‘What are you going to call him?’ – I’ve known I’m having a boy for exactly a week, and I’m supposed to have a name already? HA!

We were lucky to have agreed on one single solitary name picked out for a girl, boys we don’t even have a short list for! And what if we are those people who want to SEE our baby first before landing him with a name, huh?  What if, we already have names and want to keep them between us?  What if, this poor child ends up with the *only* name we’ve agreed on (the girls one!!!!!) what about that, eh?

I bet bubble will be no more than six months old, before the question, ‘When are you planning on having another?’ will be asked.

I’ve taken solace, instead, in sharing my ‘silly pregnancy things’ or fears with friends who have children, but who aren’t pregnant.  That, and reading on the interwebz – which is often counter productive and compounds my fears more-so than alleviate them, but it’s educational all the same.

I do, however, hold out hope for my friends, for those that are dealing with such loss, who continue to deal with such loss.  I admire them and their strength, I also haven’t forgotten how hard it is – to live with pregnancy around you at every turn.

For those of you who are dealing with miscarriage, infertility – explained or otherwise, or who have suffered loss in your past and who need some support or information on what to do next, contact Resolve.  A wonderful infertility charity, who do great things for those suffering from infertility.

Keep the faith.  Hope really isn’t all bad to hold on to, and you really must cling on to at least a little – and remember that whether by conventional, or unconventional means, you have a lot of options open to you, to have the family you’d like, one way or the other – though the path may not be easy!

Infertility: Making friends with the baton!

May 1st was my six year dating anniversary with Col, if I hadn’t been so stubborn and just said ‘yes’ when he first asked, it’d be six and a half years!

What better way to spend our date-iversary than at a fertility specialist’s office?

photo(27)I described it as ‘going to see a man about a baby’.  I’d been referred to Dr Dunn by a good friend of mine, she herself had trouble with fertility and after becoming Dr Dunn’s patient had herself a healthy pregnancy.  My OBGYN had referred me to a Reproductive Endocrinologist, but we’d decided to go with someone that we had a personal referral from someone that’s had first hand experience with him.

photo(28)As you can see, Col came with me…I won’t lie, I was nervous.  I’d not slept very well in about two weeks and while I’d love to say my appointment had nothing to do with that, I don’t like lying to my readers.  It’s not so much that I was afraid of the appointment, I guessed that he’d take bloods and would probably want an up to date ultrasound (I’d not had an ultrasound done since 2009) but that no major procedures would be done at our first meeting – so nothing *really* to worry about.

What bothered me most, however, was the mere fact that the appointment had to happen at all.

Rational or not, I shouldn’t *need* help to get pregnant, let alone need to go to my third doctor on this journey, a man, to help me figure out what bits of my female self are broken – and potentially how to fix myself.

The office staff were very nice, the lady that called me from the main waiting room was the same lady that waved me off to get bloods done at the end.  I liked that, there was a lot of changing rooms:

Sign in, wait in waiting room, blood pressure and weight taken, back to waiting room,  appointment with the doctor in his office, move forward through the maze to a red couch where you wait for ultrasound tech to call you to another waiting room, ultrasound room, and back full circle to check out desk.  But the whole time you have the same nurse with you – it was certainly reassuring.

photo(29)Let me tell you what I learned (or at least remembered) from my appointment with Dr Dunn: (it’ll be quicker to bullet-point it, than to try and recount what I can remember!)

  • PCOS is the single most common endocrine ‘defect’ in women all across the globe.
  • Dr’s and OBGYN’s tend to count cysts of a certain size or bigger (usually 1cm) to diagnose PCOS, reproductive endocrinologists and fertility specialists? They count all cysts.
  • It’s likely that PCOS and insulin resistance was partially to blame for my gallbladder issues in 2010.
  • For a guy, taking a darily multi-vitamin can notably help improve the quality of sperm.
  • While many pre-natal vitamins contain folic acid, it’s recommended that you take additional amounts of folic acid.  It’s been clinically proven that those women who take higher amounts of folic acid are less likely to have babies with spine and heart defects.
  • You can’t take too much folic acid, you can’t overdose.  He said that you can essentially go home and swallow the entire bottle and the only downside would be that you have very expensive pee!
  • One of the easiest ways of telling that someone has insulin resistance is to look at the base of their neck/top of their spine (or underarm) as that’s where the insulin tends to be deposited.  The skin will look darker.  He said that next time I’m out grocery shopping and in a line, to have a sneaky look at the people I’m surrounded by, it’s more noticeable in darker skin than my pasty Irish stuffs!
  • My doctor, when she gave me Metformin, she was trying to treat me with a ‘diabetic’ dose of metformin.  I gained 25lbs on it and gave up after 2-3 months.  Apparently for PCOS, the dose of metformin needs to be higher to improve how your body processes insulin, so I agreed to try his method for a while and see how that goes.
  • I learned that with PCOS (tests will mostly confirm this diagnosis), my body is producing insulin but doesn’t really know what to do with it.  So it keeps requesting that more and more is produced – which, in turn, produces more male hormone (potentially the reason we’re having trouble getting pregnant).  He said if I ate the same thing as many of you, you’d produce ‘x’ amount of insulin to process it, whereas for me, I’d produce two or three times the amount of insulin to process the same food.  It takes longer, my blood sugar will spike higher, take longer to return to normal and will be more inclined to drop below baseline (hence the suggestion below for my diet changes).
  • He asked if I’d ever tested beyond a positive ovulation test, to see if I have ever ovulated twice in one month – which, I haven’t.  It’s not something I’ve ever considered!
  • Obesity exacerbates insulin resistance, and insulin resistance can lead to obesity – it’s a catch 22, never-ending circle, or, as Dr Dunn said, ‘the snowball rolling down the hill’.

photo(30)When you’re in this situation, it’s all about the little things that help you through it, (for example, the socks on the stirrups in the picture above).  When you’re lying back and thinking of vacation, chocolate and puppies – anything other than what’s actually happening to you – and here at the Fertility Specialists of Houston, this is what you see when you’re staring at the ceiling:

photo(31)It’s a mobile, the pieces all move slowly, methodically and are quite soothing to keep your attention north of the border – genius!

Outcomes of the appointment:

  • My bloods were taken after my chat with the doctor.  I have since had a call from them to say they want to talk about my Vitamin D levels, but I can’t seem to get hold of them to find out what the issue is.
  • I had my first internal ultrasound, which was even more unpleasant than I anticipated because one of my ovaries were playing hide and seek!  I’ve been told to make friends with this nifty ‘little’ device, because I’m going to be very familiar with it by the time I’m done!
  • Went home with a prescription for Metformin (gradually building up to 1500mg/day) and folic acid.
  • He recommended I try to drastically change my lifestyle habits, progressing to 6 small meals per day totalling between 1600-1800 cals.
  • Col will get re-tested in 4 weeks, his last test was July 2012.
  • Fasting blood test and 2hrs later a glucose test will be done when we get back from vacation.
  • On day 1 of my next cycle, I’ll have another round of blood work done.
  • Follow-up appointment will be in 6 weeks.

It was emotionally draining for sure, my appointment with the doctor lasted for about 70 minutes – but it flew by, when we’d finished I couldn’t believe the time on the clock.  My husband came with me, it was recommended by my friend – partially for emotional support, but partially because it’s beneficial to have him there for questioning with the doctor, it’s like a two-for-one thing.  You both get to ask and answer questions and it helps to have a second brain on-hand, because you’re so worked up about the whole thing, that he can often remember things that you may not.

Make a list of questions to bring with you – things that come to you at stupid o’clock during the night, or in the bath, or in the aisles of the grocery store – don’t be afraid to ask questions, even if you’ve asked them to ten different doctors, ten times over.  Sometimes, you’ll get the ‘right’ answer from the eleventh doctor!

I also did something else this time, many of you will feel like me, like everything that makes you inherently female, your total feminine essence is broken, has let you down.  Like you’re a defective woman.  Ahead of this appointment, I went for a mani-pedi, something totally girlie and feminine to help me feel better and for after the appointment, I scheduled afternoon tea with some of my girlies and it really helped.  It was nice to do something girlie, relaxing and distracting from the short-comings of my femininity.

The next time I do see Dr Dunn, he’ll have 4 different types of blood results to go through, a sperm analysis and an ultrasound.  Plus I’ll have had 6 weeks of Metformin, so I’ll be up to full dose of 1500mg/day for and will be making huge adjustments to my eating habits when I get back from vacation.

Fingers crossed that this is the door down the path to being healthier and losing weight and hopefully to getting pregnant!

''Kez's boudoir theory''

 

This morning I went for, what is termed here in the US, as my ‘Well-woman’, it sounds much more pleasant than smear-test, pap-smear or any other horrific terminology that you’ve come up with for testing your lady-parts.

However, it’s prompted somewhat of a discussion on Twitter and, I feel it’s my social responsibility to take a moment and hop upon my soapbox for a moment and encourage all of you female readers out there to take the first (and most difficult leap) and go get yourself checked over and for those of you who haven’t gone in a while, make the call!

For those of you unaware of what a pap smear/smear test actually is, it’s a test used to detect cancerous cells in your girlie bits.  Anomalous cells (not necessarily cancerous) serve as a sort of early warning system, they can generally be treated (or eradicated), which helps in the prevention of cervical cancer.

Nearly three women in the UK die of cervical cancer every day and it’s the most common cancer in women aged 20-29.  Many people believe that cervical cancer is hereditary, in fact, almost all cases are caused by a common virus called HPV (human papillomavirus) that you could catch as soon as you start having intimate relationships. (Cancer Research UK)

The discussion with my friends on Twitter, was about when to start having this test done.  According to various sources (vague or what, eh?) the consensus seems to be, that a couple of years after you become (and I quote a friend here, who was attempting to evade those pesky spam-bots on Twitter) ‘active in the boudoir’, generally speaking, this is between 20 and 25.  The American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) recommends starting screening at age 21 (since they say that is a few years after initial sex for most American women, however I think the age of people having sex has drastically dropped over the last decade or more!) though women with certain risk factors may need more frequent screening.

The American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology (ACOG) Pap Smear Guidelines on frequency of testing are;

  • Starting at age 21, women should receive a Pap smear every other year – until the age of 29.
  • Women over the age of 30 who have had three negative Pap smears in a row can switch to being screened once every three years.
  • For women over the age of 65 with three negative Pap smears in the previous 10 years, cervical cancer screening can be stopped altogether.
  • Women who have had complete hysterectomies do not require cervical cancer screening.

Some guidelines recommend more frequent screening for younger women; for instance in England, screening is recommended every 3 years for women under 50, and every 5 years for those over.  In Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland, Pap smears are offered to women from the age of 20, it is the same in Germany and New Zealand.

Here in the US, with our specific healthcare coverage, we get a yearly ‘well-woman’ exam covered by my insurance company.  This is breast exam (also very important ladies!), abdominal exam, pap smear, blood pressure, urinalysis and blood screening.  For those Americans reading, it’s worth checking with your health insurance company what your policy covers,

Here’s some facts from the ACOG website:

Today, 1 in 145 women in the United States will develop cervical cancer in their life time.

If the cancer is found and treated early, as many as 90% of women who have it, can be cured.

Nearly 5,000 women die from cervical cancer each year.  Many more are cured because it is found early with a Pap test.

Other ways to avoid cervical cancer include being monogamous, practice safe sex and don’t smoke!

Where can you go to get a Pap test?

• Doctor’s office (eg, obstetrician–gynecologist, family
physician, pediatrician, or nurse practitioner)
• Family planning clinic
• Health department

How is a Pap test performed?

• The doctor or nurse will insert a small instrument into
the vagina and use a swab or a little brush to wipe
some cells from the cervix. It takes just a few seconds.
• A medical laboratory then checks these cells. The
doctor’s office will inform the woman of the test results.

I must speak up here, because this makes it sound like a walk in the park, however, after having spoken to a half-dozen friends this morning and a number of them reporting that it hurt, a LOT (one of them said she’d rather run head first in to a wall to avoid the pain), another friend had a mental image that terrified her (”In my head it was a massive metal thing like an eyelashes curler gone wrong”) and for me, personally, I’d heard my mother complain about the pain every time she went, so the entire concept terrified me, resulting in me putting it off going for as long as I possibly could.

Your doctor/nurse, will use a speculum during the procedure, normally a pretty small, smooth plastic device (some of them even come with built-in flash lights!) this is what normally causes the pressure.

Thankfully (and luckily) mine have never been particularly painful, momentary discomfort (and sheer embarrassment, though, I’ve learned with female issues, you leave your dignity checked at the receptionist desk on your way in!), followed by a few hours/a day or two of general icky-feeling and I’m done for another year.

However, the stomach churning and nerves, don’t ever really go away.  The more nervous or scared you are, the more painful it can be.  My friends doctor advised her to try something herbal to calm her down before hand and to take an ibuprofen ahead of her appointment.

Also, if you tell your doctor/nurse that you’re apprehensive, (like I did to my dentist) they tend to make a note of it, so they know for next time to be extra reassuring when you come by for your check-up (I told my dentist I was terrified, she replied, ”I can see that, you’re clenching the chair pretty hard” and from then on, it was in my file that I was a cry baby and I love them for it!)

Check out this Running in Heels 2009 article about Pap smears and cervical cancer, Lucy Hood (writer) references reality star Jade Goody’s battle with the disease and suggest that, had the English system adopted a lower screening age, they perhaps could have caught her cancer a little earlier.

”As women we are nurturers and caretakers and we commonly put ourselves last, yearly visits to your OBGYN’s office are VERY important.”

For more information:

American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists
Telephone: (202) 638-5577 or (800) 673-8444
Web: www.acog.org

National Women’s Health Information Center
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services
Telephone: (800) 994-9662
Web: www.4woman.org