Work Wind Down

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This is my last week of work before my maternity leave commences. I can’t really believe it has come around, but then again I can’t believe that any of this is real. So while I am excited to have some feet up time, as my teaching job is fairly active, it feels very bizarre. During my last pregnancy I got so ahead of myself thinking of maternity leave, the birth, the nursery and life with the baby. This time I am never thinking more than a week ahead as I don’t want to take anything for granted. That is why people who ask me about events that are more than a week or so ahead get met with a slightly panicked expression or a total dismissal. Family and social events in the future are so abstract that I can’t even imagine them. Thinking that far ahead makes me extremely anxious and it brings up all my fears that the happy ending we are desperate for will be cruelly snatched away once again. So for now I can’t commit to  anything beyond the imminent future. It’s just too damn scary.

Work has provided me with sanity and a much needed distraction from the consuming nervousness which may have prevailed. Let’s hope that the final work free weeks are not too slow or anxiety ridden. Who am I kidding? I fully expect a few freak outs!

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Merry F*&king Christmas

Don’t let Christmas make you feel crap. The year is almost over. Soon 2015 will be here and that will be a fresh start. Plus there’s no work for 2 days and the prospect of presents! So for one day do whatever makes you feel good. Scrap the fertility diet, crack open the champers and don’t force yourself to go places where you will feel childless, miserable or uncomfortable. Wishing you a lovely Christmas day.

Dear Santa

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While Christmas is an exciting time of year for many, it is also a time when those who have experienced struggles, loss or grief can find it especially difficult. Many couples facing infertility or pregnancy loss will have hoped that they would have a new baby by this Christmas. I have seen many comments on blogs and forums that express disappointment over their situation and a reluctance to embrace the festive period.

I am the least Christmassy person you could ever meet (I just don’t get the hype!) so it was never going to be an issue for me. This time of year is not momentous for me in any way. But I can appreciate that for many it is a time for family and that can be hard when you hoped yours would look very different.

My advice is to:

  • avoid placing too much emphasis on what is essentially one day of the year – just like any time of year there is hope and a multitude of opportunities and possibilities ahead
  • look at what you have got, rather than what you have not got – you may not have the baby you are desperate for but you have many other wonderful things in your life
  • embrace the distraction – consider the time off work or the socialising the perfect thing to occupy your thoughts. If you don’t feel sociable get cosy with some comfort food and watch elf and home alone!

Home Again

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Sadly we are home now from our holiday. We had a gorgeous week in Israel and it was wonderful to spend time with my family and husband. It seems so strange to think that the last visit to Israel, 2 weeks after our termination for medical reasons, was during such a dark and depressing time. For this visit we were in a different, hopeful and positive place. So much can change in 8 months.

We walked along the same beach we always do and silently hoped that our next visit would be with a little one in tow.

The baby is increasingly active and I love the movements I can feel. Hopefully soon my husband will get to feel them too. Every night I place his hand on my tummy convinced he will feel the kicks. I can’t wait for him to enjoy it too.

When To Go Back To Work

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After we lost our baby I did not want to face the world and resume real life for some time. I wanted to hide away and shut out everything that represented normality. That included work. I deliberated about whether it would be best to go back so that I could take my mind off our loss or whether I needed time to return to my usual self. At the time those around me kept insisting I went back. I felt a lot of pressure. It resulted in me going back too soon and having to postpone my return for a while. I learned that you have to trust your own instincts and that other peoples advice, while well-meaning, is not always right. When I did go back I found it to be a very positive distraction, but I had to be strong enough to manage it. I was extremely fortunate as my boss and all my colleagues (many of which I consider friends) were endlessly supportive and understanding. Their kindness made all the difference.

During this pregnancy, which has been fraught with worry, work has been the best thing. The summer break I had from work was awful as I was bored and had too much time to think about everything. Having a busy, productive day is far better than letting the situation consume me. I like to be busy and feel like I have a purpose to my day. Who knew work could be such good therapy!

De-stress

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20 Scientifically-Backed Ways to Ease Stress

The road to motherhood can be unbelievably stressful. With that in mind, here are 20 ways, backed up by good scientific evidence, to keep your stress in check:

1. Go For A 10 Minute Walk

While just about any walk will help to clear your head and boost endorphins, green spaces, can put your body into a state of meditation, thanks to a phenomenon known as “involuntary attention” during which something holds our attention, but simultaneously allows for reflection.

2. Breathe Deeply

Any yogi knows that the breath — known as pranayama or “life force” — plays an important role in nourishing the body. Breathing exercises – or even just taking a few deep breaths – can help reduce tension and relieve stress, thanks to an extra boost of oxygen.

3. Visualize

Simply make yourself comfortable and then try to picture a relaxing scene.

4. Eat A Snack

Stress-eating doesn’t have to be bad. Pick a snack that will fill you up — say, half an avocado, a handful of nuts or a hard boiled egg — because nothing is more stressful to the brain than feeling like you’ve run out of nourishment. Focus on your food: its texture, the way it tastes, how it makes you feel. Now you’ve turned your snack into a meditation.

5. Buy Yourself A Plant

Houseplants can actually help you calm down. Researchers have found that simply being around plants can induce your relaxation response.

6. Step Away From The Screen

Uninterrupted computer use has been associated with stress, lost sleep and depression in women. Make sure to take frequent breaks during your day of computer use — and try to shut offline at least an hour before bedtime.

7. Pucker Up

Kissing relieves stress by helping your brain to release endorphins.

8. Try This Naam Yoga Hand Trick

Applying pressure to the space between your second and third knuckle (the joints at the base of your pointer and middle fingers) can help to create a sense of instant calm.

9. Hang Up, Then Turn Off Your Phone

Mobile phones stress you out. Talking can even raise your blood pressure.

10. Put On Some Music

While classical music has a particularly soothing effect — it slows heart rate, lowers blood pressure and even decreases levels of stress hormones — any music that you love will flood your brain with feel-good neurochemicals like dopamine.

11. Treat Yourself!

Eating or drinking something sweet is soothing because it stems the production of the stress hormone, glucocorticoid.

12. Or, On The Other Hand, Plug In

Yes, screens can stress you out. But used in the right way, there’s no reason you can’t turn to the Internet to get a little stress relief such as web-based stress management programs.

13. Chew A Piece Of Gum

Chewing gum doesn’t just make your breath better — it can relieve anxiety, improve alertness and reduce stress during episodes of multitasking.

14. Watch A Viral Video

A good laugh is a fine relaxation technique. What’s more, even if you don’t find the viral video your uncle Joe sent you to be that funny, just the anticipation that it might be will actually boost endorphins.

15. Progressive Muscle Relaxation

Start with your toes and work your way up: tighten your foot muscles as much as you can, then relax them. Make your way up, tightening and relaxing each muscle until you’ve finished with your face. It may seem silly, but this practice can help reduce anxiety and stress.

16. Seriously, Turn Off Your Phone

Smartphones, in particular, are linked to increased stress, as more and more people feel pressure to respond to messages at all times.

17. See Your BFF

Friends aren’t just fun — your very closest ones can actually reduce your production of cortisol.

18. Eat A Banana (Or A Potato!)

Potassium helps to regulate blood pressure, which rises during times of stress.

19. Try Eagle Pose

Many yoga poses are known stress relievers, as they open the shoulders, relieve neck tension and do away with many of the physical symptoms of stress. Eagle pose is a prime example of how a brief asana can target back and neck tension. Learn how to do the pose here.

20. Craft

Repetitive motions — like the fine motor skills used to knit– can soothe anxiety.

Try one today!

Weekends Away

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Since my husband has a new job and is nervous for me to fly we have been discovering some lovely places to retreat to in the UK. It has been rather delightful, despite the inconsistency of British weather. Last weekend we escaped to the Cotswolds for some greenery and English cream teas (yum), and this weekend my best friend and I visited Bournemouth for some chick-flicks and seaside tranquility.

IVF and pregnancy anxiety are all-consuming. Sometimes a change of scenery and a new place to explore provides the perfect break from the normality and stresses of everyday life. As a typical Londoner I tend to forget that life exits outside the capital city. Turns out there are some charming places to enjoy. Bring on the weekends away!

Stress-free Summer

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Schools out for summer! Usually that means an exciting trip, a loaded kindle and sun-bathing galore. I am a sun-worshipper (plastered in factor 30 obvs). Not this year, and for a good reason – early pregnancy.

Firstly we are neurotic about over-heating. During early pregnancy it is important not to raise your body temperature above 38.9 degrees. Secondly we decided to avoid air travel. And finally my husband starts a new job this week.

Luckily London is pretty lovely in summer.

What will I do for 5 weeks? Suggestions on a postcard please! I just received a new kenwood mixer and a 3,000 piece puzzle so that’s a good start!

My husband is super strict with me and is insisting I take it easy. So here is to a stress-free summer.

BFF

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“Tragedy happens in everyone’s life, everyone’s circle of family and friends. Be the person that others can count on when it does. I think that between 30 and 40 is the decade when a lot of shit finally starts to happen that you might have thought never would happen to you or those you love. Parents die, spouses die, babies are still-born, friends get divorced, spouses cheat… the list goes on and on. Helping someone through these times by simply being there, listening and not judging is an honor and will deepen your relationships in ways you probably can’t yet imagine.” (Rebecca, 40)

NE, JB, MB & GB

You’ve certainly done this for me.

Thank you, thank you, thank you and thank you xxxx

The Fear

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Even though we are obviously progressing towards having a baby I am under no illusions, after our previous pregnancy loss at 21 weeks, that we are getting a baby. There are no guarantees. I almost want to ignore the pregnancy so I don’t become too attached to the idea. Severe health complications arose in the last pregnancy so I am extremely anxious that the same condition will occur in this pregnancy too. If this condition has occurred once, it is statistically and medically more likely to occur again. However because a post-mortem uncovered no genetic abnormalities in our baby it is assumed that it was just (very very) bad luck. Inevitably until we have our 20 week scan (which is a lifetime away) I will be concerned.

All I can do is be as healthy as possible and pray it works out. Worrying won’t change the outcome. The risk is between 2.5-5%. Once again I must wait and hope for the best.

Paint Your Troubles Away

 

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Painting is such a relaxing distraction from the anxiety and sadness of IVF and pregnancy loss. It doesn’t matter what the finished piece is, just get those paints out and enjoy some creative therapy. It will take your mind off all your worries. Express yourself. Here are two of my creations!