28 December 2011

Tempting Fate

Finally the end of 2011 is in sight, but I’m filled with both relief and dread. I wish I could say, next year can only get better, but I said that at the end of 2010 and the universe apparently took it as a challenge.

In 2010:
We’d been trying to conceive for a heart-breaking 18 months, but we were looking to start treatment in the new year.  After six years my husband’s job assessment came back, much lower than expected so we faced a long process of appeals. I was sent to a medical assessment where the doctor lied about my illness and as a result lost my Incapacity Benefit. In general we felt beaten down and out of luck.

In 2011:
We’ve now been trying to conceive for 2 ½ years. The treatment did actually work and we did get pregnant – but it was ectopic and ruptured. I lost 4 litres of blood and came close to dying. I was also diagnosed with hyperthyroidism, and have been through a multitude of tests. As a result of either the blood loss, losing the pregnancy or the hyperthyroidism an awful lot of my hair fell out - it’s growing back but will probably take more than a year to get back to normal. Then they thought my thyroid problem may actually be cancer (It wasn’t. Phew!). At the same time my lovely cat had a stroke. Strokes aren’t as severe in cats (though quite distressing to witness!) and it turns out he also has hyperthyroidism. Mr Goldfish is still going through his job’s appeals process but it doesn’t look promising. We did win the appeal about my Incapacity Benefit, which is a huge relief. I know I’ll lose it again in the near future when they switch me over to the new system, but this reprieve gives us room to breathe.

So while we’ve had a few turns of good luck I can’t help thinking loosing the pregnancy, nearly dying, the cancer scare, and thinking our cat was going to die - make this year the winner in our personal Worst Year Competition. The thought of next year continuing the downward trend is a rather terrifying prospect, so I’m feeling a bit superstitious.

25 December 2011

Silent Sunday

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24 December 2011

My Christmas List

While I love Christmas and all spending time with family, it's also a week and a half of uninterrupted time off!  Which means it's a brilliant time to finish all those things I've not quite gotten around to. Things I'd like to do over the Christmas holidays:
  1. Get rid of the 160 survey emails clogging my inbox
  2. Finish my cross-stitch bi-corn
  3. Get the new kitchen dresser finished and filled
  4. Repair my favourite blanket
  5. Get the netbook set-up properly
  6. Sort out the contacts and addresses on my phone
  7. Consolidate google accounts
  8. Archive old email, blog posts & back-up websites
  9. Reorganise Twitter

I expect this list will be added to extensively over the next 24 hours.

18 December 2011

Dear Diary

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So this is it, our final cycle of the Clomid; we’ll find out if it's worked just a few days after Christmas. It’s easy to guess what’s at the top of my Christmas wishlist this year, but unfortunately that’s not been very helpful when people ask for gift ideas. As it’s difficult to arrange doctor’s appointments over the holiday period we’ve already asked our GP for a referral back to the IVF clinic.

We’ve made it to the end of the year, the end of the Clomid and the end of my very dear diary. Early in our journey I started to use my 2009-2010 Moleskine Diary for charting.  I started monitoring my cycle length in 2008, as soon as I stopped taking Depo injections for contraception.  Then we started recording Basel temperatures a few months before we started trying in June 2009 (though eventually we moved on to the ovulation tests). All these key dates are recorded in my diary; even days we were trying were carefully marked.

I never imagined I’d still be on this journey as the pages of my little book run out.

It seems somewhat symbolic that my notebook runs out now. Either this cycle will work and our journey will finally be over – or we’ll be taking a new path with the IVF clinic.

This was originally published on the Emma's Diary Blog.

Step Down Sunday – Christmas Wrapping

Step Down Sunday This week’s Step Down Sunday was nearly late, as I was so wrapped up with presents last night! I adore Christmas, but you have only to see a bin bag full of torn wrapping paper on Christmas morning to realise it’s a bit wasteful.  But as always Step Down Sunday isn’t about giving up our well loved traditions; it’s about finding new sustainable ways to do them.

One big problem with wrapping paper is that there are several reasons it often can’t be recycled (recyclenow.com):
  • It often has metallic foil, glitter or added plastics
  • Some wrapping paper is very thin so doesn’t hold many good quality fibres
  • And then there is the all the sticky tape!
First we started looking for recycled gift wrap that didn’t include these additives...but we didn’t find much. The John Lewis website claimed to have some, but when we inspected the packaging in person there was no mention of it being recycled. We decided to go back to basics and buy plain kraft paper that could be recycled (and isn’t dyed). We found Flexocare Kraft Paper at The Range and our local post office. I was quite impressed, it’s made from 100% recycled material and just a £1 a roll. It comes in two widths, so we bought several rolls of the 500mm wide (6m long) and just a couple of 750mm wide rolls for those extra large presents (2.5m roll). I quite like it plain, but if you find it a bit drab you can always decorate the paper yourself.
Kraft Paper Christmas Wrapping
Unfortunately we have a huge supply of curling ribbon, so while it’s not eco-friendly we are going to use up the ribbon we already have. In the future we hope to switch to raffia ribbon or recycled string as a sustainable alternative.

It was only while I was searching for other eco-friendly craft supplies, that I discovered there is such a thing as eco-friendly sticky tape. Cellulose tape is made from a wood pulp, so it is bio-degradeable. Turns out that unlike the US, here in the UK we have easy access to eco-friendly sticky tape – Sellotape! They even get their wood pulp from suppliers with extensive reforestation programs. (Treehugger)
The pulp is made using a process, which is elemental chlorine free and does not harm the environment. At the Sellotape factory, the hot melt coating technology we employ minimises the use of solvents. Any solvents that are used are processed through our Thermal Oxidiser and recycled with the resultant heat being used in our drying ovens.
Recyclable Gift Bag
In The Range we also found recyclable gift bags! I’m not hugely fond of gift bags, but through our extended family they do get used over and over. So while made from virgin material, these pretty bags from Tom Smith can be used several times before being recycled.
Fabric Gift Bags
Finally I made some fabric gift wrappers. I found some old material in the loft I used to use as curtains way back in University.  With a couple of quick seams I made something like a pillowcase.  It's perfect for wrapping awkward things (in this case big pair of boot slippers), which would use an awful lot of paper. We don't intend to use these with our family and friends, but the Mr & I will use them for years to come.

So there we have several ways to reduce the environmental impact of Christmas morning!

Do you have any sustainable wrapping tricks?

If you'd like the code for the Step Down Sunday badge or to learn more about it, go to the Step Down Sunday page.


15 December 2011

My Blogging CV

This week's Gallery celebrates the release of the Blogger Calendar with photos taken at CyberMummy the past summer.  I didn't attend CyberMummy, so probably won't claim a calendar - but I was intrigued by the prompt. Tara and Jay want a photo of what inspires our blog and a bit of a blog CV.

Ovulation Tests

Another Goldfish has always been about new beginnings. Previously I've written for design and shopping blogs, and as we planned to start a family Another Goldfish was intended to be a combination of lifestyle and baby products.

Unfortunately starting a family wasn't nearly as easy as we hoped. So after a year of trying I started the blog anyway, but to share the frustrations and pain of keeping our fertility problems a secret.

Probably the biggest change to the original blog concept is our recent commitment to low-carbon living, and this has been incorporated into the blog with Step Down Sunday.

My most popular post was part of the Mumsnet Miscarriage Care Campaign.

While I can't claim any accolades, I am also a regular blogger over at Emma's Diary.

Not an especially noteworthy CV, but there you go!

11 December 2011

Step Down Sunday: Eco-Felt

Step Down Sunday When looking at your carbon-footprint real Christmas trees are obviously the best option. When growing they reduce the carbon in the air and at the end of the season they can be composted or replanted.  Unfortunately we bought a new artificial tree in the sales last year. It would be wasteful to throw it away now (and I’ll admit I actually prefer artificial trees).

Since I can’t reduce my carbon-footprint with my choice of tree, I've decided to pick my new decorations carefully. One general premise suggests that we’re better making things rather than buying them. In theory we reduce things like packaging, transport costs and we also know how they have been made.

I thought I’d start with some simple felt ornaments, but it’s no good making things ourselves if our materials aren’t eco-friendly. So for the last few weeks I’ve been searching for eco-friendly felt. There appear to be two types: Wool and Recycled Polyester. 100% wool felt is quite eco, but very expensive. There is apparently a Wool/Rayon blend which is cheaper, but this may be misleading. Though Rayon is made from natural fibres, the intense process required to make Rayon is not always considered eco-friendly. Finally there is EcoFi felt which is made from recycled bottles. The bad thing is that you are still using plastic so your scraps won’t bio-degrade, but it also provides a market for recycled plastic. There’s no point in recycling our bottles if we can’t sell the resulting material to make something new.

Eco-Felt
I eventually concluded that while wool is the ideal choice, eco-felt is an acceptable alternative. After much searching I finally found a store that stocked EcoFi which is manufactured in the United States by Kunin.   Simply Sequins sells single 9x12in sheets in a wonderful range of colours for 45p each, which is quite competitive when compared to places like Hobbycraft. I've not had chance to make anything yet, but with all these colours there's so many possibilities!

Do you know of any more eco-friendly craft supplies?

If you'd like the code for the Step Down Sunday badge or to learn more about it, go to the Step Down Sunday page.


7 December 2011

Don’t tell me to relax!

We’ve finally had a turn of good luck, so when trying to conceive this month I was really rather hopeful.  It felt like things might actually be coming together, and that this could finally be our time - but just days later I suddenly started feeling stressed and anxious. At first I thought it may be related to a job interview Mr Goldfish had, but the stress never abated. So for the last week I’ve felt completely awful, my euphoria at our good luck seemed crushed by some unknown cause.  But as I began writing this post I suddenly had an epiphany; the same day as Mr Goldfish’s interview a well meaning woman told me the best way to get pregnant was to relax.

I realised that I’d subconsciously bought into the “relaxing” myth. It doesn’t help that the only time I did get pregnant was while we were on holiday...but it was also our first cycle of Clomid (and the only cycle of Clomid I took before losing my right tube). There were plenty of other reasons why that cycle could have been successful, yet I forgot all that.  Instead I focused on how I was ruining our chances of conceiving by being unable to relax!  As soon as I realised that my stress has very little to do with our fertility, it felt like a band suddenly loosened around my chest. For the first time in days I could breathe freely.

In 2010 they did a study that compared the cancer survival rates of different personality types. It showed that whether you’re a grumpy or upbeat, you attitude doesn’t affect the cancer.  This probably seems obvious to you, but think of how many times you’ve heard someone say that “the best way to fight cancer is with a positive attitude!”

It sounds innocent enough, but really it’s insidious - what it suggests is that we have the ultimate control over our bodies. Research has found that rather than help people, all these comments do is make those dying from cancer feel guilty. They feel like they are responsible for their own deaths because they couldn’t be positive enough.

We all have our own coping mechanisms; people like me are always happy and cheerful on the surface, others are quiet and stoic, still others get angry or depressed.  These attitudes are as much a part of us as our hair colour.  (You can change your outlook a bit, just like you can dye your hair - but I suspect it still peeks out from underneath.) I’m often commended on being cheerful in spite of my health problems, but it’s not like I have any control over it – it’s just who I am.

So why do we believe this idea that relaxing will help us conceive? It seems to be a bit advice left over from the 1940s and 1950s when infertility was a complete mystery.  I realise that being less stressed in general is better for your health, but it isn’t a fertility barrier. There are plenty of people who get pregnant while in stressful jobs or during difficult times - so why do people assume that ‘relaxing’ will get me pregnant? Like the case above, it just suggests that somehow our infertility is my fault - that if I could just be less anxious then I’d have a baby by now.

I’m so glad to have this weight finally off my shoulders, as I suspect it’s been lurking at the back of my mind.  If I hadn’t realised the illogic of the situation going into IVF would be much worse. There’s no way I’ll be able to face my needle phobia everyday for months without feeling stressed. So now I can finish this two week wait with a sense of peace – it will work or it won’t – no matter how I’m feeling.

This was originally published on the Emma's Diary Blog.

4 December 2011

Step Down Sunday - Eco-friendly Cats

Step Down Sunday One big contributor to your carbon footprint is your pets. Much of it comes from their high meat diets, but there are still things we can change.

We started by looking at the cats’ litter tray.  Since Mac had his stroke he’s had trouble getting through the door of our covered litter tray.  For the moment we’ve removed the cover, but the litter is being kicked everywhere. The tray is about 10 years old, so we decided it was reasonable to get a replacement.

After a bit of searching we found the BecoTray – an eco-friendly litter tray.  They take bamboo and leftover rice husks and grind them into a fine powder. The powder is then mixed with a biodegradable resin and pressed into a hot mould. This makes the BecoTray sustainable to produce and when in a warm damp environment  (like a compost heap or when buried in the ground) the tray biodegrades in just 2-3 years. The result feels something like Bakelite - heavy & strong but it doesn't have the flexibility of plastic.

Beco Cat Litter Tray

We did have some problems with the first tray they sent out, as the pieces wouldn’t fit together. There was then some confusion with the delivery company who were suppose to collect the old tray and deliver our new one, but Brands by Nature also sent us a Beco Litter Scoop for our trouble.

So now we have our eco-tray, we started looking at the litter itself. Though a natural material, the clay for clumping litters is often produced by strip mining, which is considered an environmentally degrading process. But there are a few eco-friendly cat litters available that use recycled paper, wood pellets or vegetable matter. In the end our decision was partially influenced by where we could buy the litter from. We found most of the eco-friendly litters were available online, rather than in high street shops. So instead of paying for shipping every few months, we decided the cat litter could help us qualify for free delivery from Ocado (but more on Ocado another week).

We finally chose Natural & Clean Cat Litter, which is 100% biodegradable, flushable and compostable. It’s made from depleted barley (after the edible part has been removed) and is natural and sustainable.  It also has a patented odour control formula that uses natural ingredients. We're still using a 50-50 mix of the new litter and our old litter while the cats get used to it, but so far we're quite happy with it.

Now we just have to figure out if we're allowed to add the used litter to our green bin for composting!

Can you make any eco-friendly changes on behalf of your pets?

If you'd like the code for the Step Down Sunday badge or to learn more about it, go to the Step Down Sunday page.