31 August 2012


28 August 2012

Finally Finished

Once you start on the Menopur injections IVF suddenly picks up speed. The last two weeks have simply flown by, which has made a welcome change.

After 19 days of Buserelin injections, we went back to the Women’s Hospital for a scan to see if I was ready for the next stage. It was a relief to be told we could start the ten days of Menopur injections. The Menopur injections were better than the Buserelin as they didn’t burn and itch (but I had to continue taking the Buserelin too). Originally the sister wasn’t going to have me back till we’d finished them, but I was a bit concerned that If anything went wrong I wouldn’t notice (as I proved with the ectopic pregnancy). She thought that as my Anti-Mullerian Hormone reading was so low I wouldn’t have anything to worry about but she booked me in for a scan on the seventh day of injections anyway.

This scan turned out to be something of a mixed blessing, while my results weren’t good I’m really grateful that I got an early warning that I wasn’t responding well to the Menopur. They hope to retrieve about 14 eggs but I had only one small follicle on the right side and two small follicles on the left. The bad part of the scan was that I seem to have found a melodramatic sister. She said that she didn’t think they’d be ready by day ten, so I’d probably need more injections...but if they still didn’t get up to 17mm they’d have to cancel my egg collection. Within the space of 10 minutes I went from nothing really being wrong to the possibility they’d cancel my treatment completely! Luckily when we reached the final scan on day ten, I had two 16mm follicles and a 13mm follicle on the right and a 13mm one on the left. We were given another two days of Menopur injections and were booked in for the egg collection.

I’d been quite worried about the Gonasi injection, which is the very last one. It stops the growth of the eggs and prepares them for collection. Originally I’d been told the needle would have to go in the stomach, which I find especially traumatic, but luckily even that one could be given in the thigh.

Exactly thirty-six hours later I was preparing for the egg collection. The worst bit of the collection was definitely the canular. Though I’ve found ways to cope with the daily injections it hasn’t actually helped my needle phobia. I gave the poor anaesthetist quite a shock when I had an anxiety attack, but once they squeezed the anaesthetic into the canular, I was unconscious within seconds. When I woke up it was all over and I didn’t feel any discomfort.

They were able to collect four eggs in the end, though only two fertilised. Because I only had two embryos, they felt they’d be able to easily identify the best by day three - rather than waiting till the blastocyst stage on day five. On Saturday morning we returned to the hospital to have one of our embryos implanted. They normally hope that by day three the embryos will have split into six cells, but when we arrived we discovered our best embryo only had four cells and the other just two. Because the second one was quite poor, they decided it would be better to implant both.

While implantation was painless, it was pretty weird. By this point I was used to lying back in the stirrups with a simple sheet for modesty. But this time once I settled back on the examination table it was raised four feet in the air. It’s very unsettling to have your legs spread at everyone’s eye level! I just kept reminding myself this was something they do every day, and once the procedure started there were other things to keep me distracted. Despite my worries, the transfer was completely painless all I felt was a slight tugging. The whole procedure only took about ten minutes and then we were up and out of the hospital.

Emotionally I’ve been all over the place. We’ve had such poor results from the IVF that we’re not sure we’ll go through another cycle. Since that first scan where the nurse suggested our treatment could be cancelled, I’ve just wanted to run. Pick up and start over somewhere new, desperate to find a new future and happiness.

As soon as we finished the embryo transfer I felt overwhelmed with negativity and stress. I think I’d been getting through the process simply by putting one foot in front of the other, and now that we’ve finished all the stress and anxiety had nowhere to go. So I don’t know what we’re going to do or where our lives are headed, but now all we can do is wait.

This was originally written for the Emma's Diary Blog.

26 August 2012

Step Down Sunday - Clean Spirits

Step Down Sunday
It’s been a bit tough to come up with Step Down Sundays the last few weeks as life’s mostly been doctor appointments, reading books and getting the house ready to sell. So lots to keep us busy, but we’ve probably slacked a bit on our carbon-footprint.

Getting the house ready has included lots of plastering and painting. While we try to buy water based paints where possible, I’m afraid gloss paint appears to be exclusively oil based. Though we can’t improve the paint, Mr Goldfish has still found a way to reduce the environmental impact of using it.

He found a product called Clean Spirit, which is an environmentally friendly alternative to white spirits. I’ll admit I was a bit dubious that it would actually work. A lot of products like to replace the nasty chemicals with elbow grease and brute force, but Mr Goldfish says Clean Spirit is just as effective!

White Spirits contains a high percentage of Volatile Organic Compounds (800g per litre) which contribute to atmospheric pollution. And while it's not supposed to be poured down the drains, that is how most users dispose of the product. Clean Spirits in contrast has only 38g per litre of VOCs and is no more harmful than washing-up liquid when poured down the sink.

Clean Spirits is a water based solution composed of non-toxic biodegradable ingredients. It’s also odourless and non-flammable, so it’s safer to have around the house too. The only thing it can’t be used for is thinning oil based paints.

A simple way to reduce the environmental impact of DIY, while also making your home a safer place. We found Clean Spirits at B&Q, but it looks like there are plenty of places you can buy it online too.

Step Down Sunday
Have you made any Steps Down this week?

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.

19 August 2012

Amazon Kindle: Eco-friend or Foe?

Amazon Kindle Landscape
Now I didn’t buy a Kindle as a way to reduce my carbon-footprint, unfortunately my wrists are weak and after an emergency hospital stay they were too bruised to lift a book. So the light-weight Kindle was really a purchase of desperation, to get me through six house-bound weeks. But as I’ve been flying through books this summer, I started to wonder just how many books did I needed to read before the Kindle became an eco-friendly option?

Unfortunately Amazon has chosen not to release the details of the Kindle’s carbon-footprint. However Apple has released the details of the iPad 3 (130kg CO2), which I would guess has a higher footprint than the Kindle (colour screen vs e-ink technology). If we divide this by the carbon-footprint of a typical paperback (8.85lbs, approx 4kg) it works out at something like 32.5 books are equal to an iPad. (I suspect this still ignores some of the material costs: renewable paper vs. electronics and plastics.) There have been claims that the Kindle's footprint is equivalent to about 20 books however some analyses put that figure at closer to 40.

When I finish this next novel we’ll have read 33 books on the Kindle. Mr Goldfish has read 5 while I’ve read 28 (actually I’ve read more, but some were duplicates of books I already owned). So we're well on our way to being carbon-free with the books we buy in future, if we're not there already.

Like most things, the right answer is going to be different for everyone. If you’re an avid reader the Kindle may work out as an eco-friendly alternative to traditional paperbacks, but if you only get chance to read on your summer holiday, books will still be your best choice. Of course the best answer of all is probably to visit your local library.

Step Down Sunday
Have you made any Steps Down this week?

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.

14 August 2012

Shiny Somethings

1.   Olympics!
Like many people across the country I've spent the last two weeks captivated by the Olympics, so I was quite excited when Mr Goldfish spotted Jason Kenny's gold postbox outside his office. I'm not usually a fan of sport, but even I can see the Olympics is different. Besides being a worldwide celebration of human achievement, it's an exhibition of the human heart. As those athletes cross the finish line - whether first or last - they share everything with us; their joy, their pain, and their dreams. Giving us a clear picture of our collective spirit.

2.   Reese's Pieces & Reese's Cups

I've been living in the UK for nearly 13 years now, but there are still odd flavours I miss from home. So I've been a tad over excited since I spotted Reese's products appearing in my local Sainsbury's and Tesco. Though I didn't eat them often when living overseas, there's nothing else quite like them. My favourite is definitely the Reese's Pieces, which are like peanut butter filled Smarties!

3.   Doctor Who

I love Doctor Who, so I'm quite excited by the new series trailer. I'm really sorry to see Rory and Amy go. While David Tennant is definitely my Doctor, I've never really taken to the previous companions. The current cast has combined a great charismatic Doctor with a strong supporting female. Rory's character has also been strengthen over the last season, and he helps avoid the obvious romantic cliché Doctor Who has suffered from in recent years.

4.  Books!

I've continued to churn through books the last few weeks, so I started looking for some cheap reads. Amazon had a few fabulous deals on Kindle books, and I managed to buy four crime novels for less than £3! Irritatingly two of those I had to quit reading within the first few chapters as the main characters were pregnant, and while not especially distressing, it wasn't something I really wanted to dwell on at the moment.

In the end I only read one of my new bargains, David Baldacci's Zero Day which was an unbelievable £0.20! It felt like an NCIS novel, but I liked the main character and the plot was certainly original. I went looking for the next book in the series, but I'll have to wait till it's published in November.

From there I gave up and went back to read some old favourites, the Harper Connelly Series by Charlaine Harris (of True Blood fame). This is at least the third time I've read them in the last 18 months, which means half-way through I usually remember how it ends, but I still really enjoy them. Harper Connelly was hit by lightening when she was 15 and since then she has been able to find the dead. Now she and her step-brother  earn their living by travel round the country searching for lost loved ones. A nice twist on the typical crime novel, but really it's the interesting characters that keep me coming back again and again.

If you'd like to share your own Shiny Somethings, feel free to leave a link in the comments below!

8 August 2012

What I Wore Wednesday

Phase Eight Kazumi Maxi Dress
Phase Eight Kazumi Maxi Dress - John Lewis
Evans Strappy Wedges
It's not often I can write about fashion. Normally I have to prioritise comfort over look - so no harsh fabrics, no long sleeves & no high heels. Instead I search out extra cushioned shoes, seamless clothing, and comfy layers. It's only within the last couple of years I've discovered Hotter Shoes, which let me retire the trainers I'd been stuck in for ten years and feel like a normal person! (Seriously, if you have trouble with your joints or spend much time on your feet you should give them a try.)

The second problem is that my weight swings up and down like a yo-yo, so I don't have any wardrobe basics to fall back on. When ever a wedding appears on my calendar there's a mad search to find something suitable to wear. Unfortunately this time things were also complicated by stress and illness. When my kidney stones act up I feel constantly nauseous, causing me to eat constantly - and combined with comfort eating around my needle anxiety  I could almost guarantee I'd put weight on before the wedding.

So I resisted shopping to the very last minute. With just over a week till the wedding, I hit the shops. I'd struck out in a couple of stores when I spotted this gem from Phase Eight. It's fantastically slimming and very comfortable, which was a good thing as we'd need to do an injection half way through the evening.

The biggest problem was shoes. The night before the wedding I broke down and bought a pair of strappy wedges on sale from Evans (no Step Down points there!).

I did buy a bracelet to go with the dress and tried some dangly earrings, but on the day I thought extra jewellery was a bit too much. Looking back at the photos though I think it does need a touch more sparkle. Hopefully I can find something before the next wedding in February (assuming the dress still fits by then!)

To see what everyone else is wearing this week, head over to Transatlantic Blonde.

7 August 2012

Well, that's brought me down with a bump

Today I had my first scan to see how well the eggs are developing...and the answer wasn't good.

We've had six of our ten Menopur injections, but only three follicles have developed - and they are quite small.

We were hoping to have about 14 follicles ready by Friday, which would then be collected next week. Now it seems unlikely that any will be ready, meaning we'll be prescribed even more Menopur injections. We need the follicles to increase from 10mm to 17mm, or they may cancel our egg collection altogether.

It's not quite the end course, in theory you only need one good egg for IVF - but this significantly reduces our chances.

6 August 2012

Pins & IVF Needles

So you’ve received your IVF medications, what happens next?

Well the drug appointment at the fertility centre is a doddle. They explain the first medication you’ll be using, supervise your first injection and book your next appointment.

The first medication I’m using is Buserelin, which stops your own cycle, putting you in a temporary menopausal state. I started the Buserelin injections on day 21 of my cycle and they will continue for about 30 days – up to egg harvesting.

The needles are so fine that you hardly feel them going in, but that doesn’t really make the injections easier for me. After the first couple of injections I felt that it was going to be quite manageable, but as the weeks have gone by I find it harder and harder to give the okay that precedes the needle. Because of this we decided that my husband would give the injections, so we do them at 6pm each evening. This allows him plenty of time to get home from work, but means we can still to go out in the evening if we need to.

Now on our 17th day of injections, and I think we’ve found a few helpful tips:

  • Though the hospital thought that doing the injections in the stomach was easier because the skin is thinner, we found giving them in the thigh worked better for us.
  • Our needles are only a half inch long, but we’ve found it helps to keep the needle pushed firmly into the skin and try to keep the angle high so it goes deep into the muscle. If it’s too shallow, the injection burns and itches as the fluid makes its way to the surface where it creates bubbles under the skin. It doesn’t seem to be a serious problem, as the fluid will be absorbed within an hour, but it’s unpleasant - and easily the worst part of the injection.
  • I found it helped to keep the muscle slightly tense, as if you twitch as the needle goes in tensing around the needle really hurts!
  • Don’t be surprised if your period is late! I was a bit worried something might be wrong when my period didn’t show up as expected but eventually it arrived.
  • And once it did it didn’t want to stop. My period’s normally 3-5 days, but this time lasted for 8 days!

Even though I can't say the injections are easier than I expected, there has been an unanticipated surprise. From the day we started the injections, I finally could see a way forward. For months I've been going through the motions, but I'd lost my purpose and drive. Now that we're moving forward, I've finally found hope again - hope that the IVF may work and hope that we may achieve our dream.

Our next appointment is Wednesday, where I’ll have an ultrasound scan to check the lining of my uterus is nice and thin (after an eight day period I don’t anticipate this will be a problem), and if everything looks good we’ll start 10 days of Menopur injections to stimulate egg production.

This was originally written for the Emma's Diary Blog.

5 August 2012

Step Down Sunday - 'No Poo' Failure

If you heard bells tolling a few weeks ago, you probably witnesses the death of my 'No Poo' challenge.

Whether the water wasn't boiled sufficiently or I finally reached a breaking point, something went horribly wrong in week 14. The horrible soap scum took over and neither baking soda or extra vinegar would remove it.

Knowing I faced several weeks of injections, I decided I didn't need the extra stress that came with trying to tweak and problem solve my mixes. So after a week of fighting I gave up and declared my bicarbonate of soda and vinegar experiment a failure. Instead I went back to do more research.

The 'No Poo' resurgence seems to have started as a beauty regime for curly haired lasses. Many choose to wash their hair with just conditioner, though they have several ingredients they avoid.
  • Sulphates - While soap is difficult to use in hard water, detergents like sulphates are still effective. The problem is that these harsh chemicals strip the hair off its natural oils making it dry and damaged. 
  • Silicone - Often used to give a smooth coating to your hair, hiding damage but also weighing your hair down.
  • Parabens - Also worth mentioning, parabens are used to preserve the shampoo and conditioner so it has a longer shelf life.
As a short term solution, I searched through the left over bottles of shampoo and conditioner in my bathroom. I decided to use one with sulphates to remove all the soapy grunge on  my hair, but I avoided any silicones. I wanted to get back to a neutral starting point, where I could try something new. (The result was amazing! The lovely curly hair people raved about had been hidden under the soapy weight.)

Beside the chemicals listed above being bad for curly hair, they also aren't great for our environment. So I started searching for a environmentally friendly product. Lush products are brilliant for their lack of packaging, but I'm afraid they all use sulphates.

I happened to pass Body Shop, and though I've not been in for years I thought it was worth checking. I was pleasantly surprised to discover their Rainforest Moisture Shampoo, which is free from sulphates, silicones, parabens, and colourants. Plus it uses Community Fair Trade honey and sugar!
Body Shop Rainforest Moisture Shampoo & Conditioner
It may be because I'm using this product in the bath, but it doesn't lather like normal shampoo. You have to pour a small amount in your hands add a small amount of water and then try to lather it up between your hands. It will foam a bit, but it doesn't spread through your hair.

I quickly worked out I needed a system to make sure I didn't miss a section. With the first application I wash the sides and over my ears, with the second my fringe, I wash the crown with the third application, and with the fourth I go under my hair to wash the back. Finally the fifth application catches any area at the back I've missed. I'm sure it sounds like I'm using a ton of product, but the shampoo is quite thin and I use an area smaller than a ten pence each time. Mr Goldfish hasn't had as much problem with the lather, but he's using it in the shower and has much shorter hair. He's been able to use a single measure of shampoo for his whole head - though he washes it twice.

While this is technically something of a step up from the baking soda and vinegar routine, it's still a more environmentally friendly option than the shampoo I originally used. Plus because the shampoo is gentler, I've not been desperate for conditioner - so I'm using less product in total.

An unexpected bonus is that Mr Goldfish is also trying out the Rainforest Shampoo and Conditioner. So while it may be a slight step up for me, it would be a definite Step Down for him!

To Read More:
Step Down Sunday - No Poo: Week One
Step Down Sunday - No Poo: Week Two
Step Down Sunday - Save Pennies & Planet
Step Down Sunday - 'No Poo' Goes Horribly Wrong!
Step Down Sunday - ‘No Poo’: Week 6
Step Down Sunday - 'No Poo': Week 12
Step Down Sunday - 'No Poo' Failure

Step Down Sunday
Have you made any Steps Down this week?

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.

1 August 2012

Shiny Somethings

1.   Moo Mini Cards

From the moment I created the new Another Goldfish banner, I've been looking for an excuse for new business cards. My last set of Mini Moo Cards I got free through Klout, but the images came out a bit dark and miserable. So when I spotted a tweet mentioning a 30% off sale I jumped at the chance - especially when I realised I could save another £3 through Top CashBack. They arrived last week and I'm quite pleased with them. Still a bit duller than I'd like and there's a couple of things I'd tweak next time, but they're a fabulous improvement. Now I just need more opportunities to hand them out!

2.   Crochet Blanket Stitch

Our WI has started a Secret Knitting Project, which I'd love to tell you about, but I can't - because I don't know the details! All we've been told is that we need at least a hundred 20cm squares. I don't know how to knit, but luckily crochet is allowed too. I'd spotted this pretty Blanket Stitch on Pinterest and this seemed the perfect opportunity to try it out. As usual my stitches are too tight which makes the fabric quite stiff, but over all I'm quite pleased with the results.

3.   A Very Regal Seagull

I spotted this comical fellow on my way through Liverpool. I love his regal attitude, as if the only perch suitable for such a distinguished bird is atop King George III's head.

4.  Books!

Since we started the IVF injections I've been trying to keep myself distracted, which means I've been flying through the books again.

I started with I Capture the Castle by Dodie Smith for our WI Book Club. It wasn't bad, but I can't say it captured my imagination. I found the Pride & Prejudice parallels rather irritating, and it was only in the last few chapters that I felt the book found it's own voice.

Next I got a head start on our next Book Club Novel, The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern. This I really enjoyed! Magical and intriguing, I couldn't put the book down.

Book Club is also good for recommendations, this time Morven suggested I might enjoy the Temperance Brennan series by Kathy Reichs. I started with the fourteenth book Flash and Bones as it was cheapest, and flew through it. Not sure the series will be one of my favourites, but they will keep me busy so I quickly moved on to the first novel Deja Dead.

5.  The Dark Knight Rises

We also took advantage of Orange Wednesday to go see The Dark Knight Rises. I really liked their interpretation of Catwoman, which was much more believable than previous incarnations of the character. But the best part was superb performances from Michael Cain and Joseph Gordon-Lovitt. It's a lovely finale to the Dark Knight trilogy.

If you'd like to share your own Shiny Somethings, feel free to leave a link in the comments below!