Open water swimming and infertility

So the title of this post suggests there may be some proven link between open water swimming and (in) fertility. As far as I know, ‘officially’, there isn’t one. But I have been connecting the two things in my mind for a little while now and, if you would oblige me, I wanted to muse on that a little bit.

The photo above is of my sister and myself just after finishing the Haver Castle 5km swim last weekend. The water was really cold for us (as fair weather swimmers!) which may have contributed something to my sister whipping round her first 5km in around 1 he 45 mins, and a PB for me at 1 hour 51. Numb toes are a good motivator for a quick finish. The setting at Haver Castle is rather beautiful to look at from out of the water, but it’s not the nicest place to actually swim. It turns out that the lake at Haver Castle is pretty shallow and there is a very thick layer of squidgy mud covering the bottom of the lake. If 50 of people are swimming in front of you (I like to take a slow position at the back, doing breast stroke so I can appreciate the view) they churn the water up so it’s a dirty swim. It’s difficult to get a firm footing on the floor of the lake to adjust goggles, (or cough up some of that dirty water) and too shallow to tread water. I’m glad we did this one but probably won’t rush back to do it again.

While I was swimming (after my lungs got used to the cold and agreed to work again) I was thinking a bit about the changing relationship I have with my body. I think when I was younger I may have been a bit more interested in what it looked like. Now I’m more interested in what I can (and can’t) get it to do. So I can get it to swim me around a chilly muddy lake a couple of times. But so far I’ve not coaxed it (either with or without medical intervention) into making a baby.

When you are having treatment for something like infertility a strange thing happens in that you become more aware of what is (or isn’t) happening in your body, while at the same time feeling less control over that situation. This week I’ve been learning more about the link between exercise and better health for women with Polycystic Ovary Syndrome, and how regular exercise and good diet can help settle some of those wayward hormones. I’ve been trying more consciously to do the things I know that would support my body through some of the treatments I’ve been having. Its true that I feel better when I’m doing some training for something than when I skip out on exercise. Maybe the link between swimming and fertility isnt just in my mind, but a reality in my body too.

I also make art. You can things with my designs on at my shop here. Could even treat yourself if you wanted to. Just saying.

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Reasons to be greatful #7 – my boyfriend bought me a new coat

It’s still pretty warm in the UK at the moment but my boyfriend, ever the one to spot a bargain, bought me this lovely new coat.

It is made by an ethical company called Hoodlamb (check them out here). They are an ethical company who make clothing out of organic and recyled materials, including hemp.

I’d like to say this was the reason I loved it. It’s not. I just like that I kind of look like a ruffled polar bear.

I also make art. You can things with my designs on at my shop here. Could even treat yourself if you wanted to. Just saying.

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Friday fun

I wanted to share a quick pic of these origami elephants that I made last week for my boyfriend’s birthday. My normal creative MO is cutting paper, but I didn’t start there. Several years ago I became interested in paper art forms through trying my hand at origami. I really loved the elegance of the forms you can create through simply folding paper.

I moved on to paper cutting after seeing an exhibition in the Tate Modern by Matisse. His late work included very large organic shapes cut from large vibrantly coloured pieces of paper. To begin with I was interested in the different silhouettes I could create using bold and contrasting colours. More recently I have been exploring different textures and patterns, including using cloth that has been coated in PVA glue. My practice continues to evolve.

But now and again I try my hand at origami again to make my brain work differently. It’s more like art as a puzzle for me as I still need to follow other people’s patterns. The elephants here were folded from this lovely pattern at spruce crafts.

I also make art. You can things with my designs on at my shop here. Could even treat yourself if you wanted to. Just saying.

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Narrow boat fantasies

One of the little ‘alternative life’ fantasies I have is of my partner and myself leaving our jobs as floating off on a narrow boat around the UK. I’ve actually never stayed on a narrow boat, but have become more and more fond of them as I come across them during our walks in London. I’ve been on holdiay for the last two weeks and we decided not to actually go anywhere, but to have a ‘staycation’. During one of our lazy days at home my partner and I came across a whole community of British narrow boat Youtubers. I have really been enjoying watching videos from this group of people who have actually made the move to live aboard narrow boats on the UK.

In particular I’ve been enjoying videos from Cruising the Cut (the embedded video at the top of this page) and from the Narrow boat experience (see below). Both channels are quirky and funny in a slightly eccentric way (which is exactly the kind of thing that appeals to my sense of humour). Cruising the Cut is hosted by a former news presenter who uses that form of delivery to report on narrow boat life. I particularly liked his news presenter account of cooking a Christmas Dinner in a narrow boat (link here). The Narrow boat experience is hosted by a married couple who have given up their jobs in Londong to become continual cruisers on the UK canals. Through the channel they take us with them on this adventure. I thouroughly reccomend both.

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DIY Sould repair and ‘Womb Art’ – does anyone really want to see that?

I think I have been putting off posting this for quite some time because I’m really not sure who would want to see this kind of thing. I had been working on a little series of pieces called DIY soul repair, which had included a skull and a heart. I was thinking about a kind of gothic steam punky series that would involve bones and other bodily organs. And then I started having all sorts of tests and treatments for infertility and the series itself felt more relevant. So I felt I had to get a uterus involved. So this third piece in the series now looks like this (available on things on redbubble here).

Still F__king perfect_blue

So I was actually pretty happy with the way that turned out. But I also felt it was a bit depressing, so I took photos the white paper cutouts that I used as stencils for the red paper parts on this piece and used the outline of these to ‘cut’ other photos of papercut flowers I have to create something a bit more positive, which turned out like this (available on things on redbubble here), which I kind of like because if feels a bit cheeky and a bit more positive given the current empty state of my own uterus.

The lady garden 2 red

So I am not really sure if anyone would be into this kind of thing, but here it is, anyway. I think I kind of enjoyed making these for me anyway so I’m not bothered if no one else is interested.

I also make non uterus related art. You can things with my designs on at my shop here. Could even treat yourself if you wanted to. Just saying.

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Objects with meaning #22 – my ‘first’ Engagement ring

When I first started the “Objects with Meaning’ series I had a stack of photos left over from an arts project I did some time ago that I felt I could give a second life to. They have run out now. I have plenty more objects to talk, but posts in this series are likely to be a bit more sporadic from now on as I am not always great at time management. If you would like to contribute your own ‘Object with Meaning’ like Scar, Laurie, and Blue Velvet Jacket have (if you have not read these posts already, I thoroughly reccomend them), I would really welcome that. Please write your post, and then make sure to let me know you have done so in a comment down below. I will link it in a future post.

So this is my ‘first’ engagement ring. My partner and I got engaged in January this year while taking a few days away in Cambridge. My boyfriend had made a really good effort at convincing me before hand that he didnt believe in marriage, so when he proposed I was a) completely suprised, and b) suspicious enough to check with him several times that he wasn’t just pulling my leg. The BF had carefully planned how it was all going to happen, which involved a romantic walk through Cambridge to a craft market where a silver smith works with recycled silver to make bespoke pieces. But things never quite go as planned. We did have the romantic walk but it was just before Valentines Day and the silversmith was not there because he was busy in his studio working through a pile of Valentine orders. We then walked around Cambridge looking at other jewelers, but did not like anything we saw. Finally we went to the regular market in the town centre and bought this beauty for less than 20 pounds stirling. It was meant to be a stand in for the ‘real’ thing, but I am still wearing it 8 months later. I think the stone may actually be plastic, rather than real amber, although we cannot tell for sure. We are a bit worried that it is glued together and may not stand the test of time.

And I love it. I really like the elfish style of the silver work and how unusual it is. My fiance and I are taking a London Holiday this week and next, which is easy as we live in London, and are going to have a look for the ‘real’ one this week. But I am not sure I will find one I like better than this.

I also make art. You can things with my designs on at my shop here. Could even treat yourself if you wanted to. Just saying.

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Reasons to be grateful #6 – swimming with my sister

SWIA0424-20x30There hasn’t been a huge amount of activity on this blog for a week or more as I’m a bit exhausted and taking a bit of down time. However, Laurie from the lovely blog Meditations in Motion posted this post a few days ago which included a very kind write up of me and the magpie blog. It reminded me of the picture above which I had wanted to post for a while, mostly with her in mind. She writes very well about her experiences of running distance races. I’m not a distance runner, but I am a distance swimmer.

I started swimming longer distances last year, at a similar time as I began looking having tests and treatment for infertility. It was also about the time that my sister and I started swimming regularly together. The photo above is from the Great East Swim at Alton Water which happend back in June – it’s of me and my sister, finishing a 2 mile swim together (I’m the bigger, more sausage shaped one!). My sister is faster than me, but I have the edge when it comes to stamina. In that swim in particular she flew off at the start but I caught up at around the 1.5 mile mark and we swam the final half mile next to each other. In these group swims everyone wears the same coloured hat, and it can be difficult to find another person if you dont start together, so we got really lucky. At the end we got out of the water together, and finished just one second apart. We had a great swim that day, mostly becaue we got to finish together.

My sister and I swam a lot as kids, but during our early adulthood we lived in different places and I certainly took big breaks from swimming at times. My sister lived abroad for 4 years, and moved back to London two years ago. Soon after that we began swimming together regulalry when we could. Its been really great as we never really spent that kind of regular time together as adults before. She was one of the first people I spoke to about my infertility, which was kind of suprising because I’m not really a talker when it comes to difficult things. I am greatful that we had swimming to come back to together. It made me think about how it is worth spending the time establishing yourself in a physical hobby or sport when things are going well. Having something physically challenging (that you enjoy moderate progress in) to indulge in when things feel a bit dark is a very helpful thing indeed. I have just signed myself up for a 9 km swim next year in the Big Welsh Swim. This will be the longest distance I have to date. I am looking forward to traing with her for that.

I am also greatful to Laurie for prompting me to write this post and for her supportive messages over the last few months.

I also make art. You can things with my designs on at my shop here. Could even treat yourself if you wanted to. Just saying.

Posted in gratitude, infertility, mental health, swimming | Tagged , , , , , , | 7 Comments