Reasons to be grateful – the NHS

The only place to be at 5 o’clock in the morning.

I had an emergency C section 2 days ago on the NHS after a pretty long, fairly painful. Many of the careful and skilled hands that looked after me and baby magpie belonged to an immigrant. We are both doing well as a result.

Under the new points based system proposed by the UK government many of these people would not be considered skilled at all. I’m not sure what is going on, but I’m pretty sure stripping the NHS of essential staff is not what most people voted for. Just putting that put there.

Reasons to be greatful #8 – autumn sunshine

It’s been a bit quiet over here recently. I’ve been trying to manage some pretty rubbish fatigue, which I think may be linked to my on going efforts to try to balance out my hormones and manage my PCOS through changes to my diet and exercise. At the moment it feels a bit like trying to deal with infertility strips out many of life’s pleasures. At least the kind of pleasures that you put in your mouth. I’ve almost stopped boozing completely (and I was a very British drinker), coffee is on its way out and cakes and chocolate have to go too.

But there is an upside. Autumn is here, bringing with it some light, crisp days that make everything beautiful.

This is also the season of rich red colours. Turning leaves and ripening berries abound. And delicate mushrooms too.

Last weekend I was in the Cotswolds with my parents and my fiance. We were able to get out into the woods for the afternoon, to stumble through the leaves and catch a few hours of that delicate warm sunshine.

Some people I know find autumn and winter a depressing time. The light is fading. The leaves fall and begin to decay. Personally I love autumn and winter. Creatively, I find much more to be inspired by in autumn, than I do in the heavy hot days of summer. I feel it is a time of creative and natural renewal. The falling leaves create a thick and rich mulch in preparation for next year’s green shoots. I am greatful for the fresh cool air and crisp bright sunshine of autumn in the British country side.

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.

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.

Patience and watching my garden grow

I started writing this a few weeks ago, but I’ve been kind of working through a sticky depressive brain fog since then and I feel so slow at the moment (and I already picked the slow road so you know, snail pace slow right now) so apologies for the relative radio silence. I also wanted to think a bit about pressing the ‘publish’ button in this, as it’s a bit more personal than the posts I normally go with. But I’ve decided it’s ok. I hope you think it’s ok too.

A few weeks ago I planted out some plants into the garden we had raised inside from seed. Anyone living in the UK at the moment will know that we’ve had some unpredictable weather recently and so we kept these little plants inside a bit longer than was really good for them because of some very late snow and ice. A week ago in the heatwave I caught myself going out into the garden every few hours when I was home, inpatiently tracking the growth of my plants (and monitoring which ones were being eaten by the snails, but that’s another story).

I’ve been thinking about this a bit this week as I surprised myself a bit. In my work life patience is one of the ruling principles of doing the work I do. I work in mental health research – rush tends to lead to ruin here. At home I have picked the kind of art forms that are slow. The finished thing reveals itself over a period of weeks, months or years. While I have often felt frustrated with myself, I have mostly made peace with picking such slow hobbies.

In the last few weeks, pacing around the garden I have questioned a little my full capacity for patience. One of the big things in my life, that had been silent in my writing here so far, is that my partner and I have been trying to have a baby, for quite some time. There have been some tests, some medication, some more tests, and now some more medication. Yesterday I started injecting myself with hormones, and this will be a daily deal for a while. There has been healthy living and less alcohol and talk about reducing stress. Thus far things have not worked. I am aware of the importance of patience here too. I have very little control, apart from the obvious (wink wink), over making a baby happen.

Some times I think that I need more than patience. Patience isn’t enough. I need a better strategy or plan for managing the weird emotional fall out from this situation. Holding my friend’s gorgeous 2 month old baby is a joy as it should be. But there is sadness on the train ride home. Some days I actually don’t feel at all bad about where we are – we are lucky, I can access good medical care on the nhs, and have a great doctor helping me. Some days I talk to my friend who is devastated after her multiple attempts at ivf have failed and think, that could be me in a year. Right now I still have hope, and have been building on my mental stamina. But I’ve not been building a plan. I’m not sure what that would look like. Outside the peas in my garden are just beginning to flower.