Friday, August 11, 2006

For Bri

It's pretty obvious why this made me think of you!

We were randomly given this at the supermarket checkout a few weeks back to hold wine bottles, when K was indulging her summer Prosecco obsession. It wasn't until I was about to put out the re-cycling that I spotted what was on the box, and had to save it and take a picture, in celebration of your pregnancy.

Ugh, the thought of drinking wine though. I'd got pretty used to hardly drinking at all whilst ttc, but the thought of alcohol now just simply doesn't appeal in the slightest! K thinks it's great though, as I'm now always the designated driver. Hah.

Photo Friday

OK, so I'm not yet an official member of the Photo Friday group, but seeing as how I have finally got my arse in gear to create this on-line presence, I thought that I should start contributing. Plus, a foodie theme will always get me going!

I'm very proud of my spice drawer: it's an extra deep drawer that holds a lot of different spices, and is right in the centre of the kitchen, between my 2 cooking areas. And if you're wondering why I have 2 cooking areas, it's because I have an Aga. I use this for our home cooking, but it's currently switched off, as it makes the kitchen too darned hot in summer (although our recent hot spell seems to have come to an end, so I may turn it back on soon). However, because I need to give accurate oven temps/cooking timings based on a regular oven/hob for when I'm recipe writing, I have a separate gas hob and fan oven for testing purposes - and for the summer!

Needless to say, because I cook for a living, as well as for pleasure, I have a bazillion different spices, and they won't all fit in one drawer. So the lesser used stuff (and refills etc.) get stuck in the larder. But the drawer itself is a thing of beauty. Not quite neat serried ranks of spice bottles, as they are differing heights and sizes, but at least they are organised in alphabetical order, so that I can lay my hands on the relevant spice at a moment's notice.

I use a lot of spices in my home cooking; Indian and Middle Eastern recipes are great sources of inspiration. The spices that come out most often are cumin (seeds and ground), cinnamon, nutmeg, dried chilli flakes and smoked paprika. Although there are a few dried herbs, they don't get used a lot, as I prefer to use fresh. Ridiculously though, I don't have a proper herb garden at the moment; I need to clear an area near the kitchen so that I can just nip out and snip away. Doing the garden always falls down rather low on my "to do" list though. My favourite containers are the little metal canisters (blue and green), which I bought in Italy and just refill as needed. The nutmeg (noce moscata) contains the cutest little mini grater in the tin.

I would share some other spice photos with you, but I haven't a clue how to include more than one picture in a single post!

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

A long time coming
So, here I am finally starting my blog. Better late than never I say, and besides, I want to be able to chart (and share) my pregnancy!

Inevitably, being such a long way down the time-line in our family creation (umm, it was at least 6 years ago that we started discussing the possibility), it's hard to know where to start. I'll do a brief background, and a rough ttc outline, then go into more detail in the future - or if any of you want to ask me specific questions, feel free.

In the photo, I'm there on the left (at about 8 weeks pregnant, looking fat rather than any kind of pregnant yet), my partner K is on the right, and we're with our niece Ella, who has just turned 4.

So, a bit about me/us to start with. I'm 36, a commited foodie who has been lucky enough to make her passion into a career (I'm a cookery writer and food stylist), and I've been with K for 11 1/2 years. This is the first same-sex relationship for either of us, which means that we've never really got into the lesbian "scene" much, but contrary to people's expectations, we're still going strong after all this time. We worked in the same office for about a year before we got together, and that was only by chance. We'd started socialising in the same group after work, and one late & drunken night we were in an after-hours club, sitting on a couch and listening to some live jazz. I had my arm along the back of the couch (as is my way), which meant that it was behind K, and some guy asked us if we were a couple. Needless to say, we sprang apart like we'd been burnt, but it set a seed growing in both of our minds, and it wasn't that long before we got together. And, yes, I'd moved in lock, stock & barrel within 2 weeks! Even though it was all so new, and slightly peculiar, it just felt right, as both of us felt that we had met our life partner. The fact that that person happened to be another woman was pretty much irrelevant to it all (although I can't imagine now how I would ever have lived with a man!). We think that we were very lucky how supported and accepted our relationship was in those early days, by our friends and family, and how little prejudice we've encountered overall.

I had always wanted children, and am very family-oriented, whereas K is quite the opposite. As I approached 30, my biological clock started ticking pretty loudly (and of course I'd always presumed that I would be married and have at least one baby, if not two, by the time I was 30). Cue much discussion and angst, as we initially wanted completely different things, plus K has never appreciated being bulldozed! It was a pretty awful time, as I couldn't envisage my life without children in it, and for a while, it looked like we might split up. At that stage, I was also struggling internally with the supposed "rights and wrongs" of bringing up a child in a gay relationship (definitely some internal homophobia going on there). To cut a long story short, we worked through all the issues, and eventually got to the point where Karen actually wanted us to start a family too (neither of us wanted it to be a decision made to "save" the relationship). We then spent the next 3 years or so debating the hows, wheres and whyfores; in particular the known donor issue, which I won't go into at this time. Eventually, we decided to go the clinic route, waiting until the UK law changed regarding donor anonymnity, so that our child/ren would be able to find out more about their donor once they reach 18, should they choose to do so.

Eventually, this meant that we started actively ttc in April 2005, with our first IUI cycle being natural. I had done loads of preparation for ttc, both in research terms, and in getting my body as ready as possible to conceive. I'd been on a pre-conceptual programme of vitamin & mineral supplements for 7 months by then, combined with a healthy/wholefood/organic diet, no alcohol, caffeine etc. plus environmental pollutants cut down to an absolute minimum (aluminium free deodorant, fluoride-free toothpaste and the rest). I'd been charting for over a year and had regular cycles, so all in all, I expected to get pregnant pretty easily. Hah! It was not to be so.

As I'd just turned 35, that key point in terms of fertility starting to decline, the clinic urged me towards medicated cycles ASAP. Clomid did nothing for me, and nor did injectible FSH - just pushed up the costs of each cycle, with no more than my one (perfectly good) monthly follicle ever materialising. We ended up doing a total of 6 IUI cycles (2 natural, 1 on Clomid and 3 with injectibles), to no avail, spread over 15 months. We had prepared ourselves for it potentially taking 4-6 goes to get pregnant, but not for the delays between cycles, which were pretty hard to bear. As time went on, and all the women in my lesbian parenting group were getting pregnant (and even having the babies that they had conceived after we had started trying), things got a lot harder.

At the outset, I had wanted to keep things as low-key as possible, medication-wise, but as time went on, we just wanted to get pregnant, whatever it took. By the time the 5th cycle came around, we were ready to move on to IVF, but were convinced to give it one more go at IUI (and given the cost differentials, we decided it was worth it). We'd had a 4-cycle break at that point, I'd started hypnotherapy and felt very positive about it working at last. It was devastating when my period arrived after just 10 days (shortest LP ever!), I suppose partly because it meant that we were really going to have to use the big guns to try and get me pregnant.

After all the uncertainties surrounding IVF, and all the potential stress, I actually found my IVF cycle far easier to deal with than anticipated. I added extra complementary therapies such as acupuncture to my regime, increased my protein intake during stimming etc., so felt that I was doing everything possible to give us the best possible chances. I was pretty lucky that I didn't suffer too many side effects, and absolutely thrilled that my ovaries finally reacted to higher doses of FSH, albeit only producing 6 follicles. Given my history of poor response, we were pretty pleased with this (and kept chanting "quality not quantity"!). We collected 5 eggs, of which 3 fertilised. At this point I started to get absolutely petrified about their development over the next few days, as 3 is a pretty small number, whereas K thought that it was great that 3 out of 5 were still with us. A very good illustration of our pessimist/optimist outlooks on life. On the day of transfer (3 days after collection), only 2 embryos had made it, and were only 4 and 5 cells respectively (although with no fragmentation/very little fragmentation respectively). I had been expecting them to have reached the 6-8 cell stage, and so was more than a little worried about our chances. The embryologist reassured us that both embryos were perfectly capable of achieving a pregnancy though, so all we could do was hope.

As ever, the 2ww was pretty hard, but I tried to think positively as much as I could (PUPO - Pregnant Until Proved Otherwise!) , and not to analyse too much. After all, the progesterone suppositories were giving my usual pre-menstrual symptoms of sore boobs and cramping from 3 days past transfer, so I couldn't put much weight on any symptoms! I'd always felt that I would "know" when I finally got pregnant, but that turned out to be yet another wrong assumption. The only clue that I had was that my pre-menstrual symptoms actually started to recede a couple of days before testing (and that I was starving hungry and eating like a pig, although I didn't connect this at the time; just thought I was being greedy/comfort eating). We tested at 13dpt. I was astounded when we saw that unbelievable second line - I had never really managed to convince myself that we would be lucky enough for IVF to work first time, since nothing else had proved simple. I just kept saying "wow, wow, it really worked!", while K burst into tears. It was such an amazing day; we couldn't quite believe it - and also realised that while we knew almost anything you could ask us about ttc, we knew nothing at all about pregnancy and birth! That's a subject about which we are rapidly learning (and at least there are a lot less uncertainties, although more worries, than with ttc).

Our 7 week ultrasound showed that we're expecting just Pip (rather than Pip & Pod), and I'm now almost 11 weeks pregnant, with a definite bump developing. More to follow!