Almost the Holidays

I can't believe it's Christmas in exactly a week. I can't say I've been much looking forward to it for myself this year, but I'm looking forward to spending it with family - and experiencing it through Georgia's eyes.

We have a delightful real tree this year - and she has been amazing! No toddler proofing this year, believe it or not ... she mostly watches it from afar. I can hardly believe it myself. As for the kitties, well, that's another story altogether. :)

We're going to be having a fairly quiet holiday season. Christmas Eve with my family, Christmas Day with hubby's family.

And then, just us. Our little family of three.

There are only a few things I want in this world. A happy and healthy life for my family & friends. Peace and tolerance. And to be a mama, again. To give my baby girl a sibling. And while I have very little control over any of those things, I'm going to try my hardest to make them happen.

Spending Christmas with this gorgeous almost-two year old {well, in a few months anyway} is going to be amazing.

With grace in your heart
and flowers in your hair.

Introducing Helpling: A Review

I recently had the pleasure of working with Helpling - a fantastic online company who works to pair independent workers with everyday consumers looking to invest in a home cleaning.

I've always been envious of folks who could afford a cleaner or housekeeper, since I assumed it was well out of our price ranger as a single income family. Plus if I'm honest, it also made me feel a little lazy, since I'm a Stay at Home Mum - shouldn't I have all the time in the world to clean my home? (Pffffffffffft.)

When I was contacted by the kind folk at Helpling and asked if I'd be interested in the gift of time with a cleaning voucher, I was more than keen & jumped at the chance.

Here's what I loved about Helpling at first glance:

  • The website is really user friendly - simply pop in your postcode, and follow the prompts.
  • The Helpling calculator helps you figure out how many hours of cleaning your home might benefit from.
  • The price of cleaning is set at $29 per hour, so there are no nasty surprises at the end.
  • It's really easy to select an appropriate day and time frame for your booking.
After booking, we received confirmation of our time frame & a note of who was coming to clean the house. In our case, we got a second email that notified us of a change in cleaner - but not having a preference for our first time meant that it didn't worry us. Good news is, if you have a good experience with a particular cleaner, you can request them again for future bookings. Our helpling for the day was a lovely young man.

So was I happy with the service? Well, just take a look at our bathroom and our oven - they turned out SPARKLING!
  
We have a fairly large home, with lots of open plan rooms and a LOT of cat fur... so a 4 hour clean would be about the minimum we could get away with. I think next time, I'd book an extra 30 minutes - as we just missed out on enough time to mop the floors. Of course, we made the decision to have the oven cleaned in that time frame, so our cleaner definitely had their work cut out for them.
All in all, it was a fantastic experience - and hubby & I are now talking about potentially doing booking a home clean once a month/six weeks just to do a thorough clean, in lieu of our spot cleans.
With the silly season already upon us & the New Year just around the corner, now's as good a time as any to splurge and indulge in a home cleaning - and the folks at Helpling have been so kind as to offer readers in Sydney a special discount code for 1-hour of free cleaning with your next booking. Simply enter the voucher code breath at the payment page of the website. I know we'll be using that again in the future!

And as a busy mum, if I had to ask for a Christmas gift.. a home clean to use at my discretion would be AMAZING. Just sayin'.
 
Breathe Gently was provided with a complimentary home cleaning session from Helpling - all reviews are my own. If you are interested in a product review appearing on Breathe Gently, please email me.

Taking a Little Space

Waiting cycles suck, there's no getting around that fact. I naively thought that it wouldn't be too bad, what with Christmas shopping and the holiday season... but no, it still sucks.

I've been keeping myself busy, but things are always lurking in the back of my mind. My specialist had me take Letrozole again this cycle, to ensure that I ovulate and have a 'regular' cycle, even though there would be no transfer at the end.... but it's CD18 and nothing is happening. Negative OPK's, low fertility on my fertility monitor, and tumbleweeds blowing around my ovaries.

I'm really quite nervous I'm becoming resistant to the Femara, like I did with the Clomid... which doesn't bode well for future FET cycles, since that's what I rely on to ovulate and do natural cycles.

We'll check out what's going on in a few days, and make the call - to trigger, if anything's there - or to Provera if it's a pointless annovulatory cycle. It's just a bit rubbish that even a freaking REST cycle seems to be kicking me in the guts.

I've had to remove myself from a few groups I've been a part of, because I'm just not in the right head space for them at the moment. I'm also chatting with someone about some coping strategies for when things get tough, because we have no idea how long this particular journey will last for. It's not a cure, but it's nice to have my feelings acknowledged.

Is it 2015 yet? C'mon already! ;)

dish'd food store: An Aussie Product Talk

Anyone who knows me will know how much I love food, so I was thrilled to be chosen for the dish'd product talk. In short, I was able to head over to the dish'd website, grab some products to heat & eat, and tell you all about them. Don't mind if I do!
 
The concept is really simple: you pick and choose what you'd like to eat - whether it be meals for one, family mains or sides, party snacks, appetisers, or desserts.... or all of the above. Pop them in your online shopping cart, choose a delivery time & check out when you're ready. The service was fantastic: I ordered and chose my delivery day, and it arrived freshly packed and left on my porch - so you don't even need to be waiting around to collect it; all of your products are kept in a cooled box.
This is what we saw on our doorstep, and upon opening up our goodie box:

Everything was sealed and packed beautifully, with dry ice ensuring it stayed perfectly frozen. You can re-use their esky the next time you order with them. Ours is in our garage for now.
As for what I chose, well, I tried to pick an assortment of items. I wanted to try some things I'd eat, some that hubby would eat {seafood, which I'm not a fan of} and a few treats as well. Choosing options on the website was the hardest part. As I was adding items to my cart, I could always keep an eye on what my current order total was. Even better, I discovered that dish'd currently have a great promotion going for new customers - where if you spend $50 on their website, they'll give you another $30 of free credit to use, as well as free delivery. A little more bang for your buck! This is what we chose:
My hubby's jaw dropped when he was helping me unpack the box. So much food! And everything looked fantastic, and in decent serving sizes too. A quick run-down for you; there are two pizzas, two vegetable packs, two potato bakes, risotto, penne pasta, spring rolls & giant squid skewers, three different desserts {hello, gelato!} as well as some fresh pasta, and several single serve frozen meals. 
Having all those yummy dinner options in front of us ... well, what's a family to do but pick some to cook then & there?
First up: Ricotta, Spinach & Lemon Zest Mezzelune for Georgia & I, and Sea Bass with Spinach & Grilled Mediterranean Veggies for hubby. The pasta was amazing - the lemon was so beautiful! And hubby tells me the fish was great - but he especially loved the simple veggie side dish the most.




The following night, we sampled some of the individual meals - Prawn Pad Thai for me, and Thai Vegetable Green Curry for hubby. Oh, plus some Vegetable Spring Rolls for good measure.

Can you say delicious?? The spring rolls were so good, I could almost lick the screen again to taste them. I wasn't a fan of the pad thai, unfortunately - the sauce wasn't peanutty enough for my liking, but hubby scoffed down his green curry; and when I sampled some of that, I wished we had traded! ;)

And desserts! Can't forget desserts! Chocolate Fondants & Lemon Tartlets - both served with some cheeky icecream on the side - and both tasted fantastic. Tiny pockets of deliciousness. We also still have some mini gelato to try too. YUM. :)

   

We'll still be sampling our food products for a while to come yet, and are looking forward to testing them all out. I think pizza might be on the cards for tonight -- delish!

In the meantime... how would you like to win yourself a $50 voucher to spend at the dish'd food store website? Simply follow the prompts below with your favourite food product from the dish'd website & go in the random draw.

Please note: This giveaway is open to residents of NSW and VIC only.


Breathe Gently was provided with a complimentary gift voucher to spend on meals from the dish'd food store website via Nuffnang - all reviews are my own. If you are interested in a product review appearing on Breathe Gently, please email me.

Twenty Months

This girl, this beautiful girl, just turned 20 months old.
It blows my mind watching her every day - seeing how much she is growing and changing before my eyes.
She's full of surprises. She's full of extreme joy and she's full of crazy temper tantrums. She's babbling at a million miles a minute, and has started repeating some words - mostly just chattering in her own little Georgia-language. 

She's a dancer, an animal lover, a drama llama, and I love her more than anything.

Storms

This quote really spoke to me over the past few days:


I'm starting to realise that it's not just about learning how to deal with infertility, or even how to deal with the grief of losing two pregnancies in the last six months.

It's about learning how to cope with life going on around you.

Life doesn't stop just because your heart is breaking. Life for everyone else can be amazing, full of hope and love and joy - and at the same time, has left you feeling very alone in a pretty dark place.

I see this every day.

I look at my daughter, who is full of extreme squeals of happiness & dramatic toddler meltdowns; she has a pretty great life, and we are so lucky to get to witness her grow older each day, learn new things, speak new gibberish, delight in the world around her.

I look at other women who I envy so much, who get pregnant when they want to get pregnant, who know no sadness or heartache when it comes to trying for, and carrying a baby.

I look at myself, back in previous years. I remember what it felt like to get that positive pregnancy test that stuck around, when I felt my baby growing inside of me, when I gave birth & our entire world changed.

Life can be really, really good.

But it can also be really, really hard.

I'm in a hard spot right now. This feels different to the years of infertility before Georgia was born. This is a new kind of hard. It's infertility, and it's grief, and combined, well, it's just hard. And that's okay. Hard is okay.

I've always loved storms. Watching the weather go from calm to chaotic to calm again, from the safety of your own home - it's therapeutic. I've watched many storms from my window. This time, the storm is in my own head & heart... it's chaos right now, but it'll be calm again eventually. I just wish other people could understand a little of what I'm going through, instead of constantly telling me to STOP feeling a certain way. This is my way. I'm working it out.

I'm just lucky that I have an amazing husband & a beautiful little girl to hold on to when the seas get rocky.

A New Cycle

Yesterday was CD1 - my period came on quite suddenly. My fertility specialist had warned me that after the egg retrieval from this IVF, I'd likely get a bleed quickly; something to do with the Lucrin trigger, and with not bothering with any progesterone support at all. It came right on time for a change.

This cycle I will be using Letrozole. Not so much for TTC, since it's blatantly obvious that we will never miraculously conceive a baby on our own - but for making sure I ovulate and have a short cycle that doesn't drag on forever.
I had a bit of a meltdown when I realised just how close to Christmas my next cycle will {hopefully} be - thinking about what would happen if it fell into the time period of when my clinic closes for the holidays. After thinking about it {okay... stressing about it!} I contacted the nurses to ask whether I could still go ahead with my next FET if the beginning of the cycle fell into the holidays. I mean, even if that did happen, I wouldn't be needing any monitoring or anything until January, when they'd be open again - so I didn't think that would be a problem.
Until I got a message back, that is. Their response went something like this: 'Sorry Aly, but it's unlikely you'll be able to cycle again until we're back open, so it'll have to be your next period after that'. 
Now.. I want you to imagine me LOSING MY SHIT. Got a visual? Good. It wasn't pretty.
After a few expletives and a bit of a meltdown, I ended up getting a call from the head of the FET team {which consists of the amazing scientists & embryologists}. She reassured me that she'd drawn the short straw of being there over the Christmas break, and that we'd definitely be able to do a frozen cycle, so long as I was willing to pop in for bloods and appointments with some flexibility. Absolutely! She's also going to be the one working my little embabies, so that makes me feel better. She said that they have a really positive success rate with thawing & then growing out day 1 frozen embryos, and by looking at our previous cycles, she was confident that we'd have a blastocyst to transfer. I really hope she's right. I'm glad she's on our case.
This morning I needed to clear my head. I've been in a funk since we had the last miscarriage and since the IVF cycle ended badly - so I set my alarm for 5.15am and walked down to our local park. It was pretty deserted, which I needed. Just me, some music, watching the sun rising. I ended up going for a bit of a jog around the track while I was there, which was tough but therapeutic at the same time.
It's been so hard to be positive and upbeat, but I've been putting on a brave face - but it is TIRING. I just have to have a bit of hope that there are good things around the corner for us soon. 

Hippo Blue: A Review

I love finding new Australian retailers, particularly ones that have lovely customer service. I came across Hippo Blue earlier in the year when looking for items for my daughter. At the time, I didn't end up purchasing - but when I was approached a few weeks back asking if I'd be interested in taking a look at some of their personalised stationery products, I was VERY excited!

I was hoping to receive a few different items so that I'd have a better idea of what the products looked like in person, but I received the personalised calendar planner on its own.

Don't mind the security blur on the images - but as you can see, it was made specially for our family. The monthly planner came with enough individual sheets to last a year, and they are unlabelled - so you can add in your dates whenever you receive them. It's also got enough room down the side to add in extra information that might not fit within the smaller squares.

I'm constantly telling hubby when we have things on, and he's constantly forgetting what I tell him - so this works well for both of us! This picture was taken before I filled it in with the dozens of Christmas & holiday things we have going on - but it's perfect for the fridge door. No excuses for not remembering what's coming up now! :)

It was very simple to use the website: pick your item of choice, choose your design & colours, add in the personalised text you're after & choose a font. After that, it's as easy as waiting for your items to be despatched.

The paper is lovely & I was really happy with the colours I chose - the only thing that could make it better would be if the sheets came on a pad of some kind, instead of loose sheets of paper.

They have lots of goodies on the website that would make great Christmas gifts, so check them out! What sort of items would you find useful to be personalised?

Breathe Gently was provided with a personalised monthly planner from the folks at Hippo Blue - all reviews are my own. If you are interested in a product review appearing on Breathe Gently, please email me.

IVF Round 3: Done & Dusted

Our IVF cycle has come to an end.

Egg retrieval yesterday was a bloody nightmare. I was in SO much pain during the four hour wait pre-op, and could hardly walk by the end. After four (!) attempts to find a vein for a cannula, they finally got me sedated {did nothing} and after an excruciating egg retrieval, I had 13 eggs retrieved. All was well, I was happy with that.
Unfortunately I had no response to pain medication after the procedure, and was shaking head to toe. They tried a few drugs, and ended up giving me Endone, which settled things down. After a little while in recovery, they got me up and dressed and finishing off my IV drip - and then I came over really nauseous. Felt like I was about to throw up, broke out in head to toe sweat, face as white as a sheet, and they had to wheelchair me back to recovery, as I was on the brink of passing out. That passed, and we tried getting up to go again - and it happened again.
As such, they admitted me upstairs to the ward for monitoring. I just wanted to go home, but they were worried - so after a few hours of being observed, and just a few more episodes, they let me leave. I slept well last night, and feel better today - just swollen and sore, but that's to be expected after egg retrieval.
My 'not impressed about being stuck in hospital' face.
We got the call this morning that we have 8 embryos that have survived. I was disappointed, and was greedily hoping for more, after the discomfort I've had the last few weeks of stimming. Knowing we were doing a freeze all, I figured the more embryos the better. Anyway... that said, from 13 we had 2 immature, and 3 that fertilised abnormally - so left with 8 that are in the freezer. The embryologist has frozen them in batches of 3, 3 and 2 for future growing with frozen cycles.
I've had so many people ask me why my clinic has frozen the fertilised embryos at Day 1 - most people are surprised they're not growing them out to day 3 or 5 before freezing. I still have my doubts about it all too, but it's out of my hands. It's done now. Our journey is over.
So... that's it. Feels so strange to have nothing to hope for or to look forward to. No transfer. No TWW. Just pain & discomfort for what seems like a whole lot of nothing. I'm already petrified those embryos will fail to thaw, or die off during the 5-day growing period, when the time comes to use them. There's just no relaxing on this journey.
Now we wait. 
If I had $1 for every time we had to wait during this journey, I'd be a millionaire & IVF costs would mean nothing to me.

Lowering the OHSS Risk

Another day, another frustrating development in this seemingly hopeless IVF cycle.

I spoke to my fertility specialist today. She rang to confirm the freeze-all and to answer a few questions that I had, which I appreciated. After egg retrieval, they will freeze any viable embryos that have fertilised on Day 1. No growing them out, no freezing at blastocyst stage - just bunches of early embryos. Apparently this is because the early embryos are stronger when it comes to thawing and re-freezing, but it worries me a little. At least with blasties, you know only the good ones have made it this far. The problem I can see with the Day 1 embryos, is that we could potentially lose most/all of them when they're growing them out at the time of transfer. Frustrating.

So once I have retrieval, I should get a period within 7-10 days thanks to the Lucrin trigger. That next cycle, which will be December, is a mandatory rest cycle, so no transfer. My FS has told me to go ahead and take Letrozole/Femara days 3-7 that month, to make sure that I ovulate and that it's a relatively short cycle. It's basically a month of 'just see what happens trying yourself' - ha, yeah, right! And then pigs flew out of my butt-crack. Then after my NEXT period, I can ring them and start the ball rolling for a FET in January. January! It feels like a million years away.

She also let me know that she's worried I will hyper-stimulate. Not because of my follicles going too crazy (they only saw 14 after all, which is well within normal range) but because of the fact that the E2 jumped from 686 to 8407 in just three days. As such, I had to drive back down to the clinic at lunch time today to collect an alternate trigger. Instead of the Ovidrel hcg trigger, I'm now taking a Lucrin trigger. She said this should keep me out of OHSS territory, so I'm happy she was looking out for me.

So the trigger is tonight at 10.30pm, and then I have one more day to wait - joy! Egg retrieval is booked for lunchtime on Thursday. All of our hopes lie in some good quality, mature eggs being retrieved - and a bunch would be nice, since we're freezing them all.

This is the only thing I have left to hope for, since everything else has been taken away... so please, please, PLEASE universe, give us a good haul. I'm desperate for our future baby to be inside one of these {very uncomfortable} follicles!





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