Time To Stop – Deciding To Move On From Infertility (Guest Blogs)

The most difficult part of my infertility struggle wasn’t the miscarriages I endured or the failure to become pregnant each month. Believe it or not, it was accepting an involuntary childless life.

I knew it was time to close the door on trying to conceive when my mental health hit rock bottom. After ten years of non-stop IVF treatments, the medication became more intense, causing severe anxiety – I was at an all-time low. Over the years it felt as though my husband and I had wasted thousands of pounds only to keep getting IVF fails! Deep-down, I knew we were heading towards a childless path when two rounds of banked egg didn’t pass the stress test after thawing. It meant more money down the drain, including our hopes and dreams of becoming parents. How on earth could we justify spending more money on further treatment? Wishing and praying the next time worked, we gave it one last shot. Hooray, the test was positive! Unfortunately, the joy was short-lived and my path to motherhood was permanently over when my final pregnancy ended in early miscarriage. It was the start of a very different life.

These were the main reasons for stopping, but not the only ones. The isolation hit so deep it scared me. For years I’d avoided people for fear of comments such as, “when you having a baby?”. I would dread social spaces because I’d feel like the elephant in the room and I couldn’t bear to be surrounded by those who’d say throw away comments, for instance, “just relax” or “pray harder”- people who didn’t know what living with infertility felt like a day in their life! In these moments I felt so alone and excluded. The final notch on the infertility belt was when the pain of ‘trying’ became harder than the pain of ‘letting go’ – aka, ‘giving up’. I really didn’t like who I was becoming on this journey and concluding that I could no longer live like this: It was infertility or me, and I chose me!

The transition to a childless life was a painful one and I approached my path to healing from many different angles. Therapy, coaching, faith and self-help played a huge part in my recovery. It took an enormous amount of work (as much effort as I ploughed into trying to conceive) to get to a place of contentment. Finally, I began to live a life I enjoy. I no longer feel the need to justify what my ‘plan B’ looks like, a very different attitude to when I first embraced childlessness – growth! I’m often asked if I experience moments of grief. Absolutely, is the truthful answer, but that doesn’t mean I can’t thrive in the life I’ve been given and fortunately, these painful thoughts don’t take up the space they used to. My eureka moment appeared during the healing process, this led me to quite literally quit my day job and begin mindbodyrevival_coach The aim when starting this was to provide 1:1 support to those who’ve been on a similar journey to my own.

If your infertility story is about to end without a baby, I want you to know there is hope and that a life without children can be equally fulfilling. You can search the hashtags #embracingchildless #childlessnotbychoice for community. There are many of us already treading this path, so wherever you find yourself, you’re welcome here.

Aisha is a certified Coach and the founder of mindbodyrevival_coach she also writes and speaks about the impact of being involuntary childless when the journey to parenthood ends without a baby. To find out more go to: www.mindbodyrevivalcoach.com or follow @mindbodybodyrevival_coach on Instagram

15 years ago when I met my husband, I had it all planned out… house, marriage, kids, dog. I never once thought I would have to compromise on one of those things. And yet here we are 15 years later; 7 years trying to conceive and 2 failed IVF cycles later, I’m not sure I have come to terms with being childless, but it’s a decision I knew we had to make.

After the last IVF cycle where yet again, we had no embryos to freeze and just one low quality to transfer, I had convinced myself as we were paying privately, it would work. So, we agreed this would be our last cycle because we couldn’t afford another and mentally it was taking its toll. I agreed because I still had hope, I still thought this cycle would work and I would get 2 in the freezer for later. It’s funny what you agree to when you think it’s something that won’t happen, but the moment we had our negative test and it was confirmed the embryo hadn’t taken, the reality set it.

I knew it was time to move on; I had spent the majority of my 20s and half of my 30s focused on trying to conceive. I was mentally drained and physically bruised; I wanted my life back.

It was only 7 months ago; I feel okay about it, but I still have days where I am angry, frustrated, and feel “why me”. I am slowly learning to live with the decision we’ve made, but I don’t think I’ll ever quite come to terms with it. Why should I? It is a decision I should never have to make; having babies is natural… right?

Over time, I’m getting mentally stronger and learning to cope, knowing I can’t live another 7 years in the same cycle for something that isn’t guaranteed.

Joanne Parry – @joanneclaireparry

Keep up to date by following me on Instagram here. Make sure you listen to our podcast – ‘Am I Ovary Acting with Amber and Annabel’ wherever you get your podcasts, listen on Spotify here!

Coping With The Anxiety of Another IVF Failure

It’s funny really, how you never expect to be one of the statistics. I never expected to be part of the 1 in 6 couples who struggle to conceive. If I’m honest, even three years into trying, until the words ‘You can’t conceive without IVF’ came out of my surgeon’s mouth, I never quite believed we were even ‘struggling’. I managed to convince myself that things happened when they were meant to, and it just wasn’t yet our time. Once our IVF ‘journey’ had started, I had no reason to believe it wouldn’t work first time. I knew on average it took 3 attempts, and yet I still managed to believe it wouldn’t happen to me. Now, as I hear my daily alarms ringing that same awful beeping, reminding me to take the tablets to start my cycle, I’m plagued with a whole host of new emotions that I’m trying to navigate.

Having two cycles of IVF fail has tested me in numerous ways. From the toxic positivity of people (who albeit come from a good place and are trying to be helpful) telling me that everything happens for a reason, that it will happen eventually and to ‘just keep trying’; the days of grief and wondering what could have been; the first period withdrawing from the medication; the would be due dates; the rest of the world just carrying on like normal when I felt as though the entirety of mine was crashing down around me, to the days where I wondered whether I wanted to go down this route again at all. We knew in our hearts as our second cycle failed just days into the very first U.K lockdown that we needed to take a break. The lockdown if anything gave us an even better excuse to do that; the clinics were closed and it gave us time to grieve our losses privately, without the questions. I didn’t have to fluster and panic at being spoken to about it, I didn’t have to nod and smile as another friend or family member gave me their well wishes, instead, I could return a phone call 2 hours later and have the conversations when I felt good and ready.

Now, nearly 20 months later, we’re back in the saddle and this time it has felt like a totally different experience. Initially, I blamed this on the fact we were with a whole new clinic. The protocol is totally different, it’s much more intense and there have been an endless number of changes. The staff themselves have filled me with nothing but confidence, and from the very beginning of our communication with them, I have felt like anything but a number.  I have been positive from the very first moment we discussed my protocol; throughout the last year and a half, we have endured thousands of pounds worth of tests; we have a much more solid diagnosis and as a result, the cards on the table are much clearer. I have found no reason why this time, it shouldn’t be different; why I couldn’t be pregnant in the very near future, and why at the very least we couldn’t have some embryos in the freezer waiting for transfer.

It was only two nights ago that I lay in bed tossing and turning, with the stark realisation that despite the change in protocol, despite the new clinic and despite the nutritional changes, the new supplements and every test and diagnosis we’ve gained, it could still not work. Had I once again let my mind run away with me? Had all the talk with my parents of how next Christmas we could have a very tiny baby joining us at the dinner table jinxed us? Had my Grandma telling me she had a ‘tingling’ been enough to send the universe into a frenzy, and in fact had I manifested desperation instead of ‘I am ready’? No matter how much I want it, no matter how much I torment myself with jinxing and manifestations, the hardest part of IVF is that sometimes, it simply falls down to luck. Whilst the average may be 1 in 3, the downfall to being active within the ‘infertility community’ is that you become painfully aware of every outcome. You are aware of couples with similar stories to your own embarking on their 6th, 7th, 8th or even 9th transfer, couples who have become 1 in 3 but have sadly lost their pregnancies before their scans, those whose pregnancies have continued, but no further than 12 weeks, couples for whom it just never worked. For me, I maintain the hope that it will, and I maintain the belief that one day I will have my child in my arms, and yet as the medication causes my body to feel tired, my emotions to run high and my skin to resemble that of a teenager, I find myself laying awake late at night wondering whether it will ever be worth it.

I truly believe it would be unusual to go into IVF feeling no anxiety at all, whilst I do feel that this time the anxieties are less so than previously. This time, although I feel there is more pressure, with every cycle feeling like we are getting further away from our happy ending than closer to, I do know more. Knowledge, in my mind, is power. I know how to do the injections, I know that for the most part I enjoy them, I enjoy the element of control. I know how to prepare my body, what to pack for my egg collection and my transfer, and what to expect every time I step foot in the clinic. The anxieties of the unknown are gone, but the anxieties of the outcome remain stronger than ever.

I have learnt to cope with many things along this ride, from pregnancy announcements and seeing friends grow their families, to baby showers and questions from strangers about my family situation as small talk. Yet, learning to cope with the anxieties of another failure is a different kettle of fish entirely. Everything else you can somewhat separate yourself from. You can appreciate that people aren’t asking to be cruel, people are finding a quick common denominator and “Have you got kids?” over the table at a wedding is miles more simple and easier to generalise than “Are you a Fleetwood Mac fan?”. You can understand that you would never wish the pain of infertility on a friend, that there isn’t finite numbers of pregnancies and baby showers, and one more doesn’t mean one less for you.

All I have found I can do on this journey to cope with my fear of yet another failure, is to quite simply take one day at a time. I have no control and learning to accept that has been the biggest peacemaker in my life. I will do my very best with the tools that I have, but ultimately, if it does fail, I have no choice but to once again ride the wave. I have to process my grief, accept the outcome, and find a way to move forward. For now, if that means spending my evenings with a head in a book instead of scrolling on my phone where I’m liable to get lost in Pinterest baby showers, Dr Google and ‘is a twitchy eye a symptom of pregnancy’; long walks with the dog in the middle of nowhere with a podcast, or getting my ducks in a row by finally sorting out the admin cupboard, then so be it. Distraction is key, until it’s time to face the facts. And even then, my mantra will always be to take one day at a time. The sun may go down but it once again, must rise.

For now, we hope.

Keep up to date by following me on Instagram here. Make sure you listen to our podcast – ‘Am I Ovary Acting with Amber and Annabel’ wherever you get your podcasts, listen on Spotify here!

My Top 5 Books of 2021

2021 was the year we all expected normality to come crashing back in, we hoped for a year better than 2020, and yet it stormed by with as much turbulence and as much confusion as the former. Reading is something I find incredibly therapeutic; it helps me to escape my own mind no matter what’s happening in the real world and immerse myself into the depths of someone else’s. Throughout the year, I have shared on Instagram my own personal reviews of the books I’ve read, from the ones I’ve loved and struggled to finish. So, without further ado, here are my top 5 books I read in 2021!

Some of the links in this post are affiliate links which means that if you order one of these books using my link, I may earn a small percentage in commission.

SMALL PLEASURES – CLARE CHAMBERS

1957, the suburbs of South East London. Jean Swinney is a journalist on a local paper, trapped in a life of duty and disappointment from which there is no likelihood of escape.

When a young woman, Gretchen Tilbury, contacts the paper to claim that her daughter is the result of a virgin birth, it is down to Jean to discover whether she is a miracle or a fraud.

As the investigation turns her quiet life inside out, Jean is suddenly given an unexpected chance at friendship, love and – possibly – happiness.

But there will, inevitably, be a price to pay.

In Clare Chambers’ novel ‘Small Pleasures’, I truly felt like I had been transported back to 1957 (as though I was ever there…). Often with books that are set in a different era, the dialogue reflects the language that would have been used rather than the entire novel itself, and yet throughout the whole of Small Pleasures, I felt as though I was listening to my Grandma tell a story. The book has a clear focus and Chambers has a real ability to vividly describe the most dull imagery, such as the ‘porridge-coloured doilies’, leading you to picture the brown and beige, tobacco stained home with such clarity. The book kept you guessing right until the end, with enough of a twist to keep the page turning, without the eyebrow raising ending it could have quite easily succumbed to.

Buy Small Pleasures HERE

NORMAL PEOPLE – SALLY ROONEY

Marianne is the young, affluent, intellectual wallflower; Connell is the boy everyone likes, shadowed by his family’s reputation and poverty. Unlikely friends, and later lovers, their small town beginnings in rural Ireland are swiftly eclipsed by the heady worlds of student Dublin. Gradually their intense, mismatched love becomes a battleground of power, class, and the falsehoods they choose to believe.

I was incredibly late to the party with Normal People, both in terms of the book and the series. I remember when everyone first started watching the series and spoke so highly of it, yet I refused to watch it until I’d read the book. I was so glad I did. Whilst the series itself I thought was beautiful, the book was a different level altogether. Rooney’s style of writing is worlds apart from the average novel and certainly takes some adjusting to, yet it’s delicate, witty and often surprisingly graphic. I felt Normal People was very ‘tumblr-esque’, and somewhat glamourised the troubled indie teenagers, and I found myself both adoring the characters and being frustrated at the communication between them. I was totally and utterly engrossed, feeling absolutely engulfed by the ‘will they, won’t they’ love story. It lacks the rose-tinted glasses of a youthful love affair, highlighting the way we float in and out of love and lives, leaving you feeling unanimously uncomfortable and full of pleasure.

Buy Normal People HERE

AMERICAN DIRT – JEANINE CUMMINS

Lydia Perez owns a bookshop in Acapulco, Mexico, and is married to a fearless journalist. Luca, their eight-year-old son, completes the picture.  But it only takes a bullet to rip them apart.

In a city in the grip of a drug cartel, friends become enemies overnight, and Lydia has no choice but to flee with Luca at her side. North for the border… whatever it takes to stay alive. The journey is dangerous – not only for them, but for those they encounter along the way. Who can be trusted? And what sacrifices is Lydia prepared to make.

A book has never impacted me to the extent of American Dirt. A true page turner filled with nothing but suspense, my heart ached for Lydia and Luca from the second I started reading. I felt scared with every page and it is the longest it has ever taken me to read a book – I contemplated stopping reading so many times, not because the book was anything short of impeccable, but because it filled me with such a dread that given all the happenings in the world right now, it felt too real. I found it truly difficult to read, and yet it is a book I recommend everyone reads. The lasting impact is immense, and I think about this story at least once a week. American Dirt is so far from my usual choice of genre, and yet it was everything I could possibly hope for in a book. A book that everyone needs to read at least once.

Buy American Dirt HERE

ALL THE LONELY PEOPLE – MIKE GAYLE

Hubert Bird is not alone in being alone. He just needs to realise it.

In weekly phone calls to his daughter in Australia, widower Hubert Bird paints a picture of the perfect retirement, packed with fun, friendship and fulfilment. But Hubert Bird is lying.

The truth is day after day drags by without him seeing a single soul. Until, that is, he receives some good news – good news that in one way turns out to be the worst news ever, news that will force him out again, into a world he has long since turned his back on.

Now Hubert faces a seemingly impossible task: to make his real life resemble his fake life before the truth comes out.

Along the way Hubert stumbles across a second chance at love, renews a cherished friendship and finds himself roped into an audacious community scheme that seeks to end loneliness once and for all…

Life is certainly beginning to happen to Hubert Bird. But with the origin of his earlier isolation always lurking in the shadows will he ever get to live the life he’s pretended to have for so long?

Mike Gayle, in All the Lonely People, has created a beautifully moving story with a hugely diverse array of characters. Gayle has combined each of the character’s modern realities, from the life of a young single mother, a young Latvian man making his way in London, and the life of a black widower who made England his home as part of the Windrush generation. It’s a story that made me both laugh and cry, a true rollercoaster of every emotion. It was a real story, it felt close to home, and it was engaging from beginning to end. It is a story that focuses on loneliness, mental health, friendship, hope, and how family doesn’t stop with blood connection, but family can in fact be those you choose to spend your time with. It’s a genuinely heart-warming book that I could read repeatedly.

Buy All The Lonely People HERE

DOLLY ALDERTON – GHOSTS

Nina Dean has arrived at her early thirties as a successful food writer with loving friends and family, plus a new home and neighbourhood. When she meets Max, a beguiling romantic hero who tells her on date one that he’s going to marry her, it feels like all is going to plan.

A new relationship couldn’t have come at a better time – her thirties have not been the liberating, uncomplicated experience she was sold. Everywhere she turns, she is reminded of time passing and opportunities dwindling.
Friendships are fading, ex-boyfriends are moving on and, worse, everyone’s moving to the suburbs. There’s no solace to be found in her family, with a mum who’s caught in a baffling mid-life makeover and a beloved dad who is vanishing in slow-motion to dementia.

Without a shadow of a doubt, Ghosts is my favourite book I read in 2021. It is possibly the most relatable book I’ve ever read, with every single character speaking to my soul in one way or another. From the realisation that your parents are ageing and the fact that they too are human and not just your parents, the change in relationships as our friends reach different points in their lives, from marriage, to work and children, and the ways in which our lives just seem to be a mission to tick boxes, I fell in love with Ghosts during the very first chapter. Dolly Alderton has a marvellous talent and I have maintained ever since I turned the final page that this is a book that every millennial woman needs to read.

Buy Ghosts HERE

I’ve got my Waterstones points saved up to make some 2022 read purchases (I am still to read Where The Crawdads Sing, and The Thursday Murder Club; certainly some catching up to do!), but I’m excited to explore the literature entering our orbit over the next 12 months.

What are your favourite books you’ve read this year?

Love, Amber x

Keep up to date by following me on Instagram and subscribing to my YouTube channel. LISTEN TO OUR PODCAST ‘AM I OVARY ACTING? WITH AMBER & ANNABEL’ ON SPOTIFY HERE!

The Endometrial Scratch: My Experience

When going through fertility treatment, it’s fair to say that you will explore any option that’s given to you. You reach a new level of somewhat desperation, willing anything to work and willing to give anything a try. Furthermore, when you enter the territory of multiple cycles, I’ve found that willingness can go one of two ways; you’re eager to try almost anything to help improve your chances of success and reduce your chance of needing to go through the whole rigmarole again, and yet, you become somewhat reluctant to try certain things because those sold to you before in which you invested so much hope, simply failed you.

For me, one of those things I was unsure about was an endometrial scratch. An endometrial scratch is a procedure that has been around predominantly for little over a decade and is one that still has rather varying research and evidence to prove its success. With a likeness to a smear test, an endometrial scratch involves your womb lining being scratched/scraped at a particular point in your cycle, usually around day 16-23. It is often recommended to women who have had previous failed implantation in IVF. It is suggested that the scratching a reaction in the womb, causing chemicals and hormones to be released to help the uterus repair itself, aiding implantation (Your IVF Journey).

The HFEA (Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority), who regulate fertility treatment in the UK, have a traffic light system on their website which exists to rate “add-ons” based on the controlled research presented. Endometrial Scratching is rated as ‘Amber’, which means there is conflicting evidence from randomised controlled trials.

An endometrial scratch had never been suggested to me before, however, I am a strong believer in knowledge being power, and so the IVF process and all the potential add-ons were something that I had researched to an extent that I imagine some would view as borderline obsessive. Endometrial scratches were something I had long heard of, and yet my clinic had never broached the subject. However, in the world of social media, I have seen and heard of so many experiences and an endometrial scratch is one that had a whole wealth of mixed opinions. Many said it was excruciatingly painful; others said it caused nothing more than a mild cramping. There were people who swore it was the reason their treatment had worked; others had successful cycles but couldn’t be confident it wouldn’t have worked without the scratch; a few had said it didn’t make the slightest difference and it wasn’t worth the time. As we started the preparations for my third cycle with a new clinic and a whole new protocol, it’s something the clinic suggested pretty quickly, and one I accepted with little reluctance. Prior to the clinic suggesting it, I’d always shrugged it off, insisting I’d never try any add-ons that weren’t rated ‘green’ by the HFEA. When push came to shove, ultimately, I was willing to give it everything I had, and if my treatment failed and I had refused, I knew I’d pinpoint the lack of scratching as the reason why.

My scratch was scheduled for day 18 of my cycle and I was full of nerves for a multitude of reasons. I was unsure whether or not it was going to hurt, my husband wasn’t allowed in to hold my hand (another thing I have to thank COVID for…), and we knew that this meant that we were well and truly back on the road. I had been taking norethisterone (a progestin medication used in birth control and menopausal hormone therapy, which stops uterine bleeding, allowing clinics to time a period) for 4 days as my cycle has been medicated, meaning the clinic know pretty much to the day when my cycle will start, so the scratch wouldn’t be wasted by my uterus not playing ball. Norethisterone is far from fun for me, causing me to be irritable and emotional with the skin of a 14-year-old, and so I was already a bag of fatigued emotion without my uterus being scored like a sausage roll. I arrived in the pristine white clinic and my nurse, who is nothing but lovely, introduced herself yet again and explained everything that came with it; how the procedure happened, what it did, why it was being done, and the aftercare. The clinic were always very clear that it may not work; for some people it’s beneficial but there is nothing to suggest it will definitely be the case for me, but given our history, they thought it was worth a trial.

I lay there with my legs in the stirrups as my incredibly tall consultant inserted the speculum. Unfortunately for me, I’m 5ft2, so it meant the bed had to be tilted rather significantly to give the Doctor ‘easy access’ to my cervix. There’s nothing like feeling like you’re about to slide backwards, headfirst down a bed whilst someone peers into your vagina, that’s for sure. It took a little while to get the catheter and the ‘scratching device’ into my uterus; a few problematic corners that didn’t want to play ball, and at this point it was rather uncomfortable. I had a nurse to my left talking to me about the scan I had the week before, telling me how well I was doing, and generally putting her soothing voice to good use. The scratch itself lasted likely less than a minute… it was painful. I had taken 2 paracetamols about 45 minutes beforehand which I do think helped, but it did feel like a bad period pain and most definitely far from natural. Being a woman who loves nothing more than feeding her stomach, I distracted myself by insisting every medical professional in the room told me in great detail what they had for tea the night before. It was a useful tactic, and before I knew it, I was laying flat with no foreign objects in my uterus.

The aftercare was relatively simple; I had 4 antibiotics to take later that day and another in the form of a pessary that needed inserting rectally before bed (not fun). I wasn’t allowed any baths for a couple of days, showers only and only water, no body wash or anything other than pure water near the vagina for the next few days. This included unprotected sex, although from day 1 of my cycle (known as the preparation month, the month before active treatment begins) I had to ensure that any sex was protected, so this wasn’t new. I was rather uncomfortable for the rest of the day; I felt absolutely exhausted and spent the afternoon with a blanket and my book, experiencing nothing more than mild cramping. Within 24 hours, I had forgotten I’d even had it.

Whether or not it pays off is currently anyone’s guess, but for the sake of a 30-minute procedure that was relatively straightforward, with really nothing more than a short-lived discomfort, for me it was worth the shot.

Only time will tell.

The Calm During The Storm: Staying Sane When TTC

I don’t remember exactly when trying to conceive became my entire life; I quite often try and pinpoint where I spiralled. When did ovulation sticks, and basal body thermometers become part of my daily routine; when did pregnant women become a thing to avoid and baby showers the equivalent to putting a hand in a blender? When I look back over the last six and a half years, I’m not sure when I crossed the bridge into the murky territory, but I do know that keeping my head above the dirty water has been tough.

On Sunday, I joined The Fertility Show for their first online summit for a chat about staying sane when trying to conceive. I was joined by the incredible Becky Kearns (@definingmum) and Noni Martins (@unfertility), as we sat and discussed our fertility and IVF journeys. I never thought I would get so much joy from talking about my faulty reproductive system, but there is something deeply comforting about knowing that your story resonates with other people whilst listening to their story resonating with you. I can honestly say the primary thing that has kept me sane over the last few years has been talking; sharing my story and hearing the stories of others has been nothing short of liberating.

I told the world I was infertile approximately 4 hours after I found out myself; I had come home from my laparoscopy, still really rather high on painkillers and coming down from anaesthetic, cried into my Dominos pizza (that I had been advised not to get after anaesthetic but, what’s a girl to do when the world has come crashing down around her?), and told everyone on Facebook to stop asking me when I was having children, because it wasn’t going to happen. Sometimes I look back and cringe at the hanging of my laundry so publicly, and yet in the same breath, I know that if I hadn’t done it in that very moment, I may never have done so.

It’s only now as I head into my third cycle of IVF that I truly realise how much talking has saved me, and how far I have come since that day. I regularly make people uncomfortable with how openly I’ll talk about my uterus and my husband’s sperm, but the taboo surrounding infertility is still rife and I refuse to play a part in that. Without talking, nothing changes, and I cannot be part of a community where it feels like we are regularly misunderstood and do nothing to try and change that.

I cope with my infertility in a manor of ways; I bake brownies with an obscene amount of sugar, I read fiction novels that transport me to a world different to my own, where I can escape and find joy in the words of someone else. I plan a life in a tiny cottage with a big garden, wisteria, and magnolia trees, where I drink tea and wine and eat pasta at my French patio table with numerous dogs at my drooling waiting for leftovers. It has been essential in my healing and in my growth that I become as in love with the life I could have without children as I am with my dream of becoming a mother.

Infertility rips you in two and it consumes you in every way it could, from what you eat to what you drink, to your sex life and the way you spend your money. It creeps into your home and invades every safe space you have; it creeps into your kitchen and lines your baking trays making you wish you were baking the cake for your child’s first birthday instead of comfort food for your head. It appears in the steam on your bathroom window as you soak in a bath so hot it makes your head light, imagining what your pregnant belly would look like as the water caresses your stomach. It’s the silence in the spare bedroom; the mouthful of hot coffee that you secretly wish had gone cold whilst you tended to a newborn. It doesn’t have to be the end.

Communication opens up the dialogue, it’s key to explaining why your heart hurts so much; why you’re so happy for your friend and her pregnancy and yet feeling so sad inside; why you can’t face your colleague’s baby shower and if you have another maternity leave collection shoved in your face, you might just have a breakdown. How you cope with infertility is a personal thing, but one thing I’ve learnt in my almost 7 years is that having that outlet is a vital tool to get through.

I can’t change my circumstances, but whilst I ride this wave of uncertainty, finding a way to breathe is the only way I can make it out alive.

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How to Make the BEST Super Slutty Caramel Brondies

Hi, my name is Amber and I am a chocoholic.

I have been a self-proclaimed chocoholic for as long as I can remember; I have never and will never relate to those individuals who tell me they don’t like it. If I’m really honest with myself, it’s more of a sugar addiction than a chocolate addiction. Whilst I truly believe that chocolate is the top tier flavour and nothing quite beats a large bar of Dairy Milk when PMS takes hold of me, I love anything sweet, and anything that means the nutrition information on the packaging is solid red.

My love for sweet has developed more recently into a love for baking, something like many people I used to do every week with my Grandma. It always fills me with such a wholesome feeling of home. My Italian husband regularly calls me his English Rose because my ideal life would be that where I lived in a cosy cottage in the middle of the countryside, with a garden full of chickens (in theory, I’m actually petrified of the things – don’t ask me why), a wisteria front and multiple rose bushes, spending my evenings drinking wine with a Jane Austen classic after an afternoon filling the house with scents of warm shortbread and cinnamon rolls. There is something about baking I find so therapeutic, and I always find when you nail a recipe, the food almost tastes a million times better because you know that you’ve done that yourself.

Over recent months I have been baking more and more, delivering them every weekend to my family and friends for them to try. So far, my Grandma and father-in-law are my biggest fans, with my Dad beginning to look with sheer horror when I turn up with a box full of goods, not because they taste bad, but because he knows my bakes are not for the faint hearted. They are gooey, they are chocolatey, and girl… are they good.

Last weekend I played around with some staple recipes and created my very own version of the slutty brownie. I have seen many versions of the slutty brownie do the rounds on Instagram, with numerous incredible cake shops absolutely nailing them (yes, Wilma’s, I’m looking at you…), but I decided I wanted to step it up a gear… and so I did. I took inspiration from recipes by the incredible Jane Dunn (Jane’s Patisserie) and combined a couple of her recipes… with a twist.

You are about to be privy to the most wonderful slutty brondie (brownie and blondie) recipe you will ever get your hands on. Are you ready?

Now wash your mouth out, because I promise you these are the filthiest things you’ll ever experience. Introducing… the super slutty caramel brondie!

 

A FEW NOTES

  • You can eat these hot or cold. I initially made the mistake of cutting them to eat hot before leaving them to cool. Leave them to cool first, and then if you would like to experience one hot, heat it up. If you cut it before it’s set, you risk completely ruining the layers.
  • A blondie is traditionally a vanilla brownie and doesn’t have to have white chocolate in it. I prefer to add white chocolate as I feel it really makes it, but by all means go ahead without.
  • I personally wouldn’t advise you substitute the ingredients for low fat versions, it can mess with the consistency. Full fat is meant to be enjoyed.
  • I like to use Dairy Milk Caramel, Twix and Rolos, but you can swap these for any chocolates you want. I wanted these to be the ultimate caramel super slutty brondies and so it made sense, but you can personalise it and try different flavours however you want in their place.
  • I recommend serving with a hot cup of tea and sitting down with a good book (or an episode of Gilmore Girls), for the full, cosy, slutty experience.
  • I’ve created this recipe with a 10 x 10inch baking tray; if you don’t have a square tray, you could use a 9 x 11inch instead.
  • If you prefer a richer tase to your brownies, substitute the milk chocolate chips with dark chocolate chips. I chose milk chocolate as it is already a very heavy, sweet recipe that I didn’t want to make it too rich.
  • If you want to change it around, put the blondie layer at the bottom and the brownie at the top.

 

INGREDIENTS

For the blondies
250g unsalted butter
125g white granulated sugar
125g soft light brown sugar
3 eggs
1tsp vanilla extract
200g plain flour
150g white chocolate chunks

For the caramel centre
100g unsalted butter
2 tbsp caster sugar
2 tbsp golden syrup
200g condensed milk (I buy the Carnations condensed milk and use half of it)
Pack of 4 Twix
Pack of 4 Rolos
Pack of 4 Dairy Milk Caramel

For the brownies
200g unsalted butter
200g dark chocolate
4 eggs
275g caster sugar
100g plain flour
50g cocoa powder
200g milk chocolate chips

THE RECIPE

  1. Start by preheating the oven to 180°C (160°C fan), and line a 10 x 10inch baking tin with greaseproof paper. If you don’t have any paper, you can grease it with vegetable oil, coconut oil, or butter/margarine.
  2. In a smaller bowl, melt the 200g unsalted butter and the 200g dark chocolate. You can do this in the microwave in 20 second bursts, ensuring you stir between each burst, or in a heatproof bowl over a saucepan of simmering water. Once it has melted, leave it to cool to room temperature.
  3. Whisk together 4 eggs and 275g caster sugar for about 5 minutes. I advise using an electric whisker – you need to mixture to expand so it is light and fluffy. It should double thereabouts. If you are doing this by hand, it will take longer, so expect some graft!
  4. Fold in the buttery chocolate mixture, and gradually sift the 50g cocoa powder into the mixture, folding as you go.
  5. Add 100g plain flour, again folding gently. Add the milk chocolate chips here and fold through to create a nice brownie mix. Pour the brownie mix onto the parchment paper in your tin.
  6. Once you have an even brownie mixture in the pan, break up all 4 of the Twix bars (8 fingers) and place them gently across the top of the mixture. Use 2 of the Dairy Milk Caramel bars and do the same. Make sure you scatter them; they don’t need to be placed neatly. Leave the topped brownie mixture to the side whilst you continue. Wash up your mixing bowl to save you using another for the blondie mixture.
  7. Put 100g unsalted butter, 2 tbsp caster sugar, 2 tbsp golden syrup and 200g condensed milk into a medium sized saucepan over a medium heat and stir continuously.
  8. Once the sugar has dissolved, turn the heat up to high and using a whisk, stir continuously. You can expect to be stirring for around 6-8 minutes – it is really important that you continuously whisk to stop the mixture both burning and catching. The caramel gets extremely hot so please be careful as it can splash. Don’t be alarmed if it looks like there are golden bits appearing – it is the mixture caramelising and it will soon all be that colour.
  9. Once the caramel has thickened and it has created a lovely golden colour and has thickened up to a nice caramel consistency, pour on top of the blondie mixture. Once cooked, this will create a caramel layer similar to that of a Millionaire’s Shortbread, but with chocolate surprises!
  10. Using a wooden spoon, beat 250g melted butter, 125g white granulated sugar and the 125g soft light brown sugar. Add 1tsp vanilla extract and 3 eggs, and again beat until smooth.
  11. Gradually add the 200g plain flour, beating until combined. If you are adding white chocolate chips, fold them in gently at this point.
  12. Pour the blondie mix evenly on top of the warm caramel mixture. Top with 3 packs of Rolos and the remaining Dairy Milk Caramel pieces.
  13. Bake for 35-40 minutes. When you take it out of the oven it should have a slight wobble in the middle.
  14. Place the remaining Rolos gently on top. The bottoms will melt to stick on once it has set.
  15. Leave to cool to room temperature in the tin. Once it has reached room temperature, place the tin into the oven for at least 2 hours.
  16. Cut into 12 pieces (or more… or less! It’s your choice how big!) and serve.

 

Enjoy!

I really hope you love this recipe as much as me. It’s a real indulgent treat, but one I haven’t stopped thinking about ever since.

Trying it yourself? Make sure you take pictures of your bakes and tag me in your pictures on Instagram. You can find me at @amber.izzo.

Happy baking!

Love, Amber x

Keep up to date by following me on Instagram and subscribing to my YouTube channel.

FRIENDS Reunion – My Top 10 Friends Moments

Tonight on Sky, we are being graced with the long awaited FRIENDS reunion. Ross, Rachel, Chandler, Monica, Joey and Phoebe are all taking their place on our TV screens once again, 16 years later. This time however, they are coming to us on Sky and not in character. Instead, we are looking forward to reminiscing one of (if not ‘the’… definitely ‘the’) best TV shows ever to have landed on our screens. Could we be any more excited? Absolutely not. So, what a better time to get nostalgic in preparation and look back at my 10 top Friends moments.

I like to consider myself to be an expert in Friends; if I were ever to be a contestant on Mastermind, it would be my chosen subject without a shadow of a doubt. I have driven my husband to the point of insanity on multiple occasions watching repeats of it over, and over, and over. I can quote most of the episodes word for word, I laugh before the jokes, and it’s become a borderline unhealthy obsession. I’ve been to Friendsfest twice, I have a themed cushion in my office, multiple Friends themed tees, tea towels, mugs, an entire pizza set (a plate with all their names on and a themed pizza cutter), and a six-piece espresso set. Now I’m just showing off. I’m probably not the worst person known to man for novelty Friends merch, but it’s certainly a start.

When they announced the reunion, along with 90% of Friends fans around the world, I squirmed at the thought of a proper reunion; an episode filmed 15 years on with Joey Tribbiani in his 50s and grey, Ross Gellar still shouting that they were on a break, and cringing as Friends tries to wander into the 2020s. I’m a big believer that sometimes, the greats need to stay untouched, and like with a movie, there is always the chance of ruining the incredible 10 years they had. Instead, I am eagerly awaiting a chance to hear all the behind-the-scenes chats, who broke the non-existent contract of not sleeping with each other, and what their favourite episodes were to film. And so, without further ado, here are my top 10 Friends moments…

  1. I Hate Rachel Green Club

Brad Pitt’s cameo as Will Colbert appeared in Season 8’s “The One With The Rumour” is undoubtedly one of the best moments in Friends. It’s solid in it’s place at number 10 after Will attends Monica and Rachel’s apartment for Thanksgiving, telling everyone that him, Ross and a foreign exchange student founded a club at high school named ‘I hate Rachel Green club’. The comedy gold moment? The second Will points at Ross, outing him as the second member of the club that spread the rumour she was a hermaphrodite, with Ross exclaiming ‘No need to point. She knows who Ross is.’, had me in stitches.

  1. That time the lotion and the powder made a paste…

My sister has a gorgeous pair of leather leggings, and she looks insane every time she wears them. I however, cannot even contemplate putting them on my body without thinking of Ross Gellar stuck in his date’s bathroom whilst trying to put his leather trousers back on. In ‘The One with All the Resolutions’, we all learn through Ross’ misfortune just what happens if you a) follow Joey’s advice, and b) mix baby lotion with talcum powder. A paste, a mess, and a whole lot of embarrassment.

  1. I doooooo…

Girls, we’ve all been there. We’ve had a day dream about our wedding, we’ve contemplated spending the day dress shopping and pretending we’re engaged, and been on the rebound when our ex moves on before us. Most of us however, have not sat drinking beer in wedding dresses when feeling awfully sorry for ourselves in the style of Rachel, Phoebe and Monica. Number 8 has a clear winner, and my 8th favourite Friends moment is the second Rachel Green heads to open the front door in a wedding dress, expecting to see Chandler and being faced with nobody else than her boyfriend Joshua who had finished their relationship after she had scared him off with her fast-paced desires. I do… ‘that oughta do it!’.

  1. The Shepherds Trifle

In season 6, episode 9, Rachel Green took the trifle to a new level. After a slight mishap with some sticky pages in a recipe book, Rachel makes half a trifle and half a shepherd’s pie. As a massive foodie myself, the thought of messing up a trifle that horrifically gives me chills. Joey Tribbiani is a new level of foodie, and this moment is set in its place at number 7 for this exact moment: “I mean, what’s not to like? Custard, good. Jam, good. Meat, gooooood!”.

  1. The Eyelash Curler

When Chandler and Monica first got together, it was a moment that could have really changed the game of the show. Chandler and Monica had the loveliest relationship and I could quite easily compile a list of my top 10, if not 20, Chandler and Monica moments. Their relationship before they were even together was always one I adored. So, in number 6 we have this iconic moment from season 5, episode 5… “YOU?! AND YOU?!” from the very moment that Joey realises that Monica and Chandler are together. To jog your memory, Monica and Chandler had gone away for the weekend and she had left her eyelash curler in the hotel room. The hotel rang Chandler and Joey’s apartment to tell them, and Monica was soon asking where her eyelash curler had gone… Iconic.

  1. I’M AN EIGHT?!

We’ve all had a bad fake tan, and if you haven’t, then I need your hints and tips in the comments! I’ve looked every shade of orange from a rusty bicycle, a garden fence, right through to full blown satsuma. However, none of us (I hope) have had a tanning experience quite as bad as Ross Geller’s. The final series of Friends has more iconic moments than we could possibly fit into one blog post, but in The One with Ross’ Tan, Ross’ two-tone tan disaster has me in fits of laughter every single time. “I’M AN EIGHT?”.

  1. He’s Her Lobster

I have always been team Ross and Rachel, and always absolutely despised their relationships with anyone else, ever. I hated Tag, Emily was by far the WORST character ever to have featured, Charlie was boring, and Mona was a moaner. In season 2, episode 14, Rachel sees the prom video in which Ross had prepared to take her to the prom when she thought her prom date had stood her up. Phoebe’s “He’s her lobster!” just after they first kiss is one of the most iconic lines of the entire show, and one I even incorporated into my vows.

  1. My fish, my buddy!

Adam Goldberg’s character Eddie Menuek was one of the best cameos ever to appear in Friends. Every single episode he was in (all 3 of them) has my eyes juicy with tears of laughter each and every time it’s on. There is no doubt that Eddie was a character whose sanity was questionable, and I’m always quite disappointed that he only appeared in 3 episodes. If you’re questioning who Eddie was, he appeared during season 2 as Chandler’s short-term roommate, with the fake fish. For me, Eddie’s cameo sails into the third best moment with ease. Look me in the eyes and tell me that you don’t laugh along with the line: “I mean, first you sleep with my girlfriend and then you insult my intelligence by lying about it, and then you kill my fish, my buddy?”. Exactly. You can’t.

  1. I take thee Rachel…

Did I mention I hated Emily? I hated Emily. There were not many scenes that Emily was in that I enjoyed, nor do I know many people who enjoyed her either. So, you can imagine how much I rejoice every time Ross says the words: “I take thee Rachel”. For Emily, it must have sucked, but let’s be honest – did anyone really want them to end up together? On that note, was anyone else sincerely disappointed when Ross didn’t go on his honeymoon with Rachel, and they didn’t come back a happy couple?

1. There’s a reason girls don’t do this!

I’ll take my crown of world’s soppiest woman ever to have lived right now and wear it with so much pride. Monica and Chandler’s engagement is my favourite moment of the whole show and I still cry like a baby whenever I get to watch the episode. I get every single one of the feels and I feel like I’m watching it for the first time, every time. It doesn’t take much to get me blubbering, but this scene does it with ease.

So there we have it, my 10 top Friends moments. I have chopped and changed this list so many times I don’t care to count, I’ve pondered over a million different moments, from the burst juice box to ‘the routine’, noodle soup to PIVOT, but for me (in this very moment), these are my top 10.

What is your favourite Friends moment?

And could you be any more excited for the reunion?

Dear My 14-Year-Old Self

Dear my 14-year-old self,

You’re approaching 27 now; you’re not much taller, if anything you’re slightly smaller, and life hasn’t quite turned out the way you’re imagining that it will. You’ve graduated from University, you’ve got a good job, you’re married (to an Italian may I add, you always vow to never marry someone with a dull surname, so congratulations on that front), you have a house, a car and a Labrador. On paper, it’s all turned out pretty sweet.

However, in just short of 10 years, you are told that you’re infertile. I know this is going to come as a shock to you now; it came as one hell of a shock to me too. I know you want 6 children, and I know you’ve already named every single one in your head. You won’t want any of those names by the time you’re me, trust me on that front, but my love, unfortunately your dream of a family like the Von Trapps just isn’t a reality. You can’t have children without IVF, which sounds really scary right now, but you’ll figure it all out. In fact, you’ll never research anything as much as you do this, and if you put half as much effort into your A-Levels as you do researching IVF, you’ll get into Cambridge University. Spoiler alert, that’s not where you go. In all honesty, you really struggle to cope. It sounds dramatic, but when you’re told this news, your world falls apart. The boyfriend you have now? He’ll dump you in 3 weeks and you’ll cry a lot in your bedroom listening to what is now old school Taylor Swift, but this? This is so much worse. Mental breakdowns are things that right now sound pretty extreme, you don’t really know much about them right now and you think they’re something that only ever happen in movies. You’ve seen the words brandished in magazines recently when talking about Britney Spears, or Lindsey Lohan, and you don’t think they’re something that happen to real people. It’s not all like you see in the magazines; you’ll grow to realise things rarely are, but they are quite terrifying. You don’t think you can cope; you can barely get yourself out of bed in the morning and you get some pretty dark, scary thoughts. But, I promise it gets better. It takes a while, but please listen to what I have to say.

You will feel like you’re on your own. You will feel like your husband doesn’t understand and your marriage will be tested to the limit. You will spend more time crying than you do laughing and you will barely recognise yourself in the mirror. You stop caring about what you look like, and your patience runs extremely thin. You’ll become even more argumentative than you already are and you’ll wish that other people were hurting as much as you were. You’ll tell people that you would never wish what you feel upon them, but if you’re really honest with yourself, you would give anything for them to feel it instead of you. It is tough.

It gets better. I don’t even know how you do it, but you do, and you pick yourself up and then you run with it. It takes a few months, but don’t let those scary thoughts get the better of you. I know that you don’t, because I’m here now and writing to you, so think of that when it feels like it’s all too much. You will get through it.

You have a couple of operations and you love the anaesthetic. It’s a weird thing to love… but get used to it. You have general anaesthetic for your operations and then you get put under local anaesthetic for your egg collections (part of the IVF process), and it’s great fun. Hey, I’m glad you chose to love that kind of high, and not a high offered to you by weird blokes in smoking areas of bars at University whose jaws swing more than the play park. I must now add that you refuse them. You have a great support system; you have a husband who adores the ground you walk on, and you have friends who are your absolute rocks from the second this shit starts to go down and if anything, you’ll learn so much about yourself and the people around you because of it. You’ve spent far too long letting people walk all over you, allowing people to treat you like a fool, and saying yes just to please people – it opens your eyes and you’re so much better off for it.

I’d love to tell you that I’m writing this holding your baby, but we’re still working on that. Girl, you have one hell of a lot of strength. You surprise yourself so much; you take a really horrible situation and turn it into a huge journey of personal growth. If you could see me, you wouldn’t even recognise me. You do some really amazing things, and at times you still feel like you’re failing, but trust me you are not. You’re on Sky News, you’re the most watched video on the BBC website, you’re nominated for a Pride of Peterborough Award and you make national news on more than one occasion. That big mouth of yours that never stops talking? It finally gets you to places worth being. For once, it isn’t getting you into trouble but instead, you’re causing a stir for the right reasons, and you’re helping so many people whilst you do it.

You still have bad days; there are days where you’re crying so much it hurts your soul; you feel hollow and empty, but you learn it’s part of the process. It’s okay to feel like that; it’s okay to ride the wave of your emotions and a bad day doesn’t mean a bad life. It is all only temporary.

You’ll never be grateful for your infertility, but you will be grateful for the person it’s made you. I promise.

I am so proud of you. Just keep going.

Love, you. x

Why We’re Going Abroad For IVF #3

Planning for our third IVF cycle is something we hoped we would never be doing. In the same breath, planning for our second cycle wasn’t something we hoped we’d be doing either. Honestly? We hadn’t ever anticipated that we’d be planning our IVF at all, and yet here we are, 6.5 years into trying to conceive. We have had two failed cycles of ICSI and we have only ever had one embryo make it to transfer day. We have no embryos on ice, we have no clearer idea as to why it isn’t working for us, and we regularly feel like we are still stuck on square 1. You would hope that after spending thousands of pounds and going through the process twice already, we would be that bit clearer, but the truth is we know as much as we did at the very first appointment we ever had with an IVF consultant.

In 2018, I was diagnosed with blocked fallopian tubes. I had those removed in March 2019, and I also have Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome. As a result of this, it is physically impossible for me to get pregnant without IVF. My husband has low morphology, which means whilst he has a great amount of sperm, they aren’t quite formed the way they should be. Put the pair of us together, and we are far from the most fertile couple around.

Our first two cycles ended miserably; our first cycle retrieved 7 eggs and only 2 of those fertilised. Out of the two embryos, neither made it to transfer. Our second cycle saw 10 eggs retrieved, 5 of which fertilised, and this time only one made it to transfer. The one we transferred however wasn’t quite ready; it was an ‘early blastocyst’ and so wasn’t where it should have been. It goes without saying that unfortunately, that didn’t implant, and it wasn’t the time for us to bring home our little ‘Dotty’. After this, we made the decision that it was time to move clinics.

We have spent the last 12 months researching clinics across the whole of the U.K. We live in Cambridgeshire, and as a result of the IVF postcode lottery, we have not been entitled to any treatment funded by the NHS. So far, we are about £10,000 deep. We have had a look at multiple clinics and towards the end of last year, we began toying with the idea of IVF in Alicante, Spain. Over the years, we have experienced so many people tell us about their friend’s cousin’s dog walker who had a mysterious disease that stopped them getting pregnant, who flew to another country and fell pregnant with triplets and x, y, z. I have always been pessimistic about it for a multitude of reasons; you hear stories about people travelling abroad for cosmetic surgery and coming back with uneven noses, strange fillets bursting in their breasts, and bum implants so hard they break benches when you sit down (okay, exaggeration), that I suppose I always dismissed the concept of going abroad through fear of a ‘bodge job’. We warmed to Alicante, I had spent hours scrolling through Pinterest looking at things to do, and with the U.K lockdown getting longer and longer, an excuse to go abroad didn’t take too much convincing.

It didn’t last long; within a few weeks we had changed our mind. Who would look after our Labrador? Who would pay the bills whilst my self-employed husband took two weeks off work? How much annual leave would I need to take, and would it be approved? What if my contract wasn’t made permanent and I didn’t have the leave in the first place? We decided it was too much hassle, and that it was better to stay at home where we could come home to a nice home cooked meal and sleep in our own beds.

We found a U.K clinic that we loved, we spoke to them via Zoom and discussed our previous protocols and everything we wanted from a clinic; they ticked every box and we loved them. Marco and I ended the call and felt both elated and emotional; this clinic was perfect, they offered everything we wanted, gave us the protocol we wanted, had a staff team we needed, but for our cycle we were looking at close to £13,000. It was a price tag that gave us chills, but we felt confident in the clinic so we had to make a decision; if we went with this clinic, if it didn’t work then that was it, our IVF journey was over. It was our last chance, and so that is a pill we have spent the last 4 months learning to swallow. We would work multiple jobs, we would save even harder than we already were, and we would pay the price for the clinic we loved. If it worked, it would be worth every penny, but if it didn’t… well, all we could do was learn to live and love our lives on a path we never thought we’d be on. We knew in our hearts we couldn’t justify spending that money again.

For me, the decision to make this our last cycle has been a hard, bitter decision. We know there are other options available to us; options we will potentially explore, but knowing that it was our last chance saloon almost made this cycle feel more pressured. The excitement soon wore off and instead it was anxiety inducing; whilst I knew there was every possibility this cycle could work, knowing that there was a good chance I would have to face the third and final negative test was making me feel a different level of emotion. I felt a sadness I hadn’t felt since my first diagnosis; it was a cloud looming in the distance, unsure of whether the storm is coming or if it too shall pass.

A lot of conversations have happened in our house over recent weeks, and one night we both came to the conclusion that we weren’t ready for this to be our last cycle. We knew that if we stayed in the UK, it had to be. Our case has meant that we need a clinic that will focus on our embryo quality, are happy to increase my dose of medication, are interested in sperm quality and are happy to perform further tests to get the best possible result for us. In the U.K, this was always coming with a hefty price tag, so we began toying with the thought of going overseas once more.

We have done a lot of research into clinics overseas, looked at countless clinics and totalled up multiple price lists. The more we browsed, the more we knew that we were enjoying the prospect of a little holiday thrown in with treatment. We knew that if we really wanted to make it work, we could find someone to dog sit, we could shut the business for 10 days or so, and if needs be I could go abroad with a friend for the first few days. It just seemed to make sense.

We really wanted to find a clinic in Italy. With Marco being Italian and being fluent in the language, it made sense to us to travel somewhere he considered home, somewhere we knew we would feel really comfortable and somewhere we love to travel to. It turns out in Italy the rules on IVF are extremely strict. First and foremost, it’s expensive, but in addition you are only allowed to fertilise 3 eggs and you cannot freeze any subsequent embryos. Immediately, it ruled it out.

We had a consultation with Your IVF Abroad which was so helpful. Emma & Adam kindly gifted us their clinic match service (I was not under any obligation to write this post, so this is not an ad!), and as we quite literally had no idea where to start, it made sense for us to use them. We spoke to Emma in so much detail about what we wanted from a clinic; what we felt was most important to us and what we absolutely didn’t want. We narrowed it down to three clinics, and we are now about to embark on consultations with each of them.

I spend my nights scrolling through Pinterest looking for things to do in each place, looking at Airbnb’s and looking through ASOS for summer dresses that will look lovely on the beach in Alicante or strolling through the hidden streets of Athens, and the spark, the hope and the optimism has been reignited. Whilst we are painfully aware that it may still not work, we know that somewhere abroad in Europe, whichever clinic we choose, we will receive care that is second to none and so much more medically advanced than the UK.

 

But above all, we know that if it doesn’t work, the bank won’t have run dry. We know that it doesn’t have to be the last shot, and that is enough for us.

Sun, sea, and hopefully… a sticky bean.

Keep up to date by following me on Instagram and subscribing to my YouTube channel. Looking for infertility support? Sign up to Innovation Fertility here!

PCOS Friendly Salted Caramel and Banana Pancakes

Salted caramel? Good… Banana? Good… Pancakes? Good… What have you got to lose?

I’ve never been a huge pancake eater; I regularly see them popping up on my Instagram feed, perfectly styled with amazing toppings. I have always associated pancakes with dessert, they are something I tend to eat once a year on Shrove Tuesday. As I have recently started to change my lifestyle and the way I eat to help manage my PCOS symptoms, I have also started trying new recipes, and banana and caramel pancakes are one I am so on board with.

I struggle with breakfast; I like my sleep and I often start my day with nothing but a coffee. I usually lack the appetite (and the energy) to make myself a healthy, fulfilling breakfast. I’m not a cereal fan, porridge I have to be in the mood for, and with a low-carb diet, I’d rather use my carbs for something super tasty instead of a couple of slices of toast. I found a recipe for banana pancakes and really enjoyed them; they were a combination of egg and banana, but in my husband’s opinion, they tasted like a banana omelette. I must admit, the texture was very much that of an omelette, and I missed the sweet taste that you usually get with a pancake; the dash of vanilla essence wasn’t quite cutting it. So, I mixed up the recipe, I changed the ratios and added some ingredients, and voila, may I present to you banana and caramel pancakes that don’t resemble frittatas!

I’ve added ingredients such as oat milk and salted caramel flavoured protein powder (this isn’t a must!), but you can change this of course and use any milk alternative you please. You can use cows milk if you wish, but I would advise using whole milk if you are wanting to keep these high in fat. You can change the protein powder to coconut flour or another flour alternative, however, I would recommend coconut flour on the basis it’s ideal for a low carb lifestyle. Coconut flour is low in carbohydrates, cheaper than other alternatives, high in fibre and it is also a great absorbent. Flours such as almond flour do not work as well as it isn’t as absorbent.

Do you like the sound of these? Try them out, switch up your toppings, and tag me in your pictures on Instagram! Enjoy! x

Ingredients
(serves 2)

1 ripe banana
2 eggs
40g salted caramel protein powder (You can change this to 40g coconut flour!)
2 tsp salted caramel flavouring (I use Asda’s own – 75p, bargain!)
50ml oat milk
1tbsp coconut oil
Handful of raspberries
Handful of blueberries
Yoghurt (I use Fage 5% fat!)

Method

  1. In a bowl, place your peeled banana and mash wish a fork (or a potato masher, either works!)
  2. Crack two eggs into the bowl and mix the eggs and banana until a mushy mixture is in the bottom of your bowl.
  3. Add your salted caramel protein powder, or your coconut flour (sift the flour for a smoother texture), the vanilla or caramel essence, and your milk, whisking them together to form a thick mixture.
  4. Pre-heat the pan on a medium heat, and allow the coconut oil to heat.
  5. Add ¼ of the mixture to the pan (1/4 of the mixture will make one pancake), and allow to cook for 60 – 90 seconds on each side.
  6. Once you’ve cooked your pancakes, top with a dollop of yoghurt, and add raspberries, blueberries and banana (or whatever fruit you want!). If you’re feeling fancy, you could even add some dark chocolate chips on top. Spoil yourself!

Buon Appetito!

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