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.

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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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We Need to Talk About Toxic Positivity

Please, stop with the positive vibes only. We need to talk about toxic positivity.

When I was diagnosed as infertile, it seemed like the logical option for me to tell people. I didn’t want to keep it as a secret; I wanted everyone to know what we were going through, if only to stop people asking us when we were having children. When I had my laparoscopy, I had not been on any form of contraception for 3 and a half years; we were newly married, and it seemed like everyone’s favourite question to ask when we were going to start ‘popping one out’, like it was so simple. I had found myself getting to the point of chuntering “not through lack of trying”, under my breath, and getting increasingly frustrated at family parties or social events when the topic became conversation. For me, making our struggle known was a form of control; it was a way I could make sure that people stopped asking me questions that made me go home, sink into bed, and cry at the fact it still hadn’t worked.

What I didn’t realise was that by telling people we were struggling, it made people uncomfortable. This was something that always confused me; my misfortune made them feel uncomfortable. However, with time I have come to learn that it is human nature. When someone is hearing about a situation that is alien to them, they don’t always know how to react, and when a person doesn’t know how they should react, they try to offer a solution. When they can’t do that, they become uncomfortable. It isn’t in our nature to immediately say “I’m here for you if you want someone to talk to”, “I don’t understand but I’ll listen”, instead, we offer methods of repair. We have now progressed into a time where we see Instagram and Facebook posts using the hashtags #PositiveVibesOnly, we see post after post claiming that if we read The Secret, if we manifest our perfect life, we will attract it, and we should only ever have a positive outlook. Where is the line? Of course, a positive mind, a clear vision, being upbeat and determined is so important and is often the thing that keeps us going every day, but we need to stop pushing that it’s the only way to live our lives. It is both okay, and so important, to feel to negative emotions. It’s okay to also acknowledge that things might not go to plan and things might not work out the way we want them to.

Toxic positivity makes reference to the ideology that the only way to live your life is through positivity, keeping your head up all of the time and keeping those negative thoughts at bay. It means rejecting the thoughts of disappointing outcomes, of any negative emotion, and focussing only on the positive. You might be reading this and thinking, ‘what’s wrong with that?’, but let me explain.

In the world of infertility and IVF, things don’t always work out the way we plan. We can keep trying, we can keep tracking our ovulation, we can fund as many cycles of IVF as we can afford to, but the fact of the matter is that it does not always work.

Unprotected sex does not guarantee a baby.

IVF does not guarantee a baby, and that is the sad fact that many people have to face.

It doesn’t mean they were not hopeful. It doesn’t mean they were not positive it would work. It doesn’t mean they didn’t put everything they have into trying. It means they had to stop. They had to stop for their own sanity; they had to stop because money wouldn’t allow it; they had to stop because it consumed every second of their day; they had to stop because Mother Nature decided it was over.

For every cycle of IVF I have had, I have had someone tell me that they just know it’s going to work for us; they can feel it in their bones. They tell us never to give up, or that it will work for us because it worked for their friend’s cousin who had been trying for 20 years without a penis or a uterus, and it was just a miracle. They tell me to stay positive. When we had our first cycle, I used to tell them “but it might not”, and still they would protest and tell me I was being negative, that it will work and the phrases repeat. It could be worse… look on the bright side… at least it’s not x, y, z… but the fact of the matter was, I was protecting myself.

When you avoid a difficult situation, you lose the ability to deal with it. You lose the ability to process what is in front of you. You might not know how you will react if the worst case scenario becomes a reality, but you’ve given yourself time to prepare. When people tell us that they just know it will work, when they tell us to simply stay positive and it will work, frankly, it comes across as ignorant. It builds a barrier and breaks down the rapport, making it hard to connect with the person dismissing your reality. It is increasingly hard to have a meaningful conversation with someone about how you feel, about your biggest fear and possibly the hardest thing you’ve ever had to endure with someone who is seemingly ignoring your emotions. They are delegitimising the trauma and the grief that comes with infertility.

We encourage people to talk. We live in a world where #BeKind trends whenever mental health occurs in the media, yet only when things have gone too far. We encourage people to talk and we retweet strangers telling the world to talk, telling the world that someone will always be there to listen, and yet when someone is talking about the lining that isn’t silver, people struggle to offer anything except a false sense of positivity. It’s as important to acknowledge those darker emotions as it is the brighter ones. It is not being negative. It is coming to terms with a very real possibility, and it’s allowing yourself to prepare.

By shutting the door on the fear, on the “negative” emotions, you are not stopping it from growing. You are allowing it to fester, you are allowing it to grow, and whilst of course it is not unwise to hope you never have to open that door, if and when you do – it’s so much bigger than it could have been. You can be hopeful that you will fall pregnant, you can go through fertility treatment feeling positive and optimistic, but you can also be aware of the fact it might not work.

It’s caring and it’s healthier to acknowledge the fear and to resign to our truth; the cautious optimism is so much kinder.

 

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PCOS Friendly No Bake Peanut Butter Bars

PCOS Friendly NO BAKE Peanut Butter Bars? Say hello to your new, sweet obsession!

I’ve struggled with PCOS (Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome) for a long time, and alongside the symptoms of irregular, painful periods, the impact on fertility, the increased testosterone and occasional (okay, maybe not occasional…) chin hair to pluck, one of the most frustrating symptoms of PCOS is the inability to lose weight when you’re trying to. As much as I’ve tried to deny it for as long as I can remember, certain foods just simply don’t get on with PCOS, and those foods tend to be ones that fall into the category of carbohydrates and sugar. For a girl like me who has the biggest sweet tooth going, a true, deep love affair with pork pies, and a hobby of devouring an entire pot of Pringles in one sitting, this has caused me complete and utter heartbreak. However, as I approach my third cycle of IVF and consequently a need to lower my BMI, I have been trying to adopt a low-carb, high-fat diet as recommended by Zita West in ‘The IVF Diet’.

I have tried many ‘healthy’ treat recipes in the past, however none have quite hit like this one. I’m not about to pretend that this is the healthiest thing you’ll ever eat, nor am I going to advocate for eating them all in one sitting, but I did have one a day with my lunch – moderation is key, right? I’ve always been a believer of food just being food, there’s no ‘good’ food, there’s no ‘bad’ food; food is food and all is good in moderation. These really are a sweet treat, but they’re great for a sweet treat when you have PCOS, when you’re following a low-carb or keto diet, and frankly, even if you’re not. They’re easy to make (you don’t even have to turn the oven on!), and they keep for ages – we were eating ours over a course of two weeks, but they can last even longer than that if you refrigerate them properly! I recommend storing them in an air tight container rather than a plate wrapped in clingfilm.

Make sure to tag me in your pictures or your stories on Instagram if you try them! You can find me at @amber.izzo … Enjoy!


Prep Time | 20 minutes
Chill Time | 1 hour 30 minutes
Total Time | 1 hour 50 minutes
Total Active Time | 20 minutes

Servings | 16 bars
Calories | 173 cals

Ingredients
For the base:
100g Coconut Flour (I use Tesco Groovy Food Organic)
½ Cup of Butter
0.5 Cup of Sweetener (I use Aldi’s Sucralose)
¼ tsp of Salt
1 tsp of Vanilla Extract
¾ Cup of Peanut Butter (melted)

For the topping:
100g Dark Chocolate (You can mix this up and use flavoured dark chocolate – I use Aldi’s Moser Roth Salted Caramel Dark Chocolate for an extra crunch and added flavour!)
1tbsp Butter

Instructions

  1. Using greaseproof paper, line an 11 x 8 baking tray (approx. – any close to this will do, you just may have to adapt and have thicker/thinner bars. I wouldn’t recommend using bigger than 12 x 12).
  2. In a large bowl, combine the peanut butter, butter, sweetener, vanilla extract and the salt.
  3. Once combined, stir in the coconut flour until a dough forms. It will resemble a cookie dough – don’t expect a batter like you’re making a cake!
    Tip: if you’re not worried about sugar and you’d like a slightly sweeter taste, either add more sweetener or add some icing sugar!
  4. Place the dough into the baking tray and press to form an even coverage.
  5. Put a heatproof bowl in the microwave and heat the chocolate (chopped) and some butter. I tend to do this in 15 second bursts and stir after each burst to ensure the chocolate doesn’t burn, and it melts gently. You can also do this in a heatproof bowl over a saucepan if you would prefer.
  6. Once melted and combined, pour the chocolate mixture over the top of the dough, ensuring the entirety of the top is covered, including the corners.
  7. Put your tray into the fridge and leave to set for 90 minutes.
  8. Once they’re set, cut into 16 slices (or as little or as many as you’d like!)

 

*This recipe was originally found and adapted from All Day I Dream About Food.

The Due Date That Never Came

I opened my eyes. It was quarter past eight in the morning and the buzzing of my alarm that had been going off every 10 minutes had finally got the better of me.  I need to get out of that habit; the snooze button is my best friend, much to my husband’s annoyance. The alarm instantly wakes him and unlike me, he struggles to get back to sleep. I am quite capable of pulling the duvet over my head and dozing back into a deep snooze within minutes, drifting away into a world without any worries, without any reality at all. The sun was just rising, a ray of light sneaking into the room through the smallest of gaps in the curtains. I picked up my phone and staring at me was ‘2nd December 2020’. Instantly, all I wanted to do was pull that duvet back over my head, turn off my phone and call it a day.

40 weeks ago, we had vastly different hopes for today. We excitedly emailed our fertility clinic to let them know I was menstruating; it was time to give IVF another shot. My medication was chilling in the fridge and I spent every spare moment watching YouTube videos to make sure I knew what I was doing. Our first cycle, just months before, had failed miserably. Unfortunately, despite being able to fertilise, our embryos have never been particularly good quality and our first cycle ended with no embryos making it to the transfer. We had put thousands of pounds on the table, ready to gamble – red or black – but the table collapsed before we could even try.
This time we were trying different medication. I had lost weight, I had been taking all the recommended supplements and we were ready to try again. We were both hopeful and optimistic, but the reality of the traumatic first cycle was still sitting at the forefront of our minds.

Our second cycle wasn’t without its hiccups; the consultant located a cyst on my ovary, and I was encouraged to discuss cancelling the cycle with my husband. We weighed up our options and decided to carry on, and we were so glad that we did. With 10 eggs retrieved and 5 fertilised, we felt like it might finally be our time.  By transfer day, we only had one embryo left – an ‘early blastocyst’. An early blastocyst effectively means that it was a slow growing embryo. By day 5 it should start to hatch, which makes it a blastocyst as opposed to an embryo, but in our case, it was growing a little bit too slowly. The embryologist made the decision to transfer; it may be more comfortable in the ‘natural habitat’ and develop better in my womb. We were painfully aware of how slim the chances were, but we had reached this point. It was progress, it was a step further than the last, and whilst it might have been slim, the chance did exist. Our darling little dot was inside my womb; this tiny accumulation of cells, a mixture of my husband and I, and on the 2nd December 2020 could be due to make an entrance Earth side.

I will never forget the look on my husband’s face when I told him the test was negative. We sat on our bed with the test face down on the windowsill, nervously anticipating the result. My symptoms had dropped off days prior to the test; I think really, I already knew. I had spent the ten days between our transfer and test day trying to keep myself as busy as possible. I painted every surface I possibly could, from the bannister to the bedroom wall to the wardrobe. I read books I had been buying and never started, I started cross-stitching again for the first time since I was a child, but more than anything I spent the days partaking in self-torture. I would browse the internet for nursery inspiration, for maternity clothes and baby names; it was the equivalent to being lactose intolerant and spending the day sat in a chocolate factory – you really shouldn’t taste it, but you will anyway, knowing full well you’ll pay the price later. I might have been mad, but it gave me an element of hope for just a minute. Seeing the words ‘NOT PREGNANT’ starting back at me made me feel like nothing but a fool, how stupid I had been to let myself believe it could work. I felt empty, I felt hollow, and I felt like my status as a barren woman had been nothing but amplified.

Infertility is full of milestones: the first bleed; the first injection; each and every scan; the egg collection; every single call from the embryologist; the transfer, and every day during the two week wait until the test. After the test you’re faced with another set of milestones – the pregnancy milestones, or the ‘could have been, would have been’. For us, it was the could have been, would have been.

It would have been our 7-week scan.

It would have been our 12-week scan.

We would have been announcing our pregnancy.

We would be finding out the gender.

It would have been his last childless Father’s Day.

It would have been my last childless birthday.

It would have been our due date, 2nd December 2020, and for me that stings the most.

Turning on my laptop for another day at work, I’m reminded of the fact I would have been on maternity leave. Instead of calling clients and making my way through a case load, I would be making my way through labour inducing activities, I’d be ordering a curry and eating whatever food my body wanted, instead of starting tablets that make me feel so ill to try and regulate my insulin levels, manage my PCOS (Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome) symptoms, and in turn increase my chances of a successful third round. I’d be frantically checking the hospital bag had everything it needed, instead of checking the bank accounts to make sure we were on track for cycle 3 savings.

For the most part, I can carry on with the hope that one day it will be our turn. Whilst it is always in the back of my mind that it may never work, there is still an element of hope. Luckily, not every day is a due date, but days like today absolutely floor me. They remind me of how much we have been through and how much we are yet to go through before we have what most people get so easily. They remind me of how slim the chances are each time, and how the more cycles we have, the less likely it is to work. And whilst the due dates are few and far between, it fills me with dread to think there is a possibility that one day, there may be more than two to fill our years with.

All we can do is hope that one day, the due date comes with a baby.

For now, they are reminders of our little dots that didn’t make it and the due date that never came.

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

3 rounds in, £13k down – The IVF Postcode Lottery – Guest Post

Dealing with infertility is hard enough, but learning you aren’t entitled to any rounds of IVF on the NHS increases the stress, the heartache and the anxiety. 


The postcode lottery (not the sort where Jeff Brazier is going to come knocking on your door!) is something we were not aware of as we went in to our first appointment at Peterborough Hospital to discuss why we weren’t getting pregnant. 
We presumed that we would be entitled to at least one round of IVF on the NHS and always referred to that as a bit of a dummy run; a rehearsal if you will. But no, there was no rehearsal. 

We had various investigations through the NHS which we are incredibly grateful for and nothing will change that. We know we are lucky to have had some support but it just stopped all of a sudden. It literally came to a point where we were sat in an appointment in the hospital and were told ‘we have done everything we can for you, if you want to pursue IVF you will need to make you own arrangements to move forward.’ 

That was pretty frightening. 

In 2019, the idea of bringing a cycle of IVF back for women under the age of 40 in Peterborough floated around. The CCG were due to review their decision and potentially reinstate NHS funded IVF. We waited to make a decision as to whether we would pursue private treatment in the sheer hope that the decision to offer nothing would be overturned. The original decision to take NHS IVF away from patients in Cambridgeshire was made in September 2017. Fast forward to August 2019 when the final decision was made, the CCG reviewed the decision and it was sadly sticking to its guns… nothing.

I can’t even begin to tell you how we felt that day. We read the article on the local newspapers twitter feed. I was at work and sent it to my husband. I was obviously inconsolable and my manager sent me home. My husband was on a train going in to London to work. He got to Kings Cross, called his manager to explain the situation and got the next train home – we just wanted to be together. He got home, we got in the car and drove to the seaside. We sat on the beach crying. 

We had 2 options; stump up the money and pursue private treatment, knowing full well this would cost thousands, thousands we just don’t have, or, we keep trying naturally. Our diagnosis is unexplained infertility, meaning nobody knows why it’s not happening for us. 

We felt we had no real option but to go ahead with a private round of IVF. 

Suddenly the anxiety went through the roof. It’s not just dealing with the fact that we can’t get pregnant. It all comes down to money. Can we afford to have IVF? We have been incredibly lucky and have been able to ask for contributions  from both sides of our families. If we weren’t in this position then the outcome is simple, we would not be able to afford IVF. Everything becomes money related. You don’t want to spend any money on yourself because ‘that’s IVF money.’ If you don’t save enough for IVF then ‘clearly you don’t want it enough.’ It honestly makes you question everything. We’ve put so much on hold; we’ve basically pressed pause on our lives. We feel guilty for every penny we spend; that’s no exaggeration. 

There are people in this area, and in other areas where there is no access to NHS IVF that don’t have the option to ask for money, or pay for IVF themselves. Is it really fair that they should be totally shut out of their chance to have a child of their own? Of course it’s not fair, it’s disgusting. The disparity across the country is shocking. If we lived 4 miles north we would be able to have a round on the NHS. 

Some CCG’s offer three rounds of IVF. I can’t even imagine the amount of relief that we would feel if it was the case here! 

It is horrific to think that couples across the region have been priced out of attempting to have their own child. Of course just because you are going through IVF doesn’t mean it’s going to work, oh no… and we’ve found that out the hard way; 3 rounds in and 13k down. It’s all risk, it’s a gamble and in a lot of cases it doesn’t pay off. 

Heartache, stress, anxiety. These feelings never go away. They just change shape, one minute they are reflective of your infertility, the next minute it’s reflective of not being able to afford IVF. 

Things need to change for couples across this region. Having your own child simply cannot become elitist for those who are infertile through no fault of their own. Because that’s exactly what it’s become. If you can afford it, go ahead. If you can’t, well, that’s it. It’s over.

Mrs. S.

Sign the #FightForIVF petition here: https://www.thepetitionsite.com/en-gb/259/042/845/demand-an-end-to-the-ivf-postcode-lottery/

 

FIGHT FOR IVF – Why I’m fighting for the end of the postcode lottery – Fertility Week 2020

The IVF postcode lottery is a national inequality that you may have heard me speak about on more than one occasion. Depending on when you started following my blog, you may remember my blog post on the postcode lottery following the demise of IVF on the NHS in Cambridgeshire and Peterborough. No matter how you have ended up here, you’ll know that I have been personally impacted by the IVF postcode lottery.

This year, in light of Fertility Week 2020, I have – with the help of my good friend, Hayley – launched the #FightForIVF campaign. 10 days ago I launched a petition; a petition that has since hit 10,000 signatures, has seen me subject to interviews from both Sky News and the BBC, has grown an Instagram following and has been the forefront of a fight I absolutely intend on fighting until the end.

In England, your eligibility to IVF treatment varies depending on a range of different factors; your age, your BMI, whether your partner has any children from previous relationships, to name a few. However, more than anything, your eligibility to IVF is dependant heavily on your postcode. The NICE (National Institute for Health and Care Excellence) issued guidance that recommends all women under the age of 40 who have been trying to conceive for two years should receive 3 full cycles of NHS funded IVF. Further to this, it is diagnosed by the World Health Organisation as a disease of the reproductive system. Despite this, it is up to the local Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) to decide how much of this guidance they choose to follow. At present, less than 20% of CCG’s follow the guidelines. Depending on your postcode, you could be entitled to anything between 1-3 rounds of IVF, but if you live in Cambridgeshire & Peterborough, Basildon & Brentwood, or Mid Essex, you would be entitled to nothing at all. This has resulting in the coining of the term “the IVF postcode lottery”, and is the exact thing that we are campaigning about.

Research has shown previously that the lack of fertility services in England does in fact cause psychological harm for many of the people who are affected (WHO, 2016). Infertility itself causes symptoms of depression in 90% of people who suffer, as well as leaving 42% of fertility patients with thoughts of suicide (Fertility Network). I have, for a long time, been very open about the impact infertility has had on my mental health, how between September 2018 and March 2019, I reached a crisis point and couldn’t see the point in being alive. The dark cloud that loomed over me for those 6 months was a cloud I wish nobody ever had to experience; it was nothing but a fog, and getting out of bed every day was nothing but a chore. I was grieving for a child I couldn’t have. It took me 14 months to be seen by a professional through the NHS. 14 months to receive therapy for what was diagnosed as PTSD. I have a friend who I met through the wild journey of IVF who – under the same service – was offered no help at all when she asked for help. Instead, she was posted leaflets for external agencies who could provide support. So, when CCG’s such as Cambridgeshire and Peterborough suggest that the lack of IVF provisions have “no significant impact on mental health services”, I beg to differ. I argue that quite simply, the reason the mental health provisions remain significantly untouched is for no reason other than the provisions are frankly not offered at all.

It is unacceptable that your postcode determines your eligibility, and even more so that 3 CCG’s offer no cycles at all. Couples in those 3 areas pay their national insurance the same as everybody else in receipt of treatment, and those who receive 1 or 2 NHS funded cycles pay the same as those who receive 3. The system is broken. It cannot be justified that couples in Basildon, for example, are entitled to no IVF treatment, whilst in County Durham they are entitled to 3 – as per the NICE guidelines. It is unjust, unfair and unethical.

What has been coined as the IVF postcode lottery contradicts certain values of the NHS Constitution – compassion, improving lives and everyone counts. It is in contrast of the key principles of our National Health Service – that access to NHS services is based on clinical need, not an individual’s ability to pay. NHS services are free of charge, except in limited circumstances sanctioned by Parliament. Unfortunately, for 1 in 7 couples in England who have found themselves suffering with infertility, this does not count for them, for no reason other than where they have chosen to live.

This is why we have launched the Fight for IVF campaign. This is why I am leading this fight and why I will be fighting every round, until the point of knockout. This is why I am determined to take this as far as I need to go, for as long as I need to, to make a change for us all.

I cannot do it by myself.

I have had the help from my good friend, Hayley. I have had the help from women all over the country who have contributed to projects that will be going live on mine and the campaign’s Instagram accounts over the next week. I have had almost 10,000 signatures on our petition.

But it can’t stop there.

We need to keep the conversation going. We need to keep the conversation alive. We need to keep fighting.

Ordinary people can make a change… and I will keep fighting the fight until I cannot anymore.

Join me in the #FightForIVF

xxx

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