Saturday, January 24, 2015

Fertility Treatment - At Home, UK Clinic or Abroad

My regular readers will know that I am no longer looking into fertility treatment, but this post has been in draft for a while, and seeing as I recently discovered that lots of people are stumbling across this blog when searching about fertility treatments in the UK, I thought I'd publish what I'd found. There are few sites that could be helpful to others working through these questions, hence the reason for this post.

What I did find, was that if you have the money, fertility centres can help you with almost anything. I also found that it can be overwhelming searching though all the different options available to you, that it's hard to know what you actually need versus what the clinics may recommend (they are a business remember),  and that it appears to be much cheaper to go abroad.

It also seems  from my experience when people hear about me being a single mum by choice, that most people only know of IVF, whereas there are many other ways to get pregnant that cost a lot less. So here's a far from comprehensive guide to get you started.


Plot your cycle
You need to know when you ovulate. Record your basal body temperature (BBT). Sites like Fertility Friend have great tools to help you understand, track and interpret the info this gives you.

Artificial Insemination at Home
Nothing fancy required - just a syringe (without a needle!) and a cup. Useful if you can't, or don't actually want to have sex (more common than you'd think) and also can help to ensure the sperm are deposited close to the entrance of the cervix so may increase the chance of the little swimmers getting to right spot. More info on how to do it here. 



Donor Insemination
Pretty much as above but at a clinic though, where screened, cleaned, frozen donor sperm will be on offer. The sperm may not be as motile as when fresh but it is of course a much safer way to go about it if you are using a donor.

Intra Uterine Insemination
As above, but the sperm will be passed through the cervix into the uterus so it's already past the first step

Medicated cycles
All of the above (along with the old fashioned method of actually having sex) can be done whilst taking medication to stimulate your cycle. You will need to go to a clinic for this. You can do some research on google and buy your own meds from China, but really??? Your body is the most precious thing you have and you could easily mess this up making matters even worse - get some tests and let a professional prescribe what's right for you!

In-vitro Fertilisation
This is the one we hear about the most. Essentially its when fertilisation takes place in a laboratory. Used if the female has blocked tubes for example (the eggs can be collected directly from the ovaries) or if the male has a low sperm count or low motility. Sperm can be injected directly into the egg by a process called intracytoplasmic sperm injection and can be carefully screened prior to that process if quality is poor (imsi). You then have the fertilised egg transferred into the uterus by embryo or blastocyst transfer. I think it goes without saying that you need to go to a clinic for this treatment!

Using donor eggs
If IVF fails the next step is to use donor embryos (or if you are of advanced maternal age you might go straight to this step). Again this obviously need to be done using a clinic. It can be expensive. Although in the UK it is illegal to be paid for gamete donation it is still a costly process to retrieve and store them. The cost is passed on to the recipient and can be quite significant

Using donor embryos
There are heaps of donor embryos on ice around the world. Many people who have IVF save some embryos for later so that they can use them for a second child without going through the whole egg retrieval process again. For a variety of reasons some of these go unused. Perhaps the parent(s) changed their minds, or maybe they had a multiple birth the first time. Whatever reason they are then faced with a dilemma; keep the eggs on ice for longer (at a cost for storage), donate to research, or donate them to someone else. It can be much cheaper that paying for donor eggs and donor sperm as all the most expensive parts have been done - you just have to pay for Frozen Embryo Transfer. But they are hard to get hold of as most people currently choose to destroy them. The National Gamete Donation Trust is a good place to start your search if you are looking for eggs, sperm or embryos.

UK or overseas?
UK prices do seem to be higher than many places so there is an increasing number of people that are going overseas for fertility treatment. I looked into this myself too. I quite like the idea of combining a sun holiday with a frozen embryo transfer in Alicante! The main thing to be concerned about when seeking any form of treatment overseas is safety. The HFEA have put together a comprehensive resource on things to consider before getting fertility treatment abroad. Encouragingly, the majority of stories I read about people going overseas from this treatment were very positive. The Czech Republic seems to have a great reputation for good practice, and Poland is now considered to have some of the best IVF specialists in Europe.

Another really useful resource I found was fertility.treatmentabroad.com. This site enables you to search and compare clinics by treatment, country, price, good practice record. This is very insightful if you just compare clinics it the UK alone - the prices vary enormously!

So, I hope this helps get you started on the journey, and I would love to hear your stories, especially if you did use an overseas clinic.

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Toucan Box Review

You may have seen adverts for Toucan Box popping up on Social Media. I have noticed them several times and thought about them, then thought that we could do that ourselves. Just before Christmas thought there was an offer that we couldn't resist - A chance to try your first Toucan Box for FREE.

The box arrived about a week before Christmas - some pop sticks, googly eyes, glitter glue (BB's favourite) string, jewels, glue, some thin foam, and of course the instructions.

Toucan Box Review - Instructions
Instruction booklet

Toucan Box Review - Instructions
Instruction booklet


The box had BB's name on, which he now recognises, so the first part of his joy came from the fact that there was a parcel for him. The second part was that it rattled and jiggled and sounded sooo cool. As soon as we opened it he wanted to start creating. We made several of the Christmas decorations, most are not packed away for next year, but here's one that he gave to Nana that we brought home from her room the other day.

Toucan Box Review - Christmas Tree decorations
A Christmas decoration by BB

Simple, but effective. BB was able to do most of this himself too, once he had been shown what to do. I enjoyed making them too - it was nice to spend the time together working on something like this.

Toucan Box Review - Rockets
The super dart rocket
Our second box arrived just after Christmas. This was to create fireworks or rockets. Again we sat down to the activity as soon as the box arrived.  BB was particularly into rockets at this time too as we had just watch Wallace and Gromit on Prime Instant Video- the one where they build a rocket and go to the moon looking for cheese.

Then a couple of days later when my parents came to visit, BB carefully got the  things out, setting a place for each of them at the table with all of the things they needed to make the rockets.

Toucan Box Review - Rockets
The first attempt rocket
My Dad immediately set about improving the design, narrowing the rocket and removing the tails which created resistance and slowing it down. It flew! So all the family had some fun out of this set.

Our third set arrived yesterday - even though we were quite late home, we had to do it before we went to bed. We made some jellyfish.

Once again everything that we needed was in the packet. We made one each so BB was easily able to copy what I was doing. He needed some help of course, especially with the threading of the ribbon and tying of knots.

Toucan Box Review - Jellyfish
Our jellyfish

As well as the craft materials you also get some stickers which you can add to a chart to get free gifts and prizes.

Toucan Box Review - Sticker chart
The prize chart, for collecting your tokens














There was also a booklet that they call the Toucan Tracker, which links all the activities to the curriculum. I counted them - 89 outcomes!!! 

Toucan Box Review - Curriculum Document
The curriculum!


Then there is a sheet for parents that tells you how the activity fits into the National Curriculum "What we are learning" and the flip side "Explore more" gives you more ideas for activities. Though we haven't done any of these yet, I have created a folder to keep them in for future ideas, so I do value them. 

Toucan Box Review - Parent sheet
Parent support sheets

To be completely honest I found the curriculum links to be the least valuable part of the project. I also doubt if they are correct - for example in the fireworks pack they are talking about expansion of air, the speed of sound, shock waves and sonic booms - now I was a Science Teacher for 13 years and that sort of level of understanding was beyond most of my year 10 students, so I really don't think its appropriate for a preschooler.  Nor do I think anyone will achieve a sonic boom with their home made paper rocket! There is another link to a Science outcome which begins with "The North Pole is home to Santa and his reindeer..." now call me a party pooper, but that's not actually science!

Toucan Box Review - creative use of leftovers
BB's snake
The other thing of course is that you could do all this yourself. The thing is though that you don't do you! Well I don't anyway, not right now at least. And if you did, it could cost more as you would have to buy a whole pack of straws, a whole reel of ribbon etc. instead of just the bits you need. That said, every project so far has been very generous with resources - we have had bits left over from every project so far which we are putting away in our craft stores. Whilst I have been writing this, BB has picked out some of the leftover pieces from the box and created this snake, all by his self.

The boxes cost £4.93 and are delivered fortnightly, so whilst they are not expensive, that does add up. However, we are enjoying the joy of boxes arriving, getting into the craft ideas, working together to create something and we do have stuff left over for other projects. You can also get a box half price if you introduce a friend, and can collect the prize tokens faster if you share your projects on Instagram Twitter of Facebook. So although I could do it myself for less, the reality is that I am not doing that right now. Currently, we are thoroughly enjoying the whole Toucan Box experience and would definitely recommend them to our friends and so have no intentions of giving them up as yet.

You can try a Toucan Box for Free by clicking this link. As explained above - if you do that, I get my next box at half price, so please read this as my little disclaimer! If you do end up trying one, I'd love to hear your thoughts in the comments below.



Wednesday, January 14, 2015

A Treasury of Christmas Stories and Songs : Review

OK, so I know Christmas is long gone, but we received a lovely book for the Parragon Book Buddies Scheme just after Christmas and we love it and want to share. So, here's one for next year - probably even available in the sales somewhere if you are someone who likes to make the most of the January price drops and get prepared for next year.

A Treasury of Christmas Stories and Songs - Book Cover



A Treasury of Christmas Stories and Songs (Treasuries) is a large hard cover book which includes traditional tales, classic rhymes, cherished songs and carols. Some of the stories I am very familiar with, others were new to me, A Letter to Santa being one of those.


A Treasury of Christmas Stories and Songs - Index


The stories have been beautifully illustrated by seven different illustrators, and all are beautiful. t is quite nice to have a mix of illustrators as it does help to give each story its own individual identity (and makes it easier to stop reading at the end of one, rather than having to continue all night!) 



BB loves this book. He has really started to understand what Christmas is all about this year, so I am sure we will be reading this from November onwards. Meanwhile I will keep it safe

Disclaimer: This book was received free of charge for the purpose of this review as part of the Parragon Book Buddies Program. All opinions are our own.

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Nana 1915 - 2015

Last Saturday our Nana died. Her end was peaceful and quite quick, though to her it seemed to take a long time. For the last few weeks she was asking us how long it would be that she had to lie there. Thankfully it was only 5 weeks, and most of the rest of her 99 1/2 years were in good health.

I am writing this post for BB really. He had some very special moments with Nana, many of which he may not remember, but doubtlessly they will have shaped his life a little. She lost her husband a year before BB was born, so when he came along he was the light of her life. She came alive when BB went to visit. Her aches and pains went away as she played with him. She thought he was remarkable, advanced for his age, handsome, generous, and well behaved. She was remarkably relaxed about what he could do in her house. We rarely took toys, instead BB would empty out her saucepan cupboard or play with her ornamental tea set and the cowbell. She always had some chocolate raisins for him

She was quite an incredible woman, she lived in her own home until just 2 months before her death. She was my maternal grandmother, and a great support to me as a mum, mostly because when she had a baby she parented similarly to me. She thought it most bizarre when I was told that I should be timing the feeds, and she never asked me if BB slept through the night yet until he was 3. She was my little connection with life before the nonsense of parenting manuals. 

My Nana was very important to me as a child too. It was the relationship that I had with her that made me want to move back to the UK when I had a child, because that relationship was so precious and I wanted my child to have the opportunity to have that relationship with my mum.

These photos are from when BB and Nana first met. He was 2 days old, and it was her 96th birthday


BB grew quickly and was quite a heavy weight by the time he was 4 months old. Nana was starting to find things like a can of fruit heavy, yet she always wanted to hold BB, and never found him too heavy at all.



This was when BB was about 15 months old - my birthday

Christmas 2013
Nana stayed in her own home until she had no choice but to leave. She had very limited mobility and was almost blind. She could no longer look after herself. She also had cancer which was spreading from her ovary to her liver kidney, bladder and lungs. we moved her into a nursing home at the start of November. At first she did well. They provided her with a healthy balanced meal three times a day which she had not really had for a while, she gained a bit of weight. She continued to be playful with BB 
Playing peek-a-boo in Nana's bed shortly after she moved into a nursing home

Then she started to feel ill. She became very nauseous and went off her food, hardly eating for a week. We wondered if it might be because she was taking her medication (in the nursing home someone would give it to her and watch her take it - at home she would have left half of it in the packet!)

Then on the last Saturday of November BB and I went to visit her. I had seen her a couple of days before and she wasn't good, so I wasn't expecting us to stay long. When we arrived she was asleep in her chair, her breakfast, a modest dish of tinned fruit still sat in front of her. She brightened up so much on seeing BB and ate her breakfast. We played the shopping game, with BB helping Nana as she couldn't see, then her lunch came. It was a reasonable serving of liver and onions and mashed potato, followed by dessert. She ate it all. Then my Mum arrived and Nana was raring to go. Santa was visiting the home that day, she wanted to take BB. Then she wanted to go outside for a ride with BB on her knee (they have both loved doing that since BB was tiny). She was so energetic and in such great spirits we really thought she was better.



We couldn't visit for a few days after that as they had a visitor ban in the home due to a norovirus outbreak. Nana didn't get it though. We rang up regularly and the skeleton staff informed us that she was clear of the bug, but by the following weekend they decided that we could come and see her at our own risk, even though they weren't officially open. She was in bed looking very old and ill. We were dripping water into her mouth through a straw. We really thought it would be just days.

It was a shock to see her like that when we thought she was getting better. Having read up on it since, it is quite a common occurrence for people who are dying to eat after days of not eating and get the energy for one last hoorah. That must have been what she was up to on the day we saw santa. As far as we know she ate nothing but a few spoonfuls of ice-cream since.

Her speech was limited in the last few weeks, but she managed to thank everyone that had helped her, to talk about how grateful she was for all my Mum and her neighbours and friends had done for her. She did say to me one day that she wanted to be gone before Father Christmas came. I think for our sakes as much as hers, she didn't want to spoil our Christmas. In a way though her timing was good. Both my sisters were able to come home for Christmas and spend time with her. She was also in a lot of pain and very fed up with it toward the end. 

She slept an increasing amount of the time. A few things that I wanted to note for BB was that when we were there one time and she was mostly sleeping she said "choo choo" with him. Another day BB were sitting next to her bed bed and he said "I love you" to me, I said "I love you too" and then he continued a game that we often play by saying "I love you three" I replied "I love you four" and so it continued - we got to eight then suddenly Nana broke her silence and said "I love you ten!" That's a moment I will never ever forget.

She always tried to communicate with BB,  on her penultimate day, she even managed to make a little teeny tiny sound in response to his hello. He was so lovely with her too, giving her gentle strokes and pats and kisses, he called her "Lovely Sweet Nana" which indeed she was. He was so well behaved at the nursing home, if he got bored he would just go for a walk to fetch some cold water and talk to the other residents. Many of them loved him too.

Christmas day 2014 - BB is trying some magic to make Nana better - she is sleeping

I think BB is OK about her death. After all his questions about dying I think this has been a good introduction to it. Slow and steady, and with someone old and sick, who very gradually left her life. He was upset a couple of days before she died, but he said that he was scared that I would die with her. When we found out she had died he said "It's ok, I'm not sad" when my parents were here, but as soon as they left he climbed on my knee and said "I am sad really". I was recommended a children's book The Day the Sea Went Out and Never Came Back which I wasn't sure about when we first got it, but the more we read it the more we like it. We started reading it before she died, using it as a way to talk about what it would be like when she went. It has opened up some conversations about how we wont see Nana again, but we will always have the memories of her in our hearts.

We love you one hundred Nana.

Always


Rethinking the Christmas Card

As the festive season ends, I am taking down the cards and wondering about the future of this annual tradition. The number of cards I receive each year seems to decrease, though the number I send remains the same.  Many people no longer send cards, but a text or email, or even a Facebook status update instead. The advent of the internet and mobile phones, along with the increasing price of sending mail and a growing consciousness of the environmental impact have undoubtedly contributed to the decline. I wonder each year if it's time for me to stop sending them too.

To ease my conscience about the waste, I always keep the cards. BB and I use them for craft, and we make labels for next year's presents from them too. But this year, as we hope to be moving, they have found themselves in the recycling bin. To keep the cost down, I always buy next year's cards in the January sales too, but again with a move in our future I don't really want to be stocking up on things like this - we are streamlining our belongings, not stockpiling!

So does this mean that now is the time for us too to cease this old fashioned tradition and move more into the electronic age? It's something I have been pondering for a couple of weeks now, but I think not. Although I didn't write a Christmas letter this year, I usually do.  And I love writing the cards. It's a time for me to sit down and think about all the special people that I know around the world, to remember them, and the times we have had together, to wonder how they are doing. Many of them have children of their own now, some that I haven't even met. I wonder about them too. This little process of sending a card is perhaps my only connection with some of them, I don't want to lose that. I like that the card represents a little bit of me in their home at Christmas.

The Christmas Card BB made me at nursery this Christmas

Of course I love receiving cards too. I hang them on ribbons so they become part of our Christmas decorations. Little bits of the sender are in our home too. So I have decided to carry on with the tradition. Further more, in thinking about what I really like about sending them, if possible we are going to try and make our own next year too. I always used to do this. Not just as a child, but as an adult too. Something simple like a photograph of a where I was living or a place I had been. They don't take too long to make but are something different to commercial ones. I loved making them. I recently found many of these at my Nana's house, she had saved them, the personal hand crafted cards being a little more special those from a bumper multi pack. We have received several this year with photos of children and families. Some with artwork by the children, several handmade by crafters.

The Card BB and I made for Nana last year

As I parent I also think about what I am passing on to my child about this process. Do I want him to think that sending cards is about buying a multipack from a megastore and then laboriously writing and posting them? Or would I like to make the process more meaningful? Making our own Christmas decorations has become part of family Christmas traditions that I hope we will enjoy each year. I am thinking that mindfully making and sending our own unique cards could become one too. As with all these things its will take a bit of organising and planning, but I think we can do that. I have already found a couple of great places to get envelopes online, some fancy envelopes and some more plain ones. We have a whole stock of card and paper already, and a wealth of ideas. I'm not sure what style we will go for yet. Maybe there will be a whole range... we'll see.

Meanwhile we'd best get making all our thank you notes as a practice run.


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