Loving Life

I’m putting myself out there as one of those pregnant women that other pregnant women hate. I’m absolutely loving being pregnant! Don’t get me wrong, it’s not been easy but it’s certainly an incredible experience now that I’m over the flu-like symptoms, feeling out of control of my weight and fear of the future. This week marks a major milestone in that our baby is ‘viable’ and I can no longer see my feet – the bambino is in the way. I know what it’s like to have a beer belly and I don’t know how people do it!

It’s weird, you hear all these stereotypes about pregnant women being ‘moody’ or having mood swings. It’s justified – it’s bloody hard work growing a human on top of everything else we’re trying to do but (shock horror) I don’t think it’s true! It may be one long happy mood swing, or hormones actually working in my favour for once but I’m just really happy almost all of the time! If you’ve read my blogs before, you’ll know that like most of us, I suffer on life’s up and downs but this is one big up at the moment. Pregnancy has made me a nicer, happier person!

It may be the way that people actually stop and talk to you. Strangers start conversations about your bump and the pregnancy. It’s a real conversation starter and I love it. Instead of the normal chain of events where I try and chat to strangers and they think I’m a nutter, I’m actually getting something back these days…I love it!

It could be that pregnancy hasn’t been as scary as my crazy brain had made me believe it would be. The Doctors remain happy with my progress and are confident in the rest of my pregnancy. Now that everyone’s a bit more relaxed with the pregnancy, the appointment schedule has become a bit lighter which a huge relief.

Maybe I’m now in the swing of things – don’t get me wrong, there’s loads I don’t know and lots to learn – but I’ve got my head around the minefield of baby crap that is needed and have my simple, cut down ‘musts’ list of what we need.

And it’s spring! The flowers are blooming and the sun is out…for now!

Oh I know why I’m so happy….A YEAR OFF WORK! Well, work as I have known it.

I think the main thing is that for the first time in my life, I have to be truly laid back about my future. I can’t control much at all, what’s happening to my body, when I’ll have our bambino, what I’ll be doing and how I’ll feel this time next year. It’s a welcome relief from my control freak personality and I really do love it.

I’ve even loved this last week which has literally seen all symptoms that were previously absent, come at once…not sleeping well, bloating, dry skin, nosebleeds, harder breathing, tiring very easily, heartburn, nausea…but I’m taking it and staying positive.

I’ll continue taking it week by week and although I know my mood may not stay this great for much longer, I’m so grateful for how I’ve felt so far. Thanks body!

19 weeks – scans galore!

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Well it’s now half way through this mini-marathon and I’m pleased to say that things are still going well and better than I planned. I’ve hit more than one milestone since my last post…

Today I had a scan of my heart and it looks like it’s coping well. I usually call my heart dodgy/weak/pathetic but I’m strangely proud of it. What a legend for growing a little someone inside me and doing a great job of trying to be normal. Thanks heart and thanks body for doing what you’re supposed to.

We also saw our bambino again today during a fetal heart scan. What an incredible experience that was! Seeing great detail of bambino there on the screen and such close ups of it’s tiny little heart. The incredible Brompton Doctor measured everything from the size of the heart wall, to the electrical balance and the circumference of it’s artery. Simply amazing!

It’s fair to say that in the lead up to today’s scans, I’ve been quite anxious again. I’ve been really focusing on looking after myself. I think I have just hit that stage where a bit more energy comes back. I’ve found focus in doing just one thing per day on top of going to work. So before where I was trying to work, then go spinning, then do some weddings work (not possible!), of an evening I can now either do gym / or weddings / or see a friend for example. Glad it only took my 5 months to work that one out!

I’ve been finding exercise much harder in the last 2 weeks and actually had to stop at spinning last night for the first time ever. Previously, I’d be cycling away, jumping about feeling strong and now I’m slow and even have to stop. But that’s OK. Although I’ve found some more energy, I’ve actually lost ‘power’. I’ve been reading about this and it’s due to heart pumping more blood, generally working harder and working at a higher heart rate even just at rest. Best to keep taking it easy I think!

I’ve also found some blooming’ game changers:

I look as smug as this lady when I'm asleep now.

I look as smug as this lady when I’m asleep now.


– How to get a good night’s sleep – a monster 12 ft maternity pillow!

– Pregnancy massage – wow, just wow

– Pregnancy clothes – yay, I don’t just feel like I’ve got too fat for my clothes and sad that I can’t wear my faves!

– Some more semi-healthy indulgence food finds – look for the coconut collaborative dairy free choc pots! That’s all you need to know.

And with more energy, more relaxation and some game changers, has come that much needed improvement in my colitis symptoms. Thank you body, I’m becoming a big fan of you!

16 weeks pregnant

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In July last year, after a couple of consistent reports showing a decline in my heart function, I was told pretty clearly by my heart doctor (the legendary Dr Prasad) that if Ben and I wanted to have children, I needed to “get on with it”. Apparently I was the healthiest and strongest I was ever likely to be and we had a ‘safe window’ in which to have a child.

This news was much to Ben’s delight as he was really keen to become a dad. What wasn’t so cool was that there were/are significant risks to me and potential baby of going through this whole process (ie. death and heart transplants so not the lightest of topics). Our first step was to get our heads round all of the risks and get hold of the facts through various meetings with the heart team at The Brompton and Chelsea and Westminster hospitals who would, together, look after me should I get pregnant.

We got to grips with the risks and, although significant we decided that we wanted to see how this would play out rather than spend our whole lives wondering. In October we were ready. Just 1 month and 3 pregnancy tests later (I had to be sure!) – I was pregnant. Once I’d got over the shock of how bloody quick it all was, I was extremely excited about the adventure ahead. It’s fair to say I was also very nervous and probably quite pessimistic about how things would go at the beginning.

I had some serious heart health demons to get over. For a while I kept thinking about whether I’d need a heart transplant, or whether I may even die. Whether the baby would be sick, or may even die…at any point in it’s life. Right now I can see that was just the fear talking and it’s quite irrational but back then, it was very real and stopped me sleeping.

And then there were the ‘fat demons’. I’ve always been a bit funny about my weight (something about being tall and chubby when I was younger) and I was initially scared of being out of control of my weight and getting fat. Another irrational worry it turns out. Yes I’ll put on weight but it doesn’t have to be a crazy amount and I’m totally in control of that part with what I eat and how much I exercise.

Then there were the ‘guilt demons’. Letting work down, ‘pausing’ my career and my weddings business while I selfishly have a little one. This took time too and I came to accept and realise that this baby was far more important than any of those things. I think this moment came when we ‘met’ our baby at the 12 weeks scan. Suddenly everything was real and nothing else mattered.

I’ve been pushing myself to relax and find new ways of dealing with the above. Accepting that I can control some things and must let go of the things I can’t control has been a huge step. It’s my new life motto! 2 things that have helped the most have been this book, ‘How to Grow a baby’ which covers the main appointments and stages of pregnancy in a really light hearted, personable way. Then there’s the ‘yesmum’ cards that have helped me focus on self love and grounding myself in the fact that I’m actually pregnant (photo below)!

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So, it turns out being pregnant can be hard at times (queue all mums thinking, ‘she has no idea what’s coming’)! Keeping up with my normal colitis diet has been hard – green veggies make me feel sick and I constantly want naughty carbs. That mixed with some of those demons has made my colitis a little bad. I’ve introduced fruity smoothies with some greens to try and get these into my diet – game changer.

Everything is hard when you have the insane pregnancy tiredness. I’ve never felt so wiped out in my life. Despite this, I’ve managed to keep up the exercise and have even been doing spinning weekly like before I was pregnant as advised by my doctor. I’ve also started a personal trainer to help me get stronger for when I’m huge and for the birth.

The Cons so far

Literally none of your clothes fit properly.
Finding a comfortable sleeping position is impossible.
Switching your brain off at night is a real challenge. Sleepless nights are common.
Not being able to tell everyone that you love! Hardest secret ever!
Feeling out of control of your body and your size.
Turning into a forgetful div.

The Pros so far

Amazing little life miracle growing in your belly!
No option but to just go with it, somehow makes it a calmer experience at times.
My hospital bingo score is improving with Chelsea and Westminster and East Surrey now ticked off.
It’s the best excuse ever to put your feet up!

I think I’ve managed to stay relatively sane thanks to Ben, my close friends and the amazing Brompton team who make me feel so safe and looked after. They’re on call at any time should I have any concerns at all. I’ll be seeing them monthly and they’ll be keeping a close eye on mine and our baby’s heart.

So for now, I’ve got to try and stay active while the bump’s not too big, eat those smoothies, keep on top of my appointments and above all listen to my body and trust it. To be fair, it’s been pretty good to me over the years. Even though it has a chance of letting me down, I’m determined to enjoy this part of my life and I won’t let my silly heart or tummy ruin it for us.

So what’s next? In 2 weeks I have another echo of my heart and an echo of the baby’s heart. I’ll keep you posted

xxx

Winter

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It’s the most wonderful time of the year…

Is it?

As the winter nights draw in, many of us will be missing that feeling of warmth and light. I certainly am!

At this time of year it’s important to adapt to these changes and to prepare ourselves for the long winter ahead. This is of course the time when we’re most susceptible to low moods, low energy and illness. I definitely struggle with them all! I’ve been having a think about the things that have worked for me in the past so that I can have the best shot at having a happy and healthy winter, and I’ve also found some new ideas to try and make this the easiest winter yet.

First off, I’m changing my diet slightly. Nothing too dramatic but it’s important to change over to seasonal foods which gel with the body and give it the energy it needs. Lots of root veg, broths and nice warm foods. I’ve made my first batch of bone broth and look forward to hearty homemade soups with this immune boosting, inflammation cooling base. This is one of my favourite recipes.

I’ve been struggling a bit with my appetite. Or maybe it’s my greed! I just want to eat all of the time, which I think it normal at this time of year. This is where discipline comes in. I don’t wish to pile on the pounds so am trying to have handy snacks around like seeds, chicken and dried mango for when I need a sweetener. I’m also revising the hearty meals which fill you up but full of nutrients and good energy, like our fish pie.

I’m someone that’s always cold through the winter, so a cuppa is always in hand. I’ve gotten into bad habits and have been having too many caffeine cuppas each day. This is bad for my colitis and my heart so it’s a mega no no. This week I started having just 2 caffeine cuppas a day, the rest will be lemon and ginger tea – my favourite. I’ve also given up cold drinks as they’re very bad for your system through winter. 7 days clean of diet coke! (friends, you know that’s a huge deal!)

Excitingly, we’ve just invested in a snazzy lamp alarm which slowly brightens up your room in the morning. So instead of waking up with a stark alarm in the pitch black, you slowly wake up from the light which acts a bit like a sunrise. It’s early doors but we think it’s a game changer.

So now I’ve got my eating habits in place, my new wake up routine, it’s all about having things to look forward to and lucky we have many birthdays and new babies on the way so exciting plans ahead! I will also book a holiday. Nothing beats having a holiday coming up to keep those spirits high.

Despite not wanting to leave the house in the dark, exercise is key. As always. I’ve found some new exercise classes I like that I look forward to and they definitely get me off the sofa! More appealing than a run in the dark could ever be. I’ve also got a homemade, home friendly mat workout routine for when I really can’t be bothered to go anywhere – no excuses!

And this year, thanks to meditation and the journalling I do, I’m aware of my thoughts and feelings than ever before and I’m really happy about this. Putting myself first remains key, especially as the winter will be trying for my mood and my colitis.

Good luck with your winter adaptations. We can make this the most wonderful time of the year!

falling in love

Yesterday marked 2 years of mine and Ben’s marriage and 2 years since our wonderful friends and family joined us in Sinalunga for our wedding day. It’s a special time for us to remenis that ‘wedding week’ and remember the times we had with those special to us, and those incredible moments that we snatched to ourselves.

The funny thing is that Ben and I never meant to be a couple. We started out as colleagues, then friends and eventually became more than that when the time was right. That right time was a very long time coming. In April 2009 Ben left the UK to travel South America as part of an incredible competition that he’d won. At this point, we were just friends. I really liked the idea of traveling South America so decided to book a trip later that summer with my brother, Jack. Just a year before this Jack had been through a life changing experience and was at this point disabled. Jack was able to walk slowly, and only had the use of one arm.

In June, Jack and I headed off to Trinidad with a rough plan of where we’d go and what we’d do. What an adventure this was! Trinidad was nothing like we expected and from the moment that we got off the plane, I thought we’d made a mistake in coming here. Jack and I stayed on the island for 3 days waiting for the weekly ferry to take us to Venezuela. We explored the island on local buses and stayed in a dodgy old shack literally at the end of the island. The kind where you’d put furniture against the door to try and keep you safe…! All fun and games at that point.

It seemed to take forever but the day finally came to take the ferry to Venezuela. It was a beautiful morning and as the boat pulled away from the single dock, we felt excited to see what Venezuela had in store for us. So naive! We were on the ferry with about 10 other people. Oh and the ferry was pretty much a tiny yacht. We’re pretty sure it was a boat trafficking drugs.

After 3 hours we pulled up to what can only be described as a bank which was quite seriously on the furthest edge of Venezuela and there was literally nothing there but forest. We got off the ‘ferry’ and were rubbed down by 2 police officers. We had no way of getting anywhere and must have looked extremely vulnerable. On the boat we’d been talking to a Venezuelan (let’s call him Jim) who seemed nice enough. I’m not a very trustworthy person, especially when I’m travelling and this was heightened by my feeling of needing to protect Jack. A few minutes after the ferry pulled away, heading back to Trinidad, a taxi arrived for Jim. He was heading to the next main city and asked if we’d like a lift. I would never normally take a lift from a stranger, in a strange place but there was no other option. So in we got and off we headed.

All was going well until about 1 hour into the 3 hour taxi ride and we were stopped at a police check point. We were all made to get out of the car, unpack all of our bags and stand by the side of the deserted road in the forest. After some heated discussion Jim said we could all get back into the car, so we did. Once we’d carried on driving for a short while he told us that the police wanted to take (steal) all our dollars and our camera. At the time I believed him…

Jump forward 2 days and we’ve survived a mugging, an attempted sex attack and a 7 hour bus journey to Caracas where we caught a plane out of Venezuela. Straight after the attempted sex attack I tried to call Ben – geographically the closest person to us in the whole world. Now this was the old days where the internet was crap and phones were basic but we just managed to get through to each other. I was stood right at the top on the hotel roof (picture empty, dark, weird tarpaulin flapping around) while Jack was locked in our room. Ben was half way through a week long trek to Machu Picchu. I explained what had happened and that we needed some help. We arranged to try and meet each other somewhere. We picked Manaus in Brazil but at the time neither of us had any idea how we’d get there.

Jack and I caught a plane for Caracus to Manaus and I’m pleased to say that Brazil was incredible. And safe. Well, compared to our Venezuela experience. Once we got to an internet cafe (oh the old days) I was able to contact Ben who was back from him trek and arranging flights. It looked like it would take 4 flights and 4 days for him to get to us. What a hero for even entertaining the idea! When we knew Ben was going to be a while, we booked an Amazon stay. We headed out 5 hours deep into the Amazon for 3 nights. It was one of the best experiences of my life and I was sad that Ben had missed it.

When we returned from the jungle, it was time to collect Ben. I left Jack in the hostel and went in the taxi to collect Ben. I’ll never forget seeing Ben (who’s 6ft 7) walk out from the gate in his white hoody (who takes a white hoody travelling?!) standing so tall above everyone else. It was so great to see him. We stayed up all night on the roof of the hostel overlooking Manaus, talking about our adventures and plotting plans for the rest of our trip. Oh and deciding I loved him.

Maybe I’ll write about the rest of our epic trip at some point. It started with a 5 day ferry (this time a proper one) trip along the Amazon. We ran out of food on day 3 and just had coke and rum to look after us.

This year the card I got Ben for our anniversary says, ‘It turns out I like you a lot more than I originally planned’. Sums it all up. Falling in love was unexpected but incredible. Of course at that point, none of us knew how life would change, from Jack’s transplant to my colitis and how Ben would have to save me a few more times.

Thanks for everything you do for me and my family, all time Benny xxx

Just landed, full of excitement.

Just landed, full of excitement.

The 'ferry'

The ‘ferry’

Jack on the empty 'ferry'

Jack on the empty ‘ferry’

On the drive through the forest. Before things got hairy!

On the drive through the forest. Before things got hairy!

Waiting for our flight out of Venezuela.

Waiting for our flight out of Venezuela.

Off to the jungle!

Off to the jungle!

Fishing

Fishing

Sunset in the Amazon.

Sunset in the Amazon.

Swimming with the cayman.

Swimming with the cayman.

Benny arrives! Caipirinha's all round.

Benny arrives! Caipirinha’s all round.

We went onto Jeri...

We went onto Jeri…

And Rio!

And Rio!

You never know 

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There has been a lot of noise about Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD) in the press recently. Firstly a celebration of the two incredible Olympians Siobhan and Kathleen both suffering from IBD. And then this whole toilet drama over the use of public disabled toilets by those with IBD and other invisible diseases and disabilities. As a colitis sufferer, it feels good to see awareness growing so that it’s less taboo and better understood. Much better than that, it’s amazing to see that some people manage it so well that they achieve their dreams.

Almost on a daily basis I face embarrassment or interrogation linked to colitis. Whether it’s simply being asked why I don’t want to eat my lunch, or why I eat tuna salad every day (!), rushing to the loo or going really frequently to the point where I think people will start to wonder what’s wrong with me – it’s all pretty embarrassing. The worst is getting caught out when you’re out and about, especially when there’s only a disabled loo to use, or worse yet, a staff toilet. On a number of occasions I’ve asked to use the disabled loo and been told that I can’t. Most commonly in Starbucks who have never let me use a locked toilet, even when I explain what I am suffering from. One time I was so desperate that I cried and I was still turned away (Guildford Starbucks – avoid at all costs). It’s great to see people talking about the fact that not all illnesses and disabilities can be seen. I hope that this helps those that aren’t so aware to react better to peoples needs in the future.

I’ve been totally inspired by the Olympics and I can’t wait for the Paralympics! Since 2010 when I was diagnosed with colitis, I knew that Sir Steve Redgrave suffered from the disease and found his achievements even more incredible. Then more recently it’s been wonderful to see these 2 young ladies, Siobhan and Kathleen, achieve so much with all of the things they must have had to overcome from these stupid diseases. I don’t know them but I couldn’t be more proud of them. They make me want to keep pushing towards my little teeny goals (compared to Olympic medals!). Overcoming adversity to achieve your dreams is something everyone in the world tries to do on a daily basis. They’ve shown it is possible and spoken about how that shift in mental state, their decision that it won’t stop them achieving their dreams, can be a huge contributing factor to success. I’ve harped on about IBD’s link to stress and mental state for a long time and I think this just shows that a strong mind can get you far – no matter what you’re suffering with. Look after those beautiful brains!

You never know what’s possible until you decide to try. And you never know what someone else is going through. So let’s be kind and supportive and let’s achieve big things people!

You can read more about Siobhan and Kathleen here.

Fit fruit 


I was delighted to see a huge bountiful heap of cherries in my local shop this morning! Cherries are extremely nutritious and great at battling symptoms from all sorts of diseases – including colitis.

I’m having a mild flare up at the moment so I’m doing all I can to out good stuff into my body to try and get some good energy out the other side! 

Here’s a little more about the wonder of cherries:

They help you to get a better night’s sleep.

Cherries are one of nature’s few sources of melatonin, a hormone that lowers body temperature, making us sleepy. Great for pudding or a late night snack!

They help to balance your blood pressure.
Sweet cherries are loaded with potassium, a natural blood-pressure reducer. Great news if you’ve got a heart condition! One cup of gorgeous cherries  has the same amount of potassium as a small banana and also boasts some quercetin, an antioxidant that may help keep blood vessels relaxed and supple.

They can ease muscle soreness.

Researchers believe that cherries’ antioxidants protect against attacks by exercise-induced free radicals, which can lead to painful inflammation. They can also help inflammation in other areas such as the intenstine which is why they’re so useful to me.

They can aid weight loss.

Yes you’ve probably heard this about every food at some point but…the anthocyanins in cherries activate a molecule in the body that helps increase fat burning and decrease fat storage. It’s true! 

And on top of that they’re just beautiful. One of the fittest fruits. Nature at it’s best!