Tuesday, 30 July 2013

The Fertility Diet, Sarah Dobbyn

The Fertility Diet
The Fertility Diet
How to Maximize Your Chances of Having a Baby at Any Age
Sarah Dobbyn
Simon & Schuster UK, 2012

I have to admit, what attracted me to this book is its subtitle.  I am all too aware that age is not necessarily on my side in my attempts to conceive and carry a baby to term and I am keen to maximise my chances where I can.

I already eat a pretty healthy diet and follow the usual lifestyle advice for women who wish to get pregnant.  I eat organic, home-cooked food, gave up coffee, alcohol etc and follow the advice on sites like Naturally Knocked Up and Wellness Mama

The Fertility Diet was recommended to me on Amazon.  I wasn't convinced I needed to read it so checked out the reviews which ranged from 'the woman is crazy' to 'I got pregnant at 42 because of this book'.  So I  tried to find a copy of the book in the library catalog to no avail but my google skills did uncover a comment by the author on a ttc forum claiming to have conceived and birthed a child when she was 44.  This gave some credence to the claims about maximising your chances at any age.


So I ordered it.  Even as I am giving away books to charity shops before we move to Australia, I am replenishing the shelves...

Whats it all about?
Actually, the author covers many, many different aspects of TTC.  In addition to the usual nutrition/lifestyle/exercise/environment advice she also looks at fertility blockers, detoxing and aspects of natural living so its not just about what you eat.  Each chapter concludes with an 'action plan' - bullet points of steps to take to put the recommendations in that chapter into action in your life.

I enjoyed the initial chapters about the 'Ingredients for Baby Making' and 'Pushing Snooze on the Biological Clock' - they gave a rundown on the biological conditions for conception, how aging affects these and how aging can be slowed down citing various research studies.  These chapters give me good hope as from this perspective, my fertility age is probably not the same as my chronological age due to an inordinately healthy childhood which established a lifetime of good eating habits.

I found the chapters on the Fertility Diet itself quite boring with lists of various foods and their benefits, without the backup of research references, but it also reinforced that I've been eating the right sort of foods to maximise my chances (and that I know way too much about the subject).

I don't have any specific fertility issues, so I skipped through all of those chapters except the one on miscarriage, though I didnt learn anything new to prevent losing another baby. 

Was it worth buying?
I am glad I bought it.  It gives me hope and reassurance I am maximising my chances.  I learned that I pretty much follow the Fertility Diet in my day to day life and that my recipes are more interesting and tastier than the ones in the book.

I will take on board the idea of increasing my intake of raw foods, using digestive enzymes and ensuring I get enough natural sunlight (an effort in London when you work full-time) and quality sleep.  I will also stop drinking tonic water - which is one of my non-alcoholic drinks of choice as quinine is apparently associated with miscarriage.

I'll leave the suggestions on colonic irrigation, lunaception, drinking sole and taking loads of additional supplements - for now.

We'll see how it goes.


Midlife Fertility Surge?

I love this article from the Daily Mail about a woman who had four children naturally in her 40s after 20 unsuccessful years of TTC. 

While I am well aware of all the depressing statistics regarding age and fertility, I remind myself that I've achieved two pregnancies in the past year and a positive state of mind is more likely to enable me to achieve a third than a depressed one.

When I find myself feeling down I can return to the article and others like it to give me hope and counter all the negative suggestion in the media about my age and chances of conceiving.

Saturday, 27 July 2013

30 Something and the Clock is Ticking, Kasey Edwards

30 Something and the Clock is Ticking
30 Something and the Clock is Ticking
What Happens When You Can No Longer Avoid the Baby Issue
Kasey Edwards
Mainstream Publishing Company, 2011

A self proclaimed feminist and career woman, Kasey is startled to find herself blurting that she wants a baby to her boyfriend of a year after returning from a 10 day Vipassana Meditation retreat.

They agree to revisit the subject in a year, at the ages of 32 and 34 respectively, there is lots of time.  However at a routine checkup a few weeks later Kasey discovers she has a number of fertility issues and doctor recommends IVF within the year if she wants to have a child.

With candour and humour, Kasey elects to take on the baby issue in her own terms.  Does she in fact want to be a mother?  What life would she be choosing for herself if she did?  Is she still of value to her partner if she is infertile?  Is she of value in her career if she's not?  If she does want to be a mother, would she be a good one?  Kasey worries that taking on the invisible and poorly valued identity of mother in our society could bring back the black dog of depression from her past.

Researching the academic literature and the lives of her friends, Kasey weighs the pros and cons, like the Management Consultant she is, in order to make a rational recommendation to herself and finds herself re-examining her own ideas about motherhood and marriage.  In the end the choice is emotional, not rational and in the final chapters she shares the challenges of trying to conceive under a deadline.

I picked this book up at the library while looking for some prescribed reading for an essay I have to write, and read it in one sitting.  I found it to be both entertaining and educational.

The life Kasey paints of motherhood is not pretty - it involves a lot of effort and sacrifice for little appreciation and very small, but ultimately worth it, reward.  Kasey also goes into the injustice of the gender pay gap and the 'mommy path' career women are sidelined into once they admit parenthood is on their agenda.  Ultimately, trying to have it all means navigating a minefield of compromises and what it looks like is unique to each woman.

 I could relate to Kasey's desire to decide and take action before time ran out and maybe its the educated, career oriented circles the author moves in, but I was surprised by the stories of her fellow female dinner party guests and the situations they found themselves in with regard to becoming parents.

On a side note, this is the second book in a row I've just picked up off the biography shelf for casual reading that has detailed the benefits of vipassana meditation.  Some years ago I sat next to a man on a flight from New York to London who was just returning from a vipassana retreat.  He spoke in detail about it and I thought it would either benefit or kill me.

Maybe the universe is trying to remind me something.


Tuesday, 23 July 2013

Beetroot and Mint Coleslaw

Vibrant colours for vibrant health!

One of the challenges involved in getting a weekly veg box is figuring out tasty ways of enjoying vegetables you wouldnt usually choose to eat.  I'm no great fan of cabbage cooked, but I dont mind coleslaw.  I was out of carrots so thought I'd experiment with beetroot which has a similar texture and sweetness to carrot.  The mint in our garden has gone nuts so I thought adding a bit of that would give a nice counter to the sweetness. Mr Duncan said this was the best coleslaw I've made yet.

Fertility focus
Beetroot is full of iron and folate

Cabbage is antioxident and also contains a phytonutrient called Di-Indole Methane that helps with metabolising estrogen effectively.

  • Cabbage
  • Beetroot
  • Mint
  • Apple cider vinegar
  • Olive oil
Grate the beetroot and finely chop the cabbage and mint.  Toss together in apple cider vinegar and olive oil dressing.

Monday, 22 July 2013

Honestly, its not easy.

Tranquility in the Okavango Delta
While its been relatively easy (and sort of fun) to photograph and document the meals I make to keep myself and Mr Duncan in optimum health in the hope of conceiving again in the future...   I have more than a dozen unpublished posts in which I have written about my pregnancies/loss/reactions to the world at large. Especially the pregnant and mother-of-newborn world which seems to be so prevalent in the media at the moment.   Grrr.

One of the reasons I started this blog was to help me work through the feelings - what is it to grow (eg gardening) or create (cooking, sewing) something and have it not work out in the same way that my babies were created and real, but didnt work out.

Maybe draw some parallels.

Maybe have an outlet for expressing the rollercoaster of awe and fear and love and bitterness and hope and despair and jealousy and pragmatism and acceptance and anger I feel.

But my unpublished posts seem so inadequate to express what I am experiencing I've been storing them up to re-work until they do.

Maybe I'm just not ready yet.

I mean, writing it all down has its own value.  But sharing?  Even to no readership -  it still seems a step too far.  Like its actually real. Which is seriously is. But....

I had a total meltdown last Thursday which (once I regained some semblance of perspective) just reinforced the fact that I need to deal with it.

But really... it is not easy.

Hokkaido Squash Soup and Roast 'Pumpkin' Seeds

Beta-carotene-rich creamy goodness
This week we got a Hokkaido Squash in the vege box.  I've never even heard of a Hokkaido Squash before so I had to google it.  It is one of several types of winter squash and good for you in more ways than you can imagine. Given it has actually started being summer in London, I was flirting with the idea of making a squash, basil and feta salad based on something I had for lunch from Del Aziz once years ago.  Delicious, but I had no feta, Mr Duncan is supposed to be off dairy,  and my basil plant is a bit leggy so I needed to come up with another plan.

Risotto? Its too stodgy for this weather.

I've always loved a warming pumpkin soup.  I think my mother must have made it for me as a child as I don't remember ever looking up a recipe or learning how to make it.  I dont often find the type of grey skinned pumpkin common in New Zealand so have experimented with other types of winter squash and been largely successful.*

Fertility Focus
Cayenne Pepper is full of antioxidants and also dilates blood vessels, promoting flow to the reproductive organs
Home made Chicken Stock is suggested by Traditional Chinese Medicine for nurturing fertility
Turmeric is good for stabilising blood sugar levels which helps with managing weight and hormone balance.
Winter Squash is rich in Vitamin A and also contains zinc and selenium which is important for both ovarian and sperm health.

  • Garlic
  • Ginger
  • Onion
  • Dried tumeric, cumin, coriander, cayenne pepper
  • Hokkaido Squash
  • Home made chicken stock

Peel, remove seeds and chop the squash into bite sized pieces, then simmer in the chicken stock until soft.
Meanwhile finely chop the garlic, ginger and onion and sweat in a soup pot in a teaspoon of coconut oil.  Once the onion mixture is soft, mix in the spices (approx tsp of each) until fragrant.  Drain the chicken stock, reserving liquid, and mash.  Mix mashed squash in onion and spice mix - adding sufficient chicken stock/boiling mixture to the right consistency.  Heat to serving temperature and garnish with herbs or cheese.

I also like to stir in a spoon of natural yoghurt if I have it available.

Given pumpkin seeds are full of the zinc and magnesium so good for a man's sperm, I thought I'd make a special snack for Mr Duncan and have a go at making my own.  Normally I'd just toss them in a bit of olive oil and salt, but because of Mr Duncan's blood pressure I used some cumin and smoked paprika in place of the salt.  I spread them over a baking tray and baked them at 140 C for about 20 minutes - until they started 'popping'.

It turns out that while Mr Duncan likes the taste of the flavouring - he's not into the texture of pumpkin seeds.  Sigh.

I like them as a snack though.

* Using a spaghetti squash was an abject failure.  It wouldn't mash or blend and turned into a stringy mess.  I gave up and had cheese on toast.

Monday, 15 July 2013

Vietnamese Prawn Summer Roll Salad

Summer roll, in a bowl

 Its veggie box day tomorrow and I'm running low on ingredients - we have some carrot and cucumber but thats about it.  Lovely weather today, its sunny and warm so I dont want to eat anything too heavy.  I have a rummage in the freezer and discover some prawns that need using.  I think of Vietnamese Summer Rolls.  Yum - they remind me of my trip to Vietnam in 2005.  We do have lots of mint in the garden...

I actually have rice paper in the cupboard, for wrapping the ingredients into rolls, but I'm not in the mood for anything time consuming or fiddly so just throw all the ingredients together into a salad.  

  • vermicelli noodles
  • onion
  • prawns 
  • mint
  • cucumber
  • carrot
  • peanuts

  • rice wine vinegar
  • honey
  • toasted seasame oil
  • chilli flakes

Put the noodles in a shallow dish and and soak in boiling water for 5 or so minutes. Mix together dressing ingredients.  Rinse noodles in cold water, drain, toss in the dressing and set aside. 

Cut onion into strips and stir fry with prawns until onion strips are soft and prawns are just pink.  Remove from heat.  Set aside to cool.

Cut the carrot and cucumber into thin sticks.  Chop the mint and peanuts.

Throw all the ingredients together in a bowl.  Enjoy.

Sunday, 14 July 2013

Oven Baked Fishcakes with Fennel Coleslaw

Summer comfort food
I had some fish pie mix in the freezer that needed using, but the weather is too warm for a hearty pie.  

  • Potato 
  • Onion
  • Fish
  • Milk
Finely chop an onion and poach with the fish in 50:50 milk/water. 
Drain, reserving liquid, cool and flake the fish.

Scrub and chop the potatoes and boil until just tender.  Drain and let the moisture steam off them.  Mash with a little of the fish milk and let them cool, the dryer and colder the better.

Mix the fish and onion into the cold potato, shape into cakes and place on lightly oiled baking tray.  Bake at 180 degrees C for about 20 minutes or until the fishcakes have browned.



  • Fennel bulb
  • Cabbage
  • Onion

Finely chop all ingredients.  Mix and dress with lemon and garlic infused olive oil.

Beetroot, Quinoa and Parsley Salad

Its salad season!
The weather is finally warm, which means a) I'm craving salads and b) we're eating outside.

When I'm having salad as a main course, I like to ensure it contains all the elements of a balanced meal.  As the daughter of a diabetic, I had it drummed into me that all meals needed to include protein, carbs and fresh veg.  For this salad, carbs are provided by the beetroot, protein by the quinoa and feta and fresh veg by the parsley and beetroot.  We ate this with a slice of german style grain bread and butter.

Fertility Focus
Beetroot is full of iron and folate

Parsley has high levels of vitamin K and both iron and vitamin C which helps the body absorb iron
Quinoa is a plant based form of protein, and contains all nine of the essential amino acids needed for cell renewal

  • Quinoa
  • Beetroot
  • Parsley
  • Mint
  • Feta cheese
Simmer the quinoa for about ten minutes (cook according to package directions).  Rinse and drain.
Grate the beetroot and finely chop parsley and mint.  Chop the feta into small cubes.
Mix together all ingredients and toss with olive oil and balsamic dressing.

Sunday, 7 July 2013

Lentil and Parsley Fertility Salad

Packed with fertility goodness
Ever since I read The Fertility Diet I've been trying to increase the amount of raw food in my diet.  I dont want to go 100% raw, it seems too extreme and directly contradicts some Traditional Chinese Medicine advice from my acupuncturist, but I figure now the weather is finally warming up I can aspire to making my meals at least 50% raw.

The book also recommended parsley as a good herb for fertility, benefiting the kidneys, liver, adrenals and uterus.  I'm usually a fan of parsley but the pigeons won the war over the parsley in my garden so I only have a small indoor plant.  

We recently discovered the local mediterranean grocer sells enormous bunches of parsley for only 80p and is a nice 20 minute post-prandial walk through the park away so I've been experimenting with making parsley salads that aren't tabbouleh to keep things fresh.

Fertility focus
Lentils are a good source of folic acid, full of iron and provide a non-meat form of protein.
Parsley has high levels of vitamin K and both iron and vitamin C (which helps the body absorb iron.
Sunflower seeds are rich in zinc, selenium and vitamin E and essential fatty acids.

  • Brown lentils
  • Parsley
  • Spring onion
  • Tomato
  • Sunflower seeds
Soak sunflower seeds.
Soak, rinse and drain lentils.  Simmer in fresh water for about 20 minutes, until cooked.  Rinse with cold water, drain and allow to cool.
Chop parsley, spring onion and tomato.
Drain and rinse sunflower seeds.
Mix it all together and enjoy!

I served the salad with grilled chicken thigh and courgettes sauteed in garlic and olive oil.

Al Fresco dining

Friday, 5 July 2013

The Birds and the Bumble Bees

My overgrown organic veggie garden
This time last year, despite the constant rain, I was reaping the benefits of planting out my veggie garden in April.  I had planted cucumber, tomato, spring onions, lettuce, spinach, parsnip and leeks in my organic garden.

This April, it was still raining and Mr Duncan and I decided there was no point in planting the garden as we'd have our Australian visa and not be around to harvest any of it.  Its a bit of a pity as this year we have some amazing rich compost from the past two years of veggie scraps and juicer pulp.  I'll need to decide what do do with it if we have to get rid of the compost bin when we move out.

It continued to rain and each weekend I thought 'ooh those weeds are getting out of control, I really need to weed next time it isn't wet'.  We finally had a good weekend and I went outside all ready to tackle the weeds which were above my knees and blooming with little flowers.  I saw more than half a dozen bumble bees and some normal bees and other insects flying around from blossom to blossom. The bumble bees seemed especially to like the blue flowers from the wild comfrey.

There has been a lot of information in the media lately about the decline of bees and especially bumble bees due to the wet weather, declining habitat and use of pesticides.  So I've decided that the garden will remain au-natural until we have to return it to some level of respectability when we move out. 

As the weeds have become more wild, I've noticed more birds in our garden too and almost have a respectable morning chorus going on (when its not raining). Its nice to see the bees buzzing around each time I go into the garden.

Be happy little bees.

L. x

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