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Fertility Blogger of the Month: Caro of The Cuckoo Mama

Our blogger of the month from our list of Top Fertility Blogs is Caro Townsend of The Cuckoo Mama. We think her Twitter game is an A+ and through her writing, we get the sense that she'd be the kind of stranger that you wouldn't hesitate to approach.

She has written about her multiple IVF cycles, miscarriage, and ectopic pregnancy and currently finds herself winging motherhood and working to break the taboos which surround infertility and miscarriage.

This is what Caro had to say about blogging about fertility:

Q: Tell us about yourself

I’m Caro, the creator of one of 2018 and 2019’s top ten UK fertility blogs, The Cuckoo Mama. I’m also a freelance writer. I’m very happily married to my best friend, Hugh, and we have Sam, human, and miracle, and his big sister Pepper pup, not so human but very much thinks she is! We live in a village in Mid-Sussex and can often be seen donning wellies and stomping through fields come rain or shine! I’m a foodie and love the way food brings folks together; our home is pretty much always full of family and friends! I’m mischievous, a self-confessed pedant and get itchy feet if we haven’t traveled for a while!

Q: How did your experience with infertility start and how has the story unfolded?

I never, ever expected we’d struggle to conceive. We got married, started “trying” and… absolutely nothing happened. It turns out my husband has a chromosomal defect, which he’s likely had since birth and will never cause him any issues, except with his fertility. After 28 months of eating millet, drinking cough syrup, laughing at clown videos and, eventually, burning every book we’d bought boasting the secret art of conception, we started ICSI.

As much as I never expected we’d struggle to conceive, I also never imagined ICSI would, or could, fail. But it does and it did. It took a further three years of back to back treatments, miscarriage and an ectopic pregnancy, whilst I was pregnant before our son arrived. He’s a little frostie and I am so in awe of his creation, his resilience and his determination to survive and meet us.

Q: Why did you start blogging?

I’ve always had a love of writing. I’m a journalism graduate who somehow ended up working in Private Equity but always wanted to write! After a couple of years of stay at home mum-ing, I decided it was time to do something for myself, so I did and started out trying to create a fluffy-filled parenting blog.

I’m not sure why, but I was NEVER going to write about infertility. And then it all changed! One day I felt hugely compelled to write about our story and that’s where my words have taken me. Finding my voice didn’t happen overnight, I tried out various styles until I realized, I just needed to be me. Which is hopefully what I am. I’ve found a place where I can raise my voice and shout from the rooftops that IVF is tough, infertility is cruel, and miscarriage is heart-breaking.

I’ve found a place where I can raise my voice and shout from the rooftops that IVF is tough, infertility is cruel, and miscarriage is heart-breaking.

Q: What are three words that describe your blog?

Resonating. Open. Companionable.

Q: What's the story behind the name?

The village where I live is named after the cuckoos who, apparently, still come and visit! As I initially set up as a parenting blogger I wanted something which would convey my bonkerness, my motherhood, and love of the outdoors; The Cuckoo Mama did that. When my writing became predominantly infertility-related, I did wonder whether I needed to change it but actually liked the connotation of the cuckoo laying eggs in different nests; it somehow seemed to echo how my son had been incubated in his petri dish “nest,” whilst feeling resonant of how medical science helps create families in so many differing and wonderful ways; we don’t all have to be conventional in conception! Although please note—I don’t advocate throwing eggs out of trees!

Q: What topic do you find yourself covering most often and why?

The emotions of infertility. To begin with, I was an incredibly naïve infertile, but perhaps we all are. I always thought I was coping with complete aplomb when I was actually spiraling into despair, with bitterness and rage causing me to disconnect from others. I didn’t know how to exist. I lived with shame and guilt, believing I’d somehow wronged the universe and this was all my fault. I’ve never felt as alone or ostracised or as misunderstood as I did during my journey to become a mother. It grieves me to think that others could be experiencing that same isolation. I’m a huge believer that we need to keep talking and breaking taboos, to stand united, either in shared experience or compassion. I want anyone living with infertility to know they are not to blame and, despite the tears, are brave and strong and beautiful.

Q: Who is your target reader?

It’s a real mix. Naturally, I hope it’s a supportive place for those walking through the desolation of infertility, but I also want to reach the family and friends of anyone on that journey too. Infertility is real and there is a lot of pain and anguish which goes unspoken. I’m acutely aware that finding the words to voice such heartbreak is incredibly difficult, and something I couldn’t always find the strength to do. I am however doing it now. As much as we are all different and cope in varying ways, I do hope that my words can help educate the fertile masses to understand, just a little, of what it’s like to live with infertility.

Q: What's unique about your blog?

Wow, tough question! I’ve been told my writing has a unique style and that I put into words what others are thinking but can’t quite say. My pieces often leave me feeling vulnerable, but it’s hugely important to me that they’re out there for others to read. I also think the fact that I have my son means I show a different, reflective, perspective; I’m not fully ensconced or currently living right in the midst of the darkness. I lost all sense of myself during what we refer to as the “dark days”; I never felt like a strong warrior, I just felt like a failure. Anyone feeling that way needs to know they are not alone. I understand that visiting a fertility blog, where there was a successful outcome, won’t always be easy, so have a specific infertility route ensuring readers don’t have to stumble across anything which could potentially cause upset.

Q: What was your most popular post ever? Why do you think it was popular with readers?

My letter to family and friends. It’s a post I know has been forwarded by those on the ole infertility rollercoaster to their nearest and dearest, which I find greatly touching. I think it’s popular as it resonates with those undergoing treatment but also helps explain some of what we go through emotionally and physically. It’s something I truly wish I’d had the strength to write at the time but take comfort in knowing that it’s helping now.

Q: What is the best thing about writing about infertility?

That I might actually be making a difference in someone’s life. That they may feel less alone or bitter or ashamed after reading something I’ve written.

Q: What is the worst thing?

Knowing that there is so much pain and I can’t take it away.

Q: What's the best tip you have to offer someone struggling with fertility issues?

Be kind to yourself. Look after yourself and don’t put unrealistic expectations upon yourself. Winnie the Pooh puts this more eloquently than I ever could: “You’re braver than you believe, stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think.” And always remember that—because you are. You are not infertility.

Be kind to yourself. Look after yourself and don’t put unrealistic expectations upon yourself.

Kelly Park

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