We are thrilled to have Jennie of The Uterus Monologues as our blogger of the month from our list of Top Infertility Blogs. She focuses on her experience with recurrent pregnancy loss and what she has found in the process. We were drawn to her blog because her writing is superb and full of those moments where you find yourself pausing to think ahh...that's so true. She also tackles angles of pregnancy loss that we hadn't read about before. All said, her blog is simply a great read. This is what she had to say about blogging on the topic of pregnancy loss.
FS: Tell us about yourself
My name’s Jennie, I’m 31, and I’m a journalist. I’m the deputy editor of the health section of a national newspaper, so before I started my blog I was used to writing other people’s stories. I never really expected to end up writing my own in such detail.
I’m a words person, it’s fair to say, I write and edit for a living and would spend most of my spare time with my nose buried in a book, if I possibly could. I live just outside London, I like to run (outside, never on a treadmill – that just feels like a slow kind of death to me) and bake. I am hopelessly devoted to my three cats, Shearer, Saga and Birgitte, who must be in the running for the most Instagrammed cats in Britain…
FS: How did your experience with infertility start and how has the story unfolded?
My experience is with miscarriage and repeated pregnancy loss, rather than infertility - though I think there is a natural empathy between women who miscarry and women who struggle to conceive. While I consider myself incredibly lucky to have been pregnant, and to know that it is at least theoretically possible for me, the net result of both issues is that you find yourself without a much longed-for child.
Our story starts about two years ago, when my husband and I decided the time was right to start trying for a baby. It took around seven months for us to conceive initially, and I’d been surprised by how hard I’d found that limbo period to deal with. I knew rationally that we were well within what is considered medically ‘normal’, but it felt like all I ever heard were other people’s pregnancy announcements, usually coupled with unhelpful comments along the lines of ‘oh it was our first cycle/ we weren’t even trying’.
Seeing that second line on a pregnancy test for the first time, I was beyond relieved. And naively I assumed that was it, we’d made it.
When we lost that baby a few days before our 12-week scan – I was so shocked; shocked by the violence of the physical process of miscarrying, but also by the depth of my own grief.
In the year since that first loss, we’ve had two further miscarriages and embarked on testing at a recurrent miscarriage clinic.
I was so shocked; shocked by the violence of the physical process of miscarrying, but also by the depth of my own grief.
FS: Why did you start blogging?
It was a compulsion, really. I felt I desperately needed an outlet to write about what was happening to us. In the aftermath of a miscarriage – even after two or three – you are told repeatedly how common it is. One in four. One in five. ‘It’s just one of those things. It happens a lot.’
I think most people know about miscarriage in a theoretical sense; they know it happens. But what’s missing from the conversation is a real understanding of how it happens, what it’s really like, who it happens to and the effect it has on them.
I wrote about the first miscarriage for my newspaper, so it was never exactly a secret. But I set up the blog a little while after that article appeared, when our second pregnancy failed. At that point, I didn’t actually intend to actively promote it. I thought I’d keep it basically anonymous, just a space for me to write down whatever I was feeling at the time, almost like a diary. I thought maybe one or two people would read it if they happened to stumble across it on Google, but I didn’t intend to tell people I knew or put it out on social media.
Then around the time we should have been announcing our second pregnancy – a month after our second miscarriage – I shared the blog on my Instagram account. Something inside me snapped, I didn’t want to keep quiet about the second loss. I didn’t see why I should. I really wanted people to know, and to understand how it feels.
FS: What are three words that describe your blog?
Honest, wholehearted, wordy! (Mine is not the site you come to for listicles, memes, and beautiful lifestyle shots, I’m afraid. I like a good read, something a bit more long-form I can get my teeth into, so that’s what I try to offer).
FS: What's the story behind the name?
It’s a riff on The Vagina Monologues, which is an incredible play by Eve Ensler based on interviews with women about sex, sexual violence, pubic hair, periods… If you haven’t read it/seen it, you should as it’s a classic. It’s intensely personal and political and still feels depressingly relevant when you consider it is 20 years old. I’m by no means trying to put myself in the same league as that, but I figured I’d be writing about my uterus and I tend to go on a lot… so monologues seemed like the right word!
FS: What topic do you find yourself covering most often and why?
I try to pick a different aspect of pregnancy loss/miscarriage with each post – things that mainstream pieces on miscarriage simply don’t have time to turn their attention to, such as body image after miscarriage; baby weight, but without the baby - but I think the theme that comes up time and time again is envy of other people’s pregnancies when you’re reeling from a loss or losses, or just desperately trying to conceive. It worms its way into most things I write in some way.
...we just see the happy announcements and scan pictures – not the months of trying and worrying, the IVF cycles, or the losses, that may have gone before, unmentioned.
It’s such a powerful emotion, and often accompanied by guilt too, as you don’t want to feel so resentful towards people you know and love, but at the same time you can’t always help it. I think it’s exacerbated by social media, too. You’d think that all that sharing and posting might mean we’d understand a little more of what’s really going on in people’s lives, but we don’t, we just see the happy announcements and scan pictures – not the months of trying and worrying, the IVF cycles, or the losses, that may have gone before, unmentioned. I understand not everyone wants to share such private, painful things, but I do think it can leave people feeling they’re the only ones who are struggling.
FS: Who is your target reader?
Mostly I try to write what I wanted to read when I was going through a miscarriage, or dealing with the aftermath and a lot of my readers are people who are going through something similar. That said, I do try to explain things that I wouldn’t have known had this not happened to me (what the best things to say to someone who’s just lost a pregnancy are, for example). So I do hope there are people who read it who aren’t necessarily going through it themselves, but who might find it helpful in terms of supporting someone they know, or for when they come to get pregnant themselves. Ultimately, I just want to demystify it a bit.
FS: What's unique about your blog?
I hope I offer a blend of my really very personal experience (which may be too much information for some) with a bit of the medicine and research in this area explained – putting my health journalist hat on. But the main thing, I think, is the topics I cover, things you wouldn’t know are an issue for women/couples going through a pregnancy loss unless you’d been through it yourself. How it feels to hit the date that would have been your due date, for example.
Also, this is all happening in real time. I don’t have children yet – I don’t know how this turns out. And I think that’s important. That’s not to say that women who already have babies don’t experience the same pain of losing a pregnancy. Of course they do. But often the only time you hear about miscarriage is at a distance of many years, when women have come through the other side and managed to have children. These sorts of hushed asides are obviously meant to reassure you, but it can be hard to hear when you’re in the thick of it. The implication is ‘oh you’ll be fine, look at me, happens to the best of us’. But you don’t always feel like that, at all. Whereas, I’m still waist-deep, so my perspective is different.
I’m still waist-deep, so my perspective is different.
FS: What was your most popular post ever? Why do you think it was popular with readers?
I actually had to look this up – it was a post I wrote called The Box Under The Bed, which was about all the little things you don’t see when someone miscarries. The half-taken packets of Pregnacare, the doctor's notes, the books of baby names and knitted booties that never got to be worn.
I think it struck a chord for two reasons, firstly anyone who’s lost a baby will have their version of this box. For some, it may be a whole nursery. For people who haven’t experienced miscarriage, it’s something you just wouldn’t think of, or see firsthand. Particularly with an early loss, people often haven’t told anyone they were pregnant in the first place. Even if you do tell people you’ve had a miscarriage, it can be difficult for it to feel real to them, I think. If they didn’t know you were pregnant, it makes it harder for them to see it as the loss of your baby. They don’t see the weeks of waiting, of morning sickness, of tentatively thinking about names. What I tried to do with this post was to show people that there was this whole secret version of someone’s life that was expected and planned for. That it was real.
FS: What is the best thing about writing about in/fertility?
That people feel they can share their stories with you. Since writing openly about our miscarriages, so many people have got in touch – both people I know and people I don’t – to share their experiences. And it is so powerful. People I had no idea had had three miscarriages before their children were born. Couples going through IVF or PGD because of genetic illnesses. Women whose babies were stillborn many years ago and never felt like they could talk about it. There is such comfort in knowing you are not alone.
FS: What is the worst thing?
You’re making yourself vulnerable, I suppose, by writing about something so personal. And occasionally it means I get asked a question about my miscarriages or my writing when I’d really rather not think about it. At a party, or something… But I won’t complain because, really, sharing my story has been nothing but positive. And I do think more openness around these subjects is the way forward.
FS: What's the best tip you have to offer someone struggling with fertility issues?
Don’t be afraid to take a break. I know the pressure to keep trying, to try again, to try harder, can be immense. But sometimes you need a bit of time to just be. As far as it is humanly possible, don’t let trying stop you living.