Can I Have Another Snack?
Can I Have Another Snack?
14: Nourishing Life and Loss with Jennie Agg
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14: Nourishing Life and Loss with Jennie Agg

S2 E4 of the CIHAS Pod!

*Content warning* - in this episode, we are talking about pregnancy loss and baby loss as well as experiences in the NICU and breastfeeding challenges. So if you’re not in the headspace for that right now then please take care of yourself and do whatever you need to to look after yourself.

In this episode, journalist, author and fellow Substacker Jennie Agg is joining me on the pod. Jennie has just published her first book, ‘Life, Almost: Miscarriage Misconceptions and a Search for Answers from the Brink of Motherhood’ - an exceptional book which brings together her own experiences, along with expert interviews and reports on why we know so little about fertility and reproductive health.

In our conversation, we focus on the erosion of trust that can happen in your body as a result of losing a pregnancy, and all the difficult emotions that can get stored in our bodies with nowhere to go to be held safely. We also talk a lot about body image and what has been healing for Jenny as she navigates a new relationship with her body post-partum.

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Find out more about Jennie’s work here.

Follow her work on Instagram here.

Order Jennie’s new book here.

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Sign up to the Raising Embodied Eaters workshop here.

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Here’s the transcript in full:

Jennie: And piece of that experience is it's, I remember, I mean, it's very difficult to not feel, I remember feeling very angry and very let down by my body. And it's very hard to, to reframe it. I think like I would, this is language that I used internally. It's not language I would use to somebody else or, you know, but you feel like your body has failed you. And I think it's very hard to reframe that as like you, it's very difficult to put a positive spin on that in any way, in the way that sometimes we're encouraged to you with things that are difficult, difficult experiences to do with our, our physical body. 

INTRO

Laura: Hey, and welcome to another episode of the Can I Have Another Snack? podcast where I'm asking my guests who or what they're nourishing right now, and who or what is nourishing them. I'm Laura Thomas, an anti-diet registered nutritionist, and author of the Can I Have Another Snack newsletter? Today I'm talking to author and fellow Subtacker Jennie Agg, who has just written an exceptional book called ‘Life, Almost’.

It weaves together Jennie's own experience with miscarriage and pregnancy loss with expert interviews and impeccable reporting on why we know so very little about fertility and reproductive health. In our conversation today, we're really focused on the erosion of trust that can happen in your body as a result of losing a pregnancy and all the difficult emotions that can get stored in our bodies with nowhere to go to be held safely.

And this is in part because of how isolating the experience can be and how the healthcare system is not at all set up to adequately support people who experience baby loss either in the moment or going forward into a new pregnancy after loss. We also talk a lot about body image and what has been healing for Jennie as she navigates a new relationship with her body postpartum.

I think it's a really lovely conversation and a really important one, but it goes with the content warning that we are talking about pregnancy loss and baby loss as well experiences in the NICU and breastfeeding challenges. So if you're not in the head space for this right now, then please take care of yourself and do whatever you need to to look after yourself.

I know we've had a few authors promoting their books back to back recently. I promise that not all the guests this season will be promoting books. I think maybe we have one more. We will also be hearing from some clinicians and researchers later in the season. Just the way that it worked out with books coming out it ended up that some of those authors are appearing earlier in the season. But I also really wanted to support Jennie because she's been a really supportive cheerleader for me and my work. Some of you might already know that Jennie helps edit some of my essays on the newsletter, and her input is really valuable, and it means that there aren't as many spelling or grammatical mistakes on the copy that Jennie has edited.

So even if trying to conceive or miscarriage aren't on your radar at the moment, I think this is a really important book for anyone who cares about reproductive rights and why we know so little about the health of women and folks with a uterus. It's not just about having a baby, but it's also connected to our autonomy and our collective body liberation.

So again, that's why I wanted to share Jennie's work. It's really, really important and I hope you will check out the book.

We'll get to Jennie in just a minute, but first I wanted to remind you that my Raising Embodied Eaters workshop is on Tuesday, the 21st of February. It's pancake day. Don't worry.

It's not going to be just me giving you a bunch of useless tips and tricks. You know, that's not what I'm about. But we will explore your relationship with food a little bit and think about how you can support your kids to have a positive relationship with food and their body. I will give you some practical tools. Um, we will talk about developmental milestones and things like that, but my intention is really to help. You take the pressure off of feeding your kids and help you create a home that supports a healthy relationship to food and bodies. I've linked to the full description in the show notes. So you can check it out. It's 15 pounds, it will be on Zoom, and I'll have the recording available for a week after. So if you can't watch it live, you can watch it on playback. Plus you'll also get a copy of my Raising Embodied Eater's Guide to share it with family, friends, childcare, schools, whoever is responsible for feeding your kids.

And the last thing before we get to the episode. Just a quick reminder that Can I Have Another Snack is a reader supported publication. I'd love to bring you more deeply research pieces, but it requires a significant investment in my time, plus the support of an editor, aka Jennie, and behind the scenes admin support, and a podcast editor as well.

So if you are in a position to become a paid subscriber, then please consider it is five pounds or 50 pounds for the year, and if that's not accessible for you right now, you can email  hello@laurathomasphd.co uk, putting the word snacks in the subject line, and we'll hook you up with a comp subscription, no questions asked. Please do not feel like you have to explain yourself or your situation. I trust that if you have the means to pay for a subscription and you value my work, then you will. And if you can't afford it right now, then um, maybe some point in the future you will be able to become a fully paid subscriber. But for now, just put snacks in the subject line and we'll hook you up with that comp subscription.

All right, everyone. Here is my conversation with Jennie Agg.

MAIN EPISODE

Laura: Jennie, can you start by telling us who or what you're nourishing right now?

Jennie: Yeah, I can. So I'm Jennie. I'm a journalist and author, and I am nourishing myself, my husband, my two and a half year old Edward and three cats. And in nourishing, in the, the non-literal sense I am nourishing a writing career and specifically kind of branching out into writing books.

Laura: I think you're being extremely modest right now, Jennie, I'm gonna be your, I'm gonna be your hype person for a sec.

Jennie: Okay.

Laura: So Jennie has a book as we're recording, Jennie's book is coming out in two weeks. Her first book. It's your first book, right?

Jennie: Yeah, it's my first book. It's my first book.

Laura: And. Yeah. By the time that everyone is listening to this, it will have just come out into the world. I wanna know how you, you know, where are we finding you? How are you feeling about it all? You've, you've been writing and putting your words out into the world for a long time. You've been writing very vulnerably for a long time, but does this feel different or are you just kind of like, oh, it's, it's more words going out into the world?

Jennie: It definitely feels different. I mean, I never feel like cavalier or like comfortable with putting anything out, like even like sending out my newsletter, which I do every week. And before that, you know, I was writing a blog every week and I still, you know, pressing send still feels incredibly sort of panic inducing. But yeah, this does feel different. I mean it's a very personal book. And it feels, I guess it feels like the culmination as you said, I've been writing about pregnancy loss and my own experience with recurrent miscarriage and going on to have a baby. Like I've been writing about that for five years, six years now.

Today's guest, Jennie Agg, sitting in an armchar, holding a cup, and surrounded my plants and flowers against a plain white wall.
Journalist and Author, Jennie Agg

Laura: I was thinking about this the other day, like way before you interviewed me for my first book, I'd come across your writing, maybe like in The Pool, RIP, or you know, some, something along those lines. And, and it was, it was one of the first pieces I'd ever read about miscarriage. And I remember being kind of like struck by it, obviously, because it's very personal and vulnerable, but also just thinking like, we don't, we don't talk about this.

And so I remember, you know, even though babies weren't even on my radar at that point, thinking wow, what you're doing is really, really important work, and it feels like you've taken everything from the past, I dunno, five or six or however many years and you've put it into this new book.

Jennie: Yeah. I mean that, and I guess that's what I've, I tried to do. I dunno if this is a really cliche thing to say but I, I wrote the book that I wanted to exist, like when I had my first miscarriage. And like, I wish I could say that the book answers all the questions that I had back then and that I still have now.

And sometimes, like in kind of, delving into the, the science and interviewing various doctors and experts and historians about it, often the answer is we still don't know. And so the question is, why don't we know this? We need to do better really is the kind of thrust of the book really.

And I think it's difficult for me to know exactly how far and how fast things have changed cuz I, you know, because I write about miscarriage and pregnancy loss and I am now kind of quite immersed in that world and community, it's difficult for me to know exactly how much things have actually changed.

So when I had my first miscarriage in 2017 I just didn't, I didn't know anything about it. I really didn't think it was a thing that was going to happen to me. And oh, I should preface this by saying like, my background, I'm a health journalist, so there were lots of things that hadn't happened to me that I knew a little bit about.

And okay, you never know exactly what something is like if you haven't been through it. But I really had no idea and I was really shocked when they'd kind of say, oh actually this is really common. And they sort of give you all these leaflets and they quote statistics at you and you're like, but hang on, they didn't tell me this when I went to my booking in appointment with the GP. It's not, you know, I've been reading the NHS website advice saying at eight, nine weeks, or, you know, look into what maternity leave you're entitled to start thinking about, I don't know, when you want to start your leave and you are kind of given things on your next scan and the 20 week scan, like right from the word go. And there's very much this presumption that your pregnancy will continue.

Laura: And it's a kind of a linear, straightforward process. And you go from A to B to C.

Jennie: Yeah, exactly. And I think miscarriage is kind of there in that it's, you are told don't eat this because there's a, you know, soft cheese and listeria and risk of miscarriage and, you know, there are lot, lots and lots of things that you are told to do or not to do.

And perhaps miscarriage risk is mentioned, but it, rightly or wrongly, I think I felt going into that first pregnancy that miscarriage was something they kind of understood. They knew why it happened, and if you followed the rules would be okay. And I, you know, I did follow the rules. Then this, it kind of everything was sort of turned on its head really in that they go, oh, it's just one of those things. It happens sometimes. It happens quite a lot actually. And that was, it just kind of blew everything open for me, really. So I wrote about it for the newspaper where I worked at the time. And then as kind of things unfolded I went on to have two more miscarriages that same year, some medical tests which were inconclusive, and then I had another miscarriage after that. I mean, that's a very, that's a very condensed version. But I wrote about it. I wrote about it in the magazines and newspapers, and then also I, I started blog and yeah. And then I had a kind of period of time off from trying to conceive because it becomes very all consuming particularly when there, perhaps we'll come back to this, but when there were kind of no answers of what, why something has happened or whether it will happen again, or, you, it, it kind of takes over your life because you are, you are sort of looking for lots of things you can do yourself, whether that's your diet or your exercise or life, just sort of lifestyle things.

Is it stress? Is it my job? Is it, you know, all those things. The answer to all of those is probably no but it, you kind of feel like it might be, it must be worth trying. Like, you know, you, you feel like you need to try absolutely everything. And actually that becomes quite a difficult way to live.

So we kind of took quite a long period out from trying to conceive and when we did feel ready again I got pregnant for a fifth time in 2019. And this again, is a very condensed , a very condensed version. But I did, I did go on to have my son. Yeah. There was a question that, I dunno whether I've answer answered or not.

Laura: Well I think I was just reflecting on sort of the, you know, how I first came across your work and, and just, it, it just felt so, I don't want this to sound like really belittling, but it felt really, really brave and courageous to put that out into the world. And, you know, I think I had read your account of your first miscarriage, and this kind of like realisation that, okay, well first of all, I didn't expect this to me, no expect this to happen to me, nobody prepared me for this to be even a possibility. And secondly, the, the recognition that we don't know what, you know, we, we know very little about why this happens to you. And then it sounds as though from there, when you had recurrent miscarriage, you know, you did the, I know that the NHS has this sort of like, what seems to me to be, what's the word that I'm looking for you? The, the rule not

Jennie: Oh, like it's com-, It's very arbitrary.

Laura: the arbitrary, yes.

Jennie: Yeah. It's a very arbitrary rule. And basically they will only if it's first trimester miscarriages, they'll only investigate for possible kind of other medical causes after three miscarriages which, like there are reasons for it, which I, which I understand. Although there have been, there have been calls recently, to adopt a slightly more kind of grade, I think it's called a kind of the graded, graded model of care. And so there would be some follow up after one miscarriage, some sort of preliminary tests after two, and then kind of what they do now after three.

And like within all of that, the, the recommendation is that there would be kind of some sort of psychological support if people need it, which, and so far kind of the government has not, has not taken up this recommendation from lots of scientists and campaigning groups. Not a surprise. And I, and it's really tricky to talk about this at the moment and to kind of talk about how inadequate the provision is and the kind of support is for people going through miscarriage because, you know, health service is so stretched, so that's not a, you know, that's not a criticism of people working in hospitals or early pregnancy units or gps. It's a, you know, this is a more

Laura: systemic

Jennie: systemic like criticism. Yeah, I mean, there's so much we could talk about, like, I think, I can't remember the exact figure, but I tried to find out in the book how many early pregnancy units open seven days a week. Like open all hours basically. And I can't remember there, there aren't really any, there might be, it's single, like it's single figures.

Laura: Mm

Jennie: Like two or four or something that I could find in the whole of the UK, and so, some are only open like two hours Monday to Friday and it's like yeah.

Laura: And I just like, this is the, the sort of feeling that I'm left with is that once something, you know, when you experience a miscarriage, or even if you're just unsure in those early weeks and months, if everything is okay, it's such a lonely, isolating experience because there's nowhere to go. And when we have, you know, when these institutions that are supposed to support us, care for us, look after us, you know, are, when they, when they're literally only open two hours a day, what message does that send about, you know, how much our experiences are valued. And I think that that kind of like, you know, the fact that we don't get any kind of investigation or even really support at all until there have been three recurrent first trimester miscarriages just goes to show again that, you know, that, that, that, that experience, like we're, we're sort of left to deal with it on our own.

Jennie: Yeah. And I

Laura: No one to help us kind of like yeah. Move through that.

Jennie: No, it really invalidates it, I think, and it sort of sets up this hierarchy in that you're like, you are, you'd kind of, well, certainly how I felt was that, I really believed I was, that first time I really believed I was going to have a baby, and, you know, all those kind of things you think about and things you imagine and plan for that was all very real and was happening and was underway. And I was, you know, I'd been pregnant for nearly the first miscarriage happened just before the 12-week scan.

So, you know, I'd been pregnant for

Laura: Yeah.

Jennie: a few months, but at that point like, I knew about it with all that that entails. And then suddenly it was not happening. And the reaction was kind of completely the opposite to how I was feeling in that the reaction was, this happens all the time. And then you are, you are kind of told that they're not gonna. they're not gonna ask you. They, I mean, I was really shocked that they didn't even ask me any questions. Kind of like, what had you been doing when it started? Or like, and that's, you know, that has its own problems in that then that you start to think it must be something I did. And in a way, that's why they don't ask those questions,

Laura: Yeah. Yeah.

Jennie: but at the same time, you, the lack of interest or curiosity in why this happened to you when on paper there shouldn't have been any issue is really disorienting.

And also then it, like you don't know how to frame your experience. So I was like, oh, right. So should I just be, should I just be okay? Should I be bouncing back from this quicker than I am? And I was, you know, it, it was, certainly that first time was very physically traumatic. And then

Laura: Yeah.

Jennie: also it felt, it felt like a full on bereavement, really. So I would've struggled to say that in my real life at the time. Like, I would've felt that I shouldn't claim that, that that would, you know, and I think part of that comes from the fact that they don't, they don't and can't investigate until you've had more miscarriages. It's like, well then that's when it's, like quote unquote a proper issue. That's when you are allowed to feel all these complex feelings. And that's when, you know, you can lay claim to grief or a sort of Yeah. Any of those things. And I, it took, it really me, like, I guess what I'm saying is it really messed me up psychologically. And it makes, it kind of encourages you, I think, to push down what you are actually feeling and to kind of minimise your own grief and anger and shock and, and it's completely, it's completely the opposite of what actually now they're starting to learn through scientific studies about how people feel and how that experience affects people.

You know, it's a significant proportion. I think it's about one in five people who have an early pregnancy loss. So that might be a first trimester miscarriage it might be ectopic pregnancy, experienced symptoms like PTSD. And it's, it's, and partners as well. Like it's not quite as, as high of proportion. It's like 1 in 12, I think a kind of secondary study to that study found, which is, is shocking. Like this is this huge, that's such a massive finding.

Laura: And it sounds as though you know that, that that study was measuring people who met some sort of like clinical threshold for PTSD or PTSD,

Jennie: yeah, yeah,

Laura: And what about everybody else who is experiencing these really complex, really painful emotions and they just have to go to work the next day?

Jennie: Yeah, exactly. Yeah. I mean, and they, I think from memory, that study does, does talk as well about how within that there are a lot of people who might not have met that clinical criteria for PTSD but there was, you know, anxiety and depression were really common. Which again, and you are just expected to pick up and, and start again and, you know, try to get pregnant again, which is a whole other. And this is really, I think a large part of my book and what I write in the book is my experience of pregnancy after loss and after miscarriages and how that is actually, it's a completely different experience. Pregnancy without that knowledge. And I, I still don't know that that's something we're really that familiar with. Like outside of very particular support communities.

Laura: Yeah. How do you, I mean, there's so many things that my, my brain is going to here but there's, you know, sort of this question of, well, how do you sort of raise awareness of the fact that miscarriage can be a possibility without then creating a lot of fear and anxiety in people trying to conceive? And then also this, this big question of how do you support people through a pregnancy when either they've had, you know, pregnancy complications previously, or experienced baby loss or miscarriage or, you know, god forbid, like the loss of a, a young child, you know, what kind of support needs to be put into place?

And, it sounds like. A, it's taking, it's taking science a really long time to catch up with the fact that people might have really difficult feelings and, and feel really ambivalent about, about going into a, another pregnancy. And yeah, the, even, even once we've kind of like identified that that's the case, what then is the support?

Jennie: Yeah. What do we actually do about this? Yeah.

Laura: Yeah. And the thing that I'm, I'm really curious to talk to you about, because it's kind of a thread that runs through this podcast and the newsletter, which is around, you know, when you experience something like this where you know your body doesn't sort of, it doesn't act in the way that we expect it to and want it to.

And, and maybe, you know, we, we feel let down or betrayed by our bodies. And, and I can sort of speak from experience here in terms of like birth not going to, to plan and you know, early experiences with, with feeding that there's, there's a lot of, of grief and you know, that can be a very painful experience.

And I'm just, I'm curious to know what, what your experiences were around body trust and maybe body image more broadly. You know, having gone through these recurrent miscarriages.

Jennie: It's a really. What's the right word? It's a huge factor, I think. And piece of that experience is, I mean, it's very difficult to not feel, I remember feeling very angry and very let down by my body. And it's very hard to reframe it. I think like I would, this is language that I used internally. It's not language I would use to somebody else or, you know, but you feel like your body has failed you. And I think it's very hard to reframe that as like you, it's very difficult to put a positive spin on that in any way, in the way that sometimes we're encouraged to you with things that are difficult, difficult experiences to do with our physical body. So, you know, and it's, it's hard I think in the, you know, my body, I didn't look pregnant to the outside world, which, you know, for some people that will be their experience of, of pregnancy loss. You know, they will have announced their pregnancy and been visibly pregnant. And then that is, it's a whole other element of this.

But for me, other people might not have seen it, but, you know, my body had, had changed and I was, and I think, I mean, maybe it's because it's, you are hyper aware, I think, in pregnancy particularly, or I certainly was in that first trimester with my first pregnancy. I mean, and then certainly in later pregnancies, you are hyper aware of every symptom or twinge that you have or kind of, and, and you feel different anyway, right?

Like, you don't feel very well, you feel very tired. There's a lot going on. Like as in, it's a very, it's a very physical experience that first trimester, even though we kind of still have this convention of like not announcing a pregnancy then, so you kind of do all that in private,

Laura: Mm-hmm.

Jennie: and

Laura: And then you emerge in the second trimester as this glowing

Jennie: Yeah, yeah. Like,

Laura: The fantasy that we're sold, isn't

Jennie: And it, it's very difficult, I think, and it, you've, what do I mean? I think I felt so resentful. I felt so resentful of, you know, what I perceived as kind of weight gain and changes to my body, which, you know, like I look back now and I think that was, my brain had definitely exaggerated the reality of that. And I think that's, that's complicated, isn't it? It's that sort of idea of like, oh, I, I feel, I feel fat today. It's like, what does that, what does that really mean? Particularly, you know, talking as somebody who is straight sized.

Laura: It feels very familiar, I think what you're talking about. You know, that we, we often put all the difficult, raw emotions that we're experiencing, the grief, the trauma, the stress, the anxiety, all of it onto. , you know, we, we distill that because, because it feels really hard to say all of those things, the, the, you know, the resentment as well, which is such a great word.

I think we, we reduce it down to a feeling of being fat when, you know, like you said, that's not, that's not a feeling. And our bodies are, are holding all of these complex feelings and emotions that that we sometimes find hard to, especially if, you know, we haven't announced our pregnancies to the world, or especially if we don't have a space to go to, like a therapist or, you know, someone to hold and contain that for us, we, we kinda store it in our bodies and it, and it shows up in these really unwelcome ways.

I dunno if that speaks to

Jennie: Yeah, it, it, it really does. I think, cuz there, something I remember from certainly that first time and then also after subsequent pregnancy losses, the fear of being mistaken for pregnant was huge and if you think about it in a purely rational, like, logical way that it would make sense if somebody thought I, like, I had, you know, in some cases I had literally been pregnant two days previously. Like that was not, and yet somehow that was all really bound up with a sense of kind of, loss of control and kind of moral failing and, and it, you know, it, it, it's almost certainly informed by all the things we're told about postpartum bodies and how women should, you know, you're celebrated for looking pregnant up until the moment you give birth. And then you should, your body should like bear no trace of having carried and birthed a baby, like, you know, in that incredibly unrealistic way. So I'm, you know, there's, that's almost certainly a part of it, but it's that idea of somehow I would feel ashamed to be mistaken for pregnant when I mean, and obviously like that it's just, there's the pure, like that's a painful thing because it's having to admit or reflect on the fact that I wasn't pregnant and I really wanted to be. But at the same time that sort of focus on your body and how you look and particularly like how your stomach looks is it's hard for me. Like, to me it's hard not to see that in the context of all the various narratives around women's bodies and body size and yeah snapback culture, whatever it is. So yeah, that definitely, I can see, I can see that that's probably what was going on there.

Laura: Yeah, I mean, I don't mean to directly compare experiences because I know that losing a baby is, is absolutely not the same as the experience that I have. Yet there are, there are some things that feel very relatable to in what you're saying and I'm thinking about a time when Avery was in the NICU and we were getting a taxi up to the hospital and I still looked very, very pregnant cuz I had just given birth and the, there was an assumption by the taxi driver that I was in labor going to the hospital to give birth or that, you know, that I was very close to my due date. And, you know, there was this big smiley face and this reception of like, oh, and, and, and, and it was the same when, when I, you know, when when I give birth, there were all these congratulations being thrown at me. And I was like, but my baby is, look at him like he's really ill. And I'm gonna get, I'm getting really emotional. Sorry Jennie, but

Jennie: no. It's okay.

Laura: I just, there was just this visceral rejection of that congratulations. And at that time I can see it differently now, but at that time it, I was chalk up to the failure of my body, you know, the failure to, you know to have the birth and the labor that I wanted to have and sort of, you know, was blaming myself for effectively putting him in the NICU which is, you know, I've done a birth debrief, that's not the case.

Right. like, I can rationally say that now, but you know, there was, there's something there that I think you're speaking to with, you know, the changes in your body and how your body looks and how something is perceived maybe to be this really positive thing like a pregnancy, like giving birth, but that actually something else is concealed behind that something very, very different. And your reality not matching up to what's maybe presenting outwardly, if that makes sense.

Jennie: Yes. Yeah, it does make sense. It does make sense. I think that's a really good way of thinking about it. And then for me, I think the kind of, and this has been a sort of then been a thread that's gone through kind of all of my subsequent pregnancies. And then going on to have my son and to be a parent, and those kind of early experiences of parenting is that real fear of kind of something unknown that's wrong with your body because, that's kind of what that experience leads you to because there was never any, and this is the case for, I think it's about 50% of people who have recurrent miscarriages, as in, so people who have medical tests for multiple miscarriages, most, at least half, never, like, there's never any kind of specific diagnosis. And I think, I talk about this in the book, recurrent miscarriage is kind of thrown around as a label, as if it's a diagnosis, but it's not.

Laura: And as if it's like a homogenous experience,

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Jennie: And like actually it's not like there'll be lots of different, potentially lots of different reasons. And most of the time, probably a lot of those reasons we don't know what they are yet. And most of the time you, you won't be given any kind of anything concrete that they're say, well, you know that this blood marker or whatever it is. Absolutely every test I had and there were many, lots of blood tests and then sort of scans of like my pelvic anatomy and the shape of my womb, that sort of thing all came back completely normal.

There's nothing in my kind of menstrual cycle history or anything like that would, that would point to anything hormonal or yeah, and I think, so then there's I think quite logical fear of like, but clearly this isn't, clearly this shouldn't be happening.

Laura: Mm-hmm.

Jennie: Like this is too many in a row. It's too like the, the explanation, which is really what you are, you are sort of encouraged to think, which is that this is just bad luck.

Like that doesn't feel very satisfactory. And I mean, it might be true, but I also think we're a little bit over-reliant on that idea that it, that it might, that it, it is true. And so that, that leads you to, there's something in my body that, or in the way that my body works that we don't really understand yet, that they, you know, don't know how to fix was where my brain went.

And that that's very difficult to put aside. Even, and so, I mean something coming back to kind of how that's carried through. So when Edward was born and I was trying to feed him and kind of those early days of breastfeeding, which were difficult, not, I don't think in the grand scheme of things, I don't think we had that difficult a time.

You know, he wasn't, very glad to say he wasn't in the NICU or anything like that. So we were able to try it right from the beginning. And I know that's not true for everybody. But you know, it's a hard thing. It's a hard thing to do

Laura: Yeah. Regardless of, you know, how your baby came into the world, it's, it's hard.

Jennie: Like even in the best of circumstances, like I think it's a hard thing to do and it's a new skill to learn all those things.

So he, and kind of in spite of feeling like we'd sort of got the hang of it and it was kind of working, like his weight dropped at those kind of first checks that they do with the midwife when he was home. And then so they sort of go through all their things and they say, right, well let me watch you feed him.

And they kind of do their observations and they looked at him and they kind of, and again, this is, this is something I write about a little bit in the book, but they said, It's like several midwives and then a feeding consultant said, well, it doesn't, it all seems fine. You're doing everything right. There doesn't seem to be a reason. You know, like positive things that should be like in other circumstances will be very good news. But you're like, but you are telling me his weight is dropping too much. And that really like hit some kind of internal alarm bell for me because it was just that I possibly didn't even realize I had, which was like, there is something wrong with me that can't be fixed.

Or there's something wrong with him and you, like we don't know enough to know what it is. And kind of knowing that like being told there's nothing wrong isn't always very comforting news. Like that kind of prior knowledge of that. Made that in an incredibly stressful time. I mean, the, the, like, the punchline to this is the feeding consultant who was very kind and gave me lots of helpful like practical advice said, did you take a picture of the scales at the hospital? And I was like, no, of course I didn't. I was, I was being stitched up. She was like, they, cuz they write, I dunno if this is true for every hospital, but our hospital wrote down the weight in grams, so it's like a, it's that right grams. So it's like a four, it's like a four digit number

Laura: yeah.

Jennie: Said sometimes they just, they might have just switched like

Laura: Like a two and a three or,

Jennie: Yeah, exactly.

And so actually what would've been like a, you know, a couple of percentage drop in weight was actually like 13% or whatever. And like he, you know, there were never any other outward signs that he was struggling. Like,

Laura: Yeah.

Jennie: So, like, I can kind of laugh about it now, but at the time it really felt, it was a real reminder that, that that runs really deep now that fear of kind of, it's fear of basically it's fear of the unknown, isn't it? But it's, it's so kind of rooted in my body and kind of by extension now Edward's body. Does that make sense?

Laura: It makes so much sense and,I mean, I could and maybe one day I will write an entire book about feeding babies in the

Jennie: oh, I would buy

Laura: early days

Jennie: that book, Laura. I would buy that

Laura: And kind of like the things we say particularly around, you know, weight loss in those early days and, weight regain and feeding and, ugh, there's so much that happens in that short period of time that can, that can create anxiety and fear that carries through that, you know, that sets the tone for that feeding relationship.

Like when I'm working with parents and, you know, there's someone ha-, you know, their child has some challenges around feeding, like I can, you can trace that line back to some horrific thing that uh, you know, a flippant comment that a healthcare professional has said to them about, you know, not gaining enough weight or eating too much is the other, you know, like you can never just get the, the, the perfect balance.

Right? Right. And, and, and so the genesis of a lot of parents fears and concerns, like it, it comes back to that point. And I think, you know what a health visitor maybe isn't so cognizant of, is all of your backstory and the, the, you know, all of the challenges and, and the, the pain and the grief and everything that you're carrying into that experience with your child.

So they're giving you this, you know, what they think is just a factual thing, which turns out, in your case it wasn't even factual, but

Jennie: No. No. And he was, and he was fine. Like,

Laura: And that's the thing, they don't look at the baby. They don't ever look at the baby. They look at the chart. I mean, I'm doing a disservice to midwives and health. Not all health visitors and midwives, but you look at a number and you don't look at the broader context. Like, oh, you know, how are they feeding?

Do they look like, you know, do they have like chubby arms and legs and, you know, what are their parents' statures and body sizes? And like, how does that factor into this? So like, yeah, there's, there's, yeah, I, I could go on and on and on about that, but I think yeah, like not taking into context the broader, you know, like fears and anxieties and pressures and, and feelings.

The, the conflicting feelings that you have you know, as a result of, of how, you know, in your case how Edward came into the world and how you feel about your own body. I, I don't know, it just feels like there needs to be a shift in how we are yeah. Like how we are caring for, for people in the whole entire perinatal period.

Jennie: Yeah, I mean, definitely

Laura: I think, I mean, yeah, that goes without saying right? But, I feel like I kind of lost the thread and just got up on my soapbox a little bit there. And I'm, I'm curious to know, there are so many other things, Jennie that we, we kind of like said that we would talk about that we're not gonna have time for, but I think what feels important to, to maybe think about is, you know, you've talked about feeling let down by your body and, and the sort of broken trust. You know, I think we, we all kind of go into pregnancy by and large, or going go into trying to conceive with like just this implicit trust that our bodies are gonna do the things that we would like them to do in the way that we would like them to, to do them.

And then, you know, what you're talking about is just this bit by bit by bit erosion of that trust, you know, first through recurrent miscarriage, which, you know, in and of itself that's multiple layers of, of erosion of trust and then into, into breastfeeding. And, you know, I'm sure there are other elements of parenting and just being a body in the world.

But I'm curious, you know, how, or if, or you know, what regaining trust in your body looks like, feels like, if it even feels possible. Yeah, I'm, I'm curious to hear your thoughts on that. In the, in the like five minutes we've got, got left.

Jennie: Ooh. Yeah. Okay. I have a really pithy easy answer to this. No, I don't. But I do think it is possible. So there are a few things. So I think at least initially there was kind of the, I had the opposite feeling that I'd felt after my miscarriages and being very worried about being mistaken for pregnancy. So kind of getting, first of all, in pregnancy, getting further along.

And I, like, I had a very anxious, very difficult pregnancy in lots of ways, like, and I. It was a very difficult time psychologically. But at the same time, there were definitely kind of quite healing, I think is probably the right word, things in, in that sort of physical evidence of pregnancy and kind of seeing my body change and feeling a baby move and going to term. That was really, that was very healing.

It might not always have felt like that at the time, but like now I kind of look back and I think I can see that it, it was, and I like, I liked that, like, I liked kind of seeing myself pregnant and I liked kind of when I felt sort of ready, which was quite far on into pregnancy. Like I really liked buying maternity clothes and you know, things that, and even like if the maternity clothes were a bit crap, like , like, I kind of like, that was quite nice in itself.

It's like, oh I would not choose this dress in real life. But you know,

Laura: It fits. It fits over.

Jennie: It fits, it fits and it's comfortable and like it's not too hot or whatever it was. And kind of recognising those feelings that you kind of, I would used to hear other pregnant women complain about and think, I'm so jealous of you.

Like, getting to experience those things myself was really kind of, I dunno if that sounds perverse, but that was very healing. I was lucky in that I had a relatively positive birth experience. Like I had an induction, which I know is not

Laura: Oh, no, that's not a positive birth experience, Jennie. That's the-

Jennie: And like again, I mean God I wish I probably shouldn't have even mentioned it, should I, cuz that's

Laura: It's a whole thing. Yeah.

Jennie: like, I mean, and it's literally a chapter in the book.

Laura: God, it's so,

Jennie: But actually I had a really positive birth experience like in the, possibly in the sense that it exceeded my expectations and that was, you know, that was good. I'm, so, I'm very aware that I'm kind of saying that to somebody who had the opposite experience and I hope that's not,

Laura: Oh, no, no, no. I'm honestly, I'm so pleased when people say like, actually it didn't all go tits up and feel okay about

Jennie: Yeah. And, so that was, you know, that was and then, oh, this is what I was going to say. So the other thing was I had, after Edward was born and I was still like visibly very, like I looked what we would consider to be a pregnant body, but really it's just a, like, I had a baby two weeks ago, three months ago body like I, I didn't have that same like, oh God, I hope no one mistakes me from pregnant. Because I was like, I was there, I had Edward with me most of the time, like, and we weren't really going out that much anyway because of lockdown and things. But so that was really nice being like, well, yeah, I looked like I just had a baby cuz I just had a baby.

And that was a kind of, that was a nice like it was a kind of, felt like a correction perhaps. It gets more complicated, that relationship with my body as time went on in a sort of more superficial sense and like a, I guess a body image for want of a better phrase sense. You know, like when my body still look different at nine months, like I have a particular loathing for those nine

Laura: Yeah.

Jennie: nine months out pictures like I.

Laura: Well, you know

Jennie: I know I know, I know, for some people, I know for some people that's just like fun. And not everybody who shares those pictures is a fitness influencer or whatever, but I, yeah, I dunno. They, I can't, they, they do something to me. And I think, what else do I think? So I think now that I'm kind of two years, two and a half years on from having a baby I think the thing that's been this is, it's perhaps quite a low key thing to say, like helps rebuild that trust. But it's just that it's a little bit of I've had a period of like stability, I guess, in my body. Like I'm not breastfeeding anymore. I haven't been for, for a long time. I'm not actively trying to conceive, I've not, you know, I've not had a miscarriage since Edward was born.

Like that just period of letting my body just be and for it not to be not,

Laura: I guess there are no expectations

Jennie: Yeah, no, expectations is a really, yeah, I was gonna say like, no, like nasty surprises, but yeah, no expectations of it to be doing anything other than like, I don't know, letting me sit at my desk and work and, you know, the

Laura: being, yeah.

Jennie: plodding run at park run or, you know, whatever. Just like be, exactly just being. And it feels a little bit like, so we had a period of about a year off from trying to conceive. That was a quite a healing time and I'd really resisted it for such a long time. I'd really resisted it because I felt we just needed to kind of get through and, you know, try again and try again.

But actually that time to just not be worrying about what I was eating or drinking or, you know, all those things was really it, I was quite skeptical that it, that I would make me feel better like that just, just doing nothing would make me feel better. And actually it did, and it's been the same postpartum as well, like,

Laura: Mm.

Jennie: But that's not always what you want to hear when you are in the kind of the middle of those, like ruptures in how you relate to your body, which like, that's difficult.

Laura: And, and it's interesting that you used the word rupture there because it's, it's what was going through my head as well, that, you know, the these perturbations in our body you know, whether it's because of, you know, trying to conceive or the, the, whether it, you know, it's miscarriage, pregnancy itself, giving birth, breastfeeding, all of these, you know, just yeah perturbations in our body, you know, they can be, not miscarriage obviously, but, you know, pregnancy, breastfeeding can be really positive connecting experiences for our body and they can also really disconnect us and, and, and, and make our bodies feel not not quite as safe. Yeah. We, we've, we've maybe feel more disconnected in those periods and, and also it can be both at the same time.

And and I think, yeah, I'm thinking about this from the perspective of, of being embodied, of being in our bodies, of, of not being separate from our bodies that, you know, these milestones, these landmarks, I suppose can, can both take us in and out of our bodies. And usually, and, and I think that's why it's such a head fuck, right?

Because,

Jennie: yeah, yeah.

Laura: You go, you're going back and forth. You're like, do I wanna be in my body? Do I wanna be out? It,

Jennie: yeah. Yeah. And like on a almost like hourly basis sometimes, like

Laura: And, and then, and then it sounds like what you're, what you're sort of, where you're at at the moment is like, just letting my body be, or letting your body be has, has helped you kind of come back to it in a sense.

And I, and I know it's not, that's a, a nice simple narrative, but, and it's not quite that simple, but, but that there has been some healing, some catharsis, some yeah, reconnecting that, that has taken place for you in just yeah, letting your body be.

Jennie: Yeah, definitely, definitely.

Laura: Well, Jennie, that feels like a really nice note to wrap this up on. So before we go, I would like to ask you who or what is nourishing you right now?

Jennie: So the obvious one is my husband Dan. He, yeah, he just makes sure, particularly at the moment when work stuff and kind of book publicity stuff has been quite overwhelming. Like he's made sure that I'm not staying up until midnight at my computer, and yeah, that I stop and eat my dinner and just basic, boring, basic things like that.

But also something I was thinking about, in terms of like bringing this book out into the world is the thing that that's kind of sustained me, I guess, is all the kind of little ways that people have been supportive of it. So whether that's like you inviting me on this podcast or kind of newspaper editors I've worked for before being like, oh, will you write a piece about your book?

Or like, so this is, this just happened at the weekend. I gave a copy of the book to one of my very close friends, and he has very deliberately put it on his bookshelf behind like, so he does a lot of meetings from home. He's like, I'm gonna put it on my bookshelf so everyone will see it. And I was like, that's the sweetest thing.

Laura: Cute.

Jennie: Yeah, exactly. So yeah. And just little things like that are really, really nice. And I've had a couple of messages from people being like I've, I've just found your blog, or I just found your Instagram and I've pre-ordered your book. And yeah, it's just nice. It's not like, it doesn't, it's something about all of those things together is very, like it's a, it's a very vulnerable book.

I think I need to kind of accept that that's the case. And I think this has been a nice, like, balancing counterbalance with that is that actually lots of people have been very supportive and yeah, that's nourishing, I think in biggest sense.

Laura: Yeah. Oh, I love that. I, I know certainly you and I have talked about vulnerability hangovers before.

Jennie: Yes. Yeah. Yeah, they're real. And I, I guess, yeah, I don't know. The one from this book might be horrendous. It's gonna be like a, I dunno, difficult to know how it'll feel, we'll see.

Laura: But having those kind of reminders that actually, although it's difficult, it, though it's incredibly difficult subject matter, that this will be really healing and cathartic and supportive for a lot of people who have been through something similar. And it sounds like that's the, the sort of little bits of recognition that you're getting and, and yeah, just the.

Jennie: I think that's it. It's those like little moments of, we support this. Like we want, we think this message needs to be out there. Like, we've got you. Like that's really nice. It's just a really nice, it's a nice thing.

Laura: Yeah. For anyone who's listening who has found this episode useful or any of Jennie's work useful, please drop us a comment to show a little bit of appreciation for Jennie. Alright. Before I let you go, I need to know what you are snacking on right now, so it can be a literal snack, like my one is this week. Or a podcast, a book, a show. Just something that you're really into at the moment and that you wanna share with the audience. So what are you snacking on right now, Jennie?

Jennie: Oh, okay. So I really wanted to have like a good literal snack and I've kind of failed completely, but like, I don't want this to be like one of those like food diaries that go viral and it's like my treat is an almond milk cappuccino. Like that's not what this is intended to be. But for various reasons, I had some leftover chocolate oat milk in my fridge and I was like, I don't know what to do with this. Like the thing I was gonna use it for, I ended up not making. And then the other day I'd run out of other milk of any kind. I was like, I know, I'll put it in my coffee. And it's,

Laura: Ooh.

Jennie: It's great.

Laura: Can I be clear? Are we talking about chocolate Oatly?

Jennie: Yes. Do you know if that's controversial?

Laura: No, no, no, no, no, no. I was just about to say, I use that to make ice lolls for Avery, blend it up with a bit of banana, a peanut butter,

Jennie: That's a very good idea.

Laura: Really delicious. So if you ever have, you know, like dregs in the carton and like you are not sure what to do with it, they make good ice lollies too.

Jennie: That is a genius, so yeah, I've been having a lot like my kind of accidental homemade mocha. Yeah, so that's good. That's been a good, like, it's not really a snack, is it? It's a drink.

Laura: Yes. Let's be clear that is, that is not a meal replacement option. No

Jennie: No, no, no. But it is delicious and it has been cheering me up actually as I've been working. It's like so yeah, that's good. And I will have to try and make some ice lollies with it.

Laura: That sounds delicious. Mine, mine is also a food related thing. So I, this week I made some vegan millionaire shortbread. Do you know, like Carnation condensed milk?

Jennie: Yes.

Laura: Okay. So like super retro.

Jennie: Yeah. But it makes,

Laura: yeah, they've got a vegan version now and they have a recipe on their website for like vegan millionaire shortbread. Like, it's not, it's not a new recipe or anything like that. In fact, my friend Izy Hossack, the cookbook author and food stylist you might have heard of her, she like styled one of their recipes for her Instagram like, ages and ages ago. And that's how I found out about it. And I've been making it like periodically ever since.

And then Dave got a bee in his bonnet about having it the other day, like on a Monday night. So I had to like, try, like after I did the childminder pickup, like went to go and get all the ingredients from the shop and yeah, made the whole thing and it was I mean they helped as well, but it was delicious. And we have been enjoying Millionaire Shortbread so I’ll link to the recipe in the shownotes.

Jennie: Oh yeah, that sounds good.

Laura: Jennie, before you go, could you please let everyone know where they can find you and your work, and more importantly, where they can get hold of your book.

Jennie: Yes, absolutely I am. I am on social media, mostly on Instagram. I am there as @JennieMonologues, and it's Jennie with an ie. And my book Life Almost: Miscarriage Misconceptions and a Search for Answers from the Brink of Motherhood is out now and it's available, it should be available anywhere that you buy your book. So it's on Amazon, but it's also on Bookshop.org and Waterstones. And yeah. If it's not in a bookshop and you go look for ask them for it. Please. That would be, yeah, thank you.

Laura: I will make sure to link to your Substack and links,

Jennie: Yes. Thank you. Thank you.

Laura: Yeah, I'll link to everything in the show notes and the transcript as well so that people can get ahold of your book. Thank you so much, Jennie, and really appreciate this conversation, and I'm really excited for your book to be out in the world.

Jennie: Thank you.

OUTRO

Laura Thomas: Thank you so much for listening to this week's episode of Can I Have Another Snack? If you enjoyed this episode, please take a moment to rate and review in your podcast player and head over to laurathomas.substack.com for the full transcript of this conversation, plus links we discussed in the episode and how you can find out more about this week's guest. While you're over there, consider signing up for either a free or paid subscription Can I Have Another Snack? newsletter, where I'm exploring topics around bodies, identity and appetite, especially as it relates to parenting. Also, it's totally cool if you're not a parent, you're welcome too. We're building a really awesome community of cool, creative and smart people who are committed to ending the tyranny of body shame and intergenerational transmission of disordered eating. Can I Have Another Snack? is hosted by me, Laura Thomas, edited by Joeli Kelly, our funky artwork is by Caitlin Preyser. And the music is by Jason Barkhouse. And lastly Fiona Bray keeps me on track and makes sure this episode gets out every week. This episode wouldn't be possible without your support. So thank you for being here and valuing my work and I'll catch you next week.

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Can I Have Another Snack?
Can I Have Another Snack?
Can I Have Another Snack? podcast is an exploration of appetite, identity, and bodies. We talk about how we feed ourselves and our kids (in all senses of the word!), and the ingredients we need to survive in diet culture. We’re sitting with the questions: who or what are we nurturing? And who or what is nurturing us? Hosted by Laura Thomas - anti-diet nutritionist and author of the Can I Have Another Snack? newsletter.