Today on #thebigselfcareshare we have Jennie Agg. A passionate writer and journalist, she runs a blog about life after recurrent miscarriage called The Uterus Monologues. We first connected when I set up my blog earlier this year and I recently approached Jennie about contributing to my series as part of baby loss awareness week.
Jennie writes so beautifully and honestly about her experiences. She’s also a great support to others, giving them a platform to share and getting behind causes such as the Tommy’s Together For Change campaign which she helped to launch. It’s a campaign that’s about ending the silence and stigma around all forms of baby and pregnancy loss, something that’s very close to my heart.
Tell us about yourself
As well as being a writer, journalist and blogger, I’m a wife to Dan, a feminist, a cat person, a runner, a worrier and a Hufflepuff. On my blog, I write about my experiences of miscarriage – we’ve had four now, all before 12 weeks – but I’ve also started to share other people’s stories of baby loss. There’s so much about fertility, reproductive health and loss that we don’t really hear about or know how to speak fluently about and that’s what I’m interested in changing through my writing – on the blog, but also in my journalism where I can. Until recently, I used to work for a newspaper (a big, scary tabloid one) editing the health pages, but I’m now freelance. The decision to leave behind the office, the job title and to work for myself, from home, was made partly so I could do more of my own writing (and less worrying about other people’s writing) but also partly to give me the space to take better care of myself.
What does self-care mean for you?
More than anything, I’ve come to realise that self-care for me means time – time to myself, time to do whatever I feel like. For me, it’s not so much the thing that I’m doing that’s important, it’s that carving out of breathing space to be on my own. I think I’ve always been a classic introvert in that I need quite a lot of time to myself to decompress, to order my thoughts and truly relax, but this was amplified massively after our miscarriages (which all happened in space of about 18 months). Sometimes just being in crowded or loud spaces would feel exhausting, mentally and physically, in a way, I can’t really justify. The best I can do is that in the deepest moments of grief it’s like your body interprets everything as a threat and it just saps your resources (I have no idea if there’s any science to this).
I am not the person who can bounce from task to task, social engagement to social engagement and feel energised by that. I need the pauses in between.
In terms of the things I do with my self-care time, it really could be anything – a walk, a face mask, odd jobs in the house, decluttering forgotten messy corners, listening to a podcast, reading a magazine, baking something, or just sitting with a coffee in a cafe. People like to mock the idea of “me-time” (and it’s been shamelessly co-opted by companies flogging bubble bath and wine and the rest of it) but that really is what it is – and for me it’s vital. I like to busy and I like to be productive, don’t get me wrong, and I think I work hard, but I am not the person who can bounce from task to task, social engagement to social engagement and feel energised by that. I need the pauses in between.
How do you incorporate self-care into your daily routine?
I’m a great one for regimenting things and making what should be a treat feel like a chore, for latching on to something I enjoy or makes me feel better and deciding that therefore I MUST do it every day or three times a week. I’ll think: “I’m a yoga person now”, or “I’m going to get up and go for a run every single day at 7 am. That’s the answer”, or “I’m going to give myself a facial every Sunday night”. So I’m really trying to work against that tendency because it’s not a very relaxing mindset! Often, I think, real self-care is about what we let ourselves not do. So not getting up early if we’re exhausted, or not going to the gym when our legs are still sore from the day before, or not making ourselves eat the salad when we’re actually craving pasta. Not watching the serious drama everyone’s talking about, but re-watching the naff film we love instead. Small acts of letting ourselves off the hook.
Reading isn’t just entertainment for me, I honestly think it improves my well-being.
That said, I have some things I try to stick to every day: I try to get enough sleep, at least 8 hours (I know some people will think that’s a total luxury, and it’s easier for me as I don’t have children or a commute, admittedly, but I’ve interviewed enough sleep scientists to know that it really isn’t just a “nice to have”). I also try to get outside every day, whether it’s for a run or just a walk around the park at lunch. I like to look at the trees and the sky (God, I sound boring). (Jennie, I have to disagree! It sounds very relaxing, the perfect self-care activity!)
And my final non-negotiable act of self-care is to read a book. Not something for work. Not a newspaper article or blog post. An actual book. Reading isn’t just entertainment for me, I honestly think it improves my well-being. Sometimes if things are starting to feel a bit jangly and jarring in my head and I can’t really work out why, I almost always realise that for whatever reason I haven’t been reading on the train or before bed, as I usually do. I think reading does for me what meditation does for some people.
Share a self-care tip, something that’s helped you on your path to being kinder to yourself.
Schedule it in. It’s so easy to push whatever it is you want to do for yourself to the bottom of the list, and then never quite get round to it. This is something I’ve found especially difficult since going freelance because, in theory, I can do things any time I like – I don’t actually make the time at all. So I try to actually write self-care things in my diary, blocking off a whole day to specifically do nothing every now and again, or setting an alarm on my phone to tell me when it’s time to go for a walk or take a break or finish for the day. I think it’s about shifting how you see self-care from non-essential to something that has to be done, otherwise, nothing works as well. I’m still working on this, to be honest.
Thank you, Jennie, for being part of #thebigselfcareshare. All too often we try to fill the space we have and what you’ve said about carving out more time to simply be (and not necessarily do!) really resonated with me. It’s an important message for many people.
Read more about the Together For Change campaign and follow Jennie on social media at:
Or visit her website: www.uterusmonologues.com