As the host of Radio 4’s Women’s Hour, Emma Barnett is usually the one asking the questions but the tables were turned when she joined Gi to chat all things work, life, health, and of course motherhood. Emma spoke extensively about how endometriosis impacted her pregnancy and her experiences of IVF with characteristic candour and warmth.
Kicking things off by launching into a conversation about whether we should wear knickers or no knickers for bed (which camp do you fall into?), Emma and Gi got into the big topics straight away before jumping into chatting about Emma’s upbringing and how that influenced who she became as an adult.
Without wanting to go into her Mum’s story, Emma explained that she was an only child and “not by design”, adding that this made her more keenly aware of the fact it’s not always easy to have a baby. Having met her husband quite young, they hoped children would be in their future, but Emma said she had grown up “knowing not everybody could have siblings and not everybody could have the number of children that they might like” which had made her more hesitant about the prospect.
Problems with periods, which in part led to her writing It’s About Bloody Time. Period, also made her feel more apprehensive about having kids. But this wasn’t all bad: “I loved that actually our whole 20s were all about having fun traveling, horrible hangovers, lots of brunches, lots of theatre, cinema, all of those things – and actually, being completely candid – really fixating at times on our careers, working really hard because I also did feel that as a woman I was in a hurry to get a lot done before I may start the whole process of trying to have a family”.
But what Emma didn’t realise was that being on the pill during that time was actually masking symptoms of endometriosis. When she came off the pill to begin trying for a baby, her periods began to get increasingly worse. Not only was she dealing with a monthly “email you don’t want to receive in your pants”, the feelings of failure that come with not getting pregnant when you’re trying, and all the other emotional baggage we put upon ourselves, Emma was becoming increasingly unwell. Eventually a gynaecologist friend suggested she might have endometriosis.
Emma spoke too about her decision to have IVF to conceive her son and explored the feelings of loss that come with IVF treatments that don’t work: “There is a loss with IVF if the test doesn’t come back positive, I don’t think we acknowledge this. You haven’t had a miscarriage, that is different, I accept that, but you have lost your embryo”.
One question Gi always asks is “If you could write a letter on Motherhood, who would it be to, and what would it say?” It’s not often we get someone who’s done exactly that. But Emma had. If you want to know who it was for and what it said, you’ll have to listen to the whole episode to find out. It’s totally worth it.
Check out Emma’s conversation with Gi below, or listen to the episode wherever you usually find your podcasts. We’re in all of the regular places! Check out all other episodes of Happy Mum Happy Baby here.