ONE QUESTION: Nadine Kenney Johnstone

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By Nadine Kenney Johnstone

The one question I haven’t been asked in an interview yet is: What else is your book about?

Most reporters focus on the most dramatic part of my memoir, which is that I almost died as a result of an IVF egg-retrieval procedure, but it’s about many other things as well. One reader said it best when she emailed to say: “This book is about so much more than IVF — it’s about coming of age as a woman, a daughter, a sister, a wife, a mother, and, ultimately, a human. It is that very human and honest journey that pulls in a reader like me. I think it is important not to pigeonhole this memoir as something any woman who has ever tried to get pregnant would relate to. Any woman who is a woman can relate to this story. I did.” It has been a joy to hear that people who have not suffered from infertility can identify with the other topics in the book like the layered relationships I have with my husband, mother, and friends.

In fact, a lot of the book is about the aftermath of my near-death experience. The recovery from my emergency surgery forced me to do something I’d never done in my entire life: sit still and think. My previous daily routine — teaching English, going to yoga, attending writing workshops — was completely disrupted. Instead, I sat alone in our rural Massachusetts home during the day with plenty of time to ruminate. All of my long-stuffed-away hurt and regret accompanied me during those weeks of recovery.

I realized then that, when I’d moved Massachusetts to be with my husband three years prior, I’d neglected much of my Chicago identity. I had been a city girl with a large social network, but I was neither of those things on the East Coast. My mother and I also weren’t speaking much at the time of my emergency surgery, and I hadn’t done a great job of prioritizing my relationship with my sister either. Each day, I would change the dressing on my large abdominal scar, and I’d think, “Who am I?” My body no longer looked like mine and my optimism had been left behind on the operating table. Each day, when I took off my bandage and looked at my gnarled scar, I realized that my soul was just as mangled. I wasn’t happy.

I think that all readers have had a moment where they can no longer go on living the same way. And for me, this was the moment. So, yes, my memoir is about infertility and IVF, but it’s also about so many other things: falling in love, relocating, celebrating life, hating life, coping with anxiety, repairing relationships, and healing my soul.

Nadine Kenney Johnstone is the author of the memoir, Of This Much I’m Sure, about her IVF challenges and the healing power of hope. Her infertility story has appeared in Cosmopolitan, Today’s Parent, and Chicago Health Magazine, among others. She teaches at Loyola University and received her MFA from Columbia College in Chicago. Her other work has been featured in various magazines and anthologies, including Chicago Magazine, The Moth, PANK, and The Magic of Memoir. Nadine is a writing coach who presents at conferences internationally. She lives near Chicago with her family. Follow her at

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