A fitness blogger is opening up about using Instagram to fake the perfect life.
Online, Natalie Uhling’s life was picture perfect. The fitness blogger carefully crafted her Instagram account to showcase health and wellness tips with her 65,000 followers. Despite appearances, Uhling says things were falling apart.
In a new interview with Cosmopolitan, the Denver based blogger recalls learning of her first miscarriage in December 2016 when she was 10 weeks pregnant.
“I couldn’t believe what was happening, ” Uhling told the magazine. “When I imagined sharing the bad news with the family members, colleagues, and friends I’d already told, a deep dread settled over me.”
Despite her grief, Uhling reveals that she went home and shared a photo of herself smiling to Instagram.
“Instagram is a business, and I’m the talent behind my brand,” she said. “I had to act like I had my shit together — even though I was falling apart.”
While her career as a “fitfluencer” was thriving, Uhling headed to a photoshoot just a day after having a a dilation and curettage (D and C) to remove tissue from inside her uterus.
“My stomach was swollen, my face was pale, and my boobs were huge – a result of lingering hormones,” she recalled. “I was bleeding heavily…I focused on keeping my boobs, my stomach, and my backside out of sight, hiding my truth from the camera: All I wanted to do was go to bed and cry.”
When Uhling returned home, she cleared her schedule of the 60-minute NUFit classes she had created for two weeks. She says she threw herself into creating online content to help keep her distracted from the reality of her miscarriage, and her brand continued to thrive.
“My social following kept growing at a steady pace, but IRL (in real life) I was at one of my lowest points,” she admitted. “I felt isolated and alone.”
In May 2017, a pregnancy test revealed that Uhling was pregnant again. A day after discovering the happy news, she began to experience cramping and miscarried once more. After driving herself to the hospital, doctors revealed that she had suffered an ectopic pregnancy, a potentially life threatening condition where embryo implantation occurs outside of the uterus. Again, Uhling says she was determined to keep up appearances online.
“When I got home, I posted a selfie from a photo shoot I did a while back, captioning it ‘OK universe…what else do you got for me this week? You know you’re messing with a girl who never gives up,'” she said. “Even though none of my followers, who left comments like, ‘Feeling you’ and ‘You got this,’ had any clue what I was talking about, it felt good to post something on brand.”
Uhling and her husband sought help from a fertility specialist but after spending $20,000 on tests, doctors said there was no physiological reason why the couple couldn’t conceive. When in-vitro fertilization was suggested, the couple decided to take a step back, and try to conceive naturally for a while.
The usually cheerful blogger began losing motivation online, and took a break from running her account.
“Uninspired, I would sit at my desk and think, ‘I don’t really give a shit.’ I told myself I just had to push through, even if it took longer to come up with ideas that seemed authentic and engaging.”
Before Uhling decided to go back on birth control, she discovered she was pregnant again. The couple told their families and friends they were expecting a baby girl at the 12-week mark, but Uhling wasn’t ready to tell her followers.
“Sure, it would help me connect with my mom-to-be followers,” she said. “But I knew what it felt like to see a pregnancy announcement on social media and feel so empty inside. Besides, my miscarriages had made me so paranoid that it felt easier to avoid discussing it altogether.”
When she was 15 weeks pregnant, Uhling was finally ready to announce her pregnancy and open up about her struggles.
“I knew I had to address my two miscarriages, and with a happy ending on the horizon, I actually felt like sharing,” Uhling said. “My sad story finally had a purpose: to help people going through the same thing. There was so much I wanted to share with readers about my acupuncture, fertility treatment testing, what I ate, and how therapy helped me.”
Uhling gave birth to her daughter Skyler on July 17 of this year. “When the nurses placed her in my arms after almost nine hours of labor, I shook uncontrollably, crying as I looked at her with awe and held her tight,” she said. “After all the pain and years of trying to conceive, we’d made it through.”