Chrissy Teigen and her husband John Legend lost their baby last night. They made the decision to share their pain on social media, where Teigen spoke candidly and heartbreakingly about the loss of her child, who they had named Jack.
Late Wednesday, she wrote: “We are shocked and in the kind of deep pain you only hear about, the kind of pain we’ve never felt before. We were never able to stop the bleeding and give our baby the fluids he needed, despite bags and bags of blood transfusions. It just wasn’t enough.”
Teigen’s words were accompanied by a series of beautiful yet haunting photos, all in black and white. One shows her in tears, her head bowed in anguish on a hospital bed. Another shows her holding her Jack in a bundle of blankets, with Legend leaning in, his face buried in her shoulder.
Speaking to her lost son, Teigen wrote: “To our Jack - I’m so sorry that the first few moments of your life were met with so many complications, that we couldn’t give you the home you needed to survive. We will always love you,” she wrote. Legend, who shares two children with Teigen — Luna and Miles — retweeted the post, saying: “We love you, Jack.”
Teigen’s decision to share her experience on social media was a brave one, considering how often women are judged for experiencing miscarriages and infant loss. And though her bravery has been rewarded with an outpouring of support and empathy by many, it has also been met with some disgustingly insensitive and highly controversial remarks. Anti-choice California Congressional Candidate Errol Webber cruelly jumped on the opportunity to attack Teigen and Legend for being pro-choice, tweeting: “Hoping that Chrissy Tiegan and John Legend will reevaluate their thoughts on abortion after their heartbreaking experience. It's not a clump of cells. It's either a baby or it's not.”
Celebrity Trump supporters and right-wing TV personalities Diamond and Silk similarly appeared to accuse Teigen and Legend of using their baby’s death for attention, while sports journalist Jason Whitlock demanded: “Who takes a picture of their deepest pain and then shares it with strangers?” in a longer tweet.
In actuality, professional bereavement photographers provide a crucial service to parents experiencing miscarriage and infant loss. For these parents, those small moments are the only time they will ever have with their child. The carefully curated and sensitively posed photographs document the child’s existence and validate the parents’ pain. And that is so important in a world that constantly demeans and diminishes this kind of grief. Those photographs Teigen and Legend have of Jack, of their experience, will be precious to them for years.
If I ever experience a miscarriage, I know I will want a bereavement photographer there. This is a service that should be offered to all birthing parents, regardless of their ability to pay.
Teigen and Legend’s decision to share their photographs online is also a personal one. Perhaps some people were triggered by memories of their own loss when they saw them. But such unashamed openness — especially for women of color — can also feel validating. It reminds them that their pain is and was real, that their loss is worthy of powerful grief.
In that same vein, the cruel criticism of Teigen also sends a message to birthing parents who have experienced miscarriages, or who struggle with conceiving. It tells them that the world does not see their pain as valid, or their children as worthy of grief and compassion. There are no words for how damaging that messaging is.
While the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) estimates that 10 to 15 percent of known pregnancies end in miscarriage, March of Dimes says it’s possible that up to half of pregnancies end in miscarriage. Part of the reason why accurate statistics are so elusive is that many birthing parents don’t report miscarriages, precisely because of the shame. It is one of the most bizarre and disappointing failures of our society that this poignant and unimaginable grief is expected to be endured silently.
For many people, miscarriages and infant loss are seen as “less important” than the loss of an older person, because the child was either a fetus or only lived a few hours. But this is a unique kind of grief, one that involves the mourning of a life that was extinguished before it ever had a chance to bloom. Parents are often haunted by the unknown — What would their child have looked like? What kind of games and TV shows would they have enjoyed? What gender would they have been? What passions would they have discovered as an adult? These unanswered questions, this unexplored life, leaves a gaping hole that feels overwhelming. That grief is compounded by the judgement of society.
Fathers are expected to be strong and not show emotion, because they weren’t carrying the child and their grief must somehow be less important. And parents with other children — like Teigen and Legend — are often told to be “grateful” for what they have, and are dismissed with hurtful statements like, “You’ll have another one.” For birthing parents of color, who are not seen as being soft and vulnerable like white women are, this judgement becomes even more intensified, especially if people deem them to be irresponsible or look down on them for being low-income.
Birthing people are always judged in our society. Whether they choose to have lots of children or choose to have none, whether they choose to have an abortion because of their circumstances or carry their child to term regardless of their circumstances, whether they mourn their pregnancy loss or hide it, one thing’s for certain: The judgement will come. Teigen’s openness does a little to combat that judgement and to make the world a safer place for all of those who have experienced such loss.
Near the end of Teigen’s post, she wrote: “We are so grateful for the life we have, for our wonderful babies Luna and Miles, for all the amazing things we’ve been able to experience. But every day can’t be full of sunshine. On this darkest of days, we will grieve, we will cry our eyes out. But we will hug and love each other harder and get through it.”
The world would be a much more beautiful place if we could all learn this lesson — to love harder and to allow each other to grieve.
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