Vulnerability is something we all experience, yet few of us acknowledge. It’s for this reason that I take my hat off to Chrissy Teigen and John Legend. Seeing the photos they shared this week, cradling their son Jack, after Chrissy had suffered a late miscarriage, their faces etched with agony, reminded me of my own experience.
Although I have talked about it honestly, in the six years since my son Willem was stillborn I didn’t have the guts to share any pictures. In fact, I don’t have any pictures where I’m holding Willem – something I now regret. In the grip of agony and numbness of shock, it never occurred to me.
No one ever prepares you for what it’s like to meet your child after they have died. There seems to be a widespread assumption that if you don’t talk about baby loss, it’s less likely to happen – a sentiment that is as ridiculous as it sounds. The trouble with this particular stigma is that parents who experience the loss of a baby urgently need help but, because no one talks about it, feel utterly alone.
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. . . We never decide on our babies’ names until the last possible moment after they’re born, just before we leave the hospital. But we, for some reason, had started to call this little guy in my belly Jack. So he will always be Jack to us. Jack worked so hard to be a part of our little family, and he will be, forever. . . 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. . . Thank you to everyone who has been sending us positive energy, thoughts and prayers. We feel all of your love and truly appreciate you. . . 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 everyday 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.
A post shared by chrissy teigen (@chrissyteigen) on Sep 30, 2020 at 8:58pm PDT
I’m sure there are people who view this particular couple as attention-seeking over sharers. Chrissy in particular has been brazenly honest about their life, even sharing her favourite sex positions. They announced this, their third pregnancy, in a music video and kept their followers updated through a difficult pregnancy. But this is who they are and this is what they do. Why should they be silent and endure the "shame" of baby loss shrouded in a media blackout?
Personally, the overwhelming feedback I’ve had from sharing my story has been positive; only this week I had an email from someone thanking me for helping her through the difficult time after her son was stillborn. Only once have I been accused of emotional blackmail after confiding in someone how hard I find August, the month Willem died.
My response was to sob for about six hours, but clearly those tears needed to be shed. Then I looked through the hundreds of empathic, grateful and generous comments that I’m inundated with, and I’m reminded that being honest about the bad times is far more important than sharing the good times.
Willem would be six now and not a day goes by when I don’t regret the fact that he’s not bringing more chaos to our already chaotic house. But, while he’s not with us in person, he’s a part of our narrative and his name is mentioned often.
It has dawned on me in the years since his death, that a person only truly disappears when they are forgotten and so it feels like the right thing to do, to use our experience to raise awareness of baby loss, in the hope that knowledge is power – in terms of both prevention and support.
Chrissy and John can’t change the fact that little Jack didn’t get to be a physical part of their family, but their honesty and bravery in sharing photos that convey the love they have for their son, will have helped thousands who feel isolated in their own experience of baby loss.
Marina has donated her fee for this piece to Tommy's, the UK's leading pregnancy charity which works to prevent baby loss but also support those who experience it. For further info, visit: tommys.org