“Driving home from the hospital with no baby. How can this be real.”
That was the last sentence Chrissy Teigen typed for the public on Oct. 1. She had just detailed, in a very raw Instagram post, that she had experienced a pregnancy loss.
Though the cookbook author and her husband, singer John Legend, didn’t name their first two children until they were about to leave the hospital, Teigen said the pair had started calling this baby Jack.
After sharing her story on social media, she stayed mostly silent until Tuesday.
Four weeks later, Teigen shared more details about her ordeal in a post on Medium. In the essay, she wrote about her pregnancy and the partial placenta abruption she experienced. She also gave a public account of her grief, including intimate details on how she mourned and how she processed others’ reaction to her loss.
“I had asked my mom and John to take pictures, no matter how uncomfortable it was. I explained to a very hesitant John that I needed them, and that I did NOT want to have to ever ask. That he just had to do it,” she wrote.
“He hated it. I could tell. It didn’t make sense to him at the time. But I knew I needed to know of this moment forever, the same way I needed to remember us kissing at the end of the aisle, the same way I needed to remember our tears of joy after Luna and Miles. And I absolutely knew I needed to share this story.”
As with her initial posts about her loss, Teigen’s account resonated deeply with women who read it and recognized themselves in her story.
Sarah Slack, founder and chief executive of the Tears Foundation, which helps alleviate the financial burdens of infant loss, started the organization 18 years ago after the stillbirth of her son, Jesse, 24 weeks into her pregnancy.
She said she could relate to wanting to memorialize a lost child, regardless of how hard it is in the moment.
“We aren’t able to bring our baby home from the hospital, so pictures of our baby become the most sacred memory and gift to us. We hold on to our baby’s pictures and mementos such as their hospital blanket or baby hat because it’s all that we have left. Even though our baby didn’t take a breath outside the womb, as parents, we carry the same love in our hearts for them as we do our other children,” Slack said.
She knows that other people may not understand this.
“Others may not understand the beauty we see in our own baby and his photos, even if the baby was stillborn, but as a mother, our baby was beautiful and loved,” she said. “Chrissy continues to speak out on behalf of all of us — mothers and fathers — who have lost a baby, and her voice joins with ours as we break the silence around pregnancy and infant loss.”
Approximately 24,000 babies are stillborn each year in the United States, or about 1 in 160 births, according to the National Center on Birth Defects and Developmental Disabilities at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. About 10 to 20 percent of known pregnancies end in miscarriage. (Both terms describe pregnancy loss. Miscarriage is generally defined as loss before the 20th week of pregnancy. Stillbirth is a loss that occurs after the 20th week.)
As a celebrity who lives her life very openly in the public eye, even in a time of tragic loss, Teigen has learned to anticipate negative — and often, spiteful — public reactions.
“I cannot express how little I care that you hate the photos. How little I care that it’s something you wouldn’t have done. I lived it, I chose to do it, and more than anything, these photos aren’t for anyone but the people who have lived this or are curious enough to wonder what something like this is like,” Teigen wrote. “These photos are only for the people who need them. The thoughts of others do not matter to me.”
This composure was encouraging for other women who have experienced such loss.
“I love that she dedicated a part of her piece to the fact that she doesn’t care about what others think of how she processes her grief. Grief is so personal and unless someone is in your shoes, they can’t tell you what you should do or how you should or shouldn’t act,” said Andrea Syrtash, who founded the site and podcast “Pregnantish.”
Bernadith Russell, a New York City-based obstetrician-gynecologist, explained that when a later-term pregnancy is lost, trauma may extend beyond the immediate family. After the first trimester, parents have usually shared the news with other people, making their stories somewhat public, even if they are not celebrities. Support is crucial for extended families as well.
“There’s a lot of attachment that goes on. … Everyone is kind of expectant about this child, that it’s almost a foregone conclusion in their minds. Then it’s not a foregone conclusion, and this child is lost and there’s a tremendous sense of loss for this family,” she said.
Mindy Webb, 28, lost two sons — one at 23 weeks and another when she was eight months pregnant. She has some rituals that she continues to observe their memories.
“It does me good to talk about them,” she said. “I light a candle, and I put something with their name or their picture on it, and I sit in front of it. It’s just my way of coping with everything and having to look at the positive side of things. I know now that I do have two angels watching over me every day. I have two angels watching over their brother and sister every day.”