Trigger warning: miscarriage and baby loss
The photographs were harrowing and heartbreaking, the shock palpable.
This Thursday, Chrissy Teigen took to social media to share the news that she’d suffered a late stage miscarriage, posting a series of images, tears streaking her face as her husband John Legend sat alongside her hospital bed, head bowed.
“We are shocked and in the kind of deep pain you only hear about, the kind of pain we’ve never felt before,” she wrote. “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.”
Legend, meanwhile, simply shared his wife’s words, adding “We love you Jack.”
Outpouring and outrage
The reaction on social media was swift, with hundreds of thousands of people sharing Teigen’s post, adding commiserations, well wishes, and deeply personal stories. Yet, as we have all come to expect from Twitter, there was criticism too. Teigan was sharing too much, too soon, said her critics. Her grief was performative or attention seeking.
Such criticism, while grossly outnumbered by the messages of support and love sent the couple’s way, was vindictive, sad and thoughtless. It was also, a host of baby loss charities insisted, seriously misled.
Because for the dozens of organisations in the UK and USA who support women through the trauma of miscarriage and baby loss, Teigen’s posts represented more than one family’s grief. They showed extreme courage, and offered an opportunity to bring a conversation still too often considered taboo, out into the open.
“Baby loss at any stage in pregnancy is one of the most devastating experiences that any family can go through – and it really can happen to any family. But persistent stigma means it’s rarely discussed, despite affecting so many,” says Kate Marsh, midwifery manager for baby loss charity Tommy’s. “Chrissy Teigen being so open about her loss takes a lot of courage, but it’s vital that we break the silence so that anyone who loses a baby knows: this may feel incredibly lonely, but you are not alone. Friends and family, doctors and midwives, all of us at support organisations like Tommy’s – we’re here.”
An estimated one in four pregnancies in the UK end in miscarriage, still or premature birth, while around 5,000 British families undergo termination for medical reasons (TFMR) every year. But too often, families feel that their grief needs to be kept behind closed doors.
“While many people have sent Chrissy and John messages of support, some have criticised them for sharing their grief, which just highlights the taboo and lack of awareness in society,” says Marsh. “No matter when you lose a baby, you will likely be mourning the future you imagined together, and many families take photos and other special keepsakes like handprints and footprints. Some choose to grieve privately and others find it helps to publicly honour their baby’s short life. There is no wrong way to react to such a uniquely personal tragedy.”
Over the last two days, Tommy’s has been far from the only organisation highlighting the potential impact Teigen’s high profile posts could have on the wider conversation around baby loss.
Petals, an organisation that provides counselling to parents who have suffered baby loss, tweeted Teigen and Legend’s loss was “heartbreaking”.
“Petals wants to thank them for taking the brave step of sharing it so openly,” the charity said. Sands also tweeted commiserations, adding “You are not alone,”, while The Miscarriage Association tweeted the couple to say “We’re so very sorry for the loss of your son Jack,” encouraging families affected by their posts to contact the organisation for support.
Teigen and Legend, meanwhile, chose to ignore their critics, sending their thanks instead “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,” the couple added. “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.”
Help and support
If you’ve been affected by baby loss, the most important message today is that you’re not alone. Here are the charities offering, support, guidance and help.
You can contact the Miscarriage Association helpline on 01924 200799 from 9am to 4pm Monday to Friday. Tommy’s midwives also offer a helpline service 0800 014 7800, open Monday to Friday from 9am to 5pm, while the Sands helpline, on 0808 164 3332, is open from 9.30am to 5.30pm Monday, Wednesday and Friday, and from 9.30am to 9.30pm on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Meanwhile, Petals offers a video counselling service and can be contacted on 0300 688 0068.