What’s Wrong With Chrissy Teigen Posting About Her Miscarriage?

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Stacy Lee Kong

Jan 06 2021

8 mins read

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Trigger warning: This post contains references to pregnancy loss.

On Wednesday night, Chrissy Teigen posted a heartbreaking series of photos on Instagram.

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After what had to be a very scary week of bedrest (because of what she described as a “weak placenta,” likely due to either placenta abruption or placenta previa, according to an OB-GYN interviewed by Hollywood Life), followed by hospitalization on Sunday evening, she’d had a miscarriage.

“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,” she wrote in her caption, before going on to say she and Legend had been calling their baby Jack, that he’ll always be a part of their family, and that, while they’re grateful for everything they do have, including their two older kids, Luna and Miles, this was “the darkest of days.”

The post was honest, raw and honestly, kind of hard to bear witness to. Teigen’s grief was not only clear in her words; we could actually see it in the photos she posted. Taken in her hospital room, they depict her bent over, obviously sobbing; sitting on a hospital bed, clutching a pillow while a doctor administers what looks like an epidural; laying back in bed, eyes closed and wearing an oxygen mask, clutching Legend’s hand; looking down at the tiny, blanket-wrapped figure in her arms, Legend by her side.

And for a certain segment of the internet, the fact that she posted them at all was permission to be their worst selves.

“Sad news,” @joshdavis10 admitted. “But surprised you can just go straight on twitter to tweet this. Why would you want to.” (This is now his pinned tweet, which kind of undermines his criticism, don’t you think? 🙄) “This is PRIVATE, not an opportunity to grab attention. And put some dammn clothes on!” says @Tinkrbl40. Oh, and @covfefeLA thinks Teigen’s miscarriage is karma. “I want to feel sorry for her but I just don’t. Makes me a bad person but I do feel what goes around comes around. She hurt a lot of people.” (There was also an enthusiastic pro-life contingent.)

Their actual complaints differed—this is private! She’s attention-seeking! She disagrees with me politically so she should suffer!—but everyone wanted the same thing: for Teigen to be quiet, to hide her experience, to feel ashamed.

To be fair, that seems to be the message, online and IRL, to everyone who experiences pregnancy loss. Dozens of people have replied to her posts on Twitter and Instagram to thank her for telling her story, share how alone and isolated they felt when they miscarried and post memories of the babies they didn’t get to bring home. Scrolling through those threads is terribly sad, but they’re also moments of connection and community—something many parents who experience pregnancy loss clearly don’t have, even though miscarriages are incredibly common. (“The general statistic is that one in four pregnancies ends in miscarriage,” according to a Today feature on the stigma around pregnancy loss. “In your 40s, that risk of miscarriage can go up to 50%.”)

Even though the reaction to this news is completely unsurprising, I’m still a little stunned by the hypocrisy of telling Teigen how to grieve, or criticizing her for making posts that were performative when they should be private. First of all, mourning rituals—from wearing black to holding funerals—are public events, so the idea of performing grief is actually not new at all? But also, the desire for privacy is individual; you can’t tell someone else what they do and do not want to share. Or rather, you can try, but it doesn’t stop them from wanting to talk about what they’re going through. It just creates a social norm that tells people their desire to share is abnormal, inappropriate and shameful. As Zoe Williams wrote in the Guardian in 2015, “we have this convention of not announcing a pregnancy until the high-risk first three months have passed; the only reason for it is to maintain a cult of silence around the possibility of miscarriage. But what we’re protecting is not the couple who suffers the miscarriage, but the world around them, which under cover of respecting private grief clings on to an infantile squeamishness around the particulars of reproduction.”

I don’t necessarily think Teigen intended to make a grand statement when she posted about Jack’s death on Instagram and Twitter—I think she was grieving, and wanted to feel seen—but there’s still so much stigma and shame around pregnancy loss, so her decision to be public about it is not only helping people, it’s also (hopefully) changing attitudes around what’s appropriate to talk about.

Though I do think this discourse is in some ways specific to her. Everyone from People to PopSugar have jokingly referred to her as their “favourite oversharer,” and while it’s true that she does reveal more about herself than many celebrities, there’s also a criticism implied there: It’s “better” to keep things to yourself, particularly about your body, your sex life, your fertility, your experiences with childbirth, your mental health, your relationship, your plastic surgery…

And when you spell it out like that, it’s very easy to see the pattern, right? Teigen is a woman of colour married to a Black man, and her outspoken personality and approach to life are basically the opposite of the uptight, repressive, WASP ideal. She doesn’t hide the things you’re “supposed” to keep quiet, which implies that she’s not ashamed of them—and that’s the problem. Yes, she’s often praised for her authenticity, but that same quality is what makes her so unlikable to some people.

The criticism of Teigen’s posts—and her talking about her miscarriage at all—also plays into a larger societal impulse to control women’s bodies, and especially their reproductive freedom.

Case in point: Three hours after Teigen posted about her and Legend’s loss, a Twitter user by the name of Errol Webber saw an opportunity to score political points. “Hoping that Chrissy Tiegan [sic] 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.” (Webber, a documentary film producer and a Republican, is running for election to the U.S. House to represent California’s 37th Congressional District.) Does Webber actually understand what a miscarriage is, versus what an abortion is? Does he understand that believing women should have bodily autonomy and reproductive freedom doesn’t not mean that you want to kill babies, it means you don’t think women should be forced to continue pregnancies that they don’t want or that may harm them? Hard to say. This is after all the same man who told Ballotpedia.org, that “being a politician is a daily exercise in restraint. Not being reactionary in such a way that you discount the story of the life experience of the very people who are looking to place their trust in you,” but then couldn’t stop himself from smashing that RT button, so…

It’s not just Webber. Even though abortions and miscarriages are different things, lawmakers already conflate them and have even prosecuted women for miscarrying. That’s how I know that this is about control, not baby’s lives. In a 2019 Scary Mommy blog post about abortion rights, writer Maria Guido referenced the Democratic lawmaker who introduced the “Testicular Bill of Rights Legislation” in response to Georgia’s House voting to ban abortions after a fetal heartbeat could be detected. “Among other things, it would ban vasectomy procedures in Georgia and require DNA testing when a woman is six weeks and one day pregnant to determine the father of the child, who would immediately start paying child support… People were quick to note that you could not restrict a man’s reproductive choices like that,” she wrote. “We’re so used to women’s bodies being regulated and up for discussion that we don’t even blink when it happens. We currently have three entire states that think it’s a better idea to go back before Roe v Wade, when women were dying because they didn’t have access to safe, legal termination options. But bring up a bill that would regulate a choice men make regarding their bodies and it’s immediately recognized as satire—or something that would never pass. Why?”

But the answer is pretty clear: whether you’re talking about abortion, miscarriage or just the space we take up as we move through the world, women’s bodies are contested, or the subjects of discourse, or objects to be owned and controlled. They’re never just our own. Not even when we’re grieving.

And Did You Hear About…

This wholesome story about James Gandolfini.

The surprising similarities between today’s Tik Tok stars and early Hollywood stars.

Mariah Carey’s secret alt-rock album.

The problem with Chadwick Boseman taking a pay cut so Sienna Miller could be paid fairly for 21 Bridges.

The new sexual assault allegations against makeup mogul Jeffree Star.

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