01 October 2020
Chrissy Teigen has shared the devastating news that she and her husband John Legend have lost their baby, Jack, after a complicated pregnancy. In a heartbreaking social media post on 1 October 2020, Chrissy spoke about something so many parents sadly experience, leaving hospital without their baby.
Choosing to share her experience, and talking so openly at this stage in her grief, takes a lot of courage, but shockingly this honesty has resulted in criticism and even nasty or ‘trolling’ comments across social media. It’s exposed the ongoing stigma surrounding baby loss and the idea that families' grief is something which should be keep hidden and secret, tucked away from sight.
We’d like to take a moment to look at some of these comments and explain why they are so hurtful for families who have lost a desperately-wanted baby.
“Taking a photo should be the last thing on your mind”
For many families who lose their baby, taking photographs is a precious way to remember their baby. Some families might choose to share these images, others might keep them private or share with their friends and family. Families who choose to take photographs will often treasure them for the rest of their lives, as they act as a physical memory of their baby. They might also take hand or footprints or keep items of clothing or teddies that they place with their baby.
Please know that there is no right or wrong way to grieve a baby and that making memories can be an important part of coping with loss.
“This should have been kept private. Why does the world need to know?”
In the UK, 1 in 4 pregnancies will end in miscarriage, stillbirth or premature birth. Around 5000 families will experience Termination for Medical Reasons (TFMR). But baby loss is often not talked about.
The emotional impact this has is devastating and leaves parents with so many unanswered questions. It leaves them isolated in their grief, and right now, amid the coronavirus pandemic, this isolation can be made worse by physical distance from family and friends.
There is still silence and shame around baby loss. But if we can talk about it openly and honestly, not only can we help each other feel less alone, but we can also pave the way for greater awareness and more research to stop it happening.
Too many families leave the hospital with empty arms - we need to acknowledge the scale and impact of pregnancy and baby loss.
“This isn’t appropriate for social media”
Social media can play a huge role in pregnancy, from posting about a positive pregnancy test result, 12-week scan images, gender reveals, photos of ready-packed hospital bags and freshly-decorated nurseries and ’perfect’ images of bringing baby home.
For families who experience baby loss, social media can be a place of comfort and support or it can make the experience of baby loss feel even harder. Many want to recognise the loss of their baby and celebrate their little life in the same way they did the start of their pregnancy with all their hopes and dreams. They may choose to share a photo of their baby, their name or small memory items. Social media can be a way of letting wider friends and family know quickly, minimising questions and comments which families might struggle to cope with in the days after their loss.
If someone chooses to share their experience openly, we should be encouraging and supporting them for their decision. Equally, if someone chooses to grieve privately that is also their decision and we should respect their privacy at such a difficult time.
“I would never share something like this”
This is okay, but please know that everyone is unique and processes trauma differently. If you have sadly lost your baby but chose not to talk about it publicly or share the news on social media, that’s completely fine because that’s what works for you. This doesn’t mean that’s what should work for everyone. Our midwifery manager Kate Marsh said:
“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. 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.
“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. 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.”
This needs to change. Help us break the silence.
If you stand in solidarity with bereaved parents and think no one should have to suffer in silence,we are here for you.