This past November, Meghan Markle, actor, writer, feminist, advocate, and The Duchess of Sussex broke the internet with a quiet grace akin to the flap of a butterfly’s wings; one small gesture that would rock the entire world and change how we talk about infertility across the board. The butterfly effect Meghan so eloquently set off began with her NY Times op-ed that told the story of her miscarriage in July of this year.
Her story began while she was changing her son Archie’s diaper on a summer day just like any other. The day started with the regular duties every parent knows so well; She tidied the house, fed the dogs, and grabbed her son out of his crib. As she began to change his diaper, sharp cramps took over, and in the blink of an eye, she was in the hospital crying tears of sorrow with her husband, Harry, by her side.
Meghan’s story is heartbreaking, gut-wrenching, and painful to read, but it is not unique. In fact, more than 6 million US women struggle to become or stay pregnant, with one-third of those women estimated to have secondary infertility, according to the United States Department of Health and Human Services. As the name suggests, secondary infertility is the inability to get pregnant after a prior successful pregnancy and birth.
Before her miscarriage, Meghan gave birth to her son Archie in May of 2019, making headlines across the globe. As the first child of the newly married royal couple, baby Archie’s birth was met with intense media attention from news outlets in the UK and abroad. While being a first-time parent is difficult enough as a civilian, Meghan had cameras flashing at every turn, with paparazzi ready to pounce on any sighting of her new little family. The duchess handled the increased attention with her customary grace, even posing for photos in a chic white dress that showcased her still present baby bump. These photos allowed women to feel seen in a world where celebrities and social media influencers create the false illusion that women instantaneously shrink back to their pre-baby size. This simple yet radical move foreshadowed what was to come from Meghan, a woman who speaks her truth unabashedly in hopes that she can make even just a small difference in another’s life.
By writing so candidly about her secondary infertility, Meghan told millions of women struggling with the same challenges that they are not alone. The Duchess shined a light on a topic that is typically shoved in a dark corner, and the power of that cannot be overstated.
The Power of Community
From a medical perspective, there are dozens of reasons why a woman might struggle to conceive the second time around. From a human perspective, however, none of them really matter. Not being able to bring your child into the world is painful, whether you’re The Duchess of Sussex or a school teacher from rural Idaho. The collective anguish is real and yet not talked about enough. This seemingly “taboo” topic, generally reserved for fluorescent hospital rooms or darkened kitchen counters, needed to be had and Meghan broadcasted it into the open air.
By sharing our stories, we can tell others that they are not alone, they are not broken, and they don’t need to keep quiet. Though most of us do not have a direct line to the NY Times to share our story with the world, we all have a platform, and we all have a voice.
As Meghan poignantly states throughout her article, sometimes all it takes to support others is to make them feel seen. Simply asking, “Are you ok?” can open up a door to conversation and support. Though you might not have struggled personally with infertility, chances are you know someone who has, even if they have never discussed it. Hundreds of thousands of miscarriages happen each year. Most are a silent tragedy because no one wants to talk about it, especially in a year filled with political chaos and a global pandemic.
The reasons for the silence are understandable. Who wants to advertise their own pain? Who wants to open up their personal life for scrutiny or judgment willingly? Putting intimate information onto public forums is uncomfortable and scary for most people. Additionally, society makes women feel ashamed about infertility, healthcare systems routinely fail women of color, and complicated emotions are not viewed as “Instagram worthy” content. To put it plainly, there is no confusion about why women don’t speak up; they have been taught not to.
In November, as Meghan Markle wrote, “The Losses We Share,” she permitted others to speak their truth, societal expectations and racial inequalities be damned. Her candor and prose did its job, and now it’s time to pass the mic. Just remember there is no “normal” way to talk about a pregnancy loss. Everyone has different perspectives and emotions surrounding such a tragic experience. Your message will resonate with someone. Moreover, it may be exactly what someone needed to hear or see to get through their day. So, write your story, paint your story, sing your story, photograph your story, just put it out there because we are stronger as a community.
If we don’t share our stories, we perpetuate the notion that infertility is something to be swept under the rug, never to be spoken of again. Our silence creates a cycle of silence that may never end. So take the mic from Meghan and share your story in your own way or simply ask a friend, “Are you ok?” In these quiet ways, you too can shake the world.
We’re here with you every step of the way.
You can read Meghan Markle’s full NY Times article here.