“You’re a sick individual,” one woman commented on Chrissy Teigen’s September 2020 Instagram post. In the series of images, Teigen is sobbing on a hospital bed—she had just shared her traumatic pregnancy loss and the death of her infant son, Jack.
The commenter’s profile picture showed her kissing a fat, beautiful baby on the cheek.
“Aaaaaaahahahahahaha,” added another woman, whose bio identified her as “proudly” a mother. “Seems like she got over this real fast,” wrote another woman, whose own account shows her glowing and happy in a professional maternity shoot, followed by pictures of her newborn.
The death of a child is, perhaps, the most intimate loss. As a celebrity, Teigen is afforded an outpouring of love and a degree of privilege most people can’t imagine. But in using her public platform to share honestly from her grief, she was also bombarded with unrelenting cruelty. Not long after Jacks’ death, Teigen learned that she wouldn’t be able to get pregnant again. She (temporarily) shut down her Twitter account shortly after, citing constant abuse.
This month, Teigen is unveiling a new project—a fertility campaign. She’s partnering with the National Infertility Association to create an online platform, a “one-stop-shop,” of resources for people dealing with fertility issues, with the hope of reducing stigma and educating people. “We really wanted to create a community of people who are going through the same struggles,” she tells Glamour. “To go on this fertility journey together because it is such a journey.”
It’s deeply arresting that Teigen would choose to be the face of a major fertility education campaign shortly after losing a child and learning that she can no longer conceive. To do so after facing ridicule for that loss just feels unfathomable. What moved her to offer expertise to the public, when—
“—when you feel like they don’t deserve any more information from you ever again?” she finishes the question, laughing darkly. “I had been on the internet long enough to know that was going to happen,” she says, citing comments that accused her of begging for attention. “I just knew it would impact a lot more people positively than it would negatively.”
And it did. The vast, vast majority of comments on Teigen’s posts about her son’s death were not cruel but compassionate. The thread under her Instagram post looks like a message board for bereaved parents. “I know the heartache,” wrote one woman. “I lost four babies.” “My wife and I recently lost a son,” a man added. “I lost five in my mid-30s,” one woman wrote. “We experienced the loss of our twins at 16 weeks 5 days last night,” added another. “Sitting here with them now in the hospital, it made me feel a little a less alone having seen your experience as well.”
“I believe holding in anything where you’re feeling any kind of hurt or guilt or pain or shame is a terrible thing for your body,” Teigen says. Struggling with fertility “can be emotionally terrible, honestly.” And so even though she’s no longer trying to conceive, she’s not going to stop talking about it until it’s destigmatized.
The National Women’s Health Resource Center reports that a couple between the ages of 29 and 33 with a normal functioning reproductive system has only a 20-25% chance of conceiving in any given month. And men are just as likely to be the cause of fertility struggles as women, though you wouldn’t know that from the almost total absence of male infertility narratives in the mainstream. For women especially, Teigen says, the silence around fertility issues makes a painful experience into a torturous one.