On Friday afternoon, Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg announced—via a Facebook post and photo starring an incredibly shaggy dog—that he and his wife, Priscilla Chan, are expecting their first child: a girl who gave her soon-to-be father a thumbs-up “like” in an ultrasound.
Along with that exciting news, Zuckerberg also disclosed that the couple had been trying for years to get pregnant and had suffered three miscarriages.
Chan is at a point in this pregnancy where the risk of miscarriage is very low, but Zuckerberg shared their past experiences in order to open up the dialogue the emotional toll of a lost pregnancy.
“You feel so hopeful when you learn you're going to have a child. You start imagining who they'll become and dreaming of hopes for their future. You start making plans, and then they're gone. It's a lonely experience. Most people don't discuss miscarriages because you worry your problems will distance you or reflect upon you—as if you're defective or did something to cause this. So you struggle on your own.
In today's open and connected world, discussing these issues doesn't distance us; it brings us together. It creates understanding and tolerance, and it gives us hope.”
The honesty and sincerity of Zuckerberg’s announcement is a welcome change in attitude to the secrecy that usually surrounds miscarriages. He spoke of the surprise they felt upon talking to friends and realizing that it wasn’t as uncommon as they thought and, most importantly, that they weren’t alone.
Miscarriages are a far more common occurrence than many Americans believe. According to the American Pregnancy Association, “for women in their childbearing years, the chances of having a miscarriage can range from 10-25%, and in most healthy women the average is about a 15-20% chance.” The majority of miscarriages happen within the first trimester.
In 2013, the Huffington Post reported on a study that detailed the misconceptions many hold about miscarriages: Respondents had difficulty identifying the major causes and believed miscarriages were highly unusual. The study also found that “about 40 percent of the women who had a miscarriage said they felt they had done something wrong to cause it, and 47 percent felt guilty… Forty percent of the women in the study who had miscarried said afterwards, they felt very alone.”
Additionally, as Jessica Grose detailed for Slate, the financial difficulty that can come with a miscarriage is another significant and unrecognized topic, and can compound the emotional devastation.
With his Facebook post, Zuckerberg is inviting a conversation about the sense of isolation that accompanies a miscarriage. We should never invade public figures’ privacy, especially when dealing with pregnancy. But when they choose to share their experiences, from Zuckerberg’s recent announcement to Beyoncé’s similar one in 2013, we should listen and amplify their messages because it can help women, and their partners, feel a little less alone.