I am not a fan of celebrity. That’s not an entirely truthful statement. I’m entranced by the late Audrey Hepburn, in love with Gary Cooper, and there must be more. Would you believe as a kid I wrote to and received autographed photos of actors Robert Wagner and Robert Conrad? They were lost in some move or irrational pre-Marie Kondo house cleaning. And the thrill I felt to stand next to John Corbett when he was in town for some fund-raiser – he’s Aiden from Sex in the City, Chris Stevens from Northern Exposure, and Ian Miller in My Big Fat Greek Wedding.
It’s today’s celebrities whom I’m not crazy about … the Kardashians, Beyonce, many of the chefs on the Food Network, though I’m in love with Paul Hollywood’s blue eyes. I find it difficult to understand how they have earned such status. I don’t even know what an influencer is!
Daughter is unhappy with me because I do not understand the charm of Chrissy Teigen. Her husband, John Legend, is a talented performer. But … a model who wrote a cookbook? Or is my ignorance showing? She tells me that Chrissy is much more. Still, I don’t get it. I chalk it up to the magic of today’s mass social media and the limited attention spans it promotes.
But … I was drawn to her when I heard about her recent loss, a loss so many women have suffered. Miscarriage. The loss of that soon-to-be living entity only women can carry in their bodies.
I had my own experience with miscarriage over thirty years ago. I married somewhat late in life, at 38, already an established professional. I had serendipitously met a wonderful man. Many said our meeting was bashert or destiny – and the rest is written. A year later, I was pregnant, just what we wanted, just when we wanted.
I went off on one of my museum conferences, this time in the Netherlands with a few stops along the way. It was great, seeing old friends, meeting new people, enjoying museums, being exposed to new ideas of how our multi-faceted work is done. Feeling good. But in the middle of one night, alone in an old seaside hotel, I awoke in pain with distress. An ambulance whisked me away to the hospital.
My immediate thoughts: take the paper I was supposed to deliver the next morning. Take clean underwear. Miss Christine, an elderly Italian American lady I’d interviewed intensively in my folkorist days shared that advice – always put on clean underwear when you go to bed. You should not be found in dirty underwear if you die overnight! I still have my St. Jude medal she proudly got just for me.
The hospital was caring, kind, one of the best I’d ever been in. Honestly, I did not quite understand what was taking place, because … I was in the Netherlands! Of course, I knew that I had had a miscarriage.
The next day my dear, long-time friend Victorine was by my side reassuring me that everything was or would be alright (she was my invisible angel during my first mastectomy). I guess my insistence that the hospital contact the Congresgebouw got through to her.
My return ticket was for the following week. Victorine and her husband generously offered for me to spend those days in their home. No, I felt it best to get home as quickly as I could. The travel agent arranged everything – even business class on the intercontinental flight.
A second pregnancy followed not too long afterward. At one point, my obstetrician quoted statistics of the number of women who suffer (yes, we do suffer) miscarriages; it was nowhere near the oral testimonies that many women had shared with me. I told her I was a folklorist, our stock in trade is oral narratives. I’d say over 95% of the women in my extended circle shared their stories.
I had found that I was approached by women that I knew and did not know who heard about my experience. They shared their very personal and touching tales of miscarriage with me. One lady, an elderly doyenne of the community (some thought she was a gossipy busybody; I found her caring in her very special way) took the opportunity to reach out to me … she was a retired nurse and offered to get me an appointment with the highly rated high risk doctor. What can you say? Sincere outpourings of kindness are worth their weight in gold.
About a year later, Daughter was born. Just like today, she took her good old time and had to be pulled out two weeks after the due date. Yes, that’s right … she was snug as a bug and needed coercion. I’m sure my anthropology students were taking bets that my water would break mid-lecture. Nothing that dramatic accompanied her entry into the real world. I was back in the classroom in three weeks. And the rest is history, as they say.
Chrissy Teigen and John Legend, you will never forget how you feel these days. Your feelings are real and will always be there. It’s somewhat trite to say you have two beautiful children and you are young. Who knows what the future will bring into your wonderful lives. You are part of a larger family of couples how share your experiences. You are not alone.