On March 11th, Aja Naomi King, age 36, announced her pregnancy via her Instagram page, @ajanaomi_king. King posted a gorgeous photo of herself surrounded by red light with her prominent baby bump in the center.
King is known for playing Michaela Pratt, an overachieving student and intern on the hit TV show How to Get Away With Murder. Her co-stars, including Academy Award winner Viola Davis, have already shared their enthusiasm.
In her pregnancy announcement, King revealed that she has experienced two miscarriages. Despite her obvious happiness for this “rainbow baby,” a term used to describe the pregnancy following a miscarriage, King writes that, “...this beautiful journey has not been devoid of heartbreak.”
In her Instagram caption, King divulged that she has gone through two miscarriages and remains deeply affected by these events. “...It’s been hard to not carry my fear with me throughout this pregnancy,” she writes. “...But I try to not ignore the facts, and the facts are that I am healthy and my baby is healthy, my baby is growing and now kicking and constantly reminding me of their very real presence within me.”
The anxiety King describes is not at all uncommon for those who have suffered miscarriages. For many, a miscarriage can be an emotionally and physically traumatic event that influences subsequent pregnancies.
Up until her announcement, it was not known that King had ever miscarried. “At first I wasn’t sure about sharing my experience because I felt like so many other people had way worse experiences than I did, but I realized that I can’t treat pain like an Olympic sport,” said King. “...No matter the size of it in your mind, pain is pain and loss is loss, whatever the degree. And once you are touched by it, it stays with you forever.”
Like King, people who have experienced miscarriages often struggle to open up about their grief. Misconceptions surround the topic, making it sometimes impossible to discuss. In order to destigmatize miscarriage once and for all, it is important to learn the reality behind it.
A miscarriage is defined as the unplanned loss of a pregnancy before 20 weeks, although the word is often used colloquially to describe any pregnancy that ends before birth. The silence around miscarriages makes it seem as though they are rare occurrences, but that is not the case. In fact, roughly 10-20% of all pregnancies end in miscarriages. It is likely that everyone knows at least one person who has experienced a miscarriage, whether they open up about it or not.
Although miscarriages are common, they have long remained an unspoken, taboo subject. Even the word miscarriage itself can be difficult to face. With the prefix “mis-,” it can make expecting parents feel as though they did something wrong which caused the end of a pregnancy, but this is not true.
Miscarriages are caused by genetic or chromosomal abnormalities, chronic or temporary infertility, infection, autoimmune disorders, and so many other uncontrollable factors that neither parent is responsible for.
Only in recent years have people begun to open up about the trauma surrounding miscarriage. Celebrities and everyday people alike are beginning to share their touching stories, normalizing the experience.
Miscarriage can be an emotional, turbulent event. Dr. Janet Jaffe, clinical psychologist and author, says, “Because it is medically common, the impact of miscarriage is often underestimated.” This underestimation combined with the pervasive stigma surrounding miscarriage, often driven by ignorance and confusion on how to navigate grief, creates a dangerous set of circumstances that can lead to major mental health decline. Researchers have found that those who have experienced a miscarriage are more likely to suffer from depression and anxiety afterward.
Celebrities like Chrissy Teigen, Meghan Markle, Carrie Underwood, Beyoncé, and Pink have all spoken out about their struggles with miscarriage. Aja Naomi King credits these statements with bringing her comfort during difficult times, writing, “I’ve been so deeply moved by the women who have openly shared their miscarriages. It brought me solace in a time that was incredibly painful to know I wasn’t alone.”
There is no one reaction to miscarriage, and no reaction is better or more acceptable than others. It is a varied and highly personal experience. Some may immediately be ready to try again for a pregnancy while others require more time for recovery. It is also important to remember that any parent can grieve over a miscarriage, regardless of whether or not they were the one pregnant.
Anyone who has gone through a miscarriage needs to know that they are supported by their friends, family, and medical staff. This can mean taking part in therapy, talking to others with similar experiences, consulting doctors, and communicating openly with loved ones. All of these methods can help alleviate the potential stress and sadness that may come with a miscarriage.
If you or a loved one is experiencing a mental health crisis involving infertility or miscarriage, the Resolve Hotline is a resource that puts the caller in contact with a knowledgeable counselor. It can be reached at 866-668-2566.
At the conclusion of her announcement, Aja Naomi King put out this powerful message: “I really just want to say that if you’ve gone through this or are going through this, you don’t have to carry the weight of it alone. And for some (I won’t attempt to speak for everyone) it can be freeing.” Hopefully, as more resources are made available and the discussion surrounding miscarriage continues to grow, King’s experience of recovery and growth will become more common and the burden of those who have had to struggle in silence will be lifted.