Yesterday I woke and committed the one crime I know I should not …checking socials before even making it out from underneath the covers. Twitter and Insta were abuzz with comments about Chrissy Teigen who I learned had lost the baby whom she had been carrying. If I’m being honest, I hadn’t even been aware that she and her husband, John Legend, were expecting a baby. I of course know who they are and understand why they are such a popular couple, but other than this vague recognition of their existence and notability, I knew little of their lives.
Further scrolling revealed a photo of Teigen sitting on a hospital bed in a medical gown, anguish and heartbreak etched on her face. As I read the heart-wrenching caption accompanying her Instagram photo, explaining the trauma she and Legend had gone through in the last 24 hours having lost their stillborn son, shamefully my knee jerk reaction was “why on Earth would she post this on Instagram?”.
It’s something which many have asked on social media in the hours since the posting of the photo and, given that I shared that same shock when first seeing the post, I cannot come down too heavily on those wondering why such a personal and tragic moment would be shared on Instagram. For me, I still cannot imagine why anybody was even taking a photograph of Teigen in that room, at that moment. But that’s just it: I can’t imagine, because I haven’t been in that room or in that moment.
Who am I to begin to question the decision, when I myself have never experienced the grief of losing a child? Who am I to decide what someone shares on their socials and what they do not?
We routinely mock our Insta Vs Reality tendencies, but here is someone showing reality and still receiving a cacophony of criticism for it. Teigen is a personality, that is her trade. She shares herself with the world, allowing her audience in to get to know her and many elements of her life including the Insta-worthy as well as the gritty. She chooses to not only show her happy moments and her picture perfect snapshots, but her real life too.
If she wants her grid to represent every part of her life, the beautiful and the heart-breaking, then what qualifies anybody to tell her that she cannot? She is not disrespecting anybody by posting the photo of her in this traumatic state of grief. She has the autonomy to choose and if somebody does not like it, then that somebody does not have to look.
There are those who argue that the image will be triggering to fellow mothers of stillborn babies, but I do not feel that it is fair to burden Teigen with the responsibility of speaking or acting on behalf of all those women. She can only speak and act for herself. If she felt that it was necessary for herself to post the deeply personal image, she should not be bound by the responsibility of considering others first.
She is a grieving mother making decisions in a suffocating cloud of trauma. She may feel regret at a later date for having posted this to Instagram, but she may also feel confident in her choice – that is for her conscience and her conscience alone. Why should Teigen care that I found it uncomfortable to see?
In a broader sense, why shouldn’t we be seeing images of painful experiences that women go through? Miscarriage is not uncommon. Rape is not uncommon. Sexual assault is not uncommon. Domestic violence is not uncommon. Post-natal depression is not uncommon. We are routinely bombarded with fictional depictions of these female experiences in the media and art we consume, and yet when these experiences take place in real life we do not want to see or hear about them.
I felt inherently uncomfortable seeing the image of Tiegen in a state of indescribable sorrow, but that does not mean that I should not have seen it. It made me reach out to someone close to me who has suffered multiple miscarriages, because it made me visualise the heartache and grief that person, who I care about deeply, has been through time and time again. The image opened my eyes to my friend’s reality to such an extent that I felt a gnawing sense of guilt for not having been more aware before. Hopping platforms, I saw Teigen’s tweet ‘Driving home from the hospital with no baby. How can this be real?’. The simple 66 character message brought the sting of tears to my eyes as it shone a floodlight on the bigger picture. Her grief will not have stopped when she left the hospital. It won’t stop when she has a shower and gets into her own bed. It won’t stop the next day or even the day after that. But despite this, she will be expected to carry on with the quotidian mundanities of life as if nothing has happened. She, like all women, will be expected to pick themselves up in the face of trauma and keep going and when she doesn’t quite get it right because her mind is scrambled from the shock, the world will come down on her for being ‘irresponsible’, ‘self-obsessed’ or for ‘craving attention’. She may be a successful, wealthy, influential woman but these same expectations will be placed upon her as they are with every other woman.
Teigen’s choice may not have been the choice that everyone would have made, but she should not have to lead her life by committee. She is an autonomous, adult woman with the ability to make her own choices. Why should anyone feel that they qualify to cast judgement?