Chrissy Teigen and the Catch-22 Of Letting People In
When the internet was slowly beginning to churn we bought our first computer. A big clunky desktop with the thousand pound tower and the monitor that was the tech version of Baby Got Back.
It was a novelty, a great new frontier, am information superhighway with off ramps to shopping, data, and most importantly, other people. That was the big draw and the early providers understood. Message boards and chatrooms proliferated at an incredible rate. Under 30, Over 30, Looking For Love, Moms Online, Dads Online, Pet lovers, pet lovers, NSFW chats, Teens Only, Gun lovers, Gun haters, LGBT, Butchers, Bakers, Candlestick makers. You name it, there was a room into which you could log and find like minded souls from across the globe.
In the late 90s, as a stay at home mom with three young children, I dove in headfirst. Suddenly I had screen names with whom I communed daily. For me, I found my group at MOL — Moms Online. I was icingotc (Icing On The Cake — back when I had a cake business) We shared laughs, stories of our days, troubles, ups, downs, triumphs and sorrows. It did not matter that we did not live across the street from one another, would probably never meet face to face — we “got” each other and became friends we relied upon each day.
As the internet grew, those friendships grew. And when I began writing for online outlets, those friends were my first readers and cheerleaders. I did not set out with the idea that I would open my life and my family up and welcome people in — it simply evolved that way. And through the sharing of stories of parenting, struggles, marriage, breaking news, the message I received over and over and over was “Thank you! I thought it was just me!”
That has stuck with me all these years. It was the basis for beginning this blog. I wanted to keep sharing, but I wanted to do it on my terms, not those of an editor. I wanted to write about life, my life, warts and all, and when it began to gather what turned into a close knit blogmunity, well, humbling has never been a big enough word.
There is great power in seeing yourself, your story, your life, your challenges play out in someone else’s life. It is validating. You feel more normal. Less isolated. Yes, I like to share the highlight reel just as much as the next person, but sharing the darker stuff has always felt even more important. No one’s life is simply highlight reel, no matter where they live, who they are, how much money they have or don’t have. Strip away everything and we are all human with the same challenges, desires, fears.
Which brings me to Chrissy Teigen. I have followed her for a long time on Twitter and Instagram. As a celebrity, she is the least celebrity out there. She does not buy into the bullshit about her fame, her name, her famous husband (John Legend). Yes, she is aware of it, aware of the access it grants her, the comforts it affords, but that is not what she leads with.
She is real, she is raw, she is hilarious, she gets angry, she claps back when attacked. She shares recipes, tea parties with her kids, she pokes fun at John, at herself. She shares their lives and people immediately have that “Ah ha!” moment when they realize that fame is just a layer of distance, and that Chrissy is pretty much just like you or me.
I get that. And no, I am not saying I am a celebrity or enjoy some Teigenesque level of fame. What I “get” is the sharing. The connection. The reaching out through the ether — especially in these isolating times — and feeling a connection with other people. Sharing anger, sharing a laugh, sharing an adventure, a high, a low.
She has always been candid about their struggles with conception. Luna and Miles are like your kids or my kids — cherished, adored, loved beyond all reason or sanity. But it took some doing to bring them to life. IVF repeatedly that did not take, until finally it did. She openly shared and women and men the world over felt less alone in their own struggles. Again, she may be a celebrity, but that does not insulate her from the same struggles and challenges of the no named masses.
It was back on August 13 when a video for John’s latest song was released and it ended with the very obvious sign — Chrissy rubbing her rounded stomach — that they were again pregnant. Congratulations and excited emojis went up all over her social media. Again, the reaction based so much on how openly she has shared her life for so long. People felt like a friend had announced their pregnancy. Joy. That was the feeling. And in this effed up world, it is a rare commodity.
Since then she has posted updates, teased herself, and then had taken to bed. Complications were looming and she shared those as she has so much else — openly, candidly. She shared her fears, her hopes, her frustrations. And her followers began the vigil with her, holding our breath, looking for updates, sending good thoughts, prayers, love, light.
And no, that is not strange. THAT is the incredible power of the internet. THAT is the good side of this web of connection.
It was only this past weekend when she began sharing videos and updates from the hospital. Bed rest was not proving to be enough, she was bleeding constantly, and doctors were working to help her and baby Jack. She was so hopeful; she was so thankful for the outpouring of love from everyone online. And women and men everywhere, who had walked this terrifying piece of road themselves, hoped against hope that what we endured would not befall Chrissy and John, too.
I woke in the middle of the night as I do most nights and reached for my phone. It was the first thing I saw on Twitter. It was a post from Chrissy. Driving home from the hospital with no baby. How can this be real?
My heart broke in half for them. Not because I know them. But in this regard, I know the indescribable pain, the unimaginable loss, the place in my soul where there still sits a scar that will never fully stop aching. It is a pain I would not wish on anyone.
She then posted an explanation of what had happened, that despite all the efforts of the doctors, the nurses, her, John — Jack could not be saved. With her post she shared several pictures that far too many devastated people recognize as themselves. When I saw the one of she and John holding their tiny wrapped up bundle, my heart shattered. Words from a song in Hamilton began playing in my mind…
There are moments that the words don’t reach
There is suffering too terrible to name
You hold your child as tight as you can
And push away the unimaginable
The moments when you’re in so deep
It feels easier to just swim down
Rudy and I have been there. There are no words to blunt the pain, to make sense of the loss, to rationalize away the anger, to bring you to the surface. I know she and John are swimming down right now, because that is just what happens. You just want to disappear, the pain is all encompassing, the shock smothering in its totality. You cannot make this unhappen, and you just swim down.
When I began to read the comments following her posts, they were overwhelmingly what I had hoped to see. An outpouring of love, understanding, solidarity. Yes, there were the well meaning platitudes that, unless you have been there, are actually often more hurtful than helpful right now. (They will be taken the right way eventually, but when the pain is new and you are so raw, talking about God, angels, “for the best” just does not land the way those words eventually will.) But there were also what I feared I would see, knew I would see — the shitful, vile people who simply cannot help themselves.
Criticism of them sharing to begin with. Condemnations about the pictures. Accusations of doing it for PR. Filthy, venal, ghoulish, horror rubberneckers who travel the internet with virtual salt to rub into any open wound they find.
Here’s the reason why what Chrissy and John have done in their most profound moments of grief and loss is important. Because it touches. Because it connects. Because it reaches out to others while at the same allowing us to reach in to them. Because is makes parents who are enduring the same, suddenly know they are not alone.
If you have not been there, you simply cannot comprehend how lonely, how isolating it is. When we lost our first baby, neither of us were prepared for the depth of pain, anger, violation we felt. Rudy grieved, I grieved. I learned we all grieve differently and that’s ok. For me, I felt lost, alone, that the universe had targeted me, that it was my fault. I was consumed by the anger, drowning in the agony. It felt very personal, as in — it only happened to me.
I railed against the fates, screamed about 15 year olds who get pregnant in back seats and have healthy babies they cannot care for. I cried oceans of tears. It was beyond any pain I have ever experienced, any loss I had ever sustained. But the feeling I remember most was the loneliness.
It was only when I returned to work and began talking to other people — women and men — and hearing their stories of their losses, that I felt any sense of “normal” return to my interpretation of myself. No, it did not take away the loss of the pain, but it started to take away the condemnation to which I had been subjecting myself. The realization that it wasn’t just me lifted an emotional burden from my heart.
Sharing is critically important in this world. It is how we connect, how we grow, how we understand, how we cope. Chrissy and John have allowed the world into their worst moment, and it is already helping other people.
Yes, they are celebrities. That means they are forever caught in a ridiculous Catch-22. If they share their lives, they get ripped for “whoring” themselves out for attention. If they don’t share their lives, they get ripped because they are celebrities and they should expect the intrusion of the public, after all, we pay for their fame. If they ask for privacy, they are ripped because the public feels they “deserve” to know everything. When they share everything, they get ripped because it cannot possibly be without motive or personal gain.
I promise you — Chrissy and John have gained nothing from sharing their greatest loss. No amount of money will bring Jack back to them. No book deal, TV interview, made for TV movie will fill the hole where Jack should be. And should they go on to have another child, that child will not be taking Jack’s place. Jack’s place is forever in their hearts, in their wounded souls, and in those pictures. That is all they will ever have of him to hold onto.
So to all the haters criticizing how they are sharing this private pain, STOP. To all the “well intentioned” ones who are asking why they are sharing this private pain, STOP. That you do not understand means you have not been there, and I hope you never are. Put your virtual salt shakers away and move on. You represent the worst of the internet.
And Chrissy Teigen represents the best.
There are moments that the words don’t reach
There is a grace too powerful to name
We push away what we can never understand
We push away the unimaginable
From this mother’s heart to hers, swim down, Chrissy. The only way out is through the depths of this pain. Feel it all — the anger, the confusion, the fear. Time will cruelly move you forward, but in that forward motion, you will begin to swim back up. And we will all be waiting up here when you do.