James Van Der Beek and his wife Kimberly’s most recent pregnancy announcement didn’t feature a sonogram photo or a decorative letterboard. Instead, the couple shared a family portrait and a somewhat somber reflection on their fertility history: they had experienced three miscarriages throughout their marriage.
The message aimed to break down stigmas and erase the shame so many people feel. “Miscarriage (a word that needs replacement — nobody failed to ‘carry,’ these things sometimes just happen) is something that people rarely talk about, and often go through in secret,” Van Der Beek wrote. “But there needs to be zero shame around it, or around giving yourself the time and space to grieve.”
Nearly a month later, the Van Der Beeks are still putting their message into action. Recently, the couple discussed the emotional toll miscarriages have on both parents in an upcoming issue of People magazine, emphasizing that, far too often, women internalize blame.
“‘She miscarried’ puts not even subtle blame on the mother, but in all but the most extreme cases, there is nothing the mother did or didn’t do,” the Dancing with the Stars contestant told People.
Approximately 10-20% of pregnancies result in a miscarriage. A 2015 study published in The Primary Care Companion for CNS Disorders found that of the women and non-binary people who miscarry, 20% “become symptomatic for depression and/or anxiety,” as they grapple with feelings of loss and guilt.
Of course, miscarriages affect men, as well; though, Van Der Beek speculated that they may be less likely to open up about their feelings.
“It’s a natural reaction to reason your way out of pain,” he added. “Especially for guys. But I want to encourage people to give themselves space to grieve the loss of that expectation, of that dream. You can support each other. And by talking with friends, you’re not being secretive, and the people closest to you can help you through this thing, which is a major life event.”
Unfortunately, not everyone who has experienced a miscarriage is aware of or has access to helpful resources. The same study mentioned earlier found that 90% of women wanted their physicians to provide specialized physical and mental care to help them process miscarriages; sadly, only 30% reported that they received it. The problem could come from training, the study speculates, though it’s also possible that the issue stems from broader systemic issues, such as cultural stigmas, inaccessible healthcare, and pervasive racism.
Van Der Beek and Brook join a lengthy list of celebrities who have had miscarriages and have shared their stories. Others include Beyoncé, Gabrielle Union, Demi Moore, and Whitney Port. Together, these stars are changing the narrative and normalizing the emotionally wrought experience. With time and support, hopefully their sentiments can fundamentally change not only the conversation but the availability of resources, as well.
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