Michelle Obama is seen as a woman who appears to have it all - an impressive career, loving husband and family - seemingly effortlessly. But as she launches her first memoir, ‘Becoming’, she has spoken openly about her struggles for the first time. Michelle speaks out about the fact that she experienced a miscarriage, that her daughters were conceived by IVF and that she attended couples counselling with her husband.
Michelle’s experiences are, in fact, common - yet they remain shrouded in taboo, particularly for Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) women. You may be surprised to find out that the risk of miscarriage for Asian women trying IVF is 1.5 times higher than white women. There are also higher barriers to accessing help - a white person with mental health problems is twice as likely to receive treatment than someone from an Asian or Black background. BAME women are most likely to experience difficulties but also the least likely to receive help.
I’m an Asian woman, who like many, focused on my career throughout my 20s and early 30s. When the time came and I was ready to start a family, I expected a blissful journey to motherhood. But instead I experienced a miscarriage, stillbirth and difficulty conceiving. No-one ever warned me about it and from that point of view I was deeply unprepared. The experience turned my life upside down - I felt ashamed, lost confidence, blamed myself and it really affected my relationship with my husband and those around me.
But it was through reading other women’s stories that I managed to get myself through my lowest lows. It was through these stories that I realised just how common these struggles are and that I was not alone. Sharing our stories can be tremendously empowering both to ourselves in our path to healing and also in preparing other women as they embark on their journey to motherhood.
In Michelle’s own words, “the biological clock is real - and the worst thing we do to each other as women, is to not share the truth of how our bodies work/don’t.” This, for me, is the first step. We need to get better at opening up about our experiences, so that we can better arm the next generation, so they can embark on their journey with the knowledge they need and the confidence to ask for help when they need it.
When I look back now, I am grateful for my experiences - both the good and the bad. I grew in ways I could not have imagined, and tapped into a strength I didn’t think I had. I believe that if we can help women tap into this inner strength - by breaking the taboo that surrounds miscarriage and fertility and providing the right support - we can grow and be stronger together.
The more and more stories that come through from a diverse range of voices the more power women have.