Michelle Obama’s Pregnancy (A look back)

In this article, we will talk about Michelle Obama’s journey on becoming pregnant, her struggles with IVF, her  marriage and her perspective on racism.

Michelle Obama on being pregnant:

Associated Press  reported that according to the book, Michelle and the former US President Barack Obama were able to get pregnant with their daughters, Malia,22, and Sasha 19, through IVF or in vitro fertilization.  

Former First Lady Michelle Obama has opened up about her challenges in her journey to get pregnant in her memoir “Becoming”.  She tells about her reproductive issues and how she conceived through medical intervention. She recounts of her miscarriage which left her feeling “lost and alone”.

After her husband won in the 2008 election, Michelle Obama assumed the moniker as “mom-in-chief”, and that her tenure in the White House has extended her role to “mother” the children of the nation through her policy choices and the new norm she has implemented in their new home.

Struggles on Pregnancy:

Michelle Obama, a former hospital administrator and lawyer, was around 34 years old when she recognized that “the biological clock is real and that egg production is limited.  She revealed that she had a miscarriage and utilized in vitro fertilization to conceive both children.  

On her miscarriage, she shared that she felt that she failed because she didn’t know how common miscarriages were then because no one talks about it. “We sit in our own pain, thinking that somehow we’re broken”, affirms Mrs. Obama.

The Obama’s chose IVF, or an assisted reproductive technology (ART), supports fertilization, embryo development and implantation so the couple can get pregnant. She struggled during those times, especially when her husband joined the state legislature, that she had to administer the IVF shots herself.

IVF increases chances of pregnancy especially if the couple is having fertility issues, just like the Obama’s. With Michelle’s age and previous miscarriage history, she was most likely on a high-risk pregnancy. The couple sought out IVF treatment and started their journey to parenthood.

“We had one pregnancy test came back positive, which caused both of us to forget every worry and swoon with joy, but a couple weeks later, I had a miscarriage, which left me physically uncomfortable and cratered any optimism we felt”, the former First Lady writes.

Eventually, Michelle got pregnant, first with Malia, and then Sasha, almost two decades to date.

On her married life:

Michelle, besides her issues getting pregnant, also recounts her married life in her memoir.  She revealed that like any other couple, they struggled at times. 

“Marriage counseling for us was one of those ways where we learned how to talk out differences, “told Michelle in one of her interviews with ABC. “I know too many young couples who struggle and think that somehow there’s something wrong with them. And I want them to know that Michelle and Barack Obama, who have a phenomenal marriage and who love each other, we work on our marriage.”

She described in her book how falling in love with former President Obama one summer night in Chicago, that “as soon as I allowed myself to feel anything for Barack, the feelings came rushing – a toppling blast of lust, gratitude, fulfillment and wonder.” The couple who has been married since 1992 had much of a great help from couple’s therapy.

IVF process:

IVF is done by using a combination of medicine and surgical procedures to assist the sperm fertilize an egg, and implant the fertilized egg into the woman’s uterus. It starts with taking a medication that makes several eggs mature and become ready for fertilization. The doctor then takes the egg out of the body and mixes it with the sperm in a laboratory setup. This will aid in the fertilization of the egg by the sperm. 

After which, the doctor will implant the fertilized egg (embryos) directly into the woman’s uterus. If any of the embryos implant in the lining of the uterus, pregnancy happens.  The procedure costs more than thousands of dollars each “cycle”. This may take several months to complete the entire process. Some were lucky with the first try, but most often, it takes several rounds of IVF to get successfully pregnant. 

A Stanford scholar Hank Greely explained in an interview, “IVF is neither cheap nor fun.” The costs for IVF are usually not covered by insurances, and carries a whole lot of health risk to the woman. However, millions of American couples now turn to fertility clinics to help them conceive babies. 

The first “test-tube baby” Louise Brown, successfully conceived via in-vitro fertilization (IVF), born four decades ago spurred the hope for this technology to the reproductively-challenged couples. Since 1996, about 2 percent of all US births are born through various forms of assisted reproductive technology (ART).  

Part of the increased awareness and sought after technological intervention is due to the fact that more and more couples are trying to get pregnant at an older age. Like the Obamas, people are uncomfortable discussing their fertility issues. Also studies showed that married African American women have increased rates of fertility issues than their married white counterparts. 

Infertility is an issue more likely to affect minorities, the poor and the less educated. African American women, who have higher rates of uterine fibroids, are almost twice as likely as white women to suffer from infertility problems. And a recent study reveals that African American women are less likely to seek fertility treatments. 

While it is common in the United States for women who miscarry, there is a stigma normally attached to the women who had it. Miscarriage is known to be the spontaneous loss of a fetus before the 20th week of pregnancy, and is also called “spontaneous abortion”.  The cause of miscarriage can vary from drug and alcohol abuse, exposure to environmental toxins, hormone problems, and many more. But most miscarriages are caused by chromosomal problems that make it difficult for the baby to develop properly.

Women who are older or after 30 years of age have an increased risk of miscarriages, more so for those aged 35 to 40 years old. And highest risk for those over age 40. Miscarriages, while physically and emotionally affecting women, are not necessarily an indication of overall reproductive issues. Many women who have gone through miscarriages go on to have successful and healthy pregnancy after. 

This is the reason why Michelle Obama sends the message through her book that that experience is important, that it’s not their fault, don’t give up, and take care of yourself.

On racism as a public figure:

Michelle’s Obama told People magazine in December 2014, that she and her husband are often mistaken for the help, even as they held higher office. She has this story that even as the First Lady, during her highly publicized trip to Target, that the only person who came up to her in the store was a woman asking help to take something out of the shelf.

 “Because she didn’t see me as the First Lady, she saw me as someone who could help her. Those kinds of things happen in life. So it isn’t something new.” Michelle recounts.

When the Obama family moved to the White House and became the first family, Sasha were 7, and Malia, 10, after their parents’ past decade of fertility issues that the first lady writes her memoir. They have encountered several challenges, especially for Michelle, as a woman of African American descent. 

While Michelle focused on doing the ordinary things that have created significance, such as wearing her outfits more than once, growing vegetables on the White House grounds, and encouraging her children to have a healthy lifestyle. 

A black woman in the White House, has reshaped parenting norms in the US, which was a powerful counter narrative to the long held racist ideas. Michelle’s recount on her fertility issues on her memoir has also come to reshape the norm for those trying to become parents. She writes in her book the challenges and specific tasks and the many sacrifices of fertility treatments just to get pregnant.

She has encountered injecting the hormones herself while her husband was in the legislative, going in for daily ultrasounds and blood draws, canceling work meetings to attend to clinic appointments.  Michelle has proven a determined image of herself to become pregnant even as she is aware of an inevitable gender imbalance in the struggles of the labor that goes with it. It shows that motherhood begins way before the children are born.

Conclusion:

Michelle Obama’ pregnancy struggles have been detailed and recounted beautifully in her book “Becoming”. It tells a story of an African American woman who was beside her husband in his rise to power, while parenting their two beautiful daughters.  It has changed the public’s perception of the life in the White House that they experienced. 

The memoir had her story telling the life before they became the Obama’s, the first meeting with Barack, and how they too, like many marriages, struggled and needed therapy.  Photos of her pregnancy are nowhere in the public domain, as the Obama’s have always kept their private matters, simply private.

The news of Michelle Obama’s miscarriage and IVF treatment to get pregnant was especially significant to many women of color in the Unites States. For centuries, women of color have been stereotyped with many labels, to the point of the angry Black woman. Yet, Michelle Obama represents a pushback against these labels, in the most dignified way she can express herself.

FAQ on Michelle Obama’s pregnancy:

Why are there no photos of Michelle Obama pregnant?

There are no photos of Michelle pregnant since she was not a public figure back then, long before her husband became the president.  The Obama’s are known for keeping their private life private. A pregnancy, while certainly not a hidden event, especially for the couple, is also a private affair for the couple and their baby.

What is IVF?

IVF is a form of assisted reproductive technology or ART. It’s a fertility treatment that involves fertilizing the egg outside the body through stimulation to produce egg using medication. And then removing the egg from the ovaries wherein it is combined with the sperm in a laboratory setting.  This procedure produced a fertilized egg, which is then placed back to the woman’s body, where, if successful, it will result in pregnancy.

How much does IVF cost?

IVF can cost the parents an estimate of more than 12,000 USD, which is not usually covered by insurance and carries a whole load of health risk for the woman.

What causes miscarriages?

Miscarriages are caused by several factors, like hormonal or environmental, but mostly due to chromosomal problems that the fetus might have preventing it from developing properly.

How often does miscarriage happen?

About 10 to 20 percent of known pregnancies end in miscarriage.  The actual number is likely higher due to many miscarriages occurring early in pregnancies without being detected. 

References:

https://www.vox.com/2018/11/9/18078910/michelle-obama-book-ivf-miscarriage-infertility

https://apnews.com/article/c49c570c8a444ff3ac01f2f5e5b91b5f

https://www.bbc.com/news/world-us-canada-46154857

https://medlineplus.gov/ency/article/001488.htm#:~:text=A%20miscarriage%20is%20the%20spontaneous,unlike%20medical%20or%20surgical%20abortions.

https://time.com/4573554/michelle-obama-racism-first-lady/

https://www.theatlantic.com/family/archive/2018/11/michelle-obamas-ivf-story-means-lot-black-women/575824/

https://oxford.universitypressscholarship.com/view/10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199735204.001.0001/acprof-9780199735204-chapter-006?rskey=A5NdHb&result=8

https://qz.com/1458003/michelle-obama-reveals-she-had-a-miscarriage-in-effort-to-end-stigma/

Leave a Comment