Recently, Olympic gold medalist Shawn Johnson East and her husband, Andrew, shared candidly the heartbreak of losing their first child to miscarriage. Shawn, who is a retired gymnast and winner of Dancing with the Stars, has a popular YouTube channel where she posts behind-the-scenes footage and videos of her everyday life.
A video posted last week, titled “pregnancy + heartbreak,” garnered more than two million views, and offered a raw look at the tragic loss of their first child to miscarriage. Shawn and Andrew are open about the fact that they were not trying to get pregnant. Shawn includes a clip of the positive pregnancy tests at the beginning of the video and says at the time that her reaction is “sheer terror.” Nonetheless, she shows growing excitement at the unexpected news.
Once she and Andrew are reunited and she shares the news, the couple begin to embrace the unexpected pregnancy and they begin to get excited about the future. Their joy quickly turns to sadness and fear when Shawn begins showing signs of a miscarriage. As they locate a doctor and endure the agonizing wait for information about their preborn child, their sincere love and concern is apparent.
The experience seems to have shown the young couple that they are ready to start a family. Shawn explains, “I felt like going in to it, we didn’t even know if we were ready for it. We weren’t sure if we could do it, and we were overwhelmed.” Andrew adds, “Yeah, we were scared.” These are feelings that many parents have experienced, whether their children were planned or unexpected. Choosing to welcome their child with joy showed them that they are ready for a child, even though their journey ended so tragically and suddenly.
October is Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month, so the timing of the video is fitting. Shawn and Andrew say in introducing their story that they felt called to share their experience because there are so many people suffering the same tragedy. As Andrew says to viewers, “Know that you’re not the only one going through what you’re going through.”
The footage includes a scene when Shawn visits a doctor to confirm the miscarriage. The doctor emphasizes that pregnancy loss is not necessarily caused by anything a mother does. When grieving the death of a child, many women blame themselves for the loss thinking that they exercised too much or common medications caused the miscarriage. The doctor’s words are a gentle reminder that these feelings of guilt are not justified.
Shawn asks the doctor if miscarriage is common, and he readily responds that miscarriage happens “a lot, a lot.” In fact, one in four pregnancies end in miscarriage, a staggering number. Each child in every pregnancy has a mother and a father; many have siblings, extended family, and family friends. Miscarriage and infant loss affect us all. Shawn and Andrew’s decision to share their story is a gift to other families suffering the tragedy of miscarriage.
Texas Right to Life extends our heartfelt prayers to those who have experienced the loss of miscarriage. For more resources, visit MyMiscarriageMatters.com.