Celebrities and Stillbirth – Private pain in the public eye.
Stillbirth is more common than some may think. Nearly a staggering 1,000,000 pregnancies end in loss each year. Of those, about 26,000 are stillborn or babies born after 20 weeks gestation. Even though it might be a difficult topic to speak about we wanted to share a list of high profile celebrities who tragically know what it’s like to be a statistic.
Singer Lily Allen said of her miscarriage and stillbirth, it is “the most unfortunate thing that can ever happen to a person.” In 2008, Lily lost a pregnancy 4 months in and just two years later a viral infection led to a stillbirth at 6 months gestation. Being a celebrity comes with many perks but along with the fame and fortune comes the loss of anonymity. Some use their celebrity, such as Allen, as a forum to discuss infertility, miscarriage, and stillbirths while others are outed. Today, more and more celebs are breaking the silence on taboo topics and sharing their stories in the media.
Actor Keanu Reeves met the love of his life, Jennifer Syme, in 1998, and a year later the couple were expecting their first child. At 8 months gestation, their daughter, Ava, was stillborn. The couple, struggling with the aftermath of stillbirth, called it quits. Just 18 months later, Jennifer was killed in a car accident. Ava is Keanu’s only child to date.
First Lady and style icon Jackie O gave birth to her first child in 1956. Daughter Arabella was born still. The First Lady gave birth the following year to second daughter, Caroline and JFK, Jr. in 1960. Mr. and Mrs. Kennedy’s fourth child, Patrick, died at 2 days old and just three months before his father’s assassination.
Singer Annie Lennox gave birth to her stillborn son, Daniel, in 1998.
Actress Katey Sagal found herself unexpectedly pregnant during the 1991 season of “Married with Children.” The pregnancy was written into the series but 7 months into her pregnancy Katey had an emergency cesarean section. Her daughter, Ruby Jean, was stillborn. The series addressed her pregnancy as a dream and did not write in her two subsequent pregnancies.
British singer Lily Allen had a viral infection resulting in the stillbirth of her son in 2010. Lily suffered a miscarriage 4 months into a subsequent pregnancy. Lily, mother of two daughters, speaks publicly about her experiences and also the UK’s “why 17?” campaign. Seventeen babies die in the UK every day due to stillbirth and neonatal death. .
Controversial 90’s supermodel, Linda Evangelista (once quoted as saying, “We don’t wake up for less than $10,000 a day”) first child was stillborn in 1998. At 41, Linda later had her second child, a son, in 2006.
Singer Marianne Faithfull’s daughter, Corrina, was stillborn in 1968. She lost custody of her oldest (and only living child) in 1970, the same year she suffered a miscarriage with on-again, off-again boyfriend, Mick Jagger. Marianne fell deeper into her drug addiction and eventually wound up homeless. A music, TV, and stage vet, she picked up the pieces and, in 1994, Marianne penned her autobiography.
Singer Elvis Aaron Presley’s mother, Gladys, gave birth to the famous singer and his identical twin brother in 1935. Brother Jesse Garon, born at 4:00am, was stillborn and placed in a cardboard box and later buried in an unmarked grave. Thirty five minutes later, Elvis was born. The loss instilled an unnatural fear in Elvis’s mother for her only son’s safety. Notoriously overprotective Gladys forbade Elvis from playing sports and even had him carry his own silverware. The loss of Jesse haunted her until her death at 46. Elvis lived with survivor’s guilt (also referred to as twinless twin) until his untimely death at 42.
Comedian Martin Short (who lost his brother when he was 12, his mother to cancer six years later, and his wife to ovarian cancer in 2010) is quoted as saying his losses “empowered” him: “I think loss can fuel how you lead your whole life.” The one shared connection all of us have is we will all lose someone we love. Speaking about our struggles and loss helps connect us even more, even to seemingly unattainable celebrities. Being in the public eye doesn’t make you exempt from tragedy and heartache; it often fuels a drive to succeed in many of us while others may quietly retreat into everyday life.
Jennifer “Jake” McKenna Ibarra Jake studied Early Childhood Education at San Francisco City College, is a certified birth and bereavement doula through SBD University, certified in perinatal mood disorders by Postpartum Support International and is also a PSI member. Jake recently completed two facilitation trainings and co-facilitates local H.A.N.D. meetings. Jake writes about her grief, and recently completed a four-part series on loss. She writes resources she wishes were available to her in 2011. She is a 4th generation San Francisco Native and mother to six including her preterm twin angels. Her personal experience, combined with extensive birth and bereavement training, make her an invaluable asset to the Doula Spot team.