Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg and his wife, Priscilla Chan, may soon be adding to the social network’s overwhelming array of baby photos. As he announced on Thursday in an uncharacteristically personal post, the couple is expecting a child after multiple miscarriages over the years.
“We want to share one experience to start,” Zuckerberg wrote. “We’ve been trying to have a child for a couple of years and have had three miscarriages along the way.”
“Most people don’t discuss miscarriages because you worry your problems will distance you or reflect upon you — as if you’re defective or did something to cause this. So you struggle on your own.”
It’s true that any Americans are misinformed about the causes and the frequency of miscarriages, which happen during up to one in four pregnancies.
People tend to believe that miscarriages are caused by sexually-transmitted diseases, past abortions, previous birth control devices, stressful events, or heavy lifting. In reality, the vast majority of miscarriages — up to 80 percent of them — are caused by chromosomal abnormalities.
Still, like Zuckerberg, many blame themselves and felt a deep sense of mourning.
“You feel so hopeful when you learn you’re going to have a child,” he wrote. “You start imagining who they’ll become and dreaming of hopes for their future. You start making plans, and then they’re gone. It’s a lonely experience.”
In an informal survey by NPR over its Facebook page, many respondents shared similar experiences to those Zuckerberg described.
“I wish people knew how much it’s possible to miss a person you have never met, and to mark time by their absence,” one woman wrote. “I will always think about how old my baby would be now and what our lives would be like if I hadn’t lost the pregnancy.”
“It’s bizarre that the topic is so taboo,” another respondent wrote. “I really feel an obligation now, having had a miscarriage, to mention my miscarriage when I’m talking about fertility or the process of conceiving or childbirth…I felt alone until I realized there is this big, secret miscarriage club — one that nobody wants to be a member of — and when I realized it existed, I felt angry that no one told me they had active membership.”
That “big, secret miscarriage club” is what Zuckerberg is helping to bring out in to the open with his revelation.
Like nearly half of people who had experienced a miscarriage, he said he and Chan felt less alone when they talked to friends about the experience. Many have even said that a celebrity revelation of a miscarriage made them feel less isolated.
Zuckerberg hopes his openness on Facebook will encourage others to use the platform in the same way.
“In today’s open and connected world,” he wrote, “discussing these issues doesn’t distance us; it brings us together. It creates understanding and tolerance, and it gives us hope.”
While they might be able to share in the feeling of interconnectedness, few can expect to get as massive a response as the 31-year-old CEO. Within just an hour of sharing that he and Chan were expecting, Zuckerberg’s post received 335,000 likes and thousands of notes of congratulations.