Beyoncé’s Grammy act clearly rubbed Naomi Schaefer Riley the wrong way. While I frequently nod along to Riley’s social commentary, I disagree with her latest critique, “Having a baby isn’t a miracle and doesn’t make you a goddess.” As someone who’s spent the last several months researching infertility, I’d counter that while having a baby may not be a unique experience, the birth of any healthy child is, in fact, a miracle.
High school sex ed classes frequently make pregnancy sound inevitable, as educators try to prevent it (in the short-term), nudging students toward birth control or abstinence. However, for many Americans, the reality is that getting pregnant is hard. In fact, one in eight couples in the United States struggle with fertility, meaning that they have trouble getting pregnant or staying pregnant.
Talk to any woman who’s miscarried or otherwise found conception challenging — or her supportive partner — and you quickly realize that a healthy pregnancy should never be taken for granted. Countless things can go wrong. So, it’s pretty amazing that they go right as often as they do.
There are couples facing female infertility, male infertility, some combination thereof, or unknown causes of infertility. In other words, as much as science has advanced, there is still much we don’t know about fertility. Further, once a woman is pregnant, there’s still the risk of miscarriage and stillbirth.
For women who have struggled with fertility — also known as being on a fertility journey — a healthy pregnancy is an achievement. Some even write books about the experience. Given how hard they worked to get there, it’s only natural that these women and their partners celebrate their successful pregnancies.
Beyoncé is part of this group. In the HBO documentary “Beyoncé: Life Is But a Dream,” Beyoncé described the miscarriage she had before Blue Ivy as “the saddest thing I’ve ever been through.’” And she wasn’t the only one who felt that way.
Recall Jay-Z’s song “Glory.” This ode to Blue Ivy, which was released shortly after her birth, includes the lyrics, “Last time the miscarriage was so tragic/We was afraid you’d disappear/But nah baby you magic.” Those are the words of a man who knows he’s been blessed.
All parents are grateful for their children. But those who have experienced loss or other detours along the way to parenthood are likely particularly aware of how fortunate they are to be parents.
Americans don’t talk as much as we should about pregnancy loss or other fertility challenges. It’s also not a subject pop culture typically tackles. The upshot is that many Americans currently on fertility journeys are likely to feel alone, silenced by the stubborn stigma that remains.
In that context, Beyoncé and Jay-Z’s willingness to publicly address a past miscarriage, their struggle to conceive this time around, and joyfully embrace the impending arrival of their twins is important. To many viewers at home, Beyoncé’s Grammy performance might have looked like any of her other appearances. But watching Beyoncé perform while dressed as a fertility goddess was presumably an altogether different experience for fans currently on fertility journeys. Perhaps the unspoken message Beyoncé intended to convey with her performance was this: It wasn’t easy for me, but everything’s turned out well, and let’s hope it can for you too. If you’re currently on a fertility journey, know that you’re not alone. Bey and Jay stand with you.