In ‘4:44,’ Jay-Z Raps A Father’s Perspective On Infertility

In ‘4:44,’ Jay-Z Raps A Father’s Perspective On Infertility

Jay and Bey are helping others on fertility journeys know they’re not alone. For those facing setbacks on the road to building a family, that in itself is meaningful.
Melissa Langsam Braunstein
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Did Jay cheat on Bey? He certainly seems to confirm “Lemonade’s” cheating allegations on his own new album, “4:44.” If that’s true, it’s a big deal for the couple and their marriage. But for the rest of us, Jay-Z’s rapping about the couple’s experience with infertility is arguably more significant — not because their experience is unique, but because of who they are. When Jay and Bey speak, their words echo across continents.

Over the last few years, this power couple has repeatedly spoken out about the pain of infertility, dragging the issue out of the shadows and onto their very public platform. In doing so, Jay and Bey help others on fertility journeys know they’re not alone. For those facing setbacks on the road to building a family, that in itself is meaningful.

The Infertility Taboo

There’s growing awareness that it’s important to create space to speak about infertility, but that doesn’t mean it’s easy or particularly common. In fact, when couples are in the midst of their struggles, it’s more typical to keep mum.

As Second Lady Karen Pence remarked during our interview earlier this year, “Well, you know, it’s easy for me to sit here and say, ‘Oh, yes, I’ll be interviewed about infertility,’ because it was many years ago, and I have three healthy, grown children now. But at the time, I’ve got to tell you, we didn’t tell anybody. We didn’t tell anybody we were struggling.”

When people do open up, it’s more often women who speak. It’s not that men are unaffected by infertility — quite the contrary, both biologically and emotionally speaking — but as with many emotionally charged topics, women are frequently more comfortable sharing details about the pain. So, it is certainly notable to hear a father’s perspective, especially since Jay is not speaking to one or two close friends. Because of who Jay and his wife are, this story will be shared widely.

‘I Still Mourn This Death’

Previously, Jay-Z commemorated the life lost before Blue Ivy’s birth with a mention in his song “Glory.” But here, after the recent birth of the couple’s twins, Jay offers more details about the couple’s painful, personal experiences.

In the album’s title song, “4:44,” which Jay-Z woke up to write at 4:44 a.m., he raps: “So I apologize  / I’ve seen the innocence leave your eyes / I still mourn this death, I apologize for all the stillborns / ‘Cause I wasn’t present, your body wouldn’t accept it.”

Since this is a song as opposed to a documentary, we don’t know whether these lyrics are offered literally or with some poetic license. Is Jay-Z recalling a series of miscarriages, or does he use “stillborns” more precisely to reference later losses?

Regardless, the plural still stands. With that final “s,” Jay-Z suggests he and Beyoncé have suffered more losses than the one instance referenced in “Glory.” Suffering any losses is hard, but suffering such personal losses while perpetually watched by the public is a challenge most of us can only imagine.

A Husband and Father’s Perspective

Jay referencing these lives in his title song is a wonderful way to keep their memories alive, and mentioning that he “still mourn[s]” feels relatable. But where he turns to his wife, there is a deeper sense of hurt.

Jay apologizes to Beyonce twice in this brief portion of the song. He mentions the change—a loss of innocence—he observes in his wife. And if there’s anything worse than personal suffering, it’s watching a loved one hurt and feeling unable to help. Is that why Jay takes ownership of their pregnancy losses here?

Regardless of what may have transpired in this relationship, the Mayo Clinic doesn’t see a link between relationship stress and miscarriage. But perhaps this is less about logic and more about making a conciliatory gesture — a husband protecting and caring for his beloved wife. That’s an understandable and even admirable thing to do.

So, move along, Becky with the good hair. Jay-Z sounds like a man who knows he’s got it good and intends to actively treasure his newly expanded family. Good on him.

Melissa Langsam Braunstein, a former U.S. Department of State speechwriter, is an independent writer in Washington DC and a senior contributor to The Federalist. Her work has appeared in The New York Times, National Review Online, and RealClearPolitics, among others. She has appeared on EWTN and WMAL. Melissa shares all of her writing on her website and tweets as @slowhoneybee.
Photo By idrewuk - originally posted to Flickr as Hello hubbie!, CC BY 2.0, Link

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