Michelle Obama is speaking candidly about her past issues with infertility. In her new book, Becoming, and in a clip for an upcoming ABC special released on Good Morning America today, the former First Lady discussed going through a miscarriage and in vitro fertilization (IVF) before conceiving her daughters.
Despite being dedicated to having children, Obama writes in her new memoir that she and her husband, former President Barack Obama, had difficulty getting pregnant. And when Obama did become pregnant over two decades ago, she had a miscarriage.
“I felt lost and alone and I felt like I failed because I didn’t know how common miscarriages were,” Obama tells ABC News anchor Robin Roberts in the clip.
Like many people, she didn’t realize how common her experience with miscarriages was ” because we don’t talk about them,” Obama says. “We sit in our own pain thinking that, somehow, we’re broken.”
But she was able to conceive and give birth to the couple’s two daughters, Malia (20) and Sasha (17), through IVF. “The biological clock is real because egg production is limited,” she says in the clip. “And I realized that as I was 34 and 35, we had to do IVF.”
She went on to reveal that she and Barack went to marriage counseling, which helped her realize how she could take better care of herself and make herself happier—and ask for help when she needed it. “I know too many young couples who struggle and think there’s something wrong with them,” she says. “And I want them to know that Michelle and Barack Obama, who have a phenomenal marriage and love each other, we work on our marriage and we get help with our marriage when we need it.”
The silence surrounding miscarriages only adds to the stigma, which is why it’s so important that Obama is speaking publicly about her experience.
As SELF wrote previously, miscarriages—and fertility issues in general—are far more common than most people realize. It’s estimated that between 10 and 25 percent of all pregnancies end in miscarriage. And, depending on the underlying reason for the miscarriage, it’s not uncommon for people to end up needing some sort of reproductive assistance down the line.
The most important thing, though, is demystifying these processes so the people going through them don’t feel like there’s something wrong with them or that they’re alone. In fact, not sharing “the truth about our bodies and how they work and how they don’t work,” Obama says, is “the worst thing we do to each other as women.”