Skip to main content
January 18, 2019

'I felt like I had failed': Michelle Obama had miscarriage, used IVF to conceive

Former US First Lady Michelle Obama hugs former US President Barack Obama./file
Former US First Lady Michelle Obama hugs former US President Barack Obama./file

Michelle Obama has revealed that she suffered a devastating miscarriage 20 years ago, while opening up about 'having to do' in vitro fertilization to then conceive her two daughters with former president Barack 

The former first lady, 54, candidly discusses the miscarriage in her new memoir, Becoming, and explained in an interview with Robin Roberts, which aired in part on Good Morning America on Friday, that she made the decision to share her own painful experience so publicly in order to help others who have had to ensure a similar loss.

'I felt like I failed because I didn’t know how common miscarriages were because we don’t talk about them,' she said. 'We sit in our own pain, thinking that somehow we’re broken.'

She added: 'That’s one of the reasons why I think it’s important to talk to young mothers about the fact that miscarriages happen.' 

Although further details about Michelle's miscarriage have not yet been shared, it is likely that she suffered the devastating loss not long before she got pregnant with her eldest daughter Malia, who is now 20 - and a student at Harvard, where both of her parents attended law school. 

Malia, whose younger sister Sasha is now 17, was born in July 1998, which means that Michelle's miscarriage likely happened in 1997, not long before she conceived her eldest child.

Michelle also revealed that she and former President Barack Obama 'had to do IVF' to conceive their daughters Sasha and Malia, now 17 and 20, explaining that, because of her age at the time, she was worried about being able to get pregnant naturally. 

'The biological clock is real... egg production is limited' she said on GMA. 'I realized that when I was 34 or 35 [so] we had to do IVF.'

At the time, Michelle did not speak about her miscarriage, or her pregnancy struggles, with many people, a decision that she now admits might have been the wrong one.  

‘I think it is the worst thing that we do as women, sit around and not talk about our bodies,' she noted. 

The mother-of-two, who has been busy promoting her new book in recent weeks, also reflected on early struggles in her marriage, as her husband began his political career, revealing that the couple underwent counselling together in an effort to overcome their issues. 

'Marriage counseling for us was one of those ways where we learned how to talk out our differences,' she told Robin. 

'I know too many young couples who struggle and think that somehow there’s something wrong with them. 

'And I want them to know that Michelle and Barack Obama, who have a phenomenal marriage and who love each other, we work on our marriage. And we get help with our marriage when we need it.' 

But Michelle also shared that one key lesson she has learned during her marriage to Barack, whom she tied the knot with in October 1992, is that her 'happiness is up to me', and not the sole responsibility of her husband. 

'What I learned about myself is that my happiness was up to me,' she said. 'So I started working out more and I started asking for help more. I stopped feeling guilty. It was important for me to take care of myself; that's not on Barack.'   

Despite working to build a 'phenomenal' relationship together, Michelle also admits in her book that the romance between the two almost never happened - because she insisted that they should just be friends. 

At the time, Michelle was working as her future husband's adviser at a law firm, Sidley Austin LLP, and she writes that she was determined thing between them should remain friendly, despite feeling an instant attraction to him. 

However, her feelings changed when he kissed her, a moment which she says made her feel a 'rush' of emotions all at once. 

'As soon as I allowed myself to feel anything for Barack, the feelings came rushing - a toppling blast of lust, gratitude, fulfillment, wonder.' 

Pregnancy, motherhood and marriage are not the only hot-button issues that the former first lady addresses in her memoir; Michelle writes openly about everything from growing up in Chicago to confronting racism in public life and becoming the country's first black first lady. 

Michelle admits that she was left stunned by the level of vitriolic abuse that was thrown her way when Barack announced his decision to run in the 2008 presidential election, explaining that - while she knew the campaign would be tough, she had no idea just how much personal criticism she would face. 

She writes: 'I was female, black and strong, which to certain people translated only to "angry". 

'It was another damaging cliché, one that’s been forever used to sweep minority women to the perimeter of every room... I was now starting to actually feel a bit angry, which then made me feel worse, as if I were fulfilling some prophecy laid out for me by the haters.'

While she managed to overcome the upset from such painful personal attacks, she says that the experience left her almost entirely unwilling to ever run for office herself - news that will no doubt come as a great upset to those who had hoped she might step in for a future presidential campaign. 

'If I’d learned anything from the ugliness of the campaign, from the myriad of ways people had sought to write me off as angry or unbecoming, it was that public judgment sweeps in to fill any void,' she says, adding: 'I knew that I would never allow myself to get that banged up again.'

In excerpts from the book that have already been published, Michelle also blasts President Donald Trump, recalling how she reacted in shock the night she learned he would replace her husband in the Oval Office and tried to 'block it all out'.

The former first lady denounces the president for bragging in 2005 about 'grabbing' women 'by the p***y', and recalls how her body 'buzzed with fury' after she saw the infamous Access Hollywood tape, in which Trump brags about sexually assaulting women.

She also blasts Trump's 'birther' campaign questioning her husband's citizenship, calling it bigoted and dangerous, 'deliberately meant to stir up the wingnuts and kooks'. 

And she accuses Trump of using body language to 'stalk' his 2016 opponent, Hillary Clinton, during an election debate. She says Trump followed Clinton around the stage, stood too close and tried to diminish her presence. 

Trump's message, according to Michelle, in words which appear in the book in darkened print: 'I can hurt you and get away with it.'

The former first lady writes that she assumed Trump was 'grandstanding' when he announced his presidential run in 2015. She expresses disbelief over how so many women would choose a 'misogynist' over Hillary Clinton, 'an exceptionally qualified female candidate'.

Poll of the day