‘We get help with our marriage when we need it’
Michelle Obama, the former US first lady, has revealed that she had a miscarriage and underwent IVF treatment with her husband, Barack, to conceive their two daughters.
Promoting a new memoir striking for its candour, Obama also disclosed that she and her husband needed marriage counselling because of the strain his early political career put on their relationship. And she writes she will “never forgive” Donald Trump for peddling false conspiracy theories about her husband’s birthplace, which, she says, put her family’s life in danger.
The revelations came before next week’s release of her 426-page memoir, Becoming, likely to be a huge hit. It will reignite speculation over whether she could mount her own bid for president – a move she has always ruled out.
Now 54, Obama said she felt “lost and alone” after a miscarriage 20 years ago. “I felt like I failed because I didn’t know how common miscarriages were, because we don’t talk about them,” she said in an interview broadcast on ABC’s Good Morning America breakfast show. “We sit in our own pain, thinking that somehow we’re broken.”
Obama added: “It’s important to talk to young mothers about the fact that miscarriages happen.”
“The biological clock is real” and “egg production is limited”, she told ABC. “I realised that as I was 34 and 35, we had to do IVF… I think it’s the worst thing that we do to each other as women, not share the truth about our bodies and how they work.” The couple have two daughters, Malia and Sasha, now 20 and 17.
Obama also disclosed her marriage went through some rocky times, especially after Barack joined the Illinois state legislature, leaving her at home, where she was forced to administer IVF shots herself.
They met a counsellor “a handful of times”, she writes, and she came to realise that she was more “in charge” of her happiness than she had realised. “This was my pivot point,” Obama explains. “My moment of self-arrest.”
She told ABC: “Marriage counselling for us was one of those ways where we learned how to talk out our differences. 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.”
The couple met when both worked at a Chicago law firm, Sidley Austin. In the book, she also describes falling in love one summer night in Chicago. “As soon as I allowed myself to feel anything for Barack, the feelings came rushing – a toppling blast of lust, gratitude, fulfilment, wonder,” she writes.
Obama’s speech at the 2016 Democratic convention in Philadelphia, in the throes of a presidential election, is widely seen as the archetypal antidote to Trumpism. Her plea “When they go low, we go high” became a cri de coeur for many progressives, though some contend it is now time to fight the president on his own terms.
In the book, Obama accuses Trump of putting her family’s safety at risk by spreading the false “birther” conspiracy theory against her husband.
Trump suggested repeatedly in high-profile public forums that Barack Obama, whose father was Kenyan, was not born in the US but on foreign soil and therefore ineligible for president. In fact, Barack was born in Hawaii and displayed his birth certificate. Trump eventually, reluctantly, conceded the US president was American-born.
Obama writes: “The whole thing was crazy and mean-spirited, of course, its underlying bigotry and xenophobia hardly concealed. But it was also dangerous, deliberately meant to stir up the wingnuts and kooks. What if someone with an unstable mind loaded a gun and drove to Washington? What if that person went looking for our girls? Donald Trump, with his loud and reckless innuendos, was putting my family’s safety at risk. And for this I’d never forgive him.”
She expresses disbelief over how so many women chose a “misogynist” over Hillary Clinton in 2016. She remembers how her body “buzzed with fury” after seeing the Access Hollywood tape, in which Trump brags about sexually assaulting women.
Obama accuses Trump of trying to “stalk” Clinton in an election debate, following her around the stage, “trying to diminish her presence”. She said his message, in words that appear in the book in darkened print, was: “I can hurt you and get away with it.”
She writes 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”.
Obama has offered few extensive comments on her White House years since departing the residence on the day of Trump’s inauguration in January 2017. Memoirs by former first ladies, including Hillary Clinton and Laura Bush, are usually bestsellers.
Becoming is part of a joint book deal with Barack, whose memoir is expected next year. The Obamas have said they will donate a “significant portion” of the proceeds – thought to be tens of millions of dollars – to charity, including the Obama Foundation.
Obama launches her promotional tour on Tuesday at Chicago’s United Center, where tens of thousands of people have bought tickets – ranging from just under $30 (£23) to thousands of dollars – to attend the event, moderated by Oprah Winfrey. Other stops are planned at large arenas, before she arrives in London in December.
The high-profile events are bound to reignite calls for a presidential run. A recent poll from Axios by SurveyMonkey found that if she ran for president in 2020, Obama would have a 13-point advantage over Trump, while Winfrey would have a 12-point advantage.
Obama has long said she has no interest in running for office, although she held a few rallies before this week’s midterm elections, urging people to register to vote. She writes: “I’ve never been a fan of politics, and my experience over the last 10 years has done little to change that. I continue to be put off by the nastiness.”
Before departing the White House for France yesterday, Trump was asked about Obama’s book. He said: “Michelle Obama got paid a lot of money to write a book and they always insist you come up with controversy. I’ll give you some back. I’ll never forgive him for what he did to our United States military by not funding it properly. What he did to our military made this country very unsafe.”
Josh Kendall, author of First Dads: Parenting and Politics from George Washington to Barack Obama, who is currently writing a book about how the #MeToo movement casts a new light on presidential history, said: “She has emerged as a beloved figure, whose star continues to rise.”
‘Donald Trump put my family’s safety at risk. And for this I’d never forgive him’ Michelle Obama In her memoir, Becoming
▲ Michelle and Barack Obama, who had marriage counselling during a rocky patch when she was having IVF
▲ Barack at home with the couple’s daughters, Malia and Sasha: Michelle said Donald Trump’s ‘birther’ theory had put them in danger