‘We get help with our mar­riage when we need it’

The Guardian - - FRONT PAGE -

David Smith

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

PHO­TO­GRAPH: ART STREIBER/AU­GUST

PHO­TO­GRAPH: MARK WIL­SON/GETTY IM­AGES

▲ Michelle and Barack Obama, who had mar­riage coun­selling dur­ing a rocky patch when she was hav­ing IVF

PHO­TO­GRAPH: PETE SOUZA

▲ Barack at home with the cou­ple’s daugh­ters, Malia and Sasha: Michelle said Don­ald Trump’s ‘birther’ the­ory had put them in dan­ger

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