NBC’s Kristen Welker to welcome a baby after infertility. Why her heartbreaking letter is so important

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NBC’s Kristen Welker to welcome baby girl after infertility struggles

NBC’s Kristen Welker announced that she and her husband will be welcoming her first child via surrogate after years of infertility struggles.

Staff video, USA TODAY

In a deeply personal letter, NBC News’ Kristen Welker announced she and her husband, John Hughes, are set to welcome their first child, a baby girl, after a trying struggle with infertility. 

In the message addressed to her daughter, Welker described experiencing loneliness, grief and sadness. According to the CDC, one in eight couples has trouble getting pregnant or sustaining a pregnancy, and experts say public discussions about infertility can help shatter the stigma surrounding it and inspire healing for those going through similar struggles. 

“Like many people going through the same thing, we felt very alone,” Welker wrote. “Your daddy and I cried a lot during that time, but we never, ever gave up.

“Then, on a chilly weekday morning as I was walking into work, a doctor called with the most difficult news. The doctor said that, unlike most mommies, I would not be able to carry you in my belly and I would need a special helper to carry you inside her belly. That person is called a ‘surrogate.’ On that day, I cried so many tears that I didn’t think they would ever stop. I felt as though I had let you down because I couldn’t carry you myself.”

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Related: Chrissy Teigen’s openness about pregnancy loss gives strength to women in similar situations

These overwhelming feelings are common for women who struggle with infertility, miscarriage and pregnancy complications. Research has shown that women with infertility may experience the same level of anxiety and depression as a woman with HIV, cancer or heart disease, according to Alice Domar, the executive director of the Domar Centers for Mind/Body Health, and the director of mind/body services at Boston IVF.

Amy Beckley, a scientist and founder of the at-home progesterone test kit Proov, told USA TODAY in February that prolonged feelings of grief are to be expected.

“If you could just turn it off like a light switch, I think that might not be normal,” she said. “It’s an ongoing thing that people think about.”

For women who have had a miscarriage the grief may be amplified.

Dr. Janelle Luk, of Generation Next Fertility in New York City, said the sadness of losing a baby “is always there, even if it was a year ago or two years ago.”

“It’s one of the most horrendous experiences a human being can go through … The grieving and the sadness is unmeasurable,” she said.

However, raw confessions from public figures can help normalize conversations about the heartbreak and empower women going through similar experiences, Luk added.

Chrissy Teigen, who spoke openly about her IVF journey and endured a pregnancy loss earlier this year, told USA TODAY women often suffer in silence, which prompted her to be frank about her own experiences.

“I didn’t want to just have my babies after having fertility struggles and then stop talking about it,” she said. “Hearing from other women made me know it was something that needed to be talked about more.”

She added, “I’m happy to be the one to be able to yell loudly from the rooftops and talk about my uterus and talk about my everything. If that’s going to make other women feel that they can do it too, then I will be that person and I’m happy to do it.”

Chrissy Teigen’s pregnancy loss: Her latest post has an important message about grief

In her letter, Welker gave some insight into her mindset now: “Families are made in all different ways, come in all different shapes and sizes, and all families should be celebrated. And, finally, while I didn’t carry you in my body, I have always carried you in my heart and I will always be your mommy.”

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Election 2020: Final presidential debate to be moderated by Kristen Welker

Kristen Welker is a co-anchor of NBC’s “Weekend TODAY” and NBC News White House correspondent. She will moderate the final presidential debate.

USA TODAY

While open and honest conversations around the subject of infertility can be helpful, there are some things you should never say to those who are struggling. 

“You name it, I’ve heard it,” Domar said. “People seem to have all these ideas of what people can do to get pregnant.”

She said she’s often shocked by what patients tell her, but she understands that people aren’t sure what to say.

“I really don’t believe that people are trying to be cruel, I don’t believe they are trying to be insensitive,” she said. “I think there is a tremendous amount of erroneous stuff on the Internet, so they hear something, and they talk about it and believe they are giving valuable advice.”

Avoid statements like these:

  • “Relax, you’re trying too hard.”  
  • “Why don’t you just adopt.”
  • “If you quit trying, you’d get pregnant.” 
  • “You are seeing the wrong fertility doctor.”
  • “God has a plan.”  
  • “You should quit your job and focus on getting pregnant.”
  • Opposing advice: “Don’t drink” or “do drink.” “You don’t need to exercise” or “you definitely should exercise.” 

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Tips: 7 things you should never say to a woman experiencing infertility

Contributing: Sara Moniuszko, Mary Bowerman

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