America’s first black first lady reveals she her and her husband, Barack Obama, sought marriage counselling and struggled to get pregnant after she suffered a miscarriage. They underwent in vitro fertilisation (IVF) treatments to conceive daughters Malia and Sasha, now 20 and 17.
Obama also says she will “never forgive” Trump for peddling false conspiracy theories about her husband’s birthplace which, she says, put her family’s life in danger from “wingnuts and kooks”.
The revelations came before Tuesday’s release of Obama’s 426-page memoir, Becoming, likely to be a huge hit and reignite speculation over whether she might run 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 Friday 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.”
She said: “The biological clock is real … egg production is limited. I realised 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.”
Obama, a former lawyer and hospital administrator, also disclosed her marriage went through some rocky times, especially after Barack Obama joined the Illinois state legislature, leaving her at home where she was forced to administer IVF shots herself.
They met a counselor “a handful of times,” she writes, and she came to realise 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 at the Chicago law firm Sidley Austin. In the book, Obama 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.”
Obama’s speech at the 2016 Democratic convention in Philadelphia, in the throes of a presidential election, remains widely seen as the archetypal antidote to Trumpism. Her plea “When they go low, we go high,” became a cri de cœur for many progressives, though some say it is now time to fight the president on his own terms.
In the book, Obama proves willing to mix it up. She accuses Trump of putting her family’s safety at risk by spreading the false “birther” conspiracy theory against her husband.
Trump suggested repeatedly and loudly in high-profile public forums that Barack Obama, who father was Kenyan, was not born in the US but on foreign soil and therefore ineligible for president. In fact, Barack Obama was born in Hawaii and eventually 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. 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 would choose a “misogynist” in Trump over Hillary Clinton in 2016. She remembers how her body “buzzed with fury” after seeing the infamous Access Hollywood tape, in which Trump brags about sexually assaulting women.
Obama also accuses Trump of using body language to “stalk” Clinton during an election debate.
Trump’s message, according to Obama, in words which 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 replaceher 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 presidential residence on the day of Trump’s inauguration in January 2017. Memoirs by former first ladies, including Hillary Clinton and Laura Bush, have been bestsellers.
Becoming is part of a joint book deal with Barack Obama – whose memoir is expected next year – that is thought to be worth tens of millions of dollars. The Obamas have said they will donate a “significant portion” of their author proceeds 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 to thousands of dollars — to attend the event moderated by Oprah Winfrey. Other stops on a tour worthy of a rock star are planned at large arenas including New York City’s Barclays Center and the Los Angeles Forum.
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 TV star and media entrepreneur Oprah Winfrey would have a 12-point advantage.
Obama has long said she has no interest in running for office, although she held a few campaign-style 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 ten years has done little to change that. I continue to be put off by the nastiness.’”
Before departing the White House for France on Friday, 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.”
Author Josh Kendall, who is currently writing a book about how the #MeToo movement casts a new light on presidential history, said: “The entire nation was moved by her plea during her speech at the DNC in 2016 to ‘go high’ instead of low. I would be surprised if a draft Michelle for 2020 drive wasn’t started some time at the beginning of her book tour.”
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