LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA - MAY 06: TV Personality Jenna Johnson attends the 2023 Steve Irwin Gala Din...
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Why DWTS’s Jenna Johnson Didn’t Talk About Her Miscarriage — & Why She Is Now

“There’s a huge community that has been through something similar and we understand ... We’re here. I’m here.”

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Dancing with the Stars pro Jenna Johnson is a new mom starting to transition back to work. When we speak via Zoom, she’s recently come back from a cross-country TV appearance with her husband, fellow DWTS pro Val Chmerkovskiy, and her now 4-month-old son Rome. “It’s been very scary getting back into working out because I’m not as strong as I used to be,” she says from her balcony in Southern California. It’s a vulnerable time in some ways, and not just regarding the physical. In recent media appearances Johnson has opened up about the miscarriage she suffered prior to becoming pregnant with Rome. “I kept it to myself for almost two years,” she says. “I think the reason why I wanted to share is I just was shocked when it had happened to me because of how little I had heard about miscarriage.”

Johnson miscarried her first pregnancy while dancing with her husband. Because the couple had not yet gone public with the news, even in their private lives, the loss was not discussed either. Johnson entered what she described as “a downward depression.” The taboo nature of miscarriage not only made her feel that she couldn’t open up, but inhibited the few people who did not in their ability to comfort her. “Even my mom, she didn't really know how to be there for me because she was just like, ‘I had never gone through this. I don’t know how to be there for you. How can I help?’” Johnson recalls. “And I didn’t really know.”

Johnson and Chmerrkovskiy in 2022.John Parra/Getty Images Entertainment/Getty Images

But the people who were there for her, even though they didn’t realize it, were those women who had suffered miscarriage and spoke about it. “I found so many people sharing their experiences while I was grieving, and it helped me so much,” she says. “They didn’t know me, we never spoke, but them being vulnerable and opening up really helped me heal and just made me feel not alone and made me feel understood and heard.”

Healing also came in the form of dance, but not right away. For a while after her loss, she was “unmotivated and angry” and didn’t want to dance at all. “There was suddenly this weird relationship with my favorite thing to do and what I’m so passionate about doing, which was really, really hard.” But when Dancing with the Stars asked her if she would be willing to partner with another woman on the upcoming season, the first time the series would feature same-sex partners, though daunted, she agreed. “That season, I feel truly healed me,” she says fondly. “It was the best three months of my life and everything that I needed in that moment.”

Johnson says her season dancing with Jojo Siwa was crucial to her healing.Eric McCandless/Disney General Entertainment Content/Getty Images

When Johnson discovered she was pregnant with Rome, given her previous loss, she was wary. Even though only a few people had known about their first pregnancy, informing them of the loss had been “heart-wrenching,” and so she and Chmerkovskiy kept the new to themselves longer than they otherwise would have. She was also wary, understandably, to keep dancing.

“I think as a dancer sometimes we live in pain and we just accept it, and that’s just part of our job. That’s like what we do. We’re always sore. But because of that, and my miscarriage, I was really aware and a little bit anxious about my movement,” she says. “It kind of played with my emotions and my mental capacity towards dance. But I’m really glad that I did continue to move because we have some videos of us dancing that I now have to look back on, and I’m like, ‘that was the three of us. The three of us did that together while he was in my belly.’”

After having Rome in January of this year, Johnson went back and forth about whether she wanted to share this chapter of her motherhood story. It was deeply personal, and heartbreaking, and also, despite more general openness about the topic, still somewhat taboo. But then she thought back to how just hearing about others’ experience helped her. “I truly wanted to share to be there for women that are experiencing a miscarriage or pregnancy loss,” she says. “To let them know that there’s a huge community that has been through something similar and we understand, and if you need a space, a person to reach out to, to vent to, to open up your emotions to, we’re here. I’m here. I’d love to be that for people.”

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