The Current

'For 10 minutes I was somebody's mother': Ariel Levy explores life and loss in memoir

How one night in a hotel room in Mongolia changed everything for journalist Ariel Levy.
Ariel Levy lost her child within 10 minutes of giving birth to him in a hotel room in Mongolia. She's chronicled what that taught her in a memoir on love and loss called Rules Do Not Apply. (David Klagsbrun)

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Five years ago Ariel Levy's life appeared to be firmly on track. A staff writer with fabled The New Yorker Magazine, her career was on fire. She owned a home with a beautiful garden on an island, was in her second trimester of pregnancy and was married to a woman she loved deeply.

And then everything changed. 

I knew as soon as he was born that this was going to be it.- Ariel Levy

In 2012, Levy was in Mongolia researching a story about that country's booming economy and the effect it was having on women when tragedy struck. On her second night in Mongolia she was alone in her hotel room when she went into labour, much too early. 

"For 10 minutes I was somebody's mother and that was both the most traumatic and also the most transcendent experience of my life," Levy tells The Current's Anna Maria Tremonti.
(Penguin Random House)

"It's a profound thing to watch another human being come out of your body. And I knew as soon as he was born that this was going to be it, that we were only going to have that time together in the bathroom in Mongolia, that there was no way he was going to live."

Levy was overcome by grief for months after the experience. Shortly after the miscarriage, her wife went into rehab, and her marriage began to unravel.

"No one could save me from the grief of losing my child or losing my first marriage. I had to do that on my own," Levy says. 

Related: Thanksgiving in Mongolia by Ariel Levy

Levy argues the notion that feminism told women they can have it all is not true.

"I mean the idea that you can have every single thing you want in life without sacrificing anything is not the thinking of a feminist. It's the thinking of a toddler," she says.

"I think what feminism told women is you're fully human, you're a full human being, but the human condition is nobody gets everything they want."

Levy tells Tremonti that she credits feminism almost completely for the life she's created for herself and that's part of the reason her memoir is called The Rules Do Not Apply.

"I think all the time about the ways in which I'm the beneficiary of the women's movement's success."

Listen to the full conversation at the top of this web post.

This segment was produced by The Current's Kristin Nelson.