Oprah Winfrey has been very open about the sexual abuse she endured as a child from several relatives. She became pregnant at the age of 14, and hid her pregnancy out of “pain and shame.” Tragically, her son was born prematurely and died two weeks later.
During a trip to Australia in December, the actress and producer revealed that she had recently given the baby boy a name. She told audience members at a tour stop, “I did an interview with a reporter before I came to Australia and she said you should name the baby son who died…So I have named him, I had a little boy named Canaan…I did have a son. And I named him Canaan because Canaan means new land, new life.”
Oprah acknowledged that her son’s birth and death changed the trajectory of her life. She kept the loss a secret for years, fearing judgement from outsiders, until a family member leaked the story in 1990. Initially devastated, Oprah wrote in a 2007 edition of O, The Oprah Magazine, “I soon realized that having the secret out was liberating…What I learned for sure was that holding the shame was the greatest burden of all.”
Had he lived, Canaan would be 48 years old this year.
Jennifer S. (she/her) is a graduate of Fresno State University. She spent a number of years working for non-profits before becoming a full-time stay-at-home mother. She currently lives in Central California with her husband, two children, and two codependent cats.