Have you watched this show on NBC? This Is Us? Warning: I'm about to PLOT SPOIL the hell out of the pilot, so you may not want to read further...
My friend Monica told me that it was really good, but that there was baby loss in the first episode, so I approached the show with caution. It's not that the story line scares me--at least, since I knew what was coming. But I was scared of how they would handle it. Would it be smoothed over? Would it be a story about silver linings? Would there be some saccharine moment that suggested "everything happened for a reason"? Alternatively, would the mother be portrayed as a grief monster? The oversimplification of any story line is pretty necessary for TV, so I just wondered how they would present this one.
Anyway, I'll tell you that I think they did it pretty well. I fast forwarded through a lot of hospital scenes, because the truth is that I don't like watching fake pregnant women have fake birth scenes in fake hospitals. It's just something I would prefer not to see.
The first time I watched it, I also fast forwarded through the scene where the doctor tells the dad that they lost a baby (I say "a baby" because you find out early on she's expecting triplets). But then Monica said that was the "best part" and after I got over my shock that she would describe the conversation that way, I realized that I was probably reading her tone wrong over text and she actually meant that the conversation was really important in terms of how the show was dealing with the issue of losing a baby during labor. So I went back and watched it.
Here's the clip:
(You can also watch the whole episode on nbc.com)
There are a lot of good things here. I love the doctor's compassion. The dad's bewilderment is heartbreaking.
Many of my baby-loss friends were like me in that their husbands were with them in the same room when they were told that their baby had died. I know a few people who found out at a routine appointment and had to call their husbands. But this scene makes me think of my friend Mark, and how he was the one who knew that his son Matthew had died before his wife (my friend Christine) woke from her emergency c-section.He, then, was the one who told her. (It probably goes without saying that I was bawling my eyes out while watching this, but I'm not calling it a grief-trigger because it didn't come out of no where. It's intended to be full of pathos, and I think it does what it sets out to do, which is not to dismiss the loss of a baby during pregnancy or labor.)
And, of course, I was especially appreciative that the doctor says that he thinks about his first child every single day (even though he's now an old man).
I will say that I'm not crazy about the lemonade analogy--it's tired and kind of trite, and I think they could have done better. But whatever. A lot of people say stuff like that, and at least he didn't act like things were "better" this way. And I can see how the analogy works, as most of us do go on to do the best we can to have lives that include plenty of sweet to accompany the bitter.
One of my friends mentioned that she thought it was all pretty well done, although the scene with the parents home from the hospital show them beaming with smiles over their living children instead of still wracked with sobs and crying their faces off. But it also shows the mom back to having a waist after presumably delivering triplets just a few days earlier, so true-to-life obviously isn't really happening here.
What does happen is a pretty good conversation about the way losing a baby changes your life, and about the way you try to make meaning out of that tragedy. My friend Caroline says that she thinks about how having her son Cale turned her life in a new direction and she has the family she has now because of him. I think that's true for many of us, and while that doesn't make their deaths any less devastating, it does speak to the impact of their brief lives and, hopefully, to the hugeness of that love.
Anyway, if you've seen the show, I'd love to know what you thought of it.