I know I still haven’t posted Part 2 of my thoughts on the nurses at Speare Memorial Hospital. There are just so many feelings involved when I work on that story and I can only do so much at a time. I also just want it to be as good as these ladies deserve – so, be patient. I also have a post in the works about our trip back to New Hampshire (where we were when we lost Isaac) and the plaque with Isaac’s name that now hangs in Labor and Delivery at Speare. There is a lot to catch up on, but I want to do it all justice and decided not to rush something out just for the sake of posting something on a blog with an extremely limited audience.
Today, I wanted to talk about the new NBC show, This Is Us. I am certainly late to the party on this one, as every loss mommy blog I follow has already offered up some valuable commentary on this show that takes our experiences into the limelight. For those of you who have not yet seen the show and plan to, SPOILER ALERT. Go watch and then come back to this post (or not). When we lost Isaac, I didn’t think I was connected to anyone else who had lost a child in the last trimester of pregnancy. I was wrong, and people came out of the woodwork with painful stories. I was wrong because people don’t tend to talk about this horrible possibility. The subject matter seems to have become taboo at some point in the history of motherhood and pregnancy.
This Is Us directly addresses stillbirth, and it seems to be a major part of the show’s premise. Mandy Moore’s character, who interestingly is also named Rebecca, loses one of her triplets during childbirth. She and her husband ultimately end up adopting a third baby, who was abandoned in the hospital the same day that the baby was lost. The doctor who delivers the babies is perfectly played by Gerald McRaney. As Milo Ventimiglia (the husband) sits in the hallway, heartbroken and concerned about the stability of his wife, the doctor delivers a touching pep talk. He shares that his wife lost a baby at the end of pregnancy and how it affected them and then drops a line that loss mommies everywhere now love:
I like to think that one day you’ll be an old man like me talkin’ a young man’s ear off explainin’ to him how you took the sourest lemon that life has to offer and turned it into something resembling lemonade. If you can do that, then maybe you will still be taking three babies home from this hospital, just maybe not the way you planned.
It’s a great line that definitely speaks to women like me, who have lost a baby. Losing a child is certainly the sourest lemon that life has to offer, and while we can’t just move on and go back to life as we planned (what I imagine would be perfectly blended lemonade in this analogy) we can do our best and turn that sour lemon into something resembling lemonade. I think that “something resembling lemonade” means the best life we can given the circumstances – it’s our new normal.
Look – I think This Is Us is a great show, and I love the speech that the doctor gives, but I’m just not as convinced as some others that this is a fair portrayal of what it is like to lose a baby. I realize that, in this case, two babies survive, and I honestly do not know if that somehow makes it easier to cope. However, as good a story as it makes, I can’t see someone being able to take a different baby home and move on with life as effectively as these characters do. Sure, there is a plot line where Mandy Moore struggles with the “replacement baby,” but that plot line is neatly wrapped up when she acknowledges that the baby is not the baby she lost and gives him his own name. The show misses out on so much of what people experience when they lose a baby. They don’t show the spontaneous tears that plague you for weeks after the loss (and beyond) and they don’t show waking up in a panic from nightmares about a child you will never know. They don’t show agonizing over what to do with your child’s remains or how hard it is to find the right urn. They don’t show the desire to memorialize your baby’s life in any way you can. They don’t show the endless “what ifs” that inevitably plague you. I know these parents are being distracted by three newborn babies, but I just think the show misses out on the chance to really dig into the emotional part of losing a baby.
I am so glad that this show has at least chosen to address stillbirth as a potential outcome of pregnancy, I only wish that it did a little more to show the world what that experience is actually like. I hope that this ends up being a good first step. Perhaps the world isn’t ready to see all the brutal details of baby loss on primetime television, and maybe this is just an initial introduction. I also hope that this doesn’t end up trivializing something that, for those who experience it, is the most difficult thing that we will ever face.