One thing that I have noticed since officially entering the infertility world is how people who have never had to deal with it perceive what actually goes on and what can be done. I blame a lot of that on television. Before when I was a silly girl, assuming that I would get pregnant easily, I never really thought a whole lot about it. I saw shows where a character couldn’t get pregnant and I thought “that is sad…” and that was it.
When most people think of IVF they think of rich celebrities who use IVF as a way to have children after they have gotten past the ‘normal’ child bearing years. Or maybe for a way for same-sex couples to have babies. And I’ve found that most people have NO idea how much it entails and what a hard process it is.
But I know now. I know so much stuff about infertility that I desperately wish I didn’t. I wish I could go back to the blissfully ignorant girl who thought it was sad when a television show introduced an infertility storyline but didn’t think much more about it.
Now I am just super critical and annoyed by the inaccuracies. Warning I am going to talk about a few popular shows and there will be spoilers. Most of the shows are from seasons a couple of years old or so.
One Tree Hill: I just recently got caught up on this show because they happened to add it to Netflix. In season 8 Brooke goes to the Dr. thinking she is pregnant. Not only does she find out she is not pregnant, but the Dr. tells her that she never will be. Done. Finished. That must be one comprehensive pee stick! I mean wow. She then goes on to tell her boyfriend that she can never have kids and they had no options at all. Really? No injectables? No IVF? Nothing? She makes a point to mention that she has regular periods so I’m finding it pretty hard to believe that nothing can be done.
So they pursue adoption. My anger flairs again when they immediately get chosen. If only it were that easy. So many that have never experienced infertility will ask those of us who have “why don’t you just adopt?”. It’s not like getting a dog from the pet store. You don’t walk it, find a cute one, and walk away that day. It is a long, expensive process. It is filled with emotional turmoil. My response to that question is “why haven’t YOU adopted?”. Just because I can’t get pregnant at the drop of a hat does not mean I am obligated to adopt. (BTW I am very pro-adoption and have already started filling out adoption applications, I just don’t like when people assume that it is easy or that I, in some way, should adopt because I am infertile). Back to the point they get picked right away and I’m super annoyed. Then there is a slight redemption when the adoption falls through, the birth mother changes her mind. I like this part because it is real. This really happens to couples and it is devastating for them.
At the end of the season she finds out that she is pregnant. It’s a miracle! At first this didn’t bother me until later on when you find out she is pregnant with twins. Once the twins are born it is pretty clear they are not identical either. Meaning she got pregnant from 2 different eggs. So from no options to fraternal twins! Amazing. Okay maybe I’m reaching a bit here but I was really bugged by this.
How I Met Your Mother: Okay I know I’ve already done a diatribe on this. But I’m doing it again. Once again we have a female character that believes she is pregnant. (She’s NEVER late, she says) And again, she finds out that not only is she not pregnant, but that she will NEVER be pregnant. Where can I get one of those pee sticks because man, they are amazing! No options, just done. They don’t go into the story anymore expect for saying at the end that she never has kids in the future. Well at least this show stays consistent.
Grey’s Anatomy: At the end of the 6th season Meredith suffers from a miscarriage just hours after finding out she was pregnant. When her and Derek begin to start trying again they seem to immediately go to the RE and are told that she has a hostile uterus and that chances of conception are low. She begins fertility meds which I actually thought was well done. From the rare symptoms, to not wanting to stop treatment because ovulation is close, to sneaking shots in while in the elevator. She even has a scene where she mentions how hard it was to go to another character’s baby shower because it seemed so unfair. Eventually they find a little girl from Africa that they decide to adopt and the story line continues from there. Over all the adoption story line is pretty good, they go through a lot to actually get custody of the baby.
Friends: Monica and Chandler are desperate to have a baby and try for almost a year before seeking out medical help. After seeing a specialist they find that they have both male and female related infertility and the chances of them conceiving naturally are slim. It was a great episode IMO because it was a break from the usually funny story lines and took quite a serious turn. The rest of the series they try to decide how to proceed (surrogate, sperm donor, adoption) and in the series finale the adopt twins.
I know there are more that I am missing but really my brain doesn’t hold a lot of information these days. I think my frustration lies in that either most shows treat infertility as if it is definite…no options to be had except adoption (again, not saying adoption isn’t a great option, it is just not the only option for most people) or they treat it so lightly and never seem to grasp how big of a process it is and how much it affects those that are struggling with it.
1 in 8 couples in the United States struggle with infertility. That is a huge number. Yet we seem to treat it as if it is something shameful. We don’t admit to it, we don’t announce it to the world, rather we hide it deep inside us. I am so guilty of this. I guess my point of this whole rant is that I think that television could really help us out in this aspect. If they were to show what really goes on, the Doctor visits, the money, the lack of insurance, the stress, the depression…it could really help open up the worlds eyes and maybe help us all in the process.
What do you guys think? Are there other shows that made you frustrated? Or is there a show that had a good infertility story line?