Infertility and the Television

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?



Filed under adoption, Infertility, Living Life, questions

20 responses to “Infertility and the Television

  1. I was thinking about this a few months ago and I completely agree. I got mad at Grey’s though, when Meredith decided she was going to try working in OB/GYN or labor & delivery. My thought was no women, who can’t get pregnant, and just lost her adopted daughter would subject herself to the heartache that would come from working in a field like that. I do think that Friends did a good job with dealing with their infertility. Like you, I don’t like how story lines quickly jump to adoption.

  2. KT

    Right now Addison (who used to be on Greys) is infertile on Private Practice. She tried IVF and had a bad reaction to the drugs so she is working on finding a surrogate.

  3. I’m with ya. HIMYM made me really upset actually. It just seemed like they did such a flip job of handling the storyline. Didn’t they also have something with Lily before she got pg? I also remember that RIGHT after my miscarriage, True Blood had a (almost) miscarriage scene with Arlene and that made me nuts and was NOT in the books. Ugh.

    I was guilty of thinking IVF was no big deal before IF entered my life. Amazing how your perspective changes.

    Great post!

  4. A show I’ve grown up watching is a British soap called Coronation Street. Recently, they’ve had a storyline about a character, Beck, who desperately wants kids. We watch her suffer through 3 miscarriages before being told she can’t carry children. It was dealt with in an incredibly sensitive manner, and I’ve found it so heartbreaking given our current IF status.

  5. Kim

    I agree totally with this post. Anyone who hasn’t had to deal with infertility doesn’t understand just what it entails, and not just the medical side. They don’t understand the emotional rollercoaster that is going on within. A reality show about infertility would be great.

    • Agreed, just not one like Jon and Kate plus 8 which make us all look like crazies!

      • patricia

        i hate that show, if you have an ivf and have twins yo are not going to have another and insert that many eggs, whe i did a round of insemination i got to maure 10 eggs and it was soooooo painfull and the doctor almost dind do it (it dint take)

  6. And when you do tell someone that you are undergoing infertility treatments and they proceed to lecture you about how you could end up like Jon & Kate Plus 8… I immediately reach for the jug of tequila; not to drink, but to bash them over the head with. Dontevengetmestarted.

  7. This has less to do (ok, nothing….I don’t watch much TV and when I do its shows like Hoarders) with TV and more to do with the Fertile vs. Infertile mind set. I’ve noticed that of all the advice I’ve gotten about what our next step should be, those who have suffered from infertility said ” go for the IVF ” and those who haven’t said “wait it out”

    • That is interesting. Most people who haven’t gone through it just don’t understand that “waiting it out” can sometimes do absolutely nothing. For someone who doesn’t ovulate for example what good is 6 more months? Just a waste.

  8. HIMYM did do a flip job on the discovery of Robin’s infertility, but what I feel they did *right* was showing Robin’s reaction. She was grieving the children she would never know, even though she wasn’t certain she would have ever wanted kids. That was pretty powerful to me because “grieving something you never had” is a concept Fertiles may not understand. I really hope it opened viewers eyes to some of the emotional reality of infertility. Great post, btw!

  9. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a TV show handle infertility well. It’s always the same: the female character goes to the dr. only to hear she can never have kids. No real reason offered. Just black and white. Seems like there should be, or maybe actually is, a reality show that deals with real-life couples who are struggling with infertility.

  10. OH man, I HATE how stupid TV is when it comes to infertility. No wonder people are so ignorant about it…

  11. patricia

    in tv almost every couple that gets married get pregnant as soon as they diced to have children but when you get married very young(17) every one thinks its because your pregnant, then the untincable hapen you can get pregnant and the visits to the doctor all the exams the operations all that just so you can get pregnant its hard and the fertile people can NOT imagine how har it it to have an incemination two times and not take have an ivf and have the same luck all the money all the fisical pain (because theres a lot of inyection involve) the emotional pain, and the psicological pain ITS BEEN THE HARDTHES THING WE DONE, for 13 years and the tv shows put that in first tria they get pregnant PLEASE GET REAL that does not hapen every time PLEASE have a tv show that tells all but from our view and not the few rare miracles that DO happen the only thing they get rigth it that we should not loss fate (theres the rigth pat for each of us)

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