The Miscarriage Storyline On 'This Is Us' Will School Anyone Who Thinks "You Just Try Again"
A few episodes ago on This Is Us, audiences were ecstatic to find out that Kate, played by Chrissy Metz, was expecting her first child with her fiancée Toby (Chris Sullivan). They even had cute matching t-shirts to announce the good news. But just as we started thinking of baby names, last week’s episode ended with the revelation that Kate had suffered a miscarriage. Kevin (Justin Hartley) was about to reveal his drug addiction to his brother when Randall (Sterling K. Brown) jumped in to disarm what he thought was the source of Kevin's unease, "It's OK. I already know. Kate lost the baby." It was a gut punch, and this week, we got to see Kate.
Every This Is Us fan knows that feels may be involved, but this episode hit a little harder, and strayed from the formula more than most. The very first episode of This Is Us ended with a terrible loss — Jack and Rebecca lost one of the triplets — but that was cut with the sweetness of baby Randall joining the family. Tonight's episode offered no such consolation for Kate. As anyone who has been through a miscarriage knows — and I am one of those people — there is no twist-ending or surprise upside. In fact, Kate's reaction to the loss makes things worse for her, at least initially. For many women, miscarriage is tinged with guilt, which leads to further isolation, making this episode all the more monumental for women who aren't sure how to grieve.
In the leadup to Tuesday’s episode, Chrissy Metz took to Twitter to explain to fans why this heartbreaking turn of events is important to her and the show. She wrote, "It's devastating, I know, but @ThisIsUsWriters take us on the journey of despair to express an important story line and situation we are often too afraid to discuss.” The show’s creator, Dan Fogelman, also tweeted a similar message, saying, “We didn't want it to happen to them. But we're trying to capture real life, and it happens. A lot.”
According to the American Pregnancy Association 10-25% of pregnancies end in miscarriage. Yet miscarriages are rarely portrayed in the media.
Kate tries to resume her normal life after being released from the hospital, going back to work even though she hasn’t fully come to terms with what happened — but finds that she's too devastated. Toby tries to be her support system, tries to distract her, but Kate pushes him away, turning down his offer down to stay in and watch reruns of their favorite TV shows. It's an incredibly insightful dynamic: Toby trying to reach Kate, and Kate pushing him away, turning in on her own personal sadness.
Toby tries his best to be there for her, going to extremes to intercept a package containing an infant bathtub that Kate ordered from being delivered to shield her from the memory of her miscarriage. But she refuses to talk about it altogether and the two of them wind up arguing. During their fight, Kate says, “It didn’t happen to you,” a sort of verbal grenade designed to blow him off. Later, when Kate’s mother Rebecca (Mandy Moore) arrives for a visit, we learn that Kate feels like she has let Toby down. Rebecca talks about the loss of one of her triplets, Kyle, which allows Kate to finally open up. Rebecca tells Kate that it is not her fault.
To anyone who has gone through a miscarriage: It is not your fault. Women go through many emotions after a miscarriage — shock, anger, sadness — but guilt and shame are lesser-known. When Kate uttered the words, “I feel like I failed you” to Toby, it really hit home. In 2015, I suffered a miscarriage. I felt like my body betrayed me and, worst of all, that I disappointed those around me — especially my husband.
The image of the bereft woman being consoled by her partner after a miscarriage while Sufjan Stevens plays in the background isn't always how it plays out. Sometimes the miscarriage comes between the two of you, and everyone just winds up lonelier than ever. After my miscarriage, I often thought “why me?” I didn't feel like it was my husband's problem; I thought it was my problem no matter how supportive he tried to be. I felt like something was wrong with me or that I had somehow caused it.
Toby's response is also revealing. He says, "... Yeah, it didn't happen to my body. I get that. I have no idea what that must be like for you. And I'm trying to be strong here because that's the gig. But it happened to me, too. And it hurt."
I felt like my husband could not understand what I was going though. Physically, it's difficult to still feel pregnant and have nothing to bury or mourn, yet know you're no longer having a baby. But our partners feel the loss deeply, too — it just took me longer to see that.
I can totally relate to the guilt that Kate felt. Often, misconceptions about miscarriages lead to a misplaced shame. Women think that they must have caused it in some way, that they did something wrong. They feel as though it doesn’t happen to other women. But the truth is, miscarriages happen a lot and usually they are no one's fault. Nothing Kate did warranted a miscarriage.
In fact, she's shown doing everything a pregnant woman is supposed to do like visiting the doctor, eating healthy, and taking her prenatal vitamins before things take a horrible turn. She is measuring her bathtub to prepare for the infant tub that she ordered and falls when she is hit by excruciating pain. It shows us all: miscarriages can blindside you.
This is Us totally nails the feeling of shame and isolation women often feel. Because miscarriages usually happen behind closed doors and are rarely discussed, it’s an isolating and painful experience that many woman face alone. This episode is a step in the right direction to end the stigma, shame, and guilt associated with miscarriages.
Kate is able to find some comfort when Rebecca opens up about her own grief and when Kate finally speaks to Toby — there is power in talking about this. When Kate says, "I feel like I failed you," she speaks for all the women broken by the loss of a pregnancy. And when Toby responds, "You didn't. You never could," he's responding to the feeling many of us can't even speak out loud with the answer all of us need to hear.
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