Last night Channel Ten aired an episode of ‘Offspring’ with a storyline that involved Stillbirth. Many are rightly saying it as a step in a positive direction if we are to add to the conversation around these issues.
While the conversation is happening, it is shining a light on Stillbirth, it lets us talk about it more openly and talk about it in a forum of better understanding. Having these scenes play out in pictures means as a bereaved parent we don’t have to explain the silent grief that has no words. The experience itself is so hard to define into words.
Being able to show some of the reality of stillbirth on mainstream TV can help open conversations that may have remained off the table. It could be a bit of office banter or social small talk, maybe it’s catching up with friends and the like, it can all add up. Maybe sentences that wouldn’t have been said otherwise.
Someone’s friend here, a work colleague there, all of a sudden you are aware that a handful of people you know have been touched by this grief. And with six Stillbirth a day (yes, per day!) in Australia I’m sure you already know someone who has been affected.
In real life, we don’t get a trigger warning telling us to be prepared for what we are about to see and we don’t get the option to switch channels or cover our eyes when it’s too much.
It is raw, it is painful and it is very real.
All experiences are different, and my reality was different to the episode but I still got all teared up when she found out her baby died, and cried when she silently delivered her baby and especially when I saw her cradle her close, it stirred all my emotions of the experience.
Some scenes did make me recall my own experiences and just how different my reality was verses the depiction on TV.
When I entered the hospital fearing what my baby lack of movements could mean, unlike the TV script I didn’t need an exposition monologue; in my reality I couldn’t speak. I couldn’t even say the words that I feared. Later, when they did confirm my daughter’s death to me my soul sobbed, I could barely ask ‘how?’’, let alone ramble, I held my belly and sobbed into the arms of my husband, devastated, scared and a wreck of nervous energy.
Some scenes missed the mark a bit for me emotionally, but that’s only because it’s an experience that I’ve unfortunately been through, so I have a real lived comparison. However, the image of a limp and lifeless baby was very real; and that is a powerful image that will resonate with audiences with and without lived experience.
Having said that, I don’t know that an actual true-to-life experience would make for ‘marketable’ and ‘watchable’ primetime TV, so if we look at all factors together we can praise the show for showing what they did, and giving audiences a sense of the reality of stillbirth.
What I do hope is that this makes others more comfortable when speaking to someone who has experienced a stillbirth, to help start that conversation and by exposing some of the reality of entering a hospital with a baby and leaving only with empty arms and a broken heart.