make mindfulness your default mode

pop culture

The Writers of Parenthood Let Me Down


I recently watched the penultimate episode of


, which ended its fabulous six-season run just a few weeks ago. This show has been a bright spot in my evenings over the last several months. I discovered its existence in September and my husband and I blazed through all six seasons just in time for the series end.

This last bit of the show was highly emotional. (

Warning: Spoilers ahead.

) Amber delivered her baby, an event that she had been scared about as a young single mother. But as Zeek and Camille stepped into the hospital room to see their first great-grandchid, Amber was sitting up on the edge of bed, happily bouncing her son and rocking side to side. Cue the record scratch. My husband, bless him, actually caught the absurdity of this. "What? She wouldn't be able to sit up like that!' I don't know. Maybe she would. At twenty one years old, youth is in her favor, but it still strikes me as unlikely. I certainly couldn't sit up without support right after giving birth, and I didn't have an epidural. My abdominal muscles were just exhausted, and ohmygoodness, everything hurt.

Something I have enjoyed immensely about Parenthood is that it touches on the reality of parenthood and family life in a way many shows do not. It is overly dramatic, yes. In almost every episode there is an overreaction of some sort, or an easily avoidable miscommunication. It's a tv show, so I will excuse that in the name of entertainment. But what I'm talking about are the things I've never seen on any other show, like when Kristina is preparing to go an important party while her daughter is still a newborn. She has trouble finding something to wear because she is breastfeeding and her dresses are not up to task of covering her ample cleavage. As this is happening, she talks about how she doesn't even really want to go, because she is tired and she will have to pump and she will miss her baby. To top off the evening, she is finally starting to enjoy herself at the party when she realizes that she has started leaking milk onto her dress. I have been there; I'm sure many of us have. Those are the kinds of moments that show truth and deserve admiration.

One thing that has always bothered me about this show, though, is how it depicts childbirth. Including Amber's seene, there have been four labor and delivery episodes on the show. With every single one, I hoped that one of them would break the standard tv/movie method of portraying this event. Which is to say, I hoped that at least one of them would show the mother beginning to feel contractions without immediately rushing to the hospital. The veil on this major life event has been lifted mightily since the early days of television. I would venture to say that most adults know that a woman does not need to rush to the hospital upon feeling those first contractions, that she (and her partner, if there is one) are actually encouraged to time the contractions and make their way to the hospital when the contractions have been five minutes apart for about an hour. This, of course, depends on many factors, like how far away you live from the hospital, if your water has broken, or other issues that indicate you might want to hustle over there. But I think at least one in four of these ladies could have staged a more true-to-life birth. In fact, I think it should have been Amber. Here's why:

  • Amber had two false alarms before her actual labor. Since she had already rushed to the hospital on two previous occasions, it would have made a nice juxtaposition to see her having a slower-paced labor.
  • There was a big emphasis on Amber's relationship with her mother, Sarah, throughout this story. She was relying on her mother to help her since the father was not in the picture. Instead of having Sarah pick Amber up in the middle of the night and take her to the hospital immediately, why not have Sarah come over in the middle of the night and coach Amber through her contractions? A 20-second montage of this (pacing, crying, breathing deeply) set to emotional music and capped with them arriving at the hospital and the subsequent pushing (which they did show). I think that would have been a great way to honor their relationship without boring the audience.
  • They owed it to their viewers to depict a realistic labor and delivery, and Amber was their last chance. Why not take a step back and say, hey, let's break some ground here and make this one different. (And by different, I mean like the majority of the population.)

I will miss this show. I will miss its moments of truth amid the drama. But I do wish it had not downplayed this particular area of life. I expected more from a show that seemed so real.

What are some ways this show touched your life? Are there other shows that portray parenthood in a way that seems very true (or very false)? I'd like to hear other's thoughts.