If you are a Gray’s Anatomy fan and HAVE NOT watched the episodes revolving around the NICU, stop reading right now.
(Have they all left? Good.)
Ok. I admit to having been an avid Gray’s fan. Season’s 1-3 was watched religiously. If you talked while Gray’s was on, you were banned. BANNED! But after season 3, I lost interest. I stopped watching, and have NO idea where the story is now. But, by chance, I was at my SIL’s house 3 weeks ago on a Thursday, and she is still practicing the Gray’s religion. So I watched. And it happened to be the week that Callie got into her car accident and was forced to have her baby – at 23 weeks gestation.
Everyone in the room was like – ARE YOU SURE that you want to watch this. I insisted that I was fine – I knew it wasn’t real. I will admit that I got choked up seeing that VERY life like doll the same size Abigail was the day she was born. But, all in all, I was fine watching it. I was actually rather detached from it all, and just focused on appreciating my baby girl all the more. Later that night, Anthony and I discussed whether or not we would watch the next couple of weeks worth of episodes that would follow this story line that was so similar to our own. We discussed how we thought the story would go. Anthony said that he was sure they were going to over dramatize it (if that was possible) and that this poor baby was going to suffer from every possible ailment that effects a MicroPreemie, and then suddenly be well and go home and have no problems. Essentially, the most unrealistic version of this story. We agreed that we were only going to become frustrated with that version of the story, so no. We weren’t going to watch.
Always the best intentions…
Curiosity killed this cat. I couldn’t help it. I wanted to know how this story was going to go. My need to watch was 2 fold – one: I simply wanted to see how writers who have never been through something like this would portray what they had been told of this experience. And two: I wanted to know what was being put out into the universe. I mean, let’s be honest… how many people experienced the NICU for the first time ever by watching this show? (You see all those hands that went up? Yea – lots.) I wanted to know for myself what was being put into people’s heads.
Already, I had gripes. Let’s continue to be honest. Abigail was BEST CASE SCENARIO by far. You don’t get better than what we were given, and still, we had it rough. At 24 weeks, Abigail did amazing things – but that was because she was healthy. Because I was healthy. Medically speaking, a 23 weeker (not yet at the point of viability) would not survive that crash. But, lets give it the “Miracle” benefit of the doubt, shall we? I mean – I know they happen. Ok, so the baby survives. Do you remember that scene were Addison is SO PISSED because Callie wasn’t given that steroid for the baby’s lungs and she totally dismisses the other OBGYN? Yea – I got that steroid. And we were told that without it, the baby’s lungs WOULD NOT be mature enough to function outside the womb.
Janelle and I had a conversation about this one – we both got that shot and knew how important that was. SO again, we sort of had to sit there and label this pretend baby as “Miracle.” You lived through being crushed, and you breathed without medically being able to. Go you! (can you hear my sarcasm?)
Remember how I was worried that they were going to over do it? I truly thought that the next several episodes were going to revolve around the NICU (I know my whole life revolved around it for 3 whole months!). So imagine my surprise when that whole NICU experience was crammed into one episode. We went from being a 23 weeker in a severe car crash to OVER 5 POUNDS and ready to go home at 12 weeks old in one episode???? Talk about going from 0 to 60 in 3.5 seconds!
Ok, you have to let me vent about that for a second. Again, Abigail was best case scenario. And we were in the NICU for almost 13 weeks. We took her home at 4.5 pounds. She had NO SURGERIES and only one major infection. I’m sorry – but showing a case where a baby SMALLER AND YOUNGER than Abby is out of the NICU in less time than she was, weighing more than she did, AND throw a major, life threatening, almost-didn’t-work heart surgery is just about the most unrealistic portrayal of how this whole thing goes that could possibly have been strung together. And it frustrates me. It frustrates me because it showed almost no effort. It frustrates me for the parents out there who had better scenarios then that and were in the NICU with very sick babies for 115+ days. It frustrates me that the audience is going to think that everything in that ward is going to be all hunky-dory, when there are so many stories of struggle and strife and loss.
And here we are, one more episode later, and the NICU is a distant memory. Well, here I am A YEAR LATER and the NICU is always stepping on our heels. Abby breaks a sweat and her doctors have to know about it. I will admit that I did not want to be overwhelmed by this fictional story – I did not want them to over do it and scare the living daylights out of people. But I certainly didn’t want them to underwhelm me! I didn’t want them to act like 3 months of a ridiculously fragile baby’s life was no biggie. I didn’t want them to make people think that every story ends up ok, no matter what…
*sigh* I guess I wanted more reality. I wanted less Dr. Talk (because they had rehearsed those medical terms very well!) and more baby story. I wanted the writers to talk to real parents who’ve gone through this, rather than visit a local NICU for 2 days and just act like sponges. I wanted to know about the Nurses and what they go through. In my heart I felt that if they were going to touch on such a rare kind of story that they should do it justice, and they simply didn’t. It was fraught with medical inaccuracy and lacked the kind of emotion needed to tell that kind of story.
Oh – and as a side note – I don’t know of ANY mom, even the ones who came within inches of death (and I know more than my fair share, thankyouverymuch!) who got to stay in the hospital the whole time their baby was in the NICU. I can tell you, without a shadow of a doubt that the absolute WORST DAY OF MY LIFE was the day I had to go home from the hospital and leave Abigail behind. I was actually angry that they day Callie got to go home was the same as her baby. It just doesn’t work like that – and it takes so much more strength from parents of these miracle babies than what they let on.
So, the end result is exactly what Anthony predicted: I’m disappointed in how they told this story. Our story. And the story of so many other families. And the bottom line is that I simply shouldn’t have watched it. Because the truth is that, unless you’ve lived it, you just aren’t going to tell it right.