Last night I decided to watch Offspring for the first time. The show was going to touch on baby-loss, and I wanted to see how they did it. For my non-Australian readers, Offspring is one of the top rating Australian TV dramas. It wins awards every year, and is watched by a lot of people. When they touch on an issue, it raises awareness. Given the frequency of baby-loss (25-33% of all pregnancies) and the lack of public awareness, I thought that perhaps this show would finally bring it to the forefront of people's minds. And it would do so without a real-life family experiencing the devastation.
But by the end of the show, I was angry and disappointed. Here's why:
Throughout the past week, all the ads for the show have basically been centred around Nina, the seven-months pregnant main character, telling her friend "I can't feel the baby move" and going for an ultrasound. For an entire week, that has been on television. Whenever I saw it, my heart would start pounding and I'd remember going for that ultrasound myself. Occasionally the ad would bring me to tears, and I know that I am not the only person who went through that. Yes, I could have muted the TV or changed channels, but I wanted to watch the show and so felt that watching the one minute ads was preparation for watching the one hour show. I wanted to know how they would portray one of the scariest moments of a pregnancy and perhaps, depending on the ultrasound's result, how they would portray the very worst thing a parent could experience.
At 8:30 last night, my husband and I sat down to watch it, with the tissue box within arm's reach for me. At 9:30 last night, the show was over, and I felt letdown. After being the climax of the adverts, only about 5 minutes of the show really focused on Nina's potential loss. And of course, she had a happy ending. The baby had "moved to a position which made the movements difficult to detect" and was actually perfectly fine.
Imagine if Nina's baby had in fact died. Imagine if millions of Australians saw the horrible reality that happens more than people realise? What if the loss of a fictional baby actually made people think about what it would be like? What if people began to care, to research, to support, all without a real person experiencing the horror?
I wouldn't wish the death of a baby on any person. But I would wish it for a fictional character on one of the most watched shows in Australia. Why can't awareness be raised without a family having to experience the devastation?
I feel like the potential loss of Nina's baby was used in the ads to create drama and draw viewers, yet it really didn't add anything to the actual episode. If the episode had been about suicide, they would have added a note at the end, saying "if you or a loved one is struggling, call Lifeline or Beyond Blue". Even though Nina's baby lived, why couldn't they have added a note at the end saying "if you or a loved one has experienced the loss of a baby, call Sands or Pregnancy Loss Australia" and given information for those two wonderful groups. But no, all they did was show the preview for next week's episode about Nina's sister having to confess to her husband that she'd cheated on him. Really?? That's how you end an episode that was promoted with baby-loss as a central theme, an episode that had baby-loss mums and dads anxious and upset for a week? After a week of adverts centred on the potential loss of a baby, the story moves on with no acknowledgment that up to one third of pregnancies don't get a happy ending?
Maybe I'm overreacting because I didn't get the happy ending in January. But I really think they could have handled it better.
You let me down Offspring.