Sins of the Father

I did warn you I’d do a series on All Saints:

In my last article, I spoke about a storyline on the Australian hospital soap/drama All Saints that blew out of the water the I’m-pregnant-so-I’ll-turn-the-screws-on-my-boyfriend-to-marry-me storyline. I got to thinking that that storyline also, intentionally or unintentionally, examined our social conditioning that men feel no grief whatsoever regarding a miscarriage.

To recap (and I did say this was a soap): Jack gets dumped by his girlfriend Terri, on the same day that Terri’s lesbian best friend Charlotte gets dumped by her girlfriend.  Jack and Charlotte  go out for several dozen pity drinks and end up having drunken sex, from which she becomes pregnant. It takes him a while to step up to the bat of paternal responsibility, but he does so of his own free will.

And then she miscarries. And the entire ward pretty much ignores him while fawning over Charlotte. Because, you know, men don’t feel any grief over a miscarriage. It’s not like the kid was real or anything.

At Charlotte’s side during this whole ordeal is her best friend and confidante (and ex-husband) Vincent, emotionally and physically edging out on Jack’s grief as he sits by Charlotte’s bedside. He’s there for Charlotte, without a thought, along with everyone else, that Jack is the one who needs to grieve with Charlotte – not anyone else.

The whole situation is exacerbated by the fact that the kid was conceived of a one-night stand, and Jack’s reconciliation with Terri was blown because of it, so why the hell would he have anything invested in the kid? At one point, one of the nurses, Jessica, says something like “˜I don’t know why he cares. It’s not like he wanted it.’ (If someone from Southern Star happens upon my loose paraphrasing, feel free to email me a transcript and I’ll fix it up.) Now, Jessica is not the most tactful of people. She tends to speak whatever’s on her mind, regardless of things like sensitivity. Think Chloe from 24. But, like most blunt, brutally honest people, she often speaks what other people are thinking.

And at the very least, there is a definite collective thought that men don’t grieve as deeply as women over a miscarriage. More commonly, I would think, is the thought that men don’t grieve at all. After all, it’s not like the kid’s real or anything.

In Australia recently, there was a debate over what’s commonly known as “˜the abortion pill'; it operates like the morning after pill, only several months into a pregnancy. Several male (conservative) parliamentarians were against it because they had gone through the trauma of being considered a non-entity in pregnancy. While even the most liberal-minded people will agree there’s a difference between abortion and miscarriage, it brought to light, for me at least, that it takes two people two make a baby; ergo, two people lose it.

This episode illustrates it when the boss, Frank, a man not known for wearing his heart on his sleeve, says something like that in response to Jessica’s insensitive comment. Perhaps because Frank is the single parent of a mentally disabled daughter that he can empathise with the load of the father; perhaps I’m just reading too much into it. Frank ends up telling Vincent to butt out and let Jack grieve with Charlotte – and Vincent responds with complete indignation at the idea that he might be intruding on Jack’s turf.

Eventually, Jack and Charlotte managed to reconcile and grieve together, but only from a lot of resistance from people who thought they were “˜protecting’ Charlotte by standing between her and Jack.

Maybe the mother does form a stronger bond to the child during pregnancy. I’ve never been pregnant, so I wouldn’t know. But to loosely paraphrase the John Howard that I like; it takes two people to make a baby; two people lose it.

Even though I’m an unapologetic liberal thinker, I understand what those anti-abortion pill parliamentarians were on about.

Comments

  1. Jennifer Kesler says

    It’s good to see things like that on TV.

    You know, I think bonding with children (or potential children) is very much an individual thing, not a gender thing. I’ve known women who never really properly bonded with their children, which belies the myth that bonding is an inherent part of the pregnancy process. And I’ve known men who made their kids the center of their lives, and I shudder to think how they’d feel about a miscarriage.

    I’ve also heard that a miscarriage can take exactly the same tolls on a marriage/partnership as the death of a child can.

  2. scarlett says

    That doesn’t surprise me. I think because pregnancy is seem to be an exclusive female experience that men are non-entities up toi the birth. I’d love to see more shows and movies where they show the response from the father. Sex and the City did a reasonably good storyline in the last season, I think, of showing that both Charlotte and her husband were affected my her miscarriage

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