Monday, June 13, 2011

Secret Life of the American Teen just got REAL

Secret Life of the American Teenager is one of my favorite shows on ABC Family. I feel in love with it a few seasons ago and I have been watching ever since. I will admit, it's not a particularly "good" show but the show's writers try hard to show how open dialogue can go between a parent and child. While it's not ideal, it's' interesting. Plus it's from the makers of 7th Heaven, so you KNOW what that means.

Anyway the story line basically follows a girl named Amy who got pregnant at band camp. She decides to have the baby and gives birth to a healthy baby boy. Her and the father, Ricky, are not together but decide to work together and raise the child. Simple enough. Fast forward to last season when the  Adrian (Ricky's ex) gets pregnant by Ben (Amy's ex)...are you still following along? These kids have a lot of sex. When Adrian becomes pregnant I am almost 100% sure that either it was a false positive or she'd have an abortion/miscarriage. Why? It just seemed odd for this show set in this nice upper middle class neighborhood to have two pregnant girls in school. Not impossible in real life...but strange for a television show. But neither happens and Adrian is pregnant with a little girl. Big and pregnant.

Then last Monday's show comes on. From the start, I'm nervous. Secret Life drags out a story line like no other show. And everyone is crying. My first thought: She lost the baby. And at the end, my fears are confirmed. Adrian's baby is stillborn. Everyone is shocked. No 'fiction' show has ever taken that route. But the fact is: that was the most realest thing the show could have ever shown.

Often times we see these shows with "happy" endings. Even the "reality" teen pregnancy shows (MTV's 16 and Pregnant being the main one)  have yet to feature a situation like such as child loss. If there are issues with a teen's pregnancy, they aren't that real or that serious. Maybe the baby is born early or has some "minor" problems that can be easily fixed or solved in an hour episode. What about the girls/women who lose their babies due to miscarriage or a still birth? Let's check the facts:

  • The US ranks #28 in the world for infant mortality.  (*infant mortality being defined as a the death/loss of child 1 years of age or younger)
  • Rates: 6.1 deaths per 1000 live births (average)
  • In African Americans, it's 14.1 deaths per 1000 live births (health disparity issue)
  • Hispanic women's rates are 8.3 per 1000 live births 
  • There is no significant different in infant loss across younger mother age groups (under 18 and 18 to 25)
Adrian, the young lady who loses her baby, is Hispanic, middle class, and goes to the doctor from the start of her pregnancy. She has done everything "right" and yet she still suffers this lost at 17 years old. The last few minutes of the show are gut-wrenching as Sarah McLachlan's "Arms of an Angel" plays in the background. I cried. The last (and only) time I saw a show where someone lost a baby was "Run's House" and the after effects of that event were never shown. The next season, they adopt a new baby to replace the one they lost.

So what happens next on Secret Life? Who knows...but I am interested in seeing how they will handle the effects of this child loss tonight. These are children who had to become grown up sooner than any one hoped and now they are dealing with one of the most painful experiences in life. The lost of a child is a pain that no parent ever gets over. It is always there and there are always reminders of what could have been, and that yearning for that child you lost. And many women and men do not know how to handle that lost, especially at a young age.

I hope Secret Life shows the pain, and shows how once could begin to heal. Because there is never any real healing, but time will lessen the pain. I also hope they provide resources such as websites or phone numbers for other teenagers or young mothers to call if they are dealing with the same thing and never knew where to turn. I pray for everyone who has ever had to deal with this type of situation.

stats: Infant Mortality Rates

Dealing with Infant loss/Resources: March Of Dimes