After enjoying* the dumpster fire that was the first presidential debate of 2016, I did what any sane person would do to avoid all the drama: flip the channel to Bravo, pour a glass of wine, and tune in to the latest episode of “The Real Housewives of Orange County.”
I know what you’re thinking: how could anything redeeming come from a show that is essentially about rich women gossiping about petty things? Amid the gripping drama, this week’s episode offered a bittersweet moment about cast member Meghan King Edmonds’ pregnancy.
King Edmonds’ primary storyline this season has been her and husband Jim Edmonds’ efforts to get pregnant via in vitro fertilization. A second-year cast member who caused plenty of drama on the show last season, King Edmonds’ pregnancy announcement put her on track for a rather slow, drama-free season this year.
But last night’s episode showed a different kind of emotion than you expect from a superficial show. When King Edmonds and her husband go to their first ultrasound since confirming their pregnancy, they walk in with high hopes for twins, knowing two embryos were implanted during the IVF process. After the doctor begins the ultrasound, King Edmonds breaks down when he sees one baby and finds only one heartbeat, with no sign of her second child.
The whole scene is worth watching, particularly to see King Edmonds and her husband grieve together in a moment (hearing the heartbeat of their child for the first time) that should be joyful. There is no mistaking the emotions in this scene—a life was lost, and no one tries to deny it.
Every so often, the entertainment industry accidentally broadcasts a pro-life message. In the 2007 comedy “Knocked Up,” Katherine Heigl plays a successful working woman who never even considers an abortion for her one-night-stand-conceived child. While the comedy is clearly built around what a disaster her pregnancy (and relationship with her baby daddy) becomes, no one is shouting her abortion here. In the cult classic “Juno,” even pregnant teen with no ability to care for her child quickly rejects abortion after discovering her unborn baby has fingernails. The focus of the film is elsewhere, but the pro-life message is impossible to miss.
This moment on “The Real Housewives of Orange County” is no different. While the scene is sandwiched between moments of ridiculousness (from a housewife lamenting leaving her eco-friendly “formaldehyde-free” home to another screaming about her marriage woes in an outdoor spa), it shows true vulnerability from King Edmonds and her husband as they hear the sad news.
In her post-episode blog post, King Edmonds admits that while she found incredible joy in the life of the child that survived, she was overwhelmed by her miscarriage and still feels the loss of her second child, a son: “People have said that I should be grateful I have one healthy baby and I want everyone to know that I am, but please don’t undermine my pain because I still lost my baby boy, no matter how early. And anyone who has undergone IVF knows that our embryos are our babies.”
To King Edmonds, this wasn’t a clump of cells, it was her son, who she still mourns seven months later. While I obviously don’t know them or their personal views on abortion, I can’t imagine that the fellow cast members and fans who offered words of compassion and support realized just how strongly they reinforced the humanity of this young life.
Last night, I watched a mother and father grieve. For just a minute, all the drama took a backseat for a child who was lost before his first breath.
*not enjoying at all because it was terrible