In Monday's episode of EastEnders, Whitney suffered a terrifying experience for any mother-to-be. Her first miscarriage.
Audiences saw her first reaction (denial) and the subsequent actions of her family who sought advice from her doctor. It was from then on that the irritation set in!
From my own experience and many others I have spoken to, you certainly do not walk into your local hospital where there is a consultant ready and waiting to give you a scan immediately. This is giving women the wrong idea and the notion that everything is dealt with at speed.
Unfortunately our National Health Service is not able to offer such medical care and instead you may be told, as I was, to go home and wait until you have a "natural miscarriage". I can tell you that there is nothing natural about this process. I wonder if the makers of EastEnders carried out any research at all before deciding to portray this very real and common taboo. The program has been lambasted for past portrayals on similar situations and this begs the question; is it possible to get this right?
However, I strongly feel that when difficult and heart-wrenching moments in people's lives are depicted on TV, it shouldn't lead me to say in a disappointed voice with eyebrows raised "that is not what actually happens!"
Is it too much to ask that one of the country's most watched, prime time television programs researches its storylines thoroughly and sensitively? When one in four women experience miscarriage, I think not.
Of course I know that EastEnders is a soap, I am not naïve and it is impossible to show the real pain of the effects of a miscarriage in half an hour. But, if they had spoken to women who had suffered this cruel fate they would have discovered that nothing happens so quickly and consultants are not waiting to speak to friends and family. In real life, as I so very unfortunately found out, medical staff are not always adequately trained in such issues. The nurse who scanned me in the EPU (Early Pregnancy Unit) on Monday 16 June 2014 had just graduated. I was her first patient and she had to tell me that she could not detect a heartbeat. Likewise, it was my first time hearing that news and it came to me like a shovel to the head. I was unable to compute the information as it was so final and my mind whirred in overtime trying to find a solution. There wasn't one. I left two minutes later with a one-page leaflet that read "Dealing With Miscarriage" and an illustration of a sad face. I was told to ring the unit in ten days to arrange for surgery to remove the fetus. I did not ring ten days later and nobody rang me.
When you go through a miscarriage you are not always offered a prompt 'small operation' as the onscreen consultant suggested so quietly, apologetically and carelessly. Women can wait a week or more for this operation. A week! Knowing you are no longer carrying a well and alive baby and explaining to family and friends that the dreams that you all shared are no more. Many women are told to wait ten days or more and only then will they be booked in for a 'small operation'. Ten days of feeling as though your body has failed you, the outcome bleak whichever way it ends. Other women I have been in contact with have paid hundreds of pounds for the operation to take place in a private hospital in order to move on with the grieving process quicker.
Is this a case of writers at EastEnders becoming lazy? Miscarriage and the pain that women and their partners go through can be all encompassing. It is hard not to think that EastEnders bosses want to be praised for bringing a taboo subject into the light but without undertaking proper research, they have rushed it and instead dealt with it in a cack-handed and offensive manner.
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