Last week, on a very special "This is Us" (because after all, they are all special), Kate's water broke at 28 weeks gestation. Viewers of the NBC show have been watching Kate struggle with infertility, lose a baby and then use in vitro fertilization to become pregnant.
Now NBC is taking viewers through having a preterm baby.
It's an experience that Kelli Kelley knows well. The Austinite founded Austin-based Hand to Hold, which helps parents of premature or otherwise medically fragile babies or who have lost such a baby.
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As soon as last week's episode aired, Hand to Hold's community of parents began to respond. They became emotional about watching Kate go through a similar experience they had gone through. Some said they didn't want to watch it. Others talked about hoping that "This is Us" gets it right.
Kelley remembers going through the pain of a show that didn't get it right: "Grey's Anatomy," which dealt with the issue in 2009. "I never watched 'Grey's Anatomy' again," she says. She remembers thinking at the time, "I just can't watch this any more. It just hurt."
A show getting it wrong would look like this: The baby looking like a 3-month-old fully alert, pinky cheek baby instead of premature baby that is around 2 pounds and looks like a premature baby with underdeveloped lungs and skin. "It's not just a small baby," Kelley says. "It's not meant to be on the outside."
Kelley hopes she doesn't see a baby being wrapped up in a blanket and being held by Mom and Dad after birth instead of the baby being rushed to the neonatal intensive care unit and being in an isolette, and the parents being only able to hold the baby much later and after taking many precautions.
Another untruth would be the parents going home with the baby soon after birth. In reality, a baby born at 28 weeks doesn't go home until months later.
Even if "This is Us" does get it right, it will be hard for many in the Hand to Hold community to watch.
"I just hope it's not a trigger," Kelley says.
She is hoping the show will recognize what an emotionally difficult time this is for new parents of medically fragile children and will show the parents bonding in different ways, like being at the bedside and talking to the baby, even if they can't hold the baby yet.
If parents do watch "This is Us" and it brings up emotions, they can reach out to Hand to Hold, either on the website, handtohold.org, or by calling 855-424-6428.
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