Last night, ABC’s Private Practice took on the very challenging issue of teenage pregnancy in a story arc that began with last week’s show when 15 year old Maya announced to Addison that she was pregnant. The show well depicts the shock, the emotion and the difficulty of handling the pro-choice/pro-life discussion when a teenager is at the center of the discussion. It was a raw episode at times and in the end we are left with a 15 year old opting to keep her pregnancy. It’s tempting to criticize the writers for not focusing enough on Maya but, in truth, the show was more realistic than you may realize.
In the episode, Maya’s mom, Naomi, basically freaks out from the start. This pro-life mom first storms out of the room then tries to force an abortion onto her daughter. When that doesn’t work, she shows Maya a woman in labor only to have Maya entranced by the sight of a baby and determined to keep the pregnancy even more. The show concludes with Naomi leaving the building not talking to anyone, in tears. True to life? You bet.
In reality, I’ve seen this happen. In the shock of the moment, I’ve seen very good, smart, educated parents completely loose it for a bit, not too differently than Naomi did in last night’s episode. I’ve seen teens “disowned” short term and have to live with friends or relatives, or even a foster home. I’ve even seen teens kicked onto the street because they became pregnant.
Why didn’t Maya speak more? Fear. The writers had that one nailed. You could see that in her eyes when she attempted to tell her parents with the help of Addison. For those of you who are not regular Private Practice viewers, Maya does not have a great relationship with her mom and when she does try to talk with her mom she is usually met with a lecture, a stern talk, a screaming match, a disapproving glare…you get the idea. We don’t see a lot of positive interaction with Maya and her parents but we do see Maya acting out a bit – sneaking out to see her boyfriend and partying. Defying her parents? Likely a bit but also being 15 which is what both highly educated parents have been missing for a few episodes now. So, I wouldn’t have expected Maya to open up initially to her parents nor would I have expected huge discussions about life-consequences about the impact of a pregnancy on a teen life. Those come later…once the dust settles and cooler heads prevail, which thankfully they do in most homes, especially with professional intervention and support.
Coming from money, these parents are not too different from a lot of parents I know who can’t imagine their kid would get into “that” kind of trouble. They assume any boy who would get them pregnant to be a slime. That was Sam’s assumption and he was stunned when the boyfriend looked truly concerned, having just found out himself from Sam that Maya was pregnant, and only replied “But, Dr. Bennett, I love Maya.” Not the low-life reaction Sam was expecting. There was a relationship at play. This wasn’t a one night stand.
Maya is only 15 and having a baby seems very romantic now. We’ll have to watch and see how the writers unfold this story line. Hopefully, they will make it as messy and complicated as they made this episode because this is not easy stuff and tosses families into complete chaos.
This was the right story to tell. Kudos to Private Practice for showing a side of families we all have but are afraid to talk about. This is the story to tell, for the teens and the parents.
*This blog post was originally published at Dr. Gwenn Is In*