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How the TV Show 'Friends' Tackled Infertility
a blog by Melinda Davis, June 20, 2011
My favorite show of all time is "Friends," and a few years ago my husband surprised me with the entire series on DVD. I had watched the show when it originally aired, always watched the reruns when I could, and have now watched the series more times than I can remember.
When I first watched the show I simply enjoyed it for entertainment. I never thought I would be infertile or face some of the challenges the show so boldly addressed, but now that I’ve been down this road I feel an even greater draw to its characters, and I appreciate the writers who wrote its stories.
I find it interesting to see how this show addressed infertility when it was a subject that no one discussed. At first there was the story of Phoebe. Phoebe's brother married an older woman, and they quickly learned they couldn't have kids. They asked Phoebe to be their surrogate, and the next thing you knew she was carrying their triplets.
Years later there was the story of Monica and Chandler. Monica and Chandler were the stable couple, had good jobs and did everything right according to today’s standards. When they had trouble conceiving, they went through testing and learned they both had severe infertility issues to the point that treatments would not help. They discussed using a sperm donor and surrogacy, but finally chose adoption.
In between these two stories was the story of Ross and Rachel. They were the on-again off-again couple everyone loved to watch. We learned Rachel had become pregnant after a one night reunion with Ross, and the two ended up with a beautiful little girl named Emma. I mention this storyline not because they had a child, but because their best friends later had to watch them living out their dream of parenthood while they themselves struggled with infertility.
Most shows are afraid to introduce a child because it usually breaks up the dynamic and kills the show. But "Friends" took the opposite approach. They had three female characters, and each one had a story. I remember one episode when Monica and Chandler babysat Emma on her 1st birthday. Monica was holding the baby tight, looked up to Chandler, and said, “I want one,” to which he lovingly replied, “I know.” Another episode that always melts my heart is when Monica and Chandler meet their potential birth mother. Chandler has a conversation with the birth mother stating how if she picked them, he would learn to be a good father, but that Monica was already a mom ... just without a baby.
These scenes get me every time, and when the writers wrote them, they really nailed it. It’s hard to convey the emotions that deal with infertility, and they did a great job covering such heavy topics while still allowing the audience to laugh.