**Warning: depending on where you are on Jane the Virgin, there could be spoilers in this post**
On Monday night, Jane the Virgin possibly alluded to the character Petra having postpartum depression (Season 2, Chapter Thirty-Seven).
For those that don’t follow the show (it’s fantastic, by the way), Jane the Virgin is a show about a girl, Jane, who is a virgin (duh) and gets accidentally artificially inseminated at a routine OBGYN visit. It’s done in a telenovela style, so naturally the OBGYN who inseminated her is the sister of her old crush, and said crush happens to be the father of Jane’s new baby. Yes, the plot sounds ridiculous but that’s part of the fun; you enjoy watching the show so much that you simply don’t care about all the hi-jinks that abound. Add to that a killer cast, great narration, intrigue and a fun lead in Gina Rodriguez and it’s wildly entertaining. I won’t give away too much of the plot, because I highly recommend sitting down and watching the witty and well executed show.
Petra, Rafael’s ex-wife has just given birth to twins (again, I’ll leave out the details if you want to watch the show). Petra’s a pretty cool character, and one of my favorites. She starts out as one of the show’s villains but proves to be more complex. She’s strong, yet authentic and human. Even before she goes into labor, she doesn’t try to be something she’s not. She declares that she’s not breastfeeding, she’ll be hiring a night nurse so she can sleep, she’s not into that natural birth stuff and she couldn’t care less if you want to judge the hell out of her.
I could relate to Petra a lot. Though I did breastfeed for six months, I was more focused on the logistics rather than the abstract in the business of having a baby. When my doctor asked me what my birth plan was, I informed her that it was to get the baby out of me, by whatever means possible. My priority was minimizing the impact on my body through whatever means necessary; particularly as once the baby is born, you’re going to be losing enough sleep so might as well be as well-rested as possible. I understand why women want to strive for a natural birth (for the connection, the sense of empowerment). Those just weren’t my priorities.
But back to the show.
Petra is (forgive me for this pun – but I couldn’t help myself) petrified about leaving the hospital. She clearly relies on Rafael (the father of the twins – again, watch the show for the how and the why) to take care of them, as well as the nurses. Once they are home, Petra resumes her work at the hotel and leaves the care taking of the twins to the nurses that she’s hired.
Boy could I relate to that. I’ve mentioned more than once that a connection with my baby was not instant and even now I still struggle with it though I’d say I’m ‘recovered’ from my postpartum depression. So this is why I am curious to see where the show is going.
For new mothers, the show unexpectedly picked up a huge obligation to get this right. Lack of connection could be at least three things – Petra’s got postpartum depression and is struggling to bond with her daughters, Petra doesn’t have postpartum depression but is struggling to bond with her babies so contact and exposure will help enhance the bond or, as is my case – Petra is not a baby person and bonding will be a longer term process for her and her daughters.
None of these are indicative of her personality. I’d love for the show to explore either postpartum depression or her not being a baby person, because I think there are probably a TON of women who can totally relate. I remember how isolated I felt when I couldn’t describe my feelings for my son as “overwhelming love” or the sleepless nights and overturned life as “worth it”. Exploring that there are other women who feel differently than what’s represented in the media could be hugely helpful to new mothers.
If the show goes the route that Petra just needs to cuddle with her babies and TA DA! instant love!…well, I think they’ve let a lot of us down. Petra is not necessarily warm and cuddly so the danger of this route is to imply that motherhood will soften everyone, even women like Petra. That’s simply not the case. Motherhood changes some women, but it doesn’t change all women and there’s no ‘right‘ motherhood experience. The show continues to humanize Petra when it gets the opportunity to do so, but softening her via motherhood feels cheap for such a complex character.
The stakes are high, Jane the Virgin. I hope you get this right. Mothers come in all shapes and sizes and we emote in different, complicated ways.