We are two Tuesdays away from the season finale of This is Us, and while series creator Dan Fogelman has a lot of surprises planned for the April 2nd episode, fans are still recovering from little Jack's premature birth earlier this month and TBH, so are we. 😭
But there will likely be more tears over the next two episodes. Even the cast was pretty shocked by scripts for the season three finale. Actress Chrissy Metz, who brings the character Kate to life, is "still grappling" with the unexpected turn of events, according to Glamour.
Offscreen, Metz is coming to terms with how her portrayal of a new mama in the NICU has impacted the audience. After the birth episode, Metz was touched by how many preemie parents took to social media to explain how they saw their own families in her work. "Just the outpouring of pictures and stories from all of these parents who have these thriving children who were born at 1 or 2 pounds, it's like, 'This is why we get to do what we do, because people are relating to it, people are changed by it,'" Metz said at a recent cast appearance covered by Variety. "It's like, 'I get to be a part of that?' It's banana pants."
As ET reports, Metz brought her personal experience to the role, as her now almost 4-year-old niece was in the ICU for nine months when she was a baby.
For parents of preemies, seeing their own experience reflected on screen is so powerful, and by showing the rest of the world just how tough NICU life can be, This is Us may help future parents be supported.
Research proves that having a baby come early is traumatic for parents, and puts them at a higher risk for depression and anxiety. But it also shows that when moms perceive they have social support during this hard season of life, that "seems to inhibit from depressive symptoms."
It's teaching us how to help
For people who haven't experienced a premature birth, seeing how hard it is playing out on This is Us might make then more likely to offer meaningful support to parents who go through it in the future.
Often times, well-meaning friends and family say to parents of preemies, "if there's anything I can do for you, let me know," but parents are often way too overwhelmed to take them up on this vague offer of support. That's why parents who've been through it recommend being more specific with your offer of support.
Instead of "What can I do for you?" try, "Can I go walk your dog or mow the lawn?" or "Can I take your older kids to the movies?"
It reminds parents they are not alone
Little Jack's premature birth wasn't the first time This is Us tackled this difficult subject. In season two there was another premature birth, and the show tackled the trauma of losing a baby.
"Memories of our own premature deliveries flooded our minds, hearts and tear ducts. Remembering how we felt. How our partners looked. The way people talked around us instead of to us," Leah Harper, founder of Preemie Mom Camp wrote after the triplets' delivery in season two.
For Harper and other mothers who've been through premature births and infant loss, the episode reminded them that other families out there in the world understand what they've been through and that there is hope for the future after this season of life.
It's bringing preemie parents together
Studies show that being a NICU parent can leave moms and dads feeling isolated, but that peer-to-peer support from other NICU parents (in person or on the internet) is hugely beneficial and protects against depression and anxiety.
When Kate and Toby welcomed Jack into their fictional world, hundreds of parents were prompted to share their real-life preemie stories on social media and in doing so, they connected with other parents who've been through the same thing.
This is Us proves that sometimes television and comments sections can feel like a cathartic hug.