And for a show such as "Grey’s," which has showcased quality storylines about career and home life conflicts – for both men and women, though mostly for the women – the episode was a bit of a let-down.
"Grey’s" melancholy ob/gyn – who’s expected to leave Seattle Grace for a private practice in Los Angeles as her character transitions to a new television show -- Dr. Addison Shepherd experienced a crisis. Freshly divorced and spurned by a hot surgical intern with whom she had a brief supply closet rendezvous, Shepherd fled to LA to visit her med school buddy Naomi, a fertility doctor. Shepherd was seeking an answer to help her at this crossroads in her life. She wanted to become a mom because she believed that becoming a mother would somehow make her feel whole and repair her wounded heart. A baby would be her answer, the answer for the self-described "adulterous bitch who forgot to have kids."
There were signs earlier this season that Shepherd had babies on the brain. During a conversation with new mom Dr. Miranda Bailey and then-single Dr. Callie Torres, Shepherd said when she was married to Dr. McDreamy (before she became the "adulterous bitch") she never felt ready to have a child. The timing was always off.
But this past week, Shepherd, who births babies for a living, learned that she wasn’t going to get the answer she wanted. After her friend conducted a battery of tests on her in preparation for an insemination using samples from a sperm bank, Shepherd got the bad news delivered in pretty stark terms. "There is no fertility potential here," her friend said with the sensitivity of a rusty, jagged saw.
Cue the clichés:
"I don’t have a baby because I’m focusing on a career."
"I just didn’t realize I was out of time."
Now don’t get me wrong, it’s highly admirable for TV writers to portray infertility on primetime television, to put a voice and a face to the private anguish experienced by those who suffer from it. It’s also important to explore the choices and challenges women face when it comes to their careers and reproductive decisions, things that aren’t often factors for men.
But this particular turn of events, as well as the way they played out, left me with the impression that somehow Shepherd was being punished for her career choices and that infertility is her penance for being as goal-oriented as her male colleagues (none of whom are parents) who are pursuing the chief of surgery position at Seattle Grace alongside her. That means that while one female surgeon is being penalized for being career-driven, another one (Bailey) was punished and ostracized earlier this season by her male colleagues who thought she’d lost her edge because she’d become a mother.
I can’t decide if this storyline is a conduit for some plainspoken conversations about what the writers perceive as a no-win situation for career women, or whether Shepherd’s infertility is simply a garden variety cliché. But given that I adore Shonda Rhimes, I’m willing to give Rhimes & Co. the benefit of the doubt for the time being and believe that they’re not saying, via Shepherd’s storyline, that career women are punished with infertility. I’m hoping that what they’re trying to accomplish delves a little bit deeper.