In heartbreaking scenes Coronation Street’s Michelle Connor and Steve McDonald lost their baby boy at 23 weeks last night, but was the soap right to ask them to portray this harrowing story?
It’s no secret actress Kym Marsh, who plays Michelle, lost her baby, Archie, at 22 weeks in 2009, and Simon Gregson has also recently revealed he and his wife have suffered 11 miscarriages as well.
Read more: Simon Gregson reveals baby heartache
For anyone who watched the episode it was clear to see the emotion and trauma of what Michelle and Steve were going through was full of real understanding. I challenge anyone to watch those scenes and not be moved to tears.
But there’s no denying this was a difficult watch. It’s meant to be, of course, no one said stillbirth was a cheery topic and no one’s claimed this to be entertainment, what it is doing is raising awareness of a painful, distressing and tragic experience that all too many have to go through.
When I first heard they were tackling this storyline and using Kym’s character to lead it, I have to admit, there was a sharp intake of breath. Were they really making her relive everything she’d so heartbreakingly been through? How insensitive could they be?
And watching last night there was no doubt it felt a little like we were intruding on a very personal experience between a devastated couple, looking in on something we really shouldn’t be party to.
But that’s what made this work so brilliantly. It should be uncomfortable, it should be hard because what they’re going through is far more than uncomfortable and hard.
The rawness of Michelle and Steve’s grief, the agonising pain they were suffering as Michelle cried, “I feel like my heart is breaking, like it’s actually breaking,” could surely only have been done justice by someone who’s been through it?
When soaps are so often called ridiculous and unrealistic, they should be given credit for tackling something so huge with such realness. It was so believable, so connected and so desperately sad.
Of course, none of this would have been appropriate without the full backing of both Kym and Simon, and the actors have spoken out over the storyline, making it clear they wanted to be the ones to bring this to the screen.
Kym has stressed that although she “thought long and hard” about taking it on, she decided it was important to encourage people to feel free to talk about their own experiences.
“My gut instinct was to do this because, I felt, what better way to raise awareness of this subject, and also to honour my son?” she told Metro.
“This subject has been very taboo for far too long. Sharing is absolutely imperative to being able to put the pieces of your jigsaw back together.”
And it has got us talking. Talking about whether it’s right that a baby born before 24 weeks should be given no medical intervention if it’s born not breathing, talking about how a mother’s forced to give birth to her stillborn baby surrounded by women bringing healthy babies into the world. Going forward it will have us talking about how families cope, the legalities of no birth certificate for a child born so young, and how that hinders the grieving process.
Read more: Kym Marsh has a message for viewers
Both Kym and Simon should be congratulated for their outstanding performances, and viewers have been flocking to social media to express their admiration for their bravery. One, Sal, tweeted: “@msm4rsh @simongregson123 WoW you guys were fantastic and I was in tears. You were so brave Kym and done Archie proud.”
Kym’s daughter Emilie Cunliffe also heaped praise on her mum on Twitter saying “Can’t explain how proud I am of my amazing mummy! You’ve Done Arch so proud, I love you! Both amazing @msm4rsh @simongregson123.”
And their Corrie co-stars have reached out to commend Kym and Simon’s performance’s too. Samia Longchambon (Maria Connor) tweeted “Truly in awe of our @msm4rsh tonight @itvcorrie ..heartbreakingly honest performance. Thinking of all those who have been affected.”
And Catherine Tyldesley, who plays Eva Price, adding her thoughts, “@itvcorrie @msm4rsh @simongregson123… no words. Just outstanding. Well done for highlighting what so many want to share. So brave xx.”
Brave, honest, and very, very emotional, this episode will go down in Coronation Street history and will likely never be forgotten.