The third season of NBC’s hit prime-time series, “This is Us,” is in the books and season 4 is just around the corner. In preparation for the September premiere, Adoptions With Love recaps the adoption storylines in season 3 of “This is Us.”
As fans are already well aware, “This is Us” – a fictional, yet tear-jerking drama – follows the Pearson family as they grow and evolve over the years. The show bounces between many different eras of the Pearsons’ lives, from the childhood and early days of Jack and Rebecca, to the present day lives of their three adult children who are starting and raising families of their own. In the series pilot, we learn that Jack and Rebecca – 1980 Jack and Rebecca – are expecting triplets. One of the babies does not survive childbirth. On this fateful day, another newborn, later named Randall, is left at a nearby fire station and brought to the same hospital. Ultimately, the Pearsons decide to adopt this baby as their third child, and thus begins a whirlwind story of love, growing pains, heartache, and incredible joy.
Following the adoption and raising of Randall, Season 1 (as recapped here) explored many of the complicated and emotional elements that come with adoption, such as the self-identity conflicts that can happen as a result of closed adoption, and the effects of a closed adoption on birth parents and adoptive parents alike.
Season 2 of “This is Us” dug even deeper, as grown-up Randall and his wife, Beth, decide to foster a troubled teen in need of a loving home. These themes of adoption and foster care carried into Season 3 of “This is Us,” which just ended in April 2019. But this is just the beginning. Season 3 explored even more adoption themes, including the topics of infertility, IVF, and how those can affect a family.
When Season 3 premiered, we jumped back into the story of newlyweds Kate and Toby, who are looking to start a family at the time. After her miscarriage in Season 2, Kate decides she definitely wants to have children, and she wants them as soon as possible. She and Toby try for several months to conceive a baby. Finally, the couple decides to move forward with IVF treatments, despite her doctor’s concerns.
Rebecca, an understandably concerned mom, asks Kate why she would push to carry another baby when there are many more options. Kate explains that she wants to have a biological child. She says:
“Because I want to. Because I want to look that baby in his face and I want to see Toby. I want to see myself. I want to see Dad. And I’m the only one in the family who’s going to carry on a piece of Dad.”
This sentiment eventually gets back to Kevin, who is hurt, but eventually shares it with adoptive brother Randall, who is crushed. As a person who has always struggled with identity and feeling like he belongs, Kate’s words devastate him.
Randall hears of his sister’s hurtful words right after being told that he does not belong with his birth father’s community. As a transracially adopted child, with two siblings who are biologically related to his parents, Randall has always struggled to fit in. He confronts Kate, who assures him that he does, in fact, have “a piece of dad” in him. This reflects an important lesson: Family is not defined by biology. Family is defined by love. While Randall does not carry his father’s genes, he carries his father’s wisdom, his compassion, and his courage to do what is right. These qualities, in many ways, are more important than eye or skin color.
The discussion, however, eventually leads to a sibling feud. Randall asks her about adoption and she simply says, “Of course Toby and I would consider adoption if it came to that.” This is another hurtful phrase for Randall. To Randall, adoption is not a last resort choice. It is a choice made with love, a choice that his parents made and a choice that he will eventually make for his family. Meanwhile, Kate is not happy with Randall for “[throwing] adoption in [her] face,” as she puts it, when he has two biological children and has never personally faced infertility.
Kate’s desire to have biological children hits very close to home for viewers who have experienced infertility. According to the CDC, infertility is a common occurrence. In fact, 12 percent of couples in the U.S. struggle to get pregnant. More than 6 million women today face infertility issues, and these women are 10 times more likely to adopt children. However, infertility does not just affect women – about 9 percent of men ages 15 to 44 also experience fertility problems.
The emotional toll that infertility takes on a person who so deeply desires to have biological children is real. The positive impact of adoption, however, is just as valuable. The honest desire for pregnancy and honoring adoption for what it is – not a second choice – are tricky concepts to exist side-by-side. “This is Us” does an excellent job at shedding light on this sensitive and emotional subject that many hopeful parents face in their lives.
Another adoption storyline that continues on Season 3 of “This is Us” is that of Deja, Randall and Beth’s foster child. As we learn in Season 2, Deja has been through a lot in her young life. She has been shuffled between abusive foster homes, while always looking to reconnect with her birth mother, who is in and out of jail and unable to financially provide for her daughter. Wanting the best for Deja, her birth mother eventually relinquishes her rights and reaffirms that her birth father wants no part in raising her.
While Deja feels bitter, cautious, and has resisted the love of the Pearson family, she lets down her walls after Randall calls her “exceptional.” This is a profound moment for young Deja, who has never been complimented so highly before. It even prompts her to sneak out of the house one day to find her birth father, tell him that she has someone who considers her “exceptional,” and that the only thing she wants from him is a pair of Nikes. When she returns home with the shoes for Randall, she also tells him that he can sign the adoption papers. Beth and Randall become the legal parents of Deja, and provide her the safe, loving, and permanent home that she deserves – a place where she can thrive.
Adoptions With Love has resources and services for families facing all kinds of adoption situations. Whether it is a closed adoption, open adoption, or semi-open adoption, our caring social workers work tirelessly to bring families together. Reach out to us to learn more about our work, which has been going on for more than 33 years. Call us anytime at 1-800-722-7731, text confidentially at 617-777-0072, or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. We are here for you.
Season 4 of “This is Us” premieres September 24th on NBC.