That’s right, it’s time for more King of the Hill!
Today I want to talk about an episode called “Pregnant Paws” that I watched while I was struggling with PCOS and infertility, so it hit close to home. It’s an adorable episode that you can watch right here:
And here are my thoughts on what this episode has to say about invisible illness and in particular, PCOS and infertility.
The episode opens with Peggy walking the family dog, Ladybird, in Hank’s old underwear because she’s in heat and they’re out of doggie diapers. Much to Hank’s mortification, of course. But Peggy has a ready defense- she wouldn’t need to wear anything if Hank would get her spayed! Hank says he’s going to breed her…someday. After all, she’s a pure bread bloodhound! Peggy points out that Ladybird is 13 years old, probably past her puppy prime.
Then a lot of nonsense happens concerning Dale becoming a bounty hunter and Hank propositioning his boss for dog breeding. But we get a glimpse of the deeper, more emotional story beneath the surface when we see Bobby and Luann getting Ladybird ready for her “big date.”
“I can’t believe it. Ladybird’s gonna be a mommy. Seems like only yesterday mom and dad brought her home for me, on account of not having any brothers or sisters to play with. If I’d been old enough to talk, I’d have asked for a monkey.”
So Bobby got Ladybird in lieu of siblings when he was still not old enough to talk? That seems odd, doesn’t it? Most families wouldn’t be replacing the hope of siblings with pets when a child was still so young…
Moving on. Ladybird “does the deed,” and Dale gets certified to be a bounty hunter. Hank and Peggy take Ladybird to the vets office to get a doggie pregnancy test and Peggy says the office “gives her the deja vus” and reminds her of when they were trying to get pregnant.
Hank: “So Doctor, is she going to be a mommy?”
Doctor: “How do I say this without breaking your hearts? … No.” Peggy: (crying) “Oh God…”
Ah, doctors. Amirite? Anyway, Peggy reacts in a very familiar way: What’s wrong with me? And Hank and the Doctor assure her it’s not her fault. Then the Doctor throws Hank under the bus and says its his fault. Here was have Hank’s famous narrow urethra – an ongoing reference in the series usually played for laughs because it’s just funny to hear Hank Hill say “narrow urethra.”
But this episode, we’re going to see the serious toll it’s taken on their lives. This is one of my favorite things about this show. It can speak very candidly about these darker things, like infertility. It can show the devastation and heartbreak, but still embraces the humor in the situation. Anyone who’s gone through anything like this can agree that laughing to keep from crying is a real thing, and an effective one. Comedy has always been tragedy. But I’m waxing poetic a bit.
A side bit of humor and truth for anyone who frequents doctors: Hank’s doctor points out that he had his suspicions of Hank’s condition when it took him 30 minutes to produce a urine sample.
I have always been a nervous pee-er. I hate doing urine samples. SO MUCH PRESSURE.
Anywho. So the doctor tells them a few things they can do. For one, Hank needs to relax more, because the stress is making it worse. This applies to basically every form of infertility. Between hearing the doctors say that stress is bad for your overall health and hearing others say “relax and it will happen!” stress simply can’t be talked away.
The doctor also suggests Hank wear boxer shorts – if you’ve ever tried to conceive you know that one. And offers to recommend “a series of sexual techniques.” To which Hank responds “A SERIES?!”
Peggy then brings up something she saw on the news called “in-vitro fertilization,” which I (and pretty much everyone else) will shorten to IVF. She tearfully explains that Hank’s “boys” are mixed with one of her “girls” in a test tube. Hank will have none of this, calling it “science run amok.”
Peggy begs Hank to try it and Hank remains firmly against it, despite Peggy crying. Of course, in an actual infertility journey, there are things to try between unassisted conception and IVF, but of course we’ve only got 30 minutes so that seems like the end of that.
Back in present day, we find out that Ladybird won’t be getting pregnant either, as she has a narrow uterus (what are the odds). This seems silly, but once again King of the Hill takes it into a surprisingly emotional scene. Hank sits on a bench at the dog park talking to Ladybird about his feelings.
“I know it hurts, Ladybird. I’ve been there myself. I just wish I could scoop up your pain in a little plastic bag and throw it out.”
I don’t care who you are, that’s one of the most touching things I’ve ever heard. Log that away for the next time you need to comfort a friend during hard times. In all seriousness, it’s a beautiful picture of empathy.
After another dog…ahem…expresses interest in Ladybird, Hank talks to the owners about their plight. As it turns out, they got their dog from a breeder with a dog they thought couldn’t have puppies. They inform Hank that there’s all sorts of stuff you can do – diet, hormones, body work, surgery. Hank excitedly invites the “brothers” (they’re not brothers) for a beer to hear all they know.
We cut back to Dale’s antics for a bit, then see Hank and Bobby taking Ladybird’s basal body temperature. Ah yes, nothing quite like logging your temperature every day and trying to make something of the tiniest changes. Anyway, this is understandably upsetting to Peggy. After all, when her doctor told her she couldn’t have babies, Hank was completely unwilling to hear about anything they could do about it. But some strangers convinced him the effort was worth it for a dog?
Wives have long competed with dogs for their husbands’ love and affection. It’s not uncommon for a man to come home after a long day of work, greet his wife, and sit down to pet and cuddle with the family dog. That can be pretty hurtful. But this is a whole new level.
The next morning Peggy wakes up alone and shivering with no blanket. She finds Ladybird wrapped up in the blanket while Hank gives her a “body awareness” fertility massage. Damn it, Hank. You’re being a gigantic butthole. I’m mad just watching this again. And remember, THIS IS A CARTOON. How are you doin me all these feels?
Anywho. Bobby comes into the backyard with a hormone dog biscuit looking for Ladybird and finds Bill. He explains to Bill that Ladybird is going to be a mommy and he’ll have a puppy again, just like when he was one year old. Bill laughs and says Bobby’s got it all wrong. Hank and Peggy got Ladybird a whole year before Bobby was born.
“As I recall your mama was having trouble getting pregnant on account of your daddy’s narrow doohickey and eventually they just gave up on ever having a child of their own so they did the next best thing.”
And now I’m crying like a baby, because in the big middle of me working through infertility, I found a kitten on my doorstep and took it in. And gahhh EMOTIONS OVER HERE.
But this is still a comedy show. So Bobby asks Bill if that means he’s adopted. Bill, meanwhile, has begun munching on the hormone biscuit and says he’ll only talk if Bobby bikes to the store to get more of them.
But back to things that are infuriating: Hank tells Peggy that Ladybird has been accepted to an IVF program out of state. But remember, back in the day Hank said IVF was “wrong.” Oh shit. Peggy just about looses it and murders him. I mean that’s what I would have done. But Peggy threatens to leave, which I guess is an ok reaction. I’m still pulling for murder.
And now back to antics (this is an emotional rollercoaster). Dale steals Ladybird for a while to do his bounty hunter thing.
Peggy heads out with a golf club and I’m like “OH SHIT HERE WE GO” but she’s planning on beating the mower with it, not Hank’s skull. Pretty good, though. Hank does love that mower. But Hank is still there and tells her Ladybird is missing. Peggy is genuinely worried because of course she loves that dog too. Her beef isn’t with Ladybird.
So they jump in the car. Peggy is navigating using an address Dale left. Hank muses “I wish Ladybird was here. She doesn’t need a map.”
Oh no you didn’t, Hank. Here comes the crazy eyes.
She accuses Hank of acting like he loves the dog more than his human wife when they find Ladybird locked in Dale’s truck in the Texas sun. Moreover, the truck is surrounded by attack dogs. Hank prepares to go save her.
“Are you loco? As soon as you step foot out there those attack dogs will attack you to shreds. I bet if I were stuck in a truck, you would leave me there!… all week I have watched you jump through hoops to get Ladybird pregnant, and you never jumped through any hoops for me.”
Oh Peggy. I want to bring you a tub of ice cream and share it. I’m sure in any infertility journey, it feels one-sided at some point. I know it did for us sometimes.
So Hank explains that the reason he never put a thermometer in Peggy’s ear is because it would kill the romance. With Ladybird it doesn’t matter because she’s just a dog. In my opinion? That’s some weak shit, Hank. But Peggy is happy to hear Hank say he loves her more and tells him sometimes she needs to hear it. Then Hank continues in his ignorance and asks if she wants to get pregnant. She says she doesn’t know, but she’d rather have another baby than another puppy. To her confusion, Hank agrees.
We then flash back again to see young Hank and Peggy playing with the puppy together, laughing and kissing, and Hank explains that he believes that playing with that puppy relaxed him enough to eventually get Peggy pregnant. This really wins present Peggy over because let’s face it, if a guy brings up wanting babies it usually ends an argument.
Maternal instinct awakened, Peggy takes the wheel and backs their truck up close to Dale’s. Hank prepares to open the door and snag Ladybird. With both his and Dale’s door open, he creates a small, fenced off square for Ladybird to pass safely from one car to the other.
“Be careful, Hank. Nine times out of ten they go straight for the crotch– and I see ten dogs out there.”
Ladybird gets across and they “get the hell out of there.”
So we have a happy ending. Bobby wasn’t adopted after all, and Peggy and Hank are happy again. They play with Ladybird and still giggle and kiss each other like they used to. While Hank’s “apology” or explanation wouldn’t have made me personally feel better, everyone experiences infertility differently, and that’s what this episode was all about.
I think that doing the medical side of infertility can still be romantic- supporting each other, helping log temperatures, people can bond over that. But it’s not for everyone. Peggy would have liked the thoughtfulness of it, but Hank expressed thoughtfulness in another way: by bringing her a puppy. Really that’s no small thing, it’s a huge investment of time and money. Just like IVF is.
This is just one story of infertility, and it’s a sweet one with a happy ending. Peggy and Hank don’t end up having another baby, but they overcame infertility the first time and rekindled their relationship the second time. Each member of a couple will experience infertility, grieving, and hope in their own way. But it’s important to bridge the gap and support each other on your individual journeys.
I hope you enjoyed this episode as much as I did! And if you’re currently in the big middle of infertility diagnosis and treatment, know that I wish I could scoop up your pain in a little plastic baggie and throw it away. It’s hard, and I’m so sorry. But find the things you can laugh at. 🙂 And love each other.