Firefly Lane’s ambitious newswoman Tully Hart has always had a strained relationship with motherhood. Her hippie mother Cloud fails to protect Tully, and at 14 years of age, she has her first pregnancy scare after being sexually assaulted by a school senior.
Tully never actually has the baby. She never wishes to have a child of her own out of fear that she, too, will turn out to be a bad mom like Cloud. She carries this trauma into her 40s, when she has an unplanned pregnancy with a man she loves but is still unsure of keeping the baby.
Her first pregnancy scare makes Tully put up a wall around herself, a theme that continues well into her adulthood. During her second brush with pregnancy-related trauma many years later, things unfold a little differently. However, the end result is the same—Tully’s walls get even higher, and she ends up causing pain to herself as well as to others.
This gave me a deep look into the complexity of Tully’s personality and how her pain shapes her over the years, which I felt is worth exploring.
Content warning: This article contains detailed references to sexual trauma, which may be distressing to some.
1. Tully’s First Brush with Pregnancy
Tully’s first encounter with this trauma comes when she is merely 14 and gets raped in the woods by Pat Richmond (Michael Taylor), a high school senior who takes her to a party and gets her drunk on beer. He then leaves her lying in the grass and takes off to get himself more beer. Tully lies there in a daze and then throws up.
Following this, Tully walks home, lost in her thoughts, and presumably attempting to process what she just experienced. She meets Kate on her way home and unexpectedly ends up telling her what happened.
This becomes the start of Kate and Tully’s life-altering friendship.
Though Kate proves an excellent confidante and steadfastly supports Tully after this, the aftermath Tully goes through is not easy. She continues to grapple with the trauma of what happened to her the night of the party. Thoughts of Pat Richmond haunt her at night, and she is scared that she may be pregnant because her period is late.
Kate is the only person Tully relies on through all of this, as her mother Cloud is too wrapped up in her own addiction and does not really play the role of a parent in her life.
Tully has already grown bitter and lonely as she went from a child to a teenager, thanks to Cloud’s neglect. This entire incident and its fallout make her even more jaded and walled off to everyone besides Kate.
I can only imagine what kind of toll this might have taken on a 14-year-old child, and that too one without a mother to support, guide, and care for her.
Thankfully, Tully eventually gets her period and realizes she isn’t pregnant, but the entire experience of the trauma and the subsequent fear of pregnancy is not to be taken lightly.
2. Tully’s Promiscuity as an Adult
Once she enters adulthood, Tully’s approach towards sex takes a very different turn. She becomes sexually liberated and comfortable with casual sexual experiences.
Whether this is because she has managed to put the traumatic nature of her first sexual experience behind her or because the trauma caused her to overcompensate by becoming hypersexual (known and common aftermath of sexual trauma), is anybody’s guess. The show does not go into depth about these reasons.
In the 1980s, she is a 20-something journalist at her local news station, KPOC. In this timeline, she has sexual relationships with at least two men we know of—her and Kate’s boss Johnny, and her former college professor Chad Wiley.
In the 2000s, she is an uber-successful and famous talk show host, more confident than ever. Although afraid of commitment, Tully does not shy away from casual sexual encounters, and even boldly approaches men on her own. This, in fact, is how she meets Max, who ends up playing a more significant role in her life than any men in her recent memory.
3. Tully and Max’s Relationship
Tully and Max’s relationship begins with a one-night stand at Tully’s lavish apartment after picking Max up at a bar.
Max is enamored by her and wants to see her again afterward, but Tully firmly—though politely—makes him leave.
However, it appears that Tully, too, is taken up by Max, because she later rekindles their connection. This eventually turns into a passionate, recurring sexual relationship. The relationship takes an unwittingly serious turn when Tully accidentally gets pregnant with Max’s baby.
4. Tully’s Pregnancy
From the get-go, several factors make Tully’s pregnancy a complicated and unusual experience.
For starters, she is 43 years old when she gets pregnant, which automatically makes her pregnancy high-risk, as pregnancies in people over 35 are known as “geriatric pregnancies”. On top of this, she refuses to see a doctor in order to ensure that everything is okay right away, even though Kate nags her to do so.
For a while after getting pregnant, Tully grapples with deciding whether or not she wants to keep the baby. She repeatedly talks about how she has no idea how to be a mother, or whether she even wants to be one. Kate encourages her and tells her that she will learn as she goes, but it is ultimately up to Tully to decide.
Eventually, Tully decides to tell Max that she is pregnant, and he is delighted. He proposes to her, which initially freaks her out, but she accepts. We get to witness something rather unexpected—Tully saying, “I do.”
For a short while, Tully’s life seems hunky-dory, with a doting husband-to-be and a baby on the way.
However, as seems to be the pattern of Firefly Lane, everything soon comes crashing down. On her wedding night with Max, Tully starts bleeding, which tells us she’s having a miscarriage.
Tully ends up losing the pregnancy, and spending several days in and out of consciousness as she recuperates from a serious infection.
Even though Tully initially did not want a child, we see that she is distraught at losing her baby through the dream sequences when she is delirious.
After surviving the miscarriage and the infection, we see that Tully, who had briefly let her walls down, has put them right back up again. She lashes out at Max, sabotaging their relationship by telling him that she no longer wants to be with him now that there’s no baby. Tully’s classic coping mechanism against pain is to hurt others, and we see her fall back into that again.
Pregnancy thus remains a reason behind her pain and trauma at different stages of Tully’s life, even though she doesn’t get to experience motherhood herself.
5. About Firefly Lane
Firefly Lane is based on the eponymous novel by Kristin Hannah and has been adapted for Netflix by Maggie Friedman. The first season landed on the streaming platform in February 2021 and has quickly acquired a dedicated fanbase. While there is no official confirmation yet, Firefly Lane is all set to be renewed for another season.
The seies is a Netflix drama centered on the lives and friendship of two protagonists, Tully Hart and Kate Mularkey. The series follows their individual trials as well as the tests their friendship is put through right from their teenage years in the 1970s all the way up to their 40s.