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The Untold Truth Of Bernadette From The Big Bang Theory

When "The Big Bang Theory" debuted in 2007, viewers were instantly drawn to Sheldon's offbeat brilliance, Leonard's awkward sensibility, and Penny's free spirit. Over its 12-season run, fans also got to know their friends, Howard and Raj, a little better too. But it wasn't until the show's third season that Bernadette Maryann Rostenkowski stepped into Pasadena's Cheesecake Factory and slowly weaved her way into everyone's hearts — including Howard's. That's when the series about a bunch of funny nerds became so much more than that. Following her debut, the petite blonde appeared throughout the season as a recurring character before being promoted to a series regular in season four, beginning a long onscreen history that many fans may have forgotten or simply missed. This is the untold truth of Bernadette from "The Big Bang Theory."

Worked as a waitress to pay for grad school

Portrayed by Melissa Rauch, Bernadette joined the hit CBS comedy in an episode titled "The Creepy Candy Coating Corollary," where she was introduced to viewers as Penny's seemingly timid co-worker at the gang's favorite hangout, the Cheesecake Factory. She took the job to help pay for her graduate studies in microbiology. According to Bernadette, she became fascinated with this very specific aspect of science the first time that she looked through a microscope.

Her interest mainly stemmed from the fact that, if she wanted to, she could crush everything she saw with her thumb like a god. This allowed her to feel powerful despite her small stature. A determined Bernadette eventually earns her Ph.D. in microbiology in "The Roommate Transmogrification" and snags a lucrative job at ZanGen. Her work at the pharmaceutical company subsequently makes her a "buttload" of money, leaving her as the primary breadwinner in her marriage to Howard.

Her relationship with Howard wasn't always solid

After Howard reminds Leonard of their girlfriend pact in Season 3's "The Creepy Candy Coating Corollary," a reluctant Penny sets him up on a date with Bernadette. While they struggle to find anything in common at first, the unlikely couple eventually bonds over their respective relationships with their overbearing mothers. After a successful few dates, they get into their first major fight when Bernadette demands to know why Howard hasn't called her. But she forgives him when he plays a song for her on a keyboard at the Cheesecake Factory in "The Vengeance Formulation."

Over the next few seasons, the couple still experiences relationship problems. When Bernadette shows an interest in Leonard's physics work, Howard becomes a little jealous, but Bernadette tells him not to worry and affectionately calls him Tushy Face in "The Gorilla Experiment." The couple hits another rough patch in "The Stag Convergence," when Wil Wheaton records Raj revealing embarrassing secrets about Howard during his bachelor party and uploads it to YouTube.

Distraught, she wonders how she can marry a man that she doesn't seem to know. But when Howard shows up at her apartment with a heartfelt message about how she's made him a better man, Bernadette forgives him and the wedding is back on — even though she's still mad at him.

Complicated family life

Bernadette's difficult relationship with her mother is just one part of her complex childhood. Her parents were overprotective, resulting in several problems during her teenage years. Her mom also ran an illegal daycare center in the family's basement and worked full-time. This left Bernadette to take care of her siblings every day after school — an experience she describes as hellish in "The Shiny Trinket Maneuver."

She also entered beauty pageants growing up, including one in 1999 for Miss California Quiznos. The revelation is made during "The Troll Manifestation" when the girls gather to watch the latest installment of Penny's Gorilla film franchise, "Serial Ape-ist 2." Slightly embarrassed by the movie, Penny shares equally embarrassing things about her best friends, which includes Amy's "Little House on the Prairie" fan fiction and Bernadette's pageants.

The daughter of a police officer, she at one point tells Howard that life was always stressful when her dad, Mike, was on active duty. The family constantly worried about his well being — which is why she wasn't initially happy with Howard going to space.

Difficulties navigating married life

After a slightly rocky start, Bernadette and Howard eventually get married in the Season 5 finale, "The Countdown Reflection." During their marriage, they deal with several issues that plague many couples, from silly things like Howard not taking on his share of household chores to bigger things like helping each other deal with past trauma.

When Sheldon finds a letter written by Howard's dad while organizing his friends' closet in "The Closet Reconfiguration," Bernadette (with the help of the group) devises a plan in which each of them tells him a different story about what was in the letter, with only one story being true. In Bernadette's version, the envelope contains a picture of Howard as a baby being held by his dad. On the back it says, "Howard my son, my greatest gift." It's never revealed which story is the truth, though Howard says he wishes they were all true.

Initially didn't want kids

As revealed in "The Shiny Trinket Maneuver," Bernadette has five sisters and brothers. Having to take care of them while their mom was working full-time created her aversion to children from a young age. She also believes this to be the reason for her competitive nature seen in "The Scavenger Vortex," where she explains how she had to fight with her siblings for everything growing up. However, she has a change of heart during the show's seventh season while Howard's mom Debbie is recovering from a fall. 

After Debbie dies in "The Comic Book Store Regeneration," Howard and Bernadette move back into her house and begin renovations as they prepare for parenthood in "The Valentino Submergence." They become parents to a little girl named Halley in "The Birthday Synchronicity." Toward the end of the series, they celebrate the arrival of a baby boy in "The Explosion Implosion." The couple names him Neil Michael Wolowitz, after the astronaut and Bernadette's father.

Realism of being a working parent

After Halley is born, the new parents struggle. Bernadette is often disheveled and exhausted from taking care of an infant, even reduced to tears from the pressure of it all. Fortunately, she's got help — the couple shares parental duties with some assistance from Raj and Stuart. The couple struggles with going back to work after when their respective maternity and paternity leave is over.

In "The Separation Agitation," the whole Wolowitz household (which includes Stuart) starts crying as they get Halley ready for her first day of daycare. At the center, Howard tries to convince Bernadette that the child is settling in fine. A doting dad, he stays long after his wife leaves for work. Unable to handle the separation, he eventually takes Halley to the aquarium instead.

After their son Neil is born, there are a few times when Bernadette takes advantage of Howard's excellent dad skills by hiding in the kids' playhouse under the guise of working late. Fortunately, they have friends who are more than willing to help out. Raj and Stuart often serve as the kids' primary babysitters.

Small stature, big aggression

Bernadette's height is a sensitive topic for her. She believes that her small stature is linked to her mother smoking while she was pregnant, and to compensate for her 4'10" frame, her father taught his daughter to stand up for herself and not to "take crap from anyone." Unfortunately, over the years this behavior evolved into bullying tendencies, but she doesn't do it on purpose.

Bernadette becomes aware of her mean streak while attending a company banquet in "The Champagne Reflection." Penny points out her aggressive tendencies after their boss Dan recounts the way Bernadette yelled at him and his grandson for losing the three-legged race at the company picnic. His grandson even gave her a nickname to fit her mood. When Bernadette arrives, Dan disappears and Penny has a heart-to-heart with her friend explaining that she can be very tough on people at times.

Raj and Sheldon's protector

In early seasons of "The Big Bang Theory," we learn that Bernadette knows how to deal with Sheldon's unique quirks and stubborn nature. When everyone else fails to convince an over-tired Sheldon to get some rest in "The Einstein Approximation," she can reason with him. With a strong tone, much like his mother, he gets him to go to bed by reminding him that a lack of REM sleep leads to impaired cognitive function.

Bernadette also has an understanding of Howard's best friend Raj. Throughout the series she's seen shielding him from Howard's playful taunts, inviting him to several "girls' nights" and even advising him to go to Human Resources when Howard's teasing borders on racism. The couple also gives him a dog after a breakup and a place to live when his father cuts him off from the family fortune.

Slightly contentious relationship with Amy

When Amy Farrah Fowler makes her debut in Season 3's "The Lunar Excitation," she adds a new dynamic to the group. While she instantly finds herself drawn to Penny (who she constantly refers to as her bestie), her relationship with Bernadette is a little more complicated. Amy constantly implies that Bernadette is the least attractive among the three girls, and this jealousy-fueled projection is brought to the fore in "The Misinterpretation Agitation" when a magazine recognizes Bernadette as one of California's 50 most beautiful scientists.

Amy isn't pleased with the news and doesn't keep those feelings to herself, saying that Bernadette should be celebrated for her academic achievements and not her looks. Taking matters into her own hands, Amy writes the magazine complaining about the premise of the article and gets it pulled. When Bernadette finds out, she lashes out at Amy, accusing her of being jealous.

Her job is a running gag

After earning her Ph.D. in microbiology, Bernadette goes to work at ZanGen. The company is never mentioned by name but does appear on her lab coat, signs at company events, and on several props in her apartment. During the course of the series, her lab team handling dangerous or infectious specimens is a constant source of amusement for the group.

This is evidenced in the episode "The Romance Resonance," when Howard's plans to celebrate the anniversary of their first date are crushed when a lab accident confines his wife to temporarily quarantine. With the help of the entire gang, Howard finds a way to surprise her by performing the original song "If I Didn't Have You" outside her hospital room.

Additionally, Bernadette is always bringing home product samples, from cold medication to ointments, for her friends to try. This is always followed up with a quip about the possible side effects.

Interesting relationship with her mother-in-law

Howard's mom Debbie is a bit of a mystery throughout the show. Much like a "Tom & Jerry" cartoon, the most viewers ever get to see of the loud, often overbearing woman is her feet. Always protective of her son, she takes a liking to Bernadette almost immediately, affectionately referring to her as a cute Catholic girl.

While Bernadette is a little leery of her mom-in-law, it's her idea to move in when Debbie breaks her leg. In "The Gorilla Dissolution," the couple actively cares for Howard's mom while she's confined to the downstairs guest room. When Howard says he doesn't think he can handle caring for her for six to eight weeks, Bernadette says she'd do it for her mother.

The couple eventually gets Stuart to help with the day-to-day care of Mrs. Wolowitz.

Bernadette appears in Young Sheldon

In an interesting twist, a young Bernadette makes a brief, non-speaking cameo appearance in the Season 2 finale of "Young Sheldon," along with child versions of the rest of the "Big Bang Theory" core group. The characters appear during a narrated montage in which grown-up Sheldon is thankful that his younger self was wrong when he thought he'd never have any friends.

Resisting the temptation to get too cute and contrive some way of introducing the kids decades before they met on the show that made their characters famous, the sequence depicts Leonard attempting to listen to the Nobel broadcast, Penny sleeping, Howard playing video games, Raj doing homework, Bernadette sleeping, and Amy reading "Little House on the Prairie" with a flashlight in the dark. Fittingly, "Young Sheldon" showrunner Steve Molaro told TV Line that the scene was intended as a one-time stunt to pay homage to "The Big Bang Theory."