Patti LuPone calls her tour of duty as an expectant mother on ABC's Life Goes On ''the longest pregnancy in TV history,'' and she could be right. This spring, the 40ish actress' character, Libby Thacher, will have her baby a full 15 months after LuPone herself became pregnant and the producers decided to have Libby follow suit. LuPone gave birth to Joshua Luke Johnston Nov. 21. Weeks later, she strapped on padding (''mostly foam, and birdseed for my boobs'') and went back to work as a still-pregnant Libby. But LuPone, who has three episodes of the Sunday-night family drama left to film, is also experiencing labor pains of a different sort.
''I'm very unhappy with the way the season has unfolded and how unimportant the mother is in the family,'' she says. ''I'm not satisfied there's no other way to put it. There are a lot of issues for women over 40 that they could have explored and they chose not to.'' LuPone says she has made her discontent known, but ''men run the show, and they're not interested in exploring these issues. [Libby] is going the way of all Hollywood mothers she's just a fixture, a device.''
Such a public venting of frustration is often the first salvo in a contract war, but LuPone, who has been with the show since it began in 1989, says she's more resigned than angry. ''I would love for them to investigate and write with passion about a modern woman,'' she says. In response, the show's executive producer, Michael Braverman, says, ''All the discussions we've had have been pleasant.''