Friday, March 21, 2008

Reality TV

It always amazes me to think about how reality TV has shaped our perceptions of certain life experiences. Way back in the day, I think your average person generally had little idea about things like plastic surgery, drug rehab/addiction, or any other life-changing experience. However, reality TV has given us insight into all of those things--from the numerous plastic surgery shows, to VH1's Celebrity Rehab, A&E's Intervention and MTV's True Life. I'm not saying that these shows give a completely full and accurate portrayal, but I think it gives normal people a glimpse into experiences they wouldn't otherwise have, enough to have a vague sense of what actually happens in those circumstances.

Back before reality TV was everywhere, TLC was getting the ball rolling with its daytime lineup of A Wedding Story and A Baby Story. I recall watching a LOT of that stuff back in college, and it's been a normal part of my weekday mornings off (the few I have) ever since. Back in college A Baby Story was a little beyond our comprehension. That just seemed so far off, but we formed a lot of important ideas about childbirth at that point. More on those in a bit. At that point we were pretty fixated on A Wedding Story, because marriage was a foreseeable goal (ok, we didn't have the guys, but kept hoping we'd find the right one soon) and we did know some people who were getting married, so it all seemed a little more relevant. It was funny a couple years ago when I watched A Wedding Story for the first time in a while to realize I had leap-frogged that show...that the show portrayed something that seemed so huge and important back then (wedding planning and marriage are huge and important, but it was merely a big dream back in college), and that I had already survived it! Watching it now is like, "Yeah, been there, done that...it was great but I don't miss the planning!"

A Baby Story is a different story, however. And these days they have another show, Bringing Home Baby, about the first 36 hours home from the hospital. I've seen enough of them over the years to know exactly what I'm going to see each episode...but watching them now takes on a whole new meaning, because that will officially be us in 3-1/2 months. It's a little mind-boggling...almost can't wrap my brain around the fact that after all these years, I'm going to be that screaming, sweaty woman in labor, then a couple days later we'll be those parents trying to figure out why the baby won't stop crying at 3am. You can watch it a million times, but only when it's actually in the forseeable future does it really start to set in. It's one thing to know you're going to be the screaming, sweaty woman at some point...but it's another to actually know WHEN. Despite the scary stuff, watching these shows can also be comforting because you see that everyone else goes through the same thing and survives it.

This morning I got to see a couple episodes of Bringing Home Baby. Nothing new or life-altering, but it just reminded me yet again that it's going to be quite the experience...I'm just happy we won't have a full cameras crew documenting it. I'm actually a little relieved I didn't come across A Baby Story today. Back in December I watched a couple episodes on the plane down to Florida (thanks Jet Blue) and managed to see two straight episodes of women going through natural child birth...water births, no less. Lots of pain, lots of screaming, lots of bloody water...not really what you want to see when you're pregnant. Let me see the nice happy woman sporting an epidural and no purple stretch marks, and I'm a happy camper. I just have to keep those images in my head, rather than the scary ones...because even if my experience is more like the scary ones, hopefully it'll all be a blur anyway. Maybe it's ignoring the inevitable, but I'm trying not to think too much about labor. I don't want to spend the next three months worrying about it because 1) it's too late to turn back anyway; 2) it'll drive me nuts; and 3) I might psych myself out for nothing.

Anyway, I just think it's funny that reality TV has given women like me insight into this whole childbirth process like our parents' generation never had. And who says reality TV is all crap?

Oh, and in case you're wondering...what jewels of wisdom did A Baby Story teach us back in college? 1) Epidurals hurt, but they appear to be worth it. 2) Babies are covered in goo when they pop out, so really, it's perfectly ok if you clean the baby off right away before handing it to me. 3) Hats are great after the baby gets cleaned up...not only are they cute, but they cover unfortunate labor-induced coneheads. 4) One or maybe two family members are the maximum capacity for the delivery room. Any more than that is just weird. Having your current children watch the new one pop out is just weird. Pardon my saying, but no kid needs to see that much of their mom's vagina, nor something that traumatic and bloody at such a young age. I'm 29 and pregnant and didn't like seeing it in Knocked Up. I don't care how much of a miracle it is...it's frightening. And as Mary used to say every time we'd see a delivery room full of people: "Hel-lo, I'm not wearing any pants...get out of my room!" Well said.

No comments: