Given that I am up to my ears with obsessing about having ( or not having, actually) babies right now and that I am pretty firmly convinced that the universe sometimes revolves around me, it makes sense that I have been forced to sit through not one but two television births in the last week. Television births have always slain me, usually because the baby the new mom and dad coo over is A) clean as a whistle except for a smudge of what looks like raspberry jam on her forehead and B) just about old enough to climb out of mom's arms and take her driver's license exam.
After I had Jeffrey and KNEW what that shit was all about, I began to be very cynical about births on television and the movies. In fact, "births" replaced "tornadoes and/or hurricanes" as my favored object of derision as interpreted by Hollywood. That scene in "Twister" when Chet from "Weird Science" and Jamie from "Mad About You" strap themselves onto a rusty farmyard apparatus and watch in amazement as an F-5 screams over the top of them and doesn't, you know, rip off their skin? Made me cackle so loud in the movie theater that Will threatened to leave. But Jamie did redeem herself in my eyes all over again when I watched the rerun of her giving birth to Mabel the other night.
At the time (May sweeps just before Will asked me to marry him) the show first aired, I was relatively naive as far as childbirth went. I had three brothers and a friend who was in the process of giving birth, but it wasn't really "real" to me. I cried because I had very romantic notions about birth and husbands and laughed because Carol Burnett did that Carol Burnett face where her mouth twists down and opens and her eyes roll back in her head. Plus, I thought the Bruce Willis was precious.
This week I watched it with a different eye. And can I just say Helen Hunt deserved that Oscar? I know she won it for "As Good As It Gets," but she deserved it for making baby birthing on TV look like baby birthing in real life. The flared nostrils, the internal focus--seriously, cool chick looked a lot like I looked (except that every feature on my face had swollen to clownlike proportions) when I was trying to walk through the pain. The irritation and the fear she showed were perfect. I realized, in fact, that as I did the whole "wearing a path across my hospital room" thing with Jeffrey, I was consciously thinking about Jamie Buchman breathing through her nose. Seriously, I watched waaaaayyyyy too much TV before it became my job to watch it.
But I also realized just how WRONG Hollywood gets birth, as well. I know, it's not supposed to be real and watching seven hours of a woman panting like a dog and telling her mother to be quiet while a nurse is wrist-deep in her vag!na would not be, you know, entertaining, but sometimes I feel like they could try harder. The dramas tend to do it better than comedies, I think, mainly because comedies seem to feel that birth falls into two categories: an opportunity for a female character to be portrayed as insane while a male character comes across as a dumbass ("9 Months" and "Full House") or an opportunity for a character to see birth as a life-changing experience so that his character can make a 360 degree turn ("Doc Hollywood" and "Growing Pains.") Still, nobody can get it completely right, because birth is all of those things and none of those things piled into one big, sloppy, drawn-out timespan.
However, two shows have gotten it so wrong that I feel I must say something. Seriously. Because some little teenybopper might watch them and think it's so easy and the actresses look so hot, like, fifteen minutes after their 6-month-old newborns come out that she ought to go and make a baby with the mouth-breathing wrestler that keeps sticking his hand down her shirt when they're at their lockers. I know that no teenyboppers are reading this blog. Actually, I'm not sure that teenyboppers exist anymore. But if one of the four of you who read this blog know of any teenyboppers who are considering having sex with mouth-breathing wrestlers, please point them to "The Miracle of Life" instead of the following shows:
1. The "Friends" episode where Rachel gives birth. Look, I love me some "Friends." I was bawling with the rest of my generation when Rachel came back and she and Ross kissed and he made that tired "on a break" joke. And the lead-up to the actual event was cute, with Janice there and Ross having the issues with the stirrups. But when she gave birth? Sister, please. First, the director's idea of uglying her up during birth (because, let's face it, no woman looks pretty giving birth) was mussing her pigtails and rouging up her cheeks. She looked dewy and a little warm, but not in travail. I was especially dubious when the doctor says, "Oh, your baby is breech. It's okay, just push harder." Say what? The woman has hips roughly the width of a tongue depressor and pushing a little harder will get a six-month-old baby out of her vag!na BACKWARDS? What the fuck ever.
2. "Alias." I don't even know where the hell to begin with this complete foul-up of a delivery. First, Sydney's all, "The baby's coming" right as her evil mom reveals herself to be, you know, really evil. Okay, that was a given. But then, they make her climb four flights of stairs to the roof of the building. Right. 'Cause it's easy to walk up four flights of stairs with a six-month-old wedged under your pubic bone. Then all kinds of shit happens in ten minutes and she realizes, "Hold the phone, I'm really going to have the baby." So her evil mom, who I was afraid would EAT the baby, tells Sydney to get up on an office chair. WHAT?? An office chair? Okay, I'm sitting in one right now, and while I know that sitting up is more ergonomic for squeezing out a kid, I can tell you that there is no room to accommodate a six-month-old coming out of my
vag!na. Further, even if I was able to scooch myself forward enough so that my vag!na was hanging off the end of the chair, I'd still have to worry about the swivel action as my thighs vibrated during the whole squeezing out the baby thing. So, giving birth in an office chair? Not so much. But let's pretend for a moment that Syd's evil mom chewed away a large portion of the office chair seat so that Syd and her kid had plenty o' room. Syd's evil mom says Syd's fully dilated ('cause I know it took ten minutes for me to dilate fully...snort) and she's crouched there, waiting for Sydette to make her appearance when all of a sudden she goes, "Wait! The baby is backwards." Y'all, I threw my show-writing paper across the room at the television. I mean, come on. But of course, even though more evil people are coming (including, much to my horror, Fred from "Angel." Fred, you aren't the host for a wicked god any more. Come to the light.) and her dad is being shot at and her evil mom is squatting two inches from her hooha, Syd manages to pull herself together and with a few decorous tears and chin wobbles, squeeze out the six-month-old baby. (There was of course NO blood or amniotic fluid dripping down evil mom's cheeks or puddling in her bra, regardless of her position during the birth.) Bleh. Then evil mom stole some important top secret thingy and left, not a morsel of vernix to be seen on her sexy spy clothes.
Sigh. I know I shouldn't be so hard on Hollywood. It's impossible to crunch the entire miracle that is birth into an hour or so (much less thirty minutes, which is why so many birth episodes are "very special"). And very few people are going to willingly deliver their baby into the hands of evil Lena Olin. But, come on. It makes you wonder what's next. A Macgyver reunion in which Mac performs an emergency C-Section with a hacksaw and a pair of salad tongs? Bo helping Hope deliver underwater while Shawn fends off sharks? "A very special Ghost Whisperer" in which Jennifer Love Hewitt's baby realizes that his mom's hips will never accommodate him, so he uses the Force or whatever and astral projects himself into her arms?
Better set my DVR.