Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Empty Calorie Entertainment: "I Didn't Know I Was Pregnant"

Being at home with an infant, I watch a lot of TV. In this blog series, I examine some of my favorite televisual guilty pleasures and answer the question, "So, why do I like this crap?"

"I Didn't Know I Was Pregnant" on Discovery Fit & Health

This show is by no means my very favorite. I'm glad it exists if only as fodder for The Soup (including their excellent parody "I Didn't Know I Had to Take a Dump"). Oh, yes, I used to think it was just hilarious that there were a TV season's worth of toilet-birthing ladies willing to admit their stupidity on a national broadcast. But then I got pregnant and the joke wasn't so funny anymore. I had my normal share of nauseous days, sleepless nights and sore, swollen feet. I fought hard for a natural birth and because my baby was posterior (meaning she came out head first, but facing the wrong direction) it was a long, painful experience. And though I feel lucky that I got what I wanted and she turned out great, thinking about this show made me pissy. Why should the world's dumbest women be rewarded with births that could be easily mistaken for something as mundane as Taco Bell poops?

Ah, but that isn't every episode of "I Didn't Know I was Pregnant". I discovered this a couple weeks ago when I was nursing my baby at the end of a trying day. Watching TV is about the only thing I can do when she's latched to my breast. The glory of giving life aside, it gets to be pretty boring. On that particular night, I couldn't move a millimeter without her fussing, so I wasn't into channel-surfing. I needed entertainment that would suck me in while she was sucking on me. I stumbled upon IDKIWP and thought, "Well, this oughta bug the hell out of me," and settled in. 

Coming into the midst of a marathon, I caught the tail end of an episode in which a mother was shocked to learn from her doctor that she was 4 1/2 months pregnant. She and her husband had actually tried for another child without success, so this came as a happy and welcome surprise. For reasons that had been discussed prior to my tuning in, she hadn't menstruated in nearly year. Therefore, missing her period was not taken as a sign of pregnancy. Anyway, she and her man were blissful, as evidenced by the lilting piano melody playing in the background. But then - duh, duh, DUHN! - she feels like she's going into labor that very night. She knows it's labor because she's been there before and she isn't an idiot, so she chooses the ER over the bathroom. She spends an entire day being poked and prodded and tested, and she's praying  her little peanut will be okay. At the end of the day, two doctors wander into her room and suggest an emergency C-section. "Hell, no!" she says. She wants this baby. "There's no way he can survive at 20 weeks." The doctors look confused, then they look at each other, and then they're just silent. Finally one of them says, "You're actually 30 weeks pregnant." Duh, duh, DUHN!!! 

In the end, they delivered her teeny, tiny boy and he had to stay in an incubator for weeks. They weren't sure he would survive, but he did, and now he's a 6'4" nineteen year old with bad facial hair who's sweet to his mom. And that made me happy. Actually, the most maddening part of the story was that this poor, frightened woman spent an entire day in a hospital room without a single professional discussing the situation with her. But that was also the most believable part of the story. 

The next episode was REALLY nuts. I can't remember the unexpectedly expectant lady's name, so I'll call her Annabelle. Annabelle is a big girl. I know what you're thinking - "So that's how she didn't know she was pregnant." But the pre-commercial teaser revealed that she was pregnant with twins. Now you're probably thinking what I thought - "Come ON, Annabelle!" But like the lady in the other episode, Annabelle seems fairly intelligent. And her back story is a doozy. As a teenager, she survived leukemia but was told that her treatment had eliminated any chance of bearing children. Her meds contributed to her enormous weight gain in the following years, but at age 23 she gained another hundred pounds in a matter of weeks. When she couldn't walk from the kitchen to the living room without losing her breath, she decided to go to the doctor. Her blood pressure was through the roof, but no one could figure out what was wrong with her. After completing every other imaginable exam, a nurse finally administered a pregnancy test. And then came the unbelievable news. "You're pregnant. (duh, duh, DUHN!) With twins." 

TIME OUT: Kudos to the producers of IDKIWP for presenting Annabelle's reception of this news in a believable way... that is, as a fucking nightmare. Based on the brief time I've spent with my friends H and S's twin tots (both of whom were very much wanted and anticipated), I've gleaned that raising multiples is a heroic undertaking. Unless you're lousy rich with money and time, getting this news at the time of birth should be terrifying. 

And of course, Annabelle needed to give birth ASAP. Pregnancy was killing her. Even after her emergency C-section, her health failed and she went into cardiac arrest (was this woman dealt a crappy hand, or what?). But as she told her mom, she needed to live for her two little boys. Somehow she pulled through and so did her babies. Hooray! Annabelle claims that she menstruated throughout her pregnancy. Something about the way she said that - maybe it was in a hushed tone, I don't remember - made me think she was bullshitting. But given her bizarre, dramatic history and that she really thought she could never get pregnant, I think she gets a pass. 

I was glad to learn that there aren't quite that many dumb ladies laboring in lavatories. But the best thing about getting sucked into that IDKIWP marathon was that I didn't notice my arm had fallen asleep under the weight of my own passed out baby. Our usual nighttime ritual involves holding her in a dim, quiet room, and watching her drift off until she goes limp. It's as fun a pastime as watching water boil. But on that night, I got to skip that step and get to bed early. Sleep came quickly for me, but not before I could thank the universe for sparing me surprise twins.

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