When I was pregnant, I had to be really choosy about what I watched on television…or read, for that matter. I was so sensitive and everything made me upset. But nothing made me more upset than watching the way birth gets depicted on a lot of shows.
If it’s not a dramatic debacle involving husband-choking, it’s often a frenzied affair that’s unrealistic at best. It was really important to me to avoid things that made birth seem scary, because I believe in women’s innate ability to birth their babies. It’s important to me to support positive, realistic depictions of birth!
I mean, of course they can’t prolong a birth on a half-hour sitcom and nobody really wants to watch a baby crown in between laugh tracks. But it doesn’t have to be a train wreck!
I will say there are 2 shows I recently re-watched that do a pretty good job of depicting birth, or at least showing some empowered characters rocking their inner birth warrior.
The Office. I know the show jumped the shark in later seasons, but back when Pam was having her first baby, I thought The Office did a great job depicting birth. This is one of the only shows I’ve seen where the character doesn’t panic when her water breaks (I’m looking at you, Parenthood!). Pam just changes her clothes and keeps on working.
Her labor takes a longish time, because she’s a first-time mom and those labors usually do! They did a great job showing this passage of time in a short television program.
This show did a fair job showing the process of early breastfeeding, too. Pam works with a lactation consultant and later gets her baby to latch on her own while waiting for Jim to locate the car.
Friends. I started watching this series from the beginning while I was packing up to move, and I really like the way birth gets depicted throughout the whole series. Phoebe delivers triplets vaginally. Erika delivers twins vaginally. Rachel delivers her breech baby vaginally. Nobody ever gets an epidural, and Rachel labors for 17 hours without anyone panicking. Her OB even tells her, “You’re progressing. Just very, very slowly.”
I wish they hadn’t rushed her to the hospital for braxton hicks contractions in an earlier episode, and I wish Rachel had a chance to learn her baby’s hunger cues rather than have the nurse bring the baby from the nursery to try breastfeeding, but I love how we at least got to see Rachel leaning over the bed a bit in labor and moving her body through contractions.
Have you seen birth depicted realistically on television recently? Leave us a comment to share which episodes we should check out!
Image credit: JVC America via Flickr