Spoiler alert: Pregnancy isn’t always enjoyable. And I don’t mean the actual nine-plus months you’re growing a baby inside you — with all the back pains and swollen ankles and whatnot. (And that’s if you’re lucky enough to have an easy pregnancy!) I’m also talking about the lead-up to actually being pregnant, especially when the media teaches us that getting knocked up is so easy.
After all, if MTV has not one but several seasons and series about 16-year-olds who get unexpectedly knocked up and then raise their babies as single moms with literally zero income, how hard could it be for an adult with all her proverbial shit together?
And while reality shows like Teen Mom and 16 & Pregnant — and their myriad spinoffs — depict how easy it can be to get pregnant when you don’t plan to, what they don’t share is how hard it can be to get pregnant when you do. Like when you’re borderline 30, happily married for two years, and looking to take things to the next level with your husband, who’s been wanting kids since before he even had a wife.
As an entertainment writer, my obsession with pop culture guilty pleasures like 16 & Pregnant is warranted — or so I tell myself, at least. I’ve spent 8-plus years as a writer and editor for celebrity news sites, and have covered the MTV docuseries and other similar shows since they began (#sorrynotsorry). Celebrity pregnancy has become my beat — it’s my job to care about this stuff, OK?
But, I admit: Even before this became my career — and before I thought seriously about having kids of my own — I was watching every pregnancy show that ever existed on TV.
It started in middle school with TLC’s A Baby Story, a ’90s docuseries that chronicled real-life parents birthing and taking home their babies. Then it was I Didn’t Know I Was Pregnant, another TLC gem in which unsuspecting women (somehow) didn’t know they were expecting until they’re in labor. Later came the self-explanatory My Teen is Pregnant and So Am I on the same network, along with the short-lived Pregnant and Dating, when WE tv’s cameras tagged along on the first dates of women whose exes knocked them up. Even Bravo’s Pregnant in Heels, about swanky NYC “pregnancy concierge” Rosie Pope, was one of my go-tos. I’m also ashamed to admit I thoroughly enjoyed Lifetime’s sole season of 30 Something Grandma, which is like 16 & Pregnant from the perspective of the mother of the teen mom.
Despite all this “experience,” I found myself a few months off of the pill and hoping to get knocked up myself. But what I learned from Dr. Google — and not from reality TV — is that you need to ovulate in order to get pregnant. And before that happens, you need to get your period in order to ovulate. But what is one to do if you’re “ttc” — that’s “trying to conceive” in internet-speak — and your period has been MIA for months?
What I certainly did not learn from pop culture is not only could it take many months to get pregnant, it could also take months just to get your little monthly visitor back. That going off the pill — no matter how few years you’ve been on it — can mess with your hormones and make your previously regular cycle suddenly not.
What these reality shows never mentioned is that you could potentially have Polycystic ovary syndrome — a hormonal imbalance which prevents your body from releasing an egg each month — even though you never contemplated such a diagnosis before. Or you could also have what the doctors refer to as post-pill amenorrhea, which basically means your period doesn’t return right away your hormones are still wonky from being on the pill. How about you talk about that, cable TV?
Kate Gosselin (of Jon & Kate Plus 8) had a whopping eight children by the time she was 29. I, meanwhile, was closing in on my 30th birthday after almost a year of trying and no knowledge of what was coming next — just an irregular cycle and no hard proof I was even ovulating. On top of that, I had an abundance of real-life friends and old camp friends and former colleagues announcing their pregnancies on social media left and right.
That’s the stuff pop culture should be teaching us about. Because it took me too long to realize I’m not the quintessential young woman that I met on TV. Not every gal in her 30’s accidentally gets knocked up by their ex, like Rachel from Friends, or Miranda from Sex and the City, or, like, half the female doctors on Grey’s Anatomy.
Eventually I got my period back without needing drugs to kick-start it (though, TBH, I was thisclose to taking fertility drugs). And thankfully, I don’t have PCOS — even though my anxiety-ridden Jewish mom-to-be self was convinced that I did.
And after a draining nine months that proved just how strong my marriage truly is, I finally got that positive test my husband and I waited so long for. And here I am now, almost two years since we first started trying, a new mom to a 5-month-old who’s objectively cuter than all the babies I’ve seen on TV (and, no, I’m not biased).
Now, as I settle into this thing called motherhood, AKA the hardest assignment I’ve ever had in my life, I look to my fertile reality TV pals to inspire me when I question whether or not I can actually raise this baby without messing him up entirely.
Actually, no I don’t. I’ve got my friends and my own mom who has 31 solid years of experience for that.