New Reality Show, I'm Having Their Baby, Falls Short
I wasn't going to acknowledge OXYGEN's new "reality" show, I'm Having Their Baby. I deleted emails and avoided the subject as a whole. Ignoring the show doesn't make it go away, much like the denial of grief and loss doesn't magically make a birth mother happy and whole again, so I decided to take one for the team and watch the screeners of the show which premieres next Monday, July 23, 2012. There were some good things, there were lots of bad things and, when it comes down to it, adoption reform now needs to encompass the way "reality" shows portray adoption, because they sure aren't doing our efforts any favors.
I mean, watching the preview alone is enough to make my head spin... and my heart break.
I'll start out with the good things I found in the show. I always find good things in shows about adoption, whether they are reality based, comedies, dramas or movies. I'm a positive person, to a fault, and can always find a silver lining. As such, I was able to zero in on some good things that happened in the first two episodes of this show.
Mothers choosing adoption aren't all teenagers. Thanks to the 16 & Pregnant phenomenon, we've been inundated with teen mothers for the past few years. Catelynn, one of the moms, chose adoption, cementing the idea in the viewing public's mind that teenagers are the ones who choose adoption. The reality, according to a study released in 2006 by the Even B. Donaldson Institute on Adoption is that mothers choosing this route "are no longer primarily teenagers; in fact, only about one-fourth are teens. The predominant profile is young women in their 20s who have graduated from high school, many of whom have other children." In the first two episodes we saw one 18-year-old who already had a child, one 19-year-old, one 25-year-old and one 29-year-old who already had children. I feel the diverse representation of women -- none of whom were addicted to drugs which is another stereotype that birth mother's face and fight for their whole lives -- lent something necessary to the discussion.
Same sex adoption is a good thing. One of the mothers in the first episode chooses a same sex couple to parent her child. The footage showed her facing strong opposition from a good friend and how she dealt with what was said. If we're going to use reality TV to champion for change -- in adoption or otherwise -- this was a welcome addition to the show.
"We'll be able to talk about it and keep talking about it." One of the adoptive couples said that this was why open adoption was good, that they could visit and revisit the issues at hand and keep talking about everything to make sure everyone was on the same page. I kind of liked this approach in that the adoptive couple wasn't all, "Yes, it will all just be fine and dandy." The truth is that open adoption is hard work and requires lots of discussion and evaluation over the years.
One mother of four chose to parent. Now, they made her look the most ditzy, most flighty of all of them, but she chose to parent. I don't like how they portrayed this mother, but I'm glad they showed that mothers are allowed to parent their own children, even if they have matched with a family. Until TPR is signed, that baby is hers, no ifs, ands or buts. I do love you can watch her adoption counselor from one of the unethical adoption agencies that participates in these shows simply shuts down when the mother says she is going to parent. The immediate distancing and lack of care is so visible. It's further proof that mothers are seen as a means to an end, and when it isn't going to happen the way counselors want, bam! Uninterested.
There were, of course, many problems with the show. Many. Beyond the title. Beyond the premise. Above and beyond what I have the time, space and patience to list here. As a birth mother involved in a fully open adoption, I am more in tune to some of the glaring red flags than the general viewing public. I try to keep that in mind when watching shows like these, but some things are too garish to ignore.