Oxygen’s “I’m Having Their Baby” (Wednesdays at 10:00 p.m. ET) is inherently dramatic, but it’s also inherently depressing. I’m not sure who the audience for this show really is, except maybe people who simply like to cry or whose other option for the evening is sticking pins in their eyeballs. It’s really that depressing.
That being said, of the reality TV shows out there this one is actually pretty real. There’s no need for any pushy producer to step in and goose the dramatic tension, because the decision to give up a child mere hours after it’s squeezed out of one’s body is never predictable and, of course, never easy.
In the second season premiere, we meet pregnant women Tory and Sharanda. We also meet a few adoptive parents, but we’ll get to this in a moment. Even if we didn’t see who’s waiting in the wings with onesies and college savings funds, the struggle these women have between the hormonal impulse to love and nurture their own flesh and blood versus the nagging suspicion life might be better for both mother and child if they let someone else do it is heavy duty enough.
At 23, Tory already has a son (Bentley) with a man who’s currently out of the picture. Now she’s with 38-year-old Mike, who wants to keep the baby and merge his other three kids with this ready-made family (sidebar: why is it that the people who don’t have the raging pregnancy hormones are the ones who so desperately want to keep the babies? Oh, right. They’ll probably take off if they have to change diapers). Tory, on the other hand, has hopes and dreams (there’s a lot of hoping and dreaming on this show). She wants to become a nurse and focus her parental attention on little Bentley. She also seems to have one foot out the door when it comes to Mike. She’s just not ready to settle down with an old guy and five kids. As she admits, she’d already given up on all the fun stuff that comes with being a footloose 20-year-old when she had Bennie. At the beginning of the show, she seems the mother most determined to sign those adoption papers and be done with it.
Sharanda, on the other hand, doesn’t seem so sure. She has other kids by other (and absent) fathers, but she’s currently with a nice guy named Jeremy. They already have a baby girl together, and the boy she’s carrying would be his first son. Jeremy as well as Jeremy’s mom are adamantly against the idea of adoption, and we’re treated to a teary and obviously staged meeting between the couple and Paulette that shakes Sharanda’s resolve. Still, she can’t get past the fact that food stamps don’t go far and another mouth to feed means even less for the other kids. Jeremy may be a nice guy, but he’s not paying the bills.
While the couple Sharanda picks to adopt her son refuses to appear on camera, Tory’s chosen couple isn’t so fussy. Sarah and Joe are a stable couple plagued by infertility who ooze baby lust. Sarah and Tory quickly bond over the course of the pregnancy, a relationship Tory seems to think is entirely sincere and I am to cynical to fully believe.
Mike, however, isn’t so quick to become buddy-buddy with Joe. After a stressful 4-D ultrasound during which Tory tries to pretend it’s not happening, Sarah squeals about all the baby clothes she’s bought, and Mike tries not to kill her with his bare hands, Mike arranges a meeting with Joe. He just wants to be clear that, even though he signed away his parental rights to appease Tory, he’s going to fight to keep this baby. Joe blinks and stammers and tries to say the right thing (not that there is a right thing), but it’s still hugely uncomfortable. Still, it’s not as awful as the heart-to-heart between Tory and Sarah.
While Tory thinks Joe and Mike are “just hanging out” (if “just hanging out” means “Mike is sticking a shiv in Joe’s side”), she wants to share her feelings with Sarah.
The easiest way to describe this exchange is through the subtext:
Tory: We’re such close friends I just want to talk to you about how tough this is! Giving up a baby is not easy!
Sarah: DO NOT CHANGE YOUR MIND. I swear if you waver in your resolve I will cut a bitch.
Tory: I’m so glad I can share everything with you! Why are you crying? Huh, that’s weird.
It’s not a huge surprise to anyone but Tory that two weeks after this “bonding” moment, Sarah withdraws from the adoption proceedings. Tory is hurt, but lines up another adoptive couple who already have another adopted child. We don’t see them on camera, because really, there’s no reason to bother. When Tory pops out little unfortunately-named Bryleigh, she is instantly lovestruck. There is bonding and crying and more bonding and more crying, and finally Tory tells Mike what he’s been waiting so long to hear — she’s keeping the baby.
Sharanda, though, pops out her son and hands him over, which seems to be easier on the parent who wanted to keep him — Jeremy — than it is on her. She staggers out of the hospital empty handed, assuring herself that someday she and Jeremy will have another child when she has a stable job. Sure they will… if Jeremy ever really forgives her.
The update to the story, which is an unfortunately short segment on the show, is that Tory and Mike are getting married. Yay for settling! While she’s not going to nursing school she did get a promotion to nursing assistant at the hospital where she works. She’s happy (or at least claims to be), her relationship with Mike is better than ever (I guess you get three months good behavior for agreeing to keep a kid), and she’s got her baby! We also get a mini-update on Sarah and Joe, who adopted another baby from a birth mother who didn’t screw them over at the last minute.
Sharanda, on the other hand, is heading off to college to pursue a nursing career, and Jeremy has supposedly made his peace with her decision. It’s all supposed to be a fairly upbeat ending, the kind of quick-and-happy snapshots of life we get in those awful Christmas card letters, but it doesn’t erase how hellish this journey is for pretty much everyone involved. Either way, the moms at the center of the story wrestle with possibilities, none of them truly ideal. Even when adoption is taken off the table, the women are painfully aware of the sacrifice they’ll be making to keep the child. When adoptive parents are involved, there’s always one couple whose dreams are crushed.
So, if you enjoy pain, women in labor, some screaming, lots of crying, then some more crying, hey, this is the show for you. Just remember your Xanax!