I was going to post something else today, but Jenna Hatfield wrote an article over at BlogHer talking about the atrocity that is the Oxygen show, “I’m Having Their Baby.” She had the opportunity to watch
the show before its airing on July 23rd, so she watched it and then reviewed the show. I didn’t want to write a post like this. I would’ve much rather written a post saying how wrong I was about the show when I originally published my thoughts. But I just knew in my heart that I would be right. I’ve said it a multitude of times and I’ll say it again. Any show that follows moms considering adoption before they relinquish is coercive. That alone makes the show a negative idea, and I will never change my mind about that.
Jenna does point out some good things about the show. One of them is that the moms they highlight do not fit some of the more negative stereotypes of mothers who choose adoption over parenting: “birth moms are all teenagers and drug addicts.” Oxygen did a better job of not verifying those stereotypes than TLC did when they aired their “Birth Moms” show. Maybe they learned from TLC’s mistakes. I’m much more inclined to think that the moms Oxygen featured were just those that decided to do the show. I don’t think that Oxygen specifically interviewed moms who did not fit those stereotypes and rejected those that did, in other words.
My friend Coley of BirthMom Buds, who also wrote a magnificent post on the title of the show, actually received a couple of calls from one of the Oxygen show’s producers. First he left a message last week looking for “birth moms” to film for a second season, and then he left a message yesterday asking if he could “pick her brain” about the show. Yes, you read that right. They’re already planning a second season when the first hasn’t been aired yet. Coley did decide to call him back after yesterday’s message, and then I did an interview of sorts with her after she talked to him. I wanted to talk a bit about what he said because this will give you an idea why shows like this should not be aired in the first place. Apparently there have been test groups of this show that have given the show rave reviews and have been very positive toward the show, according to this particular producer. This causes me to wonder where they’re getting these people to watch the show before airing and who are giving it such rave reviews. All of the birth moms and adoptive parents that I know have despised even the idea of the show from the very beginning.
When Coley told the producer on the phone toward the start of the conversation that the only people who should be referred to as “birth moms” are those mothers that have already signed relinquishment documents, she told me he said, “Good to know, good to know,” and then proceeded to use “birth moms” during the rest of the conversation. To me this says he really doesn’t care about the importance of good terminology, nor does he care about the actual women involved. It causes me to feel that he’s just looking at the women who agree to be filmed during this time as a way to get ratings. This makes an excellent argument for everyone in society, but especially those that have direct connections to adoption like adoption lawyers and agencies, to stop using that term to address mothers that are considering adoption as a possibility. The term has become pervasive in society to such an extent that those who are not directly connected to adoption, as the producer is, don’t have any concept that this term shouldn’t be used.
Coley asked him at one point during their conversation about compensation for the women featured simply because she was curious. He told her that they are not allowed to directly compensate the women because that is coercive. He then went on to say that the women were given a brand new laptop to use for filming “confessionals” that they can keep after the filming of the show and the show can also pay for “incidentals” such as clothes, internet, and babysitting. While the incidentals and laptop may not be direct compensation and so fit the lack of coercion “law,” I think that indirect compensation is just as coercive as direct compensation can be.
What I’ve stated before is still true: video cameras and being filmed are inherently coercive. This is why I believe so strongly that any “reality” TV is not reality. No one is “real” when they’re being filmed. Participants in shows like Big Brother or The Glass House, or even The Bachelor or The Bachelorette all know that they’re being filmed and it’s impossible to be real. When cameras follow around a pregnant woman considering adoption placement and those parents know the premise of the show is what happens when a woman relinquishes to adoption, they’re going to feel as if they don’t have the option to parent. As Jenna said in her review, they did show a woman who decided to parent. The show did seem to paint her in as flighty a light as possible, but the ethics of the “counselor” that the show highlighted weren’t there either. Jenna said that the counselor shut down and no longer offered any support once the decision was made. If such a show were ethical in the first place, then the agencies that are ethical would be clamoring to be on the show or shows like it. Since the agencies they highlight on shows like this don’t ever seem to be ethical we can make the logical connection that shows like this aren’t ethical at all.
Coley also had the opportunity to present the producer her opinion of the lack of ethics behind such a show. When the producer asked her to get into touch with “more birth moms for season 2,” he told her that other birth mom groups had helped with season one but wouldn’t say which ones or in exactly what capacity they were helpful. Considering his assumption that all women considering adoption are birth moms, my assumption is that these “helpful groups” were agency “support groups” for women considering adoption and weren’t groups of women that had already relinquished. The other reason that I believe this is because I have done a lot of research looking for in-person birth mom support groups. I know of a few, but they are extremely few, and I don’t believe any of the groups I know about would be helpful in assisting a TV producer to find women to coerce into making an adoption decision by filming them.
It was after the producer told Coley about the groups that she was able to tell him about the premise behind the show being inherently coercive and not just coercive in regards to direct compensation. I didn’t ask Coley what he said in response to her, but since she told me that she felt he spent the entire conversation trying to sell her on how fantastic the show is and how they really worked to “paint the birth moms in a positive light,” that causes me to believe that he really didn’t listen to her at all and that he still plans to continue with season two.
I hope this producer, whomever he is, will read both Jenna’s review and mine about the realities of how negative his show as well as others like this truly are. Like I’ve said before and as Jenna mentioned in her review, the shows about birth moms that should be aired are shows about those moms living with their relinquishment decisions. They should be shows about true openness in adoption, and what happens to all involved if those relationships collapse. I know as a birth mom that I don’t want to be “painted” as a hero, or as a “selfless person” for making the decision I did. I’m neither of those things. I’m a real person who made the best decision she could for herself and her daughter.