A woman named Lynsee just gave birth online and I didn't watch. Perhaps it is a testament to how greatly I'm affected by the stories of loss I've read, but knowing what can go wrong in birth, I didn't want to witness a live-feed of emotional anguish. Also a testament to how greatly influenced I am by my own story and those of others in the community, knowing what can go right in birth, I didn't want to witness their enormous joy knowing how out-of-reach it is for 7.3 million Americans.
In a day-and-age where we obsess over celebrity pregnancies, magazines hold polls over who will become pregnant next, and organizations pay millions of dollars for first baby photos, it was never too far a jump to get to a live-feed of a birth (as opposed to a taped birth). Essentially, it's just reality television on the Web. And just as we follow the stories of musical contestants or weight loss achievers week after week, it makes sense that people would be interested in the constant updates from conception to birth from just your average, American, knocked-up girl. Lynsee didn't just aim a camera at her vagina the day of the birth (actually, I don't know if people were actually able to see the baby crown. As I said, I didn't watch it, but I have to imagine that the vulva would be the most interesting location to observe during a birth). She roped in viewers by covering every small detail of her pregnancy in blog posts leading up to the event.
And viewers loved it. One admits dismay on missing out on the birth. "Regretfully, I awoke just in time for her to push out the placenta but was able to get a few screen shots." Write. Edit. Repeat points out an interesting statistic: "About 60 percent of moms said that they do not want anyone besides their significant other in the delivery room but, in another poll, the same percentage responded that they would be interested in watching a broadcast of a live birth." In other words, we don't want others looking at our hoo-haas, but we'd certainly tune in if the hoo-haa belonged to someone else. The birthing community consisting of midwives, doulas, and others interested in birth, took a special interest in her delivery including looking at the birthing choices she was making.
It's the ultimate in reality television interaction. Viewers could subscribe to be part of her group and chat with her DURING THE DELIVERY. Did I have to scream that? Perhaps, and again, this is a testament to how greatly I'm affected by the loss blogs I read, but could you imagine the emotional implications for Lynsee if birth had not gone according to plan? If she had fallen on the other side of the statistics? I am trying to imagine even my twins' premature birth being played out over the Web and having viewers at home IMing me unhappy faces when the doctor announces their low birth weight. How I would feel to read newspaper articles written after the fact and blog posts? It's one thing for people to comment on my commentary. It's quite another for them to be witness to this intimate event.
But taking that into account, isn't the next frontier a live-feed of fertility treatments? Watch our hypothetical blogger, Sarah, start injecting lupron. Watch her flip out on her partner via a Web cast and then sink down onto the kitchen floor sobbing from the hormones. Watch her nurse a nasty headache and beat herself up over drinking a cup of coffee. Watch her go in for a lining check and follicle scan, watch the sonographer make an off-colour joke while he has a camera in her vagina. Watch her opening the clinic bills and sitting on hold with the insurance company for 38 exciting minutes! Watch Sarah give herself injections directly into her stomach until it resembles a milky way constellation only marred by bruises that she counts as black holes.
Watch Sarah go for the egg retrieval and learn they got 24 eggs. Watch her get the fertilization report that only 10 fertilized. Watch her cry when she gets the phone call that through additional attrition, those 10 embryos are down to 4. Watch her experience mild OHSS! Watch her return to the clinic for the transfer and find out that they only have two decent-looking embryos to transfer and nothing currently left to freeze due to fragmentation. Watch her drive home from the transfer staring out the window completely numb.
Watch our intrepid Sarah go through bedrest, standing in front of pregnancy tests in the store and willing herself not to buy them, and returning to the store and purchasing three different brands of tests and a Snickers bar. Watch Sarah receive a pregnancy announcement via email complete with sonogram picture. Watch her lean over the bed so her partner can inject PIO into her ass (okay, it's more her hip, but we'll call it her ass because it will bring more viewers). Watch her attempt to massage out the PIO lumps. Watch her wake up at 4 a.m. and use one of her pregnancy tests only to see a stark white space where the additional line should be. Watch her chuck this pee-soaked test in the trash can and then fish it out five minutes later to check again. Watch her sit through a baby shower, unable to drink because she might be pregnant but unable to get through the event without a strong gin and tonic. Watch Sarah go in for that final blood draw, unable to give up hope that she might get a good beta despite the negative pregnancy tests at home.
Watch Sarah wait until 4:31 p.m. for the phone call telling her that all of her work was for naught.
Maybe that's why we'll stop at obsessing over which celebrities utilize IVF instead of setting up reality television shows in clinics. Because the reality is that treatments are depressing. Even when they work, those pregnant don't instantaneously release their breath. Assisted conception isn't the Lynsee-like joy of going to doctor's appointments and picking out nursery colours. It's about holding on to something tenuous. And when they don't work, it's about anguish and frustration and anger and future hope.
Personally, I think an assisted conception live-feed would be even more meaningful considering the stakes. Considering what it took to get there and the viewpoint of the pregnant woman. Of seeing the larger forest of childbirth and family building beyond the initial trees of sex=baby.
But perhaps the general public isn't ready for that yet.
Melissa is the author of the infertility and pregnancy loss blog, Stirrup Queens and Sperm Palace Jesters. She keeps a categorized blogroll of over 2000 infertility blogs and writes the daily Lost and Found and Connections Abound, a news source for the infertility blogosphere. Her infertility book, Navigating the Land of If, is currently on bookshelves (May, 2009). She is the keeper of the IComLeavWe list and compiles the yearly Creme de la Creme.
More from health