Are you as frustrated as I am by my relating everything I write about recently to my pregnancy and childbirth experience? It’s a little ridiculous. I keep thinking that I should have wider experiences and things to write about beyond simply now being a mother, but because it’s the majority of my focus all day, every day…it’s hard to avoid. And when you’re a new mom, one of the big things you spend your time doing is feeding the baby. Newborns need to eat every 1.5-3 hours, and depending on the baby, can take a while to get what they need. So there’s a lot of time just sitting with either baby at the boob, or at the bottle, and not much else to do. The mind wanders. At night, I try to do quiet things while breastfeeding – looking at facebook or reading long-form articles that I’ve saved up for myself. But during the daytime, when you’re trying to introduce the idea of background noise and “not being distracted” to a baby, it frees up the ability to watch television shows.
I don’t know what new moms did before Netflix existed. Probably watched daytime television like talk shows and soap operas. But since the advent of streaming entertainment services, we new mommies have so many more options. In fact, so many options that I found myself having to prepare a list in advance knowing that there would be a lot. And I’m not the only one who thought of this, because conveniently a few months before B was born, one of my favorite pop culture sites put out a list of “Best Shows to Binge-Watch After You’ve Had a Baby“. I’m not embarrassed to say that I studied that list closely. It also helped that the show at the top of their list was one that I was very interested in watching – Jane the Virgin.
I’ve seen the previews for next episodes frequently after watching my DVR’d episodes of Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, so I had some idea of what the tone of the show was like. The premise is this: Jane Villanueva is a college-aged woman who made a promise to her grandmother to save herself for marriage. She kept that promise, but during a routine pelvic exam, was accidentally artificially inseminated and becomes pregnant. Also, it turns out her father (who she hasn’t ever met) is a big star on a new telenovela. If all this seems crazy and impossible – much like a telenovela – then you’d be right. The show is based on a Venezuelan telenovela with the same name and premise, and so the idea of having over-the-top and melodramatic plotlines sort of makes sense.
What I really enjoyed and appreciated about the show though, is how realistically the experience of being a new mom is portrayed. The second season begins with Jane having just given birth to her baby, and she faces so many challenges that I too was facing as I watched the show. The challenge of trying to breastfeed; not feeling like you live up to the unrealistic standards set by other moms; dealing with unsolicited advice on how to parents; sleeping issues; the frustration of having to pump milk all the time; mastitis. Heck – seeing someone on TV who “had” mastitis, and seeing her make choices and deal with that most downer of new-mama illnesses felt super-familiar and relatable to me. It made the show that much better of an experience to watch because I could see my own struggles reflected on the television.
Too often babies on TV shows get shunted to the side, and they truly are just used as plot points. I think about Friends, and yes – when baby Emma was born, there was some focus on Rachel becoming a new mom, but the way that I remember the show, it also felt like she bounced back into the old Rachel far more quickly than anyone I know did. Other sitcoms trot out the baby when convenient, and this child begins to feel more like a prop or a cute accessory than a real life-changing person who is truly dependent on its parents, and who changes their life.
And that’s what I really loved about the show – it got those difficulties and changes that happen with new motherhood. The surrounding plot points about the telenovelas and the hotel may have felt over-the-top, but most everything to do with new motherhood felt true to life. Perhaps the biggest thing that I saw and felt iffy about was a quirk I’ve seen others mention on the internet: the fact that every time Jane feeds her baby (including in her own home), she uses a nursing cover. As someone who has never used a cover, especially not inside the house which is my space, it just felt wrong.
In any case – it’s a lovely show, and I felt myself connect to it super quickly and enjoying each twist and turn that happened on the show. I watched all 3 seasons which are available on Netflix, and look forward to catching up on the latest season as soon as it finishes and is available. And while I seem to be recommending this show mainly to those who are expecting or mothers, I think there are so many hilarious and tender moments in the show that it would be enjoyable for anyone to watch.