Mommie Dearest: TLC’s “Labor Games” Pushes Reality TV Too Far

Here are some things that I appreciated during my labor: dim lights, as much quiet as possible, soothing backrubs, the occasional sip of ice water, and bouncing on a birth ball. Things I most definitely would not have appreciated during labor: Bright, flashing lights, an overly-enthusiastic woman jabbering on, and my labor televised for all to see.

Unfortunately, TLC (the network that’s brought gems such as “Here Comes Honey Boo Boo,” “Long Island Medium,” “Jon & Kate Plus Eight,” as well as unleashed the Duggars into all out living rooms) is debuting a new game show that is the stuff nightmares are made of. “Labor Games” sounds like something out of a post apocalyptic sci-fi novel the likes of The Running Man. It’s also no surprise the that show brings to mind “The Hunger Games.”

TLC describes this new game show as taking viewers “into the delivery room as women in labor are given the chance to win prizes for their baby-to-be.” I describe it as absolutely maddening, with a dash of exploitation for good measure. If anything, the whole thing reads like a “Saturday Night Live” skit.

Want to know what the world would have seen had a TV crew barged into my delivery room? They would have seen me puke on my new, comfy slippers and then cry for 10 minutes because I ruined them, while simultaneously apologizing to the nursing staff for having puked on their floor. Because that’s what happens sometimes during labor. PUKE. And tears. And the occasional low guttural moan that would have rivaled that of any dying elephant. Add flashing, colorful lights, loud noises, and an overly cheerful host urging me to answer inane questions sponsored by in hopes of winning prizes and it certainly wouldn’t be pretty.

My guess is that the women who agreed to go on this show have epidurals or some other pain medication, or are otherwise in the very beginning stages of labor where it’s actually not all that bad yet. Because otherwise? I really can’t imagine having the patience or desire to both listen to and answer questions while experiencing contractions and wondering when the “ring of fire” — that’s what it feels like when your perineum stretches!!! — would begin burning.

There’s also the whole aspect of turning labor and birth into a spectator sport. I mentioned The Running Man before, and honestly, how far off are we from those sorts of televised “game shows” when TLC is airing one that takes place in a hospital delivery room. It’s amazing that don’t actually pit two laboring women against each other at the same time, although perhaps they’re saving that for season two.

In one clip posted to TLC’s site, Jessica, who is there with her husband Aaron, is four days past her due date (which actually isn’t all that much), and has been induced. She’s got a few hours to kill, so why not add a game show into the mix? I’m so curious what happens to production as Jessica’s labor fails to progress so more interventions are needed, possibly resulting in a C-Section. Will they follow her into surgery and offer bonus points for each stitch she’ll need afterward?!

TLC stands for The Learning Channel, but what are we learning here? Are we learning that the US just earned the dubious distinction of ranking the worst in developed countries when it comes to maternal and child health? No. Instead we’re learning what does not recommend parents use to help soothe teething babies and just how many inane questions a woman in labor can answer before she starts cursing.

I understand that networks need new and fascinating hooks to draw viewers in, but when will it stop? Bringing a game show format into the delivery room might be fine for some of you, but what next? Watching parents enter a ring to secure their child’s place at the hottest preschool? Ten parents enter, only one child will win… an education. May seem far fetched, but with the latest reality TV and game shows offerings, I’m not so sure anymore.