A Doula for the Halperts?
**SPOILER ALERT** Details from the 04 Mar 10 The Office episode to follow. If you haven’t seen it yet and want to be surprised, you may want to skip this post.
Last NBC showed a special hour long Office episode welcoming Jim and Pam’s new baby into this world. As expected, the usual Office hilarity ensued along with a lot of very sweet expecting parents/new baby moments. But watching the episode as a childbirth educator and a doula advocate, I struggled with quite a number of the scenes as well. I still can’t quite figure out what message the show was trying to give us about childbirth and the first post partum moments. Some examples:
* Because of their HMO’s regulations on hospital stay, Jim and Pam had decided not to go into the hospital before midnight on whatever day it was Pam went into labor. This was the basic storyline and foundation for most of the silliness of the first half of the hour long episode — Pam laboring at work and Jim getting more and more stressed about being at the office while Pam’s labor progressed. On the one hand, I thought this was cute, and typical of The Office goofiness, but I couldn’t help but wish that (a) someone had mentioned at all about what a great idea it is to labor at home (or, I suppose, at your workplace) as long as possible — the longer you are able to wait, the more likely you are to be admitted when you get to the hospital (because you are more likely to have progressed to the point where the hospital will allow you to go into a labor & delivery room), and the less likely you are to receive the myriad of interventions that can happen when a woman labors for a long time in the hospital (if you arrive pretty much fully dilated and ready to push, there’s not much else to do but get ready to meet the baby!) and (b) that poor Jim and Pam had a doula with them, rather, than say, the entire Office staff to “support” them during their labor. Of course I realize their being at Dunder Mifflin was all part of the fun, but I couldn’t help but think how much less stressed out Jim would have been, for example, if they had a doula with them to reassure him that Pam was perfectly fine — in fact she was doing very well, particularly considering her environment! — and that in fact Pam was correct, they were making a good decision to wait and not go into the hospital yet (although perhaps she also might have gently suggested that waiting until midnight to get a better “deal” on their room might not be in their best interest. haha). She might have provided Pam with some more effective pain relief and distraction than the folks in the conference room (although again of course I realize the hilarity THAT situation provided) and she might have helped Pam to remember to snack and drink some fluids a little bit all day instead of her just waiting for the “ultra feast” of which she never got to partake.
* I did love that for once a woman’s water breaking in labor did not result in immediate panic and immediate rushing to the hospital. Pam was perfectly calm about it (rare for media representation of women in labor) and Jim held it together rather well too, I’d say.
* But then they got to the hospital and Pam was screaming through all her pushing. I get that they were trying to show us that she was in labor and it was hard because they weren’t actually SHOWING us that she was in labor (the scene took place off camera, we just saw the outside door of the room they were in), but I’m really tired of the whole “screaming woman in labor” thing. On the other hand, they didn’t show us that part at all NOR did they talk about whether or not Pam had an epidural, and it’s a nice break not to see the woman all sweat-covered and wild-eyed DEMANDING. DRUGS. NOW. for a change.
* They breastfed the baby! AND they showed it wasn’t necessarily just as easy as popping the wee babe onto mama’s breast — because it isn’t always! — AND THEY DIDN’T GIVE UP! AND they told the nurse they didn’t want to the baby to have any formula! HURRAY for positive breastfeeding images on regular TV!!!!
* Their interaction with their nurse was a bit strange. I know that not every nurse in every hospital has the best bedside manner, and I know that not every hospital is super breastfeeding friendly, and I know that sometimes places can be condescending to first time moms but STILL — if the part with the nurse was supposed to be funny, it fell pretty flat for me. It DID provide a conflict situation where Pam and Jim could say “no, no thank you, we just want some help with breastfeeding and please don’t give our baby formula” (a great message!), but it left me feeling sort of stressed and unsure why the nurse was being represented in such an unflattering light.
* I kind of love that it was a male lactation consultant. I get that it was for the joke of seeing Jim’s discomfort, but dude seemed to really know his stuff, and I liked to see a man being really supportive about breastfeeding. That was cool.
* I also kind of loved that Pam accidentally fed the wrong baby AND that their greatest mortification seemed to be that the other mother would find out NOT that *gasp* another baby had suckled at Pam’s breast.
In summary, I’m not really sure what I feel about the episode overall, but I guess I think that ultimately it was a fairly positive representation of labor and birth (I mean, Pam labored at their workplace ALL DAY. That NEVER happens in movies or on TV!) and breastfeeding (!!!).
But I still wish they had had a doula!
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