Thursday, October 21, 2010

Infertility on Reality Television: Giuliana & Bill

I never quite understood the whole reality TV craze. To me, it's like a watching a giant train wreck: it's horrible to see and yet you can't look away. Of course, being the jaded consumers that we are, we know that so-called reality shows are not truly real (unnecessary drama will be added to the mix to keep it all interesting). Especially those that involve pseudo celebrities making fools of themselves. Whether they "invite" us into their homes or show off a few dance moves, we enjoy watching them unravel. Behind the bleached-teeth smiles and meticulously managed personas, they are like just like us: flawed in every way.

So when the Giuliana and Bill show started (now in its third season), I seriously had not interested in watching yet another celebrity couple vanish into the failed-Hollywood-marriages-heaven (or hell). Giuliana DePandi, host of E! and "Apprentice" winner Bill Rancic brought in cameras to follow them as they learn the juggle their public careers, a young marriage, all while flying back and forth between LA and Chicago. Well, I wished them good luck and moved on. 

Then I started hearing about their struggles to conceive and finally saw them speak out about it on "The View" during a show dedicated to infertility. So much about that episode bothered me but I'm not going to go into details here. What stayed with me was Giuliana and Bill's appearance and their openness about their difficulty to conceive. I was pleasantly surprised to see them be so open about it and glad that they didn't shy away from pointing the finger at their fellow Hollywood crowd for creating the perception that one can conceive whenever, with whom ever -- Giuliana talked about feeling duped by it all. 

Again through the rumor-mill teasing this season of the show, I came to find out that they had made their first attempt at IVF and that they had experienced a miscarriage. That's when I finally set my DVR to record the show and observe how the process of IVF, early pregnancy and miscarriage would be handled on national television.

The first episode of this season was their first foray into the world of IVF. There were genuine moments of fear, love and pain. What hit home (as I'm sure it will for you as well) was the part when Giuliana and Bill were trying to figure out their schedule to start IVF, and Bill pointed out all the conflicts he had with his speaking engagements/appearances. Giuliana then confronted him and reminded him that they need to be in this together and that the success of cycle must come first. I saw that this couple was for real -- Bill explained himself (wanting to provide for his family) and cleared his schedule. You get a gold star, Bill.

As they started their cycle, there was the shock of the amount of medications (read, injections) involved with an IVF cycle. Unfortunately, you never saw them taking the shots, nor could you even fathom how many are involved to make a cycle move along. Then there was the egg retrieval and embryo transfers. Perhaps because of their celeb status or maybe they have an ultra-friendly RE, but all the kisses on the cheeks and the warm smiles and the extensive personal attention took away from the clinical and austereness of the IVF experience. Maybe I'm just jealous that the most I go from my REs were sympathetic smiles from across the desk during my WTF meetings. 

Watching the show kind of reminded me of TV shows that misrepresent the way some careers work in real life; like how advertising agencies or hospitals function. You get a taste for the drama of it all but if you're in that field, you shake your head and say, "That would never happen!" So I go back to my initial point, reality-TV is not real. It's dramatized, edited and simplified for the masses. While Giuliana and Bill Rancic teased the show by openly admitting their infertility, the show in the way it depicted an IVF cycle wasn't nearly as real as it should have been. Certainly this is not an IVF documentary but an entertainment show (it's on The Style Network!), but here's a chance to televise a young couples journey through infertility and the physical (and financial, for many of us) toll of IVF was treated like an underpaid extra. 

What was genuine and felt un-dramatized were the emotional reactions of the Rancics, especially Giuliana's. Her fears were very clear. After all it is her body that will experience the hormonal upheavals. She unabashedly craved the attention she deserved during her recovery period. As a couple, they had to come clean to their families (or at least to Giuliana's mom) about the cycle. And after the transfer, there was that naive hope that we all have experienced after our first foray into the world of A.R.T. -- what should we name the baby/babies? OMG, what if we have twins! Let's get a baby name book! Let's buy a house in the 'burbs.

What made the announcement of a positive pregnancy test most heart breaking is to know how this all ends for this young couple. Like a train wreck, it's awful and yet I can't look away.  


unaffected said...

I have been tempted to watch this show, but never really got around to it. Most shows on E/Style Network I can't really get in to. Too...fake? I don't know. But I think it's commendable that they foray into the world of infertility on their show, even if it was treated as an underpaid extra.

I may have to see if this show is on Comcast OnDemand...

Happy ICLW! :)

Tillie said...

awe - I have seen them on shows talking about infertility...they are a refreshing couple that is HONEST about IVF {ahem JLo}. I'm glad the show was good - I wish I could have watched it but I don't get that channel anymore.

Mummy in Waiting said...

We haven't got the new series in NZ yet but I have watched a couple of episodes in passing on a rainy day. I might watch it when it comes back here. It just goes to show that even celebrities are affected by infertility and there are no gauruntees (although having an endless supply of money to help fund it would certainly help matters!)

Happy ICLW.

My Hopeful Journey said...

I haven't seen it yet but I am going to find it somewhere. I really want to see how IF is portrayed by them. I have heard nothing negative about it though.

lady pumpkin said...

I just started watching/recording this season. I'm glad this is being portrayed at all on TV, but I'm kind of impatient for the miscarriage. Is that awful to say? I mean, since we already know it's coming. Then she'll feel more like me and less like just another pregnant lady to envy.

Lisa Rouff, Ph.D. said...

I really enjoyed your post about this show. I caught the tail end of it, and as I used to be a patient at their IVF clinic, I can tell you that their RE, while quite friendly, does not normally provide the level of service and attentiveness to us regular folk! I'm sure it was all for the cameras!

Waiting In Sunshine said...

I agree with everything you wrote here, great post. And as Lisa stated, it kind of peeves me a little when doctors act for the camera. UGH. And what's with G & B getting their beta results by the actual doctor in his office, instead of over the phone by a nurse, like us peons? Well, whatever, for at least IF is getting more attention, so for that I commend G and B.

Baby bump bound said...

I spoke with a few women who go to the same clinic as G&B and trust me... these gals don't get the same love fest that G&B got (gets)! In fact one of them had her retrieval moved because of G's retrieval. The film crew was there and she didn't want to be part of the shot, so she had to wait. All I can say is the show and it's content is glamorized. One could say they are the current face of infertility in our media-driven society, but I feel like it's a profile, side-view perhaps of what really and truly goes on behind closed doors, our doors. Over-all, I am just glad it's G&B talking about IVF on shows, theirs and the circuit rather than Octo-crazy-mom!!!

Melissa G said...

I totally agree that it's like watching a train wreck... simply heartbreaking.

This might sound nerdy, but I actually went her website and sent a thank you letter for being so open about their Infertility. I wish more celeb's would do it.

My Infertile Confessions said...

My husband and I LOVE this show. We both feel like we are watching ourselves on TV... going through the SAME thing! Its like every thing they discuss we've discussed. My husband is also Italian, we use the same phrases "the bambino," etc. We also went through 3 IUI's with follistim and not one BFP and now we are on our way to IVF... hoping to have a positive outcome (without miscarraige). When we watched the episode with the BFP, we were both almost teary, but then devesatated when we watched the upcoming sceens from the season. Praying we don't follow in their footsteps!

Found you from ICLW... I will follow you!!!

My Infertile Confessions said...

OH... I DO feel that they jumped the gun on already buying a huge house before they are out of the "danger" zone!!

Post a Comment

Thank you for taking the time to read and make a comment on my blog. I love hearing from you. Please sign up to follow me. And don't hesitate to email with questions or future topics.