Week 39: Entertainment Postpartum
After my son was born, and the initial reality of all that set in, and the minutiae of everyday life took shape, I realized how little I was able to actually DO during my waking hours. I had a newborn on me most of the time, and when I didn’t, I needed to pump, or eat, or hastily wash up, before returning the newborn to my body (cuddling mostly).
In anticipation for my postpartum life, I read lots of “10 Things You Need to Do Before Baby Arrives” or “What I Wish I Knew Before Having My First Child” articles online. None of them told me to get ready for binge watching.
A few weeks back, I wrote about work (maybe it was over a month ago even). In that entry, I confessed my ultimate fantasy of doing a lot of nothing for an extended period of time.
In some ways, I got my wish.
For Week 39, I could write about all sorts of things: the sleepless nights, the postpartum hustle, placenta encapsulation, belly binding, bone broth (A MUST), difficulties with breastfeeding, and on and on.
I won’t though. There’s a lot of that out there already written by others who likely could do it more justice than I.
So, instead, I’m going to share about all the wonderful viewing pleasures my partner and I took in while we were also in the thick of hands-on Parenting a Newborn 101.
For some added context, I will share that our son was born with a low birth weight. This required a pretty proactive/aggressive regimen of supplementing breast milk, pumping, and a strict feeding schedule to ensure he not only did NOT lose too much weight (babies typically lose up to 10% of their birth weight in the first few days postpartum), but that he gain faster than the average baby to make up for it.
Nothing really could have prepared me for this. I expected the first couple weeks with a newborn to be tough, but this was a whole other ballgame I hadn’t even conceptualized. This really was the first lesson I took in as a parent -- be ready.
Even though we weren’t prepared for this in a literal sense, looking back, we found a way to work as a team through the awkwardness, the challenges, the downright frustrating moments, and the tender preciousness of it together. We found humor in feeding our son with a tube and syringe and the fact that nipple shields are totally the worst (SOMEONE PLEASE COME UP WITH A MORE SECURE SHIELD #sharktank). We also found a way to entertain ourselves and enjoy the two hour feeding shifts a la Netflix, Hulu and Amazon.
I had no free hands ever, especially during feedings. I was too tired and advised to not move too much anyways. I became a professional couch surfer for a few good weeks. Since I became a professional, I can tell you with my professional-ity that the following shows were top notch entertainment to the two new parents in our household. You’re welcome in advance.
More and more, new fathers are able to take time off after mom gives birth. I cannot imagine not having him around to help and also experience the newness of our child together. We lucked out because he was just about to start a new job and had a few weeks between which worked out in our favor. He’s not a fan of television, but even he grew to have a whole new appreciation for today’s age of Quality TV.
How To Entertain Yourself with a Newborn: 5 Best TV Shows of the 2016-2017 Season
Many of you by now have probably heard about “Master of None.” Aziz Ansari has won awards for this show and it’s been heralded for its sharp writing. Since watching this, he has come under fire for harassing a woman (“Grace”) on a date (which has opened up a huge forum for the commonality of Grace’s complaints and the degrees of harassment, and the response to it has been referred to as a clusterfuck, which it kind of is). I was torn as to whether or not to endorse this show as a result. I found Aziz’s response to the complaint upsetting (as well as his silence regarding mentor Louis C.K.), but at the same time, think that his offense could be used as a teachable moment versus a criminal indictment. He doesn’t get a pass, but the show is more than just Aziz. If anything, you can watch Lena Waithe’s “Thanksgiving” Episode in Season 2, which is probably the standout episode of the entire series.
5) Tie: The Handmaid’s Tale (Hulu) and Big Little Lies (HBO)
Confession: I watched both of these shows before my son was born. Fact: It doesn’t matter. 2017 was a solid year for television and I. Sure, the media has been touting this for a couple years now, but, to me, I didn’t really get into the whole “TV IS SO HIGH QUALITY NOW” movement until 2017. These two shows were released in 2017 and were solid in their own right so I have to include them. Both are about tough subject matters. Both are not easy to watch. I recommend, if you take my advice and watch these in the early days of motherhood, to maybe have them be daytime viewing versus nighttime when our minds can run away from sensibility. They are both being recommended because of their subject matter and importance if you’re looking for some elevated discussion versus mindless pleasure.
The Handmaid’s Tale as you may know is based on the famous Margaret Atwood novel. Atwood is a talent, no doubt about that, but, having read some of her other work before reading this book, I will admit she’s not my favorite. Still, her mind is frighteningly accurate and prolific. The show does an excellent job bringing her story to life. It is a frightening, horrific show, but also important to watch. Again, not for its enjoyability -- I cannot stress that enough. Alexis Bledel’s performance is haunting and a career best for Rory Gilmore. Samira Wiley (Poussey!) is also fantastic (I know Elisabeth Moss is the star and does a good job, but I’m not a big fan of hers...Scientology…).
Big Little Lies is similarly not the easiest to watch for its difficult subject matter, but is a bit more light than Handmaid’s. There are dark elements, but more of in that “you don’t know what goes on in your neighbor’s home” sort of way. Very similar to Desperate Housewives when it was at its best. I never read the book, but I did enjoy the performances of this A-List female cast. I find the way abuse is depicted to be extremely powerful and different than the common narrative, and the dynamics of competition, power, and friendships between women to be refreshingly complex. Nicole Kidman and Laura Dern are the standouts (sorry Reese). I’m a bit disappointed that they feel the need to make a second season for BOTH of these shows because they were marketed as limited series, and felt complete.
“Stranger Things” exploded last year when it came out in the summer of 2016. People ate that show up and felt the 80s nostalgia moments hard. I didn’t really get that watching the first season. It was entertaining but didn’t really WOW me the same way. I sort of expected the show to be a one and done series. Season 2 came out a little before my son was born and I barely paid it any notice in the months that followed. While browsing for something new to watch, we decided to give it a go, and I’m glad we did. Season 2 had an energy and momentum that Season 1 had to build up to. The characters felt more flushed out and the action felt non-stop throughout the season. There wasn’t any filler and the stakes were high. New characters (which shows always feel the need to add at the start of new seasons) were welcome additions versus the typical annoyingly bland backdrops of regular television (i.e. Grey’s Anatomy). I’m still not a nostalgia nerd but the storyline in itself is worthy of a viewing. It’s worth noting that Stranger Things did come under fire as well for its creators pressuring a child actress to go along with an unscripted kiss, which is disturbing at best. I appreciate that this fact came to light because I am all too confident that this happens more and has happened for years across many television and film sets. The exposure of this could hopefully prevent this from happening as easily to others in the future.
I was eager to watch Atlanta ever since Donald Glover thanked the Migos in his Golden Globes speech in January 2017. It wasn’t available to stream (we do not pay for cable) on either Netflix or Hulu until later in the year. I jumped at the opportunity to watch and it didn’t disappoint. It’s been months since I watched it, and still its characters and their flaws and idiosyncrasies are fresh in my mind. As a writer, I know how incredibly hard that is, and how special too. There is humor in the show, yes, some really hilarious moments, but there are with it come the absurd, relatable, brilliant, and challenging moments as well. The “Juneteeth” episode, for example, I am still dissecting. Season Two is underway and I feel major FOMO for not being able to watch it yet. Just writing about the show now is making me want to rewatch Season 1. I think I may just do that.
After I finished watching Season 1 and 2 of Insecure, I watched Atlanta and, if I’m being 100% honest, I think it hurt my overall impression of Atlanta -- it just didn’t measure up. Then I smacked myself at the inference that I needed to compare the two since they are different shows to be experienced separately in their own right. What can I say about Insecure and Issa Rae, it’s star and creator, without sounding like the ultimate fan girl (which I unabashedly am)? This show is fantastic. I have not laughed so much in a long time consistently when watching a show. As someone who worked with youth in South Los Angeles, I found myself “yes-ing” many times, laughing and shaking my head at the characters that probably were what I looked like to many of my students and colleagues, and also relating so much with its central woman. A woman in her late twenties struggling to find the measure of success and accomplishment she expected of herself while dealing with the insecurities that come with that disappointment. The show is not necessarily depressing, but self deprecating at times, and mostly honest. Issa Rae’s character is not a woman that always makes the right decisions. Sometimes (especially Season 2’s finale - ask Michelle Obama) she is downright infuriating! But, there is so much heart in this show that you also are rooting for her at the same time. The core relationship of the show is the friendship between Issa and Yvonne Orji’s character, Molly. Seriously, I cannot wait for Season 3. And when you are done binging this show, and get as obsessed with Issa Rae as I am, you can check out The Mis-Adventures of Awkward Black Girl, the web series that made Issa Rae a name, and her book too.
Insecure really should be Number 1. Sorry, Ozark for the weak intro. The reason it is Number 1 on this list is for personal reasons. Ozark is the first show we binged as new parents. It’s probably the ONLY show that my husband and I have both loved and wanted to binge hard. Because of my son’s sleep and eat schedule, it took us longer to binge its 10 episode first season than it normally would (one day!). The week that it took us to watch the show made the experience even more worthwhile. I remember the excitement we’d feel cuing up the next episode after the prior one ending on such a nail-biting scene. I remember how we felt like teenagers breaking curfew when we’d skip sleep in favor of watching an episode back-to-back. I recall the rage I felt when my husband watched an episode ahead of me. Seriously, this show was start to finish excellent. Suspenseful, a touch of thrilling humor, stellar cast, and quality filming make the show the definition of entertaining. It has been compared to Breaking Bad, and I get some of the similarities, but it really does feel fresh and entirely different -- not the imitation I feared. The women in the show are infuriating, sharp, and well developed (which could NOT be said for the women in Breaking Bad, in my honest opinion). This is Jason Bateman’s best work! Cannot wait for Season Two.