Bravo’s latest reality series, Pregnant in Heels, follows clothing designer and “Pregnancy Concierge” (which basically means just what you think it means: doing stuff for pregnant people) Rosie Pope as she deals with clients whom she’s dubbed “million dollar moms.” Only one episode of the show has aired so far, but it’s already being billed as showcasing the “bitchiest” women ever while they’re at their hormone-fueled worst. Call me a bleeding-heart, reality-television-loving apologist if you must, but after watching the pilot episode I think some of that snark is missing the point.
Also missing the point: Doesn’t Rosie look just like Madeline Kahn?
First, a quick recap of the episode. We see Rosie (and, to a lesser extent, her two assistants Hannah and LT) visit two clients: Sarah, a web entrepreneur who isn’t ready for her baby; and Samantha, a bestselling author who can’t decide what to name the third child she’s expecting. A level of ridiculousness that can only come with wealth abounds: A think tank and a focus group are employed to come up with a “brand” for Samantha’s fetus, and Sarah and her husband refuse to buy anything that looks too “babyish” for theirs (eventually they grudgingly consent to a Marimekko rocking chair—at least it’s designer). By the end of the episode, London-born Pope is able to use her Mary Poppins accent (I have a theory that rich women in the US will take orders more readily from a Brit because of Ms. Poppins), her undeniable charisma, and her obvious expertise to “solve” these issues—a follow-up reveals that Samantha and her husband name their baby “Bowen” (ignoring the advice of the think tank and focus group, natch) and Sarah and her husband appear to be thrilled to have newborn Fox in their lives, baby toys and all.
While the snark flows understandably easily when women are shown uttering phrases like, “Rosie can help us marshal the resources to put together the perfect baby” (Samantha), and, “Wearing four-inch heels, nine months pregnant, it’s really hard,” (Sarah)—because, hello, a perfect baby is impossible and just take off the heels already—underneath it all this show is about more than just schadenfreude. It’s about the anxiety and fear felt by many pregnant women, compounded by the pressure put on women to “have it all,” including a perfect pregnancy and flawless baby.
Sure, the women who hire Rosie are quite wealthy, and they’re able to spend buttloads of cash on things like a designer nursery and a consultation with a “branding” expert that the vast majority of parents wouldn’t even consider. The reasons they do so, though, have more to do with fear and worry (a psychiatrist Rosie hires even has a breakthrough with Sarah about her high level of anxiety) than social climbing. Yes, a focus group to help name your baby is beyond ridiculous, but isn’t this type of aspirational pregnancy culture popular because many women—and not just exceedingly wealthy women, either—feel pressure to be perfect pregnant ladies?
To me, the women of Pregnant in Heels don’t appear to be simply “hormonal bitches” (though they may be awful people in real life; I have no idea), they’re pregnant women under extreme amounts of pressure who are using money to try and feel better. While throwing money at emotional/personal problems doesn’t usually help in the long run, this type of framing is nothing new on reality TV, especially reality TV that focuses on women like wedding and makeover shows (don’t trust yourself, women! Hire experts to help you spend your money because you don’t know what’s best for you!). Writing these women off as “bitchy” and “hormonal” and “the worst evar” just ignores the fact that societal expectations for pregnant women and mothers are sky-high and unrealistic.
I’m not sure whether Pregnant in Heels will take off considering the massive number of reality shows that premiered last week, but if it does, I hope some of the “look at that rich bitch” voyeurism dies down and a “what’s up with our cultural attitudes surrounding pregnancy?” response emerges. Until then, expect to see a lot more pregnant women in heels.