Why I will always think of Jeff Probst when I think of my childbearing years

by DaniGirl on October 24, 2007 · 23 comments

in It IS all about me

When I look back on the past eight years, eight incredible years that that have seen infertility, conception, miscarriage, childbirth and the parenting of two – soon to be three – small boys, you know what will be inextricably linked with this period in my life? I mean aside from the joy and the tears and the hope and the anxiety and the bliss and the misery and the diapers and the sippy cups and the rest of it? You know what will be the wallpaper on the background of these years?

Survivor, the reality show on CBS.

True confession time: I have never missed an episode of Survivor. Nota bene: not that I’ve never missed a season; no, I’ve never missed a single episode.

Survivor debuted on May 31, 2000. Beloved was teaching evenings at the time, and I watched the first episode out of sheer boredom. There was some other reality show about a ship or something; this one seemed like a better choice, but only marginally. Three weeks later, I found out I was pregnant for the first time after more than a year of trying and despite the fact that we had just been told by a team of reproductive endocrinologists that we might as well turn directly to in vitro fertilization to start our family, so meagre was our fertility.

For the entire summer, I floated in a state of dreamy, early-pregnancy bliss – and became seriously addicted to Survivor. Then, on August 21 of that year, I started to bleed and the next day, I miscarried the baby at 13 weeks. It seemed somehow brutally cruel to me that the pregnancy hadn’t even lasted as long as the summer fill-in show that had its finale on August 23.

Survivor soldiered on, and so did we. I remember walking the dog in the frozen crispness of a dark February night, getting her business out of the way before the start of an episode from the second Survivor season (“Australia – The Outback!”) and my how ovaries ached from the stimulating hormones I was taking for our second IUI. That IUI, like the one before it in December, failed.

A little over a year later, and we had Tristan in our lives. He was born two weeks into Survivor Marquesas, featuring the first appearance of the soon-to-be ubiquitous Rob Mariano. I remember feeling cut completely adrift from my own life in those early weeks of Tristan’s life, where sleep deprivation, hormones and abject terror turned our lives absolutely inside out, and I truly thought my life would never be the same. I also remember going to bed at 6 pm (ha! what a newbie I was in dealing with sleep deprivatin back then!) but setting the alarm for two hours later, not to feed the baby but to watch Survivor. Everything else in our lives had gone sideways with Tristan’s arrival in our midst, but I clung to the established ritual of watching Survivor like a life-preserver.

Two years later, Simon was born 11 days late and more than 24 hours after they began to induce labour, on the morning of the debut of Survivor All-Stars. That was the one that debuted not in the usual attainable 8 pm time slot, but late on a Sunday night after the SuperBowl, of all things. I had been up for nearly 40 hours, since 6 am the morning before, and I clearly remember dozing in my hospital bed with 16 hour old Simon in my arms, exhausted beyond reason but still determined to stay awake long enough to watch the first episode.

That, my friends, is dedication. Or ridiculous. Take your pick.

While Survivor shows no signs of relenting any time soon, I think it’s safe to say we’re done with this whole childbearing thing. And when in the future I look back to this period in our lives, I’ll remember our Thursday-night ritual as it evolved through the years, first just Beloved and I full of unchecked optimism, then through a darker period, and out the other side. I’ll remember a succession of baby boys propped on a nursing pillow while my eyes were glued to the screen, and then little voices calling from upstairs for another glass of water, a final snuggle, one last book, just as that familiar caterwauling theme kicked in.

Some people find certain smells evocative of years past, like the scent of a favourite Christmas candle. Or maybe it’s the sight, year after year, of a sea of red and yellow leaves that connects you to your past. Or maybe it’s the taste of a favourite family recipe, a comfort food ritual. For me, though, silly as it may seem, when I think back to these years there will always be Jeff Probst, unchanging in his slicked-back hair and khaki shirt, that will evoke these wonderful – and occasionally tumultous – earliest years of parenting.


{ 21 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Not So Little Sister October 24, 2007 at 7:53 am

I went to college with someone on Survivor China! ๐Ÿ™‚

2 urban pedestrian October 24, 2007 at 7:55 am

I did most of my pregnancy with Murphy Brown. I remember sitting, just days before my daughter was born, watching Murphy giving birth to Avery and later sitting in her hospital room signing Natural Woman to him. I’m getting teary just typing this — at the time I bawled my eyes out. That song will forevermore turn on the waterworks.

3 Suz October 24, 2007 at 8:03 am

Mine will be the Sopranos. I spent five weeks in the hospital on bedrest with the twins, during which I watched all five (then) seasons of the show on my laptop. Somehow, it kept me sane during a fairly crazy and stressful point in my life.

4 kgirl October 24, 2007 at 8:24 am

I think Survivor is a really good show.

5 twimomplusone October 24, 2007 at 8:26 am

LOL, I too have Survivor intertwined with the story of our twins!

I have such vivid recollections of sitting there with my huge belly on Thursday night and then, fast forward, taking turns walking up and down the hallway with a screaming colicky child…missed a whole season because of her and then, fast forward, making Survivor a Thursday night family ritual: all of us in our jammies routing for our favorites. The Amazing race is a close second now ๐Ÿ˜‰

6 Chantal October 24, 2007 at 8:32 am

When my first son was an infant we didn’t have cable so I had precious few channels to chose from. For months (it seemed) he maintained a 2am feeding that coincided with the then NewRO’s airing of Knight Rider. We still joke that if we play the Knight Rider theme song my son (now 6) will all of a sudden get thirsty. Every time I see David Hasselhoff I feel nostalgia for those days.

7 bubandpie October 24, 2007 at 8:43 am

Wow – you’ve got me beat. I missed the disgusting-food-eating-contest episode in Survivor Outback, which proved of course to be pivotal since Kimmie revealed game-changing information. I’ve seen all the other episodes, though many of them I’ve seen on tape rather than during the broadcast.

What’s your favourite season? Outback was great (high drama and physical suffering). Amazon was pretty good too (the first time we saw an alliance-breaking coup – I love that Rob C.). My favourite of all is the recent one won by Yul (was that Exile Island? – I’m starting to lose my grasp of the titles).

Worst season ever – the one won by porn-star Brian. Was that Thailand? Yech.

8 Renee October 24, 2007 at 9:23 am

I was a Survivor addict too for years! My very favorite was Rupert. Ever since the girls have gotten involved in sports and John came into our lives, I don’t really have the chance to watch it.
but I sure do miss it.

9 Kathryn October 24, 2007 at 9:53 am

For me Friends will always be intertwined with my life. I actually bawled like a big dork when the last show aired.

10 DaniGirl October 24, 2007 at 10:30 am

Oh, so fun to see the TV accompaniment to everybody’s life!

Urban Pedestrian, Murphy Brown helped me get out of a bad marriage. When I told my mom that I wanted to leave him but I wanted a family so badly and feared I’d never have one on my own, she said (among many other things, and while secretly dancing with joy) “Heck, if Murphy Brown can do it, so can you.”

Chantal, my early-morning breastfeeding TV was always WKRP in Cinncinatti and Who’s The Boss. I hated Who’s the Boss with a fiery passion because that theme song would be stuck in my head for days. Beloved teases me about it to this day!

B&P, like Renee, my all-time favourite survivor is Rupert, and I loved the whole “pirate” season. (Had to look it up, but that was season 7, Pearl Islands.)

What struck me when I was hunting for the links for this post is how forgettable most of the characters and even entire seasons have been, even though they are so compelling at the time. Even looking at some of the winners, I found myself saying, “Who?”

11 alison October 24, 2007 at 10:33 am

For me it’s the sound of those two beats of music during the old Law and Order episodes when they would change locations. During my mat leave with Leah, I always seemed to be in my recliner with her on my boppy pillow, feeding, at 1 p.m. when Bravo would show reruns of Law and Order. I loved Jerry Orbach. If Leah was otherwise occupied in the evenings when the newer episodes would come on, sleeping or playing, the sound of those two chords would make my milk let down, just as sure as the sound of her crying.

12 Alley Cat October 24, 2007 at 1:07 pm

I loved this post. Since I have only had one child, I didn’t need anything as long-running as survivor. Canadian Idol, Brat Camp, and
Rock Star INXS will will always remind me of the never-ending breast-feeds.

13 Shan October 24, 2007 at 3:39 pm

I too have never missed an episode of Survivor. I would even go so far as to say Survivor helped to put a somewhat strained relationship between my husband and his Mom back together. When I was on mat leave with our oldest she would arrive every Thursday night with pie to visit and watch Survivor. It was a nice time. For my youngest it’s Oprah. I got her Anniversary DVD’s as a gift and watched them during those late night feedings. Now my five year old begs to stay up to watch Dancing With the Stars with me.

14 cinnamon gurl October 24, 2007 at 5:38 pm

I came to survivor very late – like season 10 or season 13 or something. But I remember trying desperately to stay awake in the hospital with two-day-old Swee’pea for the season premiere of some season – Guatemala? I don’t know… they all run together.

The Olympics will also have a special place in my heart. We watched olympis for a large part of our honeymoon, and then two years later the opening ceremony was playing as we left the hospital with Swee’pea. For sixteen days of nursing a newborn and recovering for a c-section, I watched A LOT of the Olympics.

15 Karen October 24, 2007 at 8:52 pm

I never really got into the whole Survivor franchise, but it’s not just a TV show, it really spawned a whole slew of reality TV.
For me, the Apprentice series had me hooked during much of my pregnancy with the girl. My big guy is 7, and what is linked to him is working fulltime, trying desperately to get pregnant with treatments and then enrolling in a post-graduate program to keep my mind off of not getting pregnant – guess it worked!

16 Nora Bee October 25, 2007 at 1:45 am

Awesome! You survived on Survivor! I can understand the addiction. I haven’t watched every season but I’ve finished every one I’ve started. (The first one was because of Bruce, the karate guy, I trained with him). Good ol’ Jeff, with his hands on his hips. “The tribe has spoken.”

17 snackmommy October 25, 2007 at 9:48 am

Dani, I am right there with you for never having missed a single episode. I recall being in Hilton Head when they switched it to Wednesday for the NCAA playoffs. I didn’t see the ads as I was on vacation and I missed the first 20 minutes…I was devastated. It was the episode where Geri got the boot.

I also recall with great relief, that my 8pm call in for the induction didn’t happen, which meant I was off the hook for another 24 hours and I could watch the Survivor finale!

18 Kate October 25, 2007 at 6:44 pm

College/dating/early marriage = Friends. (But the first five seasons were so much better! Reruns on the WB later.)

First pregnancy = Everwood. Made me cry every week. total basket case–I couldn’t be without it.

Nursing = Gilmore Girls. Miss M took a one-hour 3rd nap every day at 5pm for months and I watched it in syndication on ABC Family. I caught up on the first 4-5 seasons this way and then moved over to regular network TV for the rest.

Second pregnancy = Sesame Street? Oprah? Whatever I could get Miss M to watch for 20 minutes so I could lie down on the couch?

Great stories about about Survivor! ๐Ÿ™‚

19 Postcards October 26, 2007 at 12:32 pm

The world needs more postcards ehh? Thanks for the post.

20 Catherine October 26, 2007 at 2:46 pm

I didn’t start watching Survivor (or TV really) until Pear Islands. I had heard they were taking away all the cast’s belonging and I thought “hey, a reality show where people can’t parade around in bikinis – maybe I’ll try it.” From the first episode, I was hooked and I too haven’t missed an episode since then. ๐Ÿ™‚

21 lisa b October 27, 2007 at 8:44 pm

You are a Survivor Dani! Struggling to stay awake with a newborn shows true dedication. I am impressed.
Great story.

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