Last year, my wife and I were on a reality show, and while some situations were planned or manipulated, what viewers saw of our relationship was real. And like real life, certain things happened that we never saw coming.
The show, season 2 of Newlyweds: The First Year on Bravo TV, followed us from our September 2013 wedding through fall of 2014 in our New York City home. We scheduled monthly shoots with the producers who shared suggestions from the network — anonymous executives we would never meet — many of which we rejected, like playing sexy board games or shopping for lingerie. For one shoot, the producers asked if we were open to visiting a fertility clinic. The network wanted us to have our eggs tested. Wouldn’t viewers be interested in seeing how lesbians make babies?
"Ugh," I said when I read the email.
"It could be interesting," said Sam, my wife.
We were both 29 at the time, and years away from babies, we thought. We didn’t know yet the kind of planning, both financial and emotional, that lay ahead. Sam owned her own production company, and I was a freelance writer. We were just finding our professional footing and assumed we would be more financially stable a few years down the line. We always assumed we’d have kids "someday," and we both wanted to carry one. As to who would try first, we had no idea.
The production team found a clinic in Brooklyn, NY that permitted them to film. The network paid the fees not covered by our health insurance, and I wore a full face of makeup and a microphone as I prepared for a vaginal exam. We met Dr. R, a soft-spoken blonde with the smile of a kindergarten teacher. She remained professional in the face of lights and cameras, and didn’t mind that we had to twice reshoot the first scene, where we entered her office and shook her hand. She was pregnant and patient. We loved her.
The exam room was tiny; bringing in bulky TV cameras made the space even tighter. Dr. R lubed up the wand, and I watched the cameraman for a reaction. He was stoic, focused and hidden behind the lens. "This is fun, huh?" I asked him. It wasn’t always easy to get a laugh from the crew. They were all hardworking and incredibly nice to us, but they were also doing their jobs, which meant following us around with cameras as we performed hopelessly boring tasks, like packing for our honeymoon, opening credit card bills, and getting our dogs groomed. I swear there is footage of this stuff.
I turned to my wife. "I cannot believe I’m lying here without pants on letting them film me." She laughed and held my hand. She took this fertility thing as serious business, while I was worried about how fat I’d look on camera with my head back and my feet in stirrups. Sam asked if I was nervous. "Why would I be nervous?"
When Dr. R completed the exam, I waited for the cameraman to leave, peeled off my mic, and waddled to the bathroom. I didn’t want the audio guy to hear me complaining about the goop dripping down my thighs. I quickly forgot about the fertility tests. They were just for TV, I said. The summer passed and the producers scheduled a return so we could get our results.