How to Buy a Baby follows a couple that can’t make a baby the fun way. The series is about Jane and Charlie, a couple that finds itself contending with IVF and adoption questionnaires, struggling with infertility yet managing to keep their sense of humour. The show is very funny, and poignant, and we are pumped for season two to drop on CBC Gem this August 23.
We caught up with Wendy Litner, the creator of How to Buy a Baby, this week.
SDTC: So bring us up to speed; where are we at in the series?
WL: Season one followed Jane and Charlie through a round of in vitro fertilization (IVF). Trying to have a baby becomes much less intimate when it’s with the help of a doctor. And a nurse. And an embryologist. And unsolicited advice from everyone you know. Because infertility treatments are so damn hard and expensive, many couples struggling to conceive are often asked by well-meaning friends and family, “Why don’t you just adopt?” Except there is no “just” in adopting. There is no baby store. And the desire to be a parent outside of the usual, natural way is often met with judgment.
That is where season two finds Jane and Charlie: Navigating the complexities and adoption and what it really means to become parents and to love. “Just adopting” involves home inspections and financial checks and background checks and fingerprinting and loss and grief for so many people. But even amidst the awkwardness of having a social worker ask questions about my sex life (that’s really on the questionnaire!) and getting fingerprinted by the RCMP to confirm I am not a convicted felon, I have seen the comedy in trying to adopt. I have seen the humour and the romance, the resilience and the sheer love of it all, in hoping to love a child you can’t create. And I hope that is what the audience sees too when they watch Jane and Charlie’s journey.
What were the challenges in filming this season?
We filmed How to Buy a Baby in January, which meant a lot of hot coffee and hot water bottles and layers of socks. Our incredible leads, Meghan Heffern and Marc Bendavid, were freezing, but you would never know it from the warmth radiating from their beautiful hearts! They were incredible troopers while filming during a polar vortex and, amazingly, were able to bring so much humour and love and aching honesty, when they couldn’t even feel their toes.
What was your favourite scene?
One of my favourite scenes is one in which Jane runs into a pregnant woman and somehow finds herself saying she too is pregnant. She just somehow says it. She doesn’t even know where it came from inside of her; she just needed to hear herself say it out loud. As Charlie joins the group, he goes along with Jane’s “pregnancy.” I feel like this interaction says so much about their love for each other.
I remember being at the dog park once and similarly bumping into a pregnant woman. She was so full of joy (and a baby!), and I found myself wanting to tell her that I was also pregnant. I knew I would never get the chance to say those words out loud and I just wanted to say them. To feel them on my tongue and know what it would feel like to say it and pretend for even just a few minutes. I loved getting to see Jane actually get to live this fantasy.
How have Jane and Charlie changed since they started this journey?
Like so many people, they assumed that having children would just be a matter of them choosing to have sex. As season one and season two have progressed, they have had to grow and grieve. They have had to learn a new language: first how to speak infertile (there are so many acronyms!) and then be versed in adoption. They have attended mandatory parenting training where they have learned that adoption begins with loss, and this heartbreak has changed them and their views of what it means to be a parent. But amidst all their change and growth, what roots Jane and Charlie is their enduring love for one another and the way they make each other laugh the hardest.
Do you feel that infertility is being talked about more now than when you started out on this project?
When I was going through infertility treatments, I was awash in a sea of Facebook pregnancy announcements and gender reveals (if I see one more balloon pop…). I felt so isolated and alone and like I wasn’t supposed to talk about what I was going through when all I wanted to do was scream at the top of my lungs, “My husband has to give me injections in my ass to try and make a baby!” I knew statistically that everyone knows someone struggling to conceive, but none of those other people struggling seemed to be on my friends.
Some years on now, I feel like infertility is having a moment. As more people share their stories, from celebrities like Chrissy Teigen to the incredibly strong women I have met who give voice to their pain in articles, books and on social media, I am hopeful that people are feeling less alone in their painful journey to motherhood. Infertility is coming into its own as a legitimate, stigma-free topic. It has become the subject matter of books and b plots of shows and now the predominant narrative of a CBC digital series!
Why is it so important to maintain a sense of humour when dealing with something like infertility? How have you seen it help others?
When my husband and I were diagnosed with infertility, we felt committed to keeping a sense of humour and trying to focus on the reasons why we wanted to become parents together in the first place. I come from a long line of incredibly funny matriarchs. When my mother was diagnosed with terminal cancer when I was 23, she faced it with so much humour and so much grace, and it inspired me to find the funny in life’s absolute worst moments. This is how I honour my late mother: by laughing. I am grateful that others have also found comedy to be an effective coping mechanism in the face of hardship. It is so painful to so desperately want to be a parent, and I hope this series helps others who similarly find comedy to be a balm for such heartbreak. It is just as valid to laugh as it is to cry.
What are you hearing from viewers? What do you hope they take away from the second season?
The response to season one was so overwhelmingly positive it makes me emotional just to write about it. People from all over the world open up to me every day about their stories and I feel privileged to be a part of such a strong and resilient community.
I hope that those who have gone through and are going through adoption see some of their experience reflected back in a meaningful and humorous way and that they know that their different path to parenthood is celebrated. And for those not touched by adoption, I hope it shares a perspective about the complexities of infertility and adoption. And for those specifically who continue to yearn to be parents I hear them, I know their pain, and I hope they can find peace with whatever their future holds.