This is, hopefully, the last thing I’ll write before going on parental leave. At this point late in twin pregnancy, I’m less a functioning professional person than a bad Ron Burgundy impression, chugging smoothies and bellowing “I am COMPLETELY MISERABLE” at anyone caring and unwise enough to check in. First, walking turned into waddling, then waddling turned into hobbling, and now I’m in a place where anything approaching a gentle incline requires the services of someone who’ll push me from behind, like I’m an obstinate grocery-store cart. My feet and ankles look like popovers. Did I mention that there’s a pandemic and it’s high summer and masks are mandatory? The past month has been most notable for a series of sharp pelvic pains called “lightning crotch,” or, if you’re in the U.K., “fanny daggers.” (The names don’t make the pain less objectionable, but they did give me an idea for a fabulous transatlantic superhero series.)
None of this is news to anyone who’s ever been pregnant. I hadn’t been before; it was a real shock to me. “I don’t resent being pregnant,” Amy Schumer says in the first episode of Expecting Amy, her gorgeous, occasionally gross, and excruciatingly candid HBO Max miniseries documenting the months before she gave birth to her son, Gene. “I resent everyone who hasn’t been honest.” The process of making babies can be, it turns out, strikingly terrible. Not the making them making them part, although that can be terrible too—in my case, it involved several years, surgeries, hormone shots, and daily internal ultrasounds that made me bizarrely intimate with my fertility doctor. (I’m still a little aggrieved that this man got me pregnant and then totally stopped calling.) But the growing of them, the cultivation of things that go from tiny blobs on a screen to bigger blobs to wriggly aliens with oversize heads to things that start to look like actual babies and are strong enough to physically wind you. It is the strangest, most painful and stressful and joyful thing I’ve ever done. Expecting Amy captures it to an uncanny degree.
Still, the series is more than a portrait of a fiendishly complicated pregnancy. (Schumer suffered from hyperemesis gravidarum, a condition marked by severe, prolonged nausea that lasts well beyond the first trimester and in her case led to several hospitalizations for dehydration.) It documents how, while enduring sickness beyond anything she’d been prepared for, Schumer continued to work, embarking on a 60-show tour of 42 cities and putting together a Netflix special called Growing. Filmed in part on phones by Schumer and her husband, the chef Chris Fischer, and directed and edited by Alexander Hammer (who edited Beyoncé’s Homecoming), Expecting Amy relies on its subject’s total exposure. We see Schumer vomiting repeatedly; we sit in on her sonograms. (When the baby is the size of a pea, she quips, “You’re going to get bigger, and we don’t want you to be body-shamed. Eventually you’ll be the size of a lima bean, and that’s fine.”) The camera captures the suction pumps attached to her breasts postpartum, and even, for a second, reveals her internal reproductive organs while her baby is being born by Cesarean section.