Postpartum Days and Television

Setsuko Kamiya 神谷説子

It took almost a month before I turned on the television for the first time after giving birth to my son in early October. Those postpartum weeks were tense, like a boot camp with an endless rotation of nursing, changing diapers, trying and failing to put him to bed, munching into whatever I could to fulfill my hunger while struggling to get some sleep when/if I could. Sleepless and exhausted, I could hardly think about anything else. I even gave up checking my e-mails, Facebook and Twitter on my iPhone because it was too tiring to keep up with the amount of information that kept feeding in. The main use of my iPhone now was to take pictures of this little baby. And if I had any energy left I would be searching the web for information on how to put your baby to bed without waking him, or whether I needed to worry about the rash on his cheek. Around the fourth week, though, it suddenly occurred to me that I had been disconnected from the outside world for so long. That was when I hit the remote control. Television was easy, as all I had to do was sit there and watch. From then on the television became my nursing time companion.

A close friend told me that nursing was a good time to watch DVDs, but I stuck to the terrestrial channels. Although I nursed several times throughout the day I only turned the TV on during the daytime when I was alone with my son. So my choices included programs like the so-called “waidosho” provided by private broadcasters, which are two to three hour-long programs where show hosts and guests comment on light news items from social issues to entertainment. My other options were reruns of popular TV dramas but I didn’t have time for an hour-long drama every day. And live coverage of the Diet committee sessions by NHK was too tedious to watch. So I would often end up landing on one of the channels running a waidosho that caught my attention, from the illicit relationships of politicians and celebrities to cooking tips. And because the day’s straight news that was provided during these shows often seemed to be the same throughout the day, I felt I wasn’t missing out.

As more weeks passed, the boot camp gradually became less tense, or perhaps I was getting used to meeting my son’s needs. And nursing time became shorter as my son learned to drink more and faster as many babies do. Slowly I recovered mental and physical strength and returned to checking social media and also visiting websites beyond parenting advice on my iPhone. I also resumed reading newspapers, mostly by using apps. Meanwhile I was watching less television. As I gained access to more information via different media, I realized how little I was getting out of daytime TV shows. And even if I watched the evening and late night news programs, I was sure that there was still a limit to the amount of information I would be getting. It was definitely naive to think that I was informed of the world just by watching TV.

Surveys show that more people rely on the Internet, especially social media, for news than they do on newspapers, but television still remains the significant source of information. But simply watching television passively can mislead our views toward society and may, in fact, isolate those who only watch television. It’s ironic, as I had thought it had saved me from isolation during those extraordinary weeks in my life. Sometimes it takes a postpartum experience to realize what we thought we already knew.