As miserable and huge as many women feel at work while they are pregnant, just imagine going to work in the third trimester as an actress. They are paid to look gorgeous, and all too often, they are having to hide the baby bump.
Even in the modern era of feminism, a baby on board can make for an interesting addition to a television show. Sometimes it’s a welcome part of the plot, like when Jim and Pam expanded their family just in time for Jenna Fischer’s pregnancy on “The Office.” But other times it just doesn’t work. Who could imagine Carrie Bradshaw as a single mom in “Sex in the City” or Jenna in “30 Rock” keeping a baby alive?
For decades, television writers and producers have had to get creative to keep filming while their stars are pregnant or on maternity leave. They use fancy camera angles and loose clothes or costumes. Sometimes they make jokes or make up reasons for the character to be in bed or behind a prop. If fashion is a major part of the show, such as in “Scandal,” then it becomes a major part of hiding the baby bump.
The audience can have fun figuring out if they can spot the baby bump, as the producers try to keep their illusion alive. Here are 15 times TV shows failed to hide pregnancies.
15 I Love Lucy
One of the very earliest occasions for pregnancy for television came from Lucille Ball, who starred with her husband Desi Arnaz on I Love Lucy. She was pregnant during the taping of the pilot, so the cast put her in oversize clothes, but they reshot the pilot before it aired.
She was pregnant during the filming for the second season, so the writers decided to write it into the plot. The problem, though, was that way back then even the word “pregnant” was too risque for television. Instead Desi made jokes about his wife’s predicament, handing her pickles and ice cream. We still loved Lucy, but we wanted to punch Desi every once in a while.
But the good news about the whole escapade is that we have Lucy’s maternity leave to thank for the invention of reruns because that is how the show producers dealt with filling the show’s time slot while she was home with the baby.
14 Sex And The City
The writers couldn’t exactly write in a pregnancy for Sex and City when Sarah Jessica Parker was with child. The whole point of the show is about being single and on the go. So instead, the producers used the clothing to try to disguise the baby bump — and they also cut the season short.
Carrie Bradshaw was known as a trend-setter, so it wasn’t unusual to put her in something off-the-wall. In fact, the show may have had something to do with a mini-comeback for Empire-waist clothes. They are stylish and roomy, after all. As always, the fashion took center stage in the show, with all of us wondering what they would come up with next to try to keep our focus off the midsection.
We all spent the season trying to notice Sarah Jessica’s baby bump, and sometimes it was easier than others. If we squinted, we could remain under the illusion that she was a carefree, single woman about town.
Fashion was also the way that producers of the hit show Scandal covered up the pregnancy of its star Kerry Washington. The high-powered Olivia Pope was also known for her style, although she is more classic than Carrie. She could rock a power suit like no other, so for a while the baby bump could be hidden by a loose-fitting dress underneath a high-fashion blazer.
Then the producers had to get creative in hiding Kerry behind couches and — most famously — behind her oversize purses. It’s a good thing that Prada was into the bigger sizes during that season. But still, most of the time, we just rolled our eyes while Olivia sipped her “wine” — like that’s good for the baby.
12 How I Met Your Mother
Sometimes you try to hide a baby bump and sometimes you make it a food baby. That’s the joke that went down on How I Met Your Mother when two of the show’s stars were pregnant during its fourth season.
As a comedy, the writers could make a joke out of hiding Alyson Hannigan and Cobie Smulders behind huge objects so that their bumps would not be a part of the action. But toward the end, they went all out. Lily, Hannigan’s character, participated in an eating contest, and after stuffing her face, she stood up to show where it all went — putting the baby bump on display to a round of laughter and applause. It was a glorious comedic nod to the all the women who have had to hide their pregnancies on the small screen since Lucy, and we all loved it.
11 The X Files
The ultimate trick of taking advantage of a pregnant to make a plot point belongs to “The X Files.” The pregnancy of star Gillian Anderson gave the writes an excuse to write an alien abduction into the show. For the most part, they disguised the pregnancy the usual way, with camera angles and close ups, but eventually the producer realized that no one was really fooled.
So when you are writing a show about aliens, you probably want to take advantage of any opportunity to write in an alien abduction, especially when you write in an alien pregnancy.
Gillian was able to have a brief maternity leave because of the plot angle, and it played out for several seasons, where the writers kept alluding to the abduction and the baby that was born during it. It became a major plot line, just as we are sure the baby changed the trajectory of Gillian’s life. For an alien show, the strange twist worked perfectly.
Can you imagine being pregnant while doing espionage as a spy? No, we didn’t think so, and neither did the writers of the series “Homeland,” which was the hottest thing ever after its first season when the star Claire Danes got pregnant.
It would have been ridiculous for the character Carrie Mathison to be burdened with a baby so the producers turned to the magic of camera angles to crop out the baby bump. The show also used a body double and the technology of computer graphics to keep Claire looking all slim and spy-like. It kept the action believable and the plot line moving, but Claire has said that it wasn’t the most fun to shoot kidnapping scenes when she was in her third trimester.
9 New Girl
When Zooey Deschanel was pregnant, her character in “New Girl” was sent away to jury duty. Yes, she was the title character, but the producers decided to bring in a new new girl for a few episodes while Zooey was on maternity leave. We can certainly call that a big fat fail.
For a few episodes, they showed Zooey during her jury duty, but of course only from the bust up. And then the jury was sequestered and Megan Fox was brought in as the new girl in the apartment to take Zooey’s place. Some people were put off by the move, especially since this was a story that revolved around Zooey’s character. Bringing in a new girl felt a bit like something that would have happened back in Lucy’s days. But the producers kept the laughs going and she returned to take her rightful place on the cast.
8 Mad Men
Poor January Jones was eight months pregnant when taping began for the fifth season of “Mad Men.” There was no baby as part of the plot line, so instead of adding it, they added a body issue — as if pregnant women didn’t feel bad enough about their bodies, they had to make the gorgeous January look like a cow just because she was having a baby. The plot went like this: poor Betty Draper had “gained a lot of weight” over the story break. And January even had to wear a fat suit to add extra pounds to other places.
The writers made up a plot where she was unhappy with all that extra weight, because of course she would be, and she went away for a few episodes to “lose the weight” — or enjoy her maternity leave. She came back looking better than ever. We have to remember that this is a story from the 1950s, so maybe that’s why it feels like January was treated in a way that reeks of sexism. But she ended up with a beautiful baby boy and got to come back to an amazing show.
Betty Draper wasn’t the only TV character who was labeled “fat” when she was pregnant. It also happened on “Frasier.” Jane Leeves, who played Daphne, was the beautiful object of Niles’ affection. But when the actress got pregnant and it didn’t work with the story line, Daphne became a stress eater who gained a bunch of weight because of the tension in her relationship with Niles. It was a plot line that gave us (or men) some laughs and allowed for the fledgling but long-awaited relationship to move forward without the burden of a baby being written into the plot.
When Jane was ready for maternity leave, Daphne was sent off to a spa to lose the weight. During one of the episodes, the writers put in a joke that had Niles telling people that Daphne had lost “9 pounds, 12 ounces,” which was the weight of Jane’s baby in real life. Jane returned later on in the season, looking gorgeous, but we have to give the fat plot line a big thumbs down.
6 Modern Family
One would think that one of the most pregnancy-friendly shows on air would be a sitcom about a family, but Julie Bowen’s pregnancy was kept hidden while she starred on “Modern Family.” On the show, her character was a mom of three, and in the pilot episode, the writers had no ambition to add another to that brood. So poor Julie had to keep her bump hidden.
Luckily, as a mom on the show, she had plenty of things to hide behind. Her belly was kept underneath blankets or behind a laundry basket. She was often seen standing behind the kitchen island, so no one could tell that she was pregnant.
Julie was actually having twins — boys John and Gus — and she was nominated for the first of many Emmys during that year, when she had to be exhausted from taking care of newborn twins plus a toddler. She is definitely a super mom, so we give her major props even though we saw right through those attempts to hide the pregnancy.
5 Grey’s Anatomy
Grey’s Anatomy has been on TV for more than a decade. And with so many amazing female characters, it’s no wonder that the writers have run into pregnancies a few times in the series’ run. They have taken different approaches each time, figuring out a way to continue their story line as best they can.
When Chandra Wilson was pregnant, it became part of the plot line, but when the star Ellen Pompeo was pregnant, the writers had her character Meredith donate a liver to her father. She was bed-ridden for a few episodes, just long enough to cover up the baby bump.
Jessica Capshaw’s character broke our hearts by leaving for a mission in Africa — all because the actress had the audacity to go on maternity leave — and Chyler Leigh’s pregnancy was dealt with using camera angles and jokes about stress eating.
Ellen has since had two more babies, although they were born via surrogate, so the writers didn’t have to worry about any more rewrites for her. They may have run out of options for how to cover up the baby bumps at this point.
4 The Office
On “The Office,” everyone was so excited to watch as Jim and Pam finally declared their love and started a family. So it’s no surprise that the writers embraced Jenna Fischer’s pregnancy and allowed her character Pam to have a baby at the same time. But did you know that Jenna wasn’t the only pregnant woman at the office in those days?
During the same season, Angela Kinsey, who played a character also named Angela, had a baby on board at the same time. No one wanted to steal Jim and Pam’s thunder, so Angela’s pregnancy was hidden. Most of the time, she was wearing black, loose-fitting clothes to make it less obvious, and she was pretty much stationed behind her desk so that the bump was hidden.
A lot of people didn’t even notice that Angela was pregnant, so that all of the attention was on Pam and Jim and their growing family. But many of us spent our nights seeing if we could catch a peek of the forbidden bump on camera.
3 30 Rock
Another show that had two pregnant women at the same time was “30 Rock,” but this time the show decided to hide both baby bumps.
Tina Fey didn’t want to give her character Liz Lemon a change while she was pregnant with her second daughter, and the producers all agreed that Jane Krakowski’s character Jenna was way too crazy to raise a baby, so they kept her bump covered up as well.
The show used some clever costumes to keep both covered up. Tina was dressed in orange coveralls at one point, and Jane wore a big dog costume. The get ups made it exciting to tune in and figure out what the producers would do next, and the crazy just kept coming. We imagine that Jane and Tina forged a great bond working together through pregnancy while also keeping us all laughing — but no one was fooled by those crazy attempts to hide the pregnancies.
Another brilliant plot line came along when one of our favorite “Friends” got pregnant in real life. To explain Lisa Kudrow’s growing belly, the writers of our favorite sitcom gave her character Phoebe a baby in her belly — actually, they gave her three. Because this is comedy and Phoebe’s big heart would always give generously, the writers crafted a hilarious but brilliant story line where Phoebe agrees to become a surrogate for her brother and sister-in-law, Frank and Alice, and we all got to witness comedy gold.
Phoebe had to miss Ross’s wedding in London, but we got to see her use Santa pants for maternity wear, talk to a Petri dish and have all kinds of amazing pregnancy adventures. Phoebe’s surrogacy journey was full of laughs, and we were so grateful that the writers put on a really great show involving pregnancy instead of just hiding it like so often happens.
1 Friends (again)
By the end of the series, we all knew and loved the characters and the real-life actors who portrayed them on “Friends.” And we were ecstatic to learn that Courtney Cox was pregnant during the last season. But after watching her character Monica struggle with infertility with her husband Chandler, it didn’t make much sense to write a pregnancy into the show, especially since Monica and Chandler were in the process of adoption and the show was about to put the final touches on its finale.
So instead, the writers this time decided to ignore the baby bump. Courtney, of course, is tiny, so even with a baby bump, she still didn’t appear pregnant. Plus, there were only a few episodes left to film, so they just let it be. And we’re so glad that for once we could let a female actress have her own personal experience without it being a big deal on TV.
Of course, it can often be impossible to just ignore a pregnancy on TV. The situation does change a woman’s body, and it’s hard not to notice some times. And the characters and plots don’t always align with what is going on in real life.
The beauty of the small screen is that we can put ourselves into a fictional world, and thanks to some television savvy, the story can go on. But we all have to admit that we can catch those beautiful baby bumps every time. No one is fooled, even on television.
Sources: Vulture, The Hollywood Gossip; Washington Post