Forget Drs. Spock and Brazelton, here's what Murphy Brown really needs to know when she joins the ever growing sisterhood of newsmoms:
Always bring an extra jacket to work. Sleep any time the opportunity presents itself. And don't worry about turning into a mush-brain.
That's some of the advice offered by local TV newswomen with real-life babies to their fictional counterpart Murphy Brown -- who is one week away from having an equally fictional baby on her namesake CBS sitcom.
"Sometimes you pick them up on your way out, or you burp them, and you don't know what they've done back there," says WMAR-TV (Channel 2) morning show host Rudy Miller, a practitioner of the extra-jacket school of power dressing when her three children, now aged 2 to 8, were infants.
Ms. Miller and other newswomen like Sally Thorner, WMAR anchor, and Donna Hamilton, an independent producer who formerly was host of WJZ-TV's "Evening Magazine," had mostly positive things to say about media motherhood: Viewers tend to get wildly engaged in the whole process, following the newswomen's pregnancies, sending cards and gifts and even remembering birthdays a year later.
Yet because they figure so prominently in the local consciousness -- they're our own hometown Katie Courics and Joan Lundens -- their lives become communal property. When Liz Walker, an unmarried anchorwoman at a Boston station, became pregnant in 1987, for example, she was criticized as a bad role model for the city's youth. (Ms. Walker has since married.) And more recently, Los Angeles talk radio was afire over anchorwoman Bree Walker's decision to have children, and thus possibly pass on a genetic condition marked by deformed extremities.
In Baltimore, however, newswomen who have opted for motherhood have been embraced by viewers.
"I can't yell at my kids in public because people will talk, 'Oh, look, she can't control them,' " Ms. Miller says with a laugh. "But people have been incredibly supportive. I've only gotten one negative postcard -- it was when I was pregnant, and it said, 'Get off the air, you blimp.' But mainly I got the most extraordinary cards and hand-knit and hand-crocheted outfits. I still have them. I would dress the baby up in the outfit, take a picture and send it to the person."
What the newswomen haven't gotten is what no parent ever gets -- enough sleep.
"You learn how to exist on less sleep than you ever thought you would," groans Channel 2's Sally Thorner. "You also learn to be less of a perfectionist. I'm not as Type-A as I used to be."
Ms. Thorner says her 3-to-midnight shift actually works well for motherhood because her husband, Dr. Brian Rosenfeld, generally works days -- meaning 1-year-old Everett spends just a few hours with a baby sitter rather than one of his parents.
And don't worry, Murph, the delivery room doesn't automatically lead to the so-called Mommy (read: slower) Track, Ms. Thorner reassures. "This summer, I'm going to New York to cover the Democratic convention," she says. "So I'm still doing the big stuff."
"It doesn't turn you into a marshmallow," Ms. Miller says. "But, if anything, it will make Murphy more human. She will view the world as a parent."
Donna Hamilton agrees that parenthood changes your priorities -- for the better.
"My advice for Murphy Brown would not be advice but congratulations," says Ms. Hamilton, a mother of two. "No matter how glamorous and exciting of an assignment you have, this child will make the world truly real to you."