In HBO’s The Baby, Motherhood Is Hell

Photo: HBO

Minor spoilers for the first three episodes of The Baby.

From the moment it begins, HBO’s new horror-comedy, The Baby, addresses an idea that feels taboo yet deeply relatable: Babies are terrifying. They are fragile and demanding, innocent and frustrating. Parenting is often described as both the most amazing and most difficult task one can undertake. A show about a baby that combines a 30-minute comedy with a psychological thriller may seem ridiculous, unless you’ve been around a baby even once.

The Baby follows a 38-year-old woman named Tash, short for Natasha, who is irritated that all her friends are having children and is not afraid to tell them. Then Tash, played Michelle de Swarte, suddenly finds herself with a baby. Quite literally. While on a self-prescribed retreat to a seaside cabin, Tash catches an infant who seemingly falls from the sky. Though she wants absolutely nothing to do with the baby — trying, unsuccessfully, to pass him to the police and other authorities — the baby keeps finding his way back to her, leaving a trail of bodies in his wake. Like I said, babies are terrifying.

As Tash learns from the enigmatic and elusive Mrs. Eaves (Amira Ghazalla), this baby, who remains nameless for much of the show, has been an infant for quite some time. Throughout the past few decades, everyone who has watched over the baby in some capacity has died in an unexpected and gruesome way, something the baby seems inexplicably responsible for. Mrs. Eaves’s solution? Kill the baby, obviously. However, that isn’t so easy for Tash, who — despite desperately wanting to get rid of the child — doesn’t want to, like, stab a baby.

The absurdity of the show’s premise highlights the often hellish reality of motherhood. A friend, who, like everyone else in Tash’s life, is bizarrely unsurprised that she has suddenly acquired a child, isn’t fazed when Tash says the baby won’t let her sleep. What baby does? A fellow mother asks Tash if she’s started hallucinating from sleep deprivation. Another parent then describes what sounds like a light form of torture: “In the house all day, no one to talk to. Scream, nap, eat, shit, repeat. It’s a lot.”

The Baby feels particularly timely given the Supreme Court’s leaked draft decision, which would effectively end Roe v. Wade and the right to abortion as we’ve known it for the past 50 years. The show could easily be read as an allegory for forced parenthood or a parody of the way women are often seen as synonymous with mothers, regardless of whether they want kids or not. As much as Tash rejects the role of “mother,” everyone around her still expects that she knows how to care for the child — and assumes that she probably, secretly, wants to. Still, there is a sort of self-sacrifice inherent to Tash continuing to care for the baby. Does Tash want to do it? Absolutely not, but she is willing to forgo her own discomfort to keep the people around her (and the baby) safe.

The show provides an unflinching look at how thoroughly a baby’s presence disrupts one’s world. As Mrs. Eaves says, “They bulldoze your life, destroy your relationships” — this baby especially. If you enjoy anything that does satire like Get Out, the relatable chaos of Search Party, or Russian Doll’s absurdity, The Baby is absolutely worth your time.

Three of the show’s eight episodes are currently available to stream on HBO Max. New episodes of The Baby air Sunday at 10:30 p.m. ET.

In The Baby, Motherhood Is Hell