When it came to “I Love Lucy,” Lucille Ball’s character wasn’t allowed to say that she was pregnant while on the popular sitcom. The reason why may seem silly now. But network executives thought pregnant was too obscene of a word.
You have to understand that television was a different beast back in the ’40s and ’50s. Programming, nowadays, would show audiences and executives of that era to their core. In many ways, Ball was progressive, pushing back against the standard TV practices of the day. After-all, Ball and her husband Desi Arnaz practically invented syndication and re-runs.
When Ball became pregnant with the couple’s second child, the actor and producer wanted to write her pregnancy into the show. The actor received some push back for her request. But finally, CBS allowed Ball to incorporate her real-life pregnancy into the season, in part because it allowed her to keep filming. This wasn’t the first time that a character got pregnant on a show. The sitcom “Mary Kay And Johnny” takes that honor by a few years.
But CBS had a few stipulations. Ball’s character couldn’t say the word “pregnant” during the episode. Up until that point, Lucy and Ricky Ricardo had slept in separate beds on the show. The network wanted to continue this safe, family-friendly atmosphere without a hint of funny business happening off-camera. Thus, the episode “Lucy Is Enceinte” was born.
Lucille Ball Wrote an Episode Around the Pregnancy
“Enceinte” literally means pregnant in French. Ever the artist, Ball incorporated being unable to say “pregnant” into the show’s episode. In usual sitcom hijinks, Ball finds out that she’s going to have a baby. But every time she tries to share the good news with Ricky, she’s interrupted. It becomes a comedy of errors and stays on-brand for the Ricardos and their antics. Ball instead incorporated euphemisms like she’s “expecting” to bring the knowledge across to the audience.
The episode ultimately leads to the joyous rendition of “We’re Having A Baby, My Baby And Me” by Arnaz’s Ricky to celebrate the occasion. And just like that, one of TV’s most famous characters was going to be a mother. In total, Ball’s pregnancy arc lasted about as long as the rest of her pregnancy.
It took five episodes until “Lucy Goes To The Hospital,” which introduced audiences to Little Ricky. In real life, Ball had her second child Desi Jr. around the same time as well. It was one of the earliest occurrences of a real-life pregnancy being written into a show. Or should we say “expecting?”