Thursday, April 10, 2014

Birth in TV and Movies pt 1: What to Expect When You're Expecting.


This is the start of a series of posts featuring shows and movies from a variety of different genres. I made a point to choose shows and movies outside of what I normally like, though I did include quite a few sci-fi shows in my to-watch list. The first movie up for critique is What to Expect When You’re Expecting. It had a lot of potential to be a great movie, but the plot fell extremely short. Like the pregnancy book, the movie was mediocre. The film is your typical rom com, insert a few births, and boy gets girl; though I digress, a movie review isn’t the point. I want to examine the important bits, the births.






What to Expect follows five couples through their pregnancies. Jules and Evan are both TV stars. Rosie and Marco are rival food truck owners who become pregnant after a hookup. Wendy is an author of a breast feeding book and her husband, Gary, is the son of a race car driver whose much younger trophy wife, Skyler, is pregnant with twins. Holly and Alex are in the process of adoption after several failed in vitro fertilization attempts.



The book does cover a wide range of topics and the characters in the movie mirrored the different birthing outcomes and methods. The movie covered loss, cesarean birth, vaginal unmedicated twin birth, a natural singleton birth, and an adoption. Though quite a few ways to birth and start a family were left out.


The character Rosie experienced a miscarriage fairly early in the movie. Loss is a very real part of pregnancy for many women, so including that in the movie was excellent. There is still a lot of stigma surrounding pregnancy loss, so having that in the film is a step toward creating more understanding of the parts of pregnancy and birth that do not have a happy outcome. Losing a pregnancy is earth shattering and can ravage the most stable of relationships so it was unsurprising that Rosie and Marco did not stay together after the loss, though more time should have been spent showing how they each coped with the loss. These two were also victims of the rom com "boy gets girl in the end" plot.


Jules and Evan, the TV couple, had an unexpected pregnancy. Their biggest issue seemed to be to circumcise or not to circumcise (my opinion of that will be left for another blog). She was a workaholic type as she had her own fitness show. Having a fit and healthy pregnancy is a wonderful idea, but her character made a remark about how she would have difficulty teaching people to lose weight while she was getting “fat." That statement is absolutely disgusting! Pregnant women don’t just “get fat." The weight gained during the average pregnancy is extra blood, the placenta,a little fat, amniotic fluid, and, of course, the most important part- the baby! So no, a woman does not simply “get fat” during pregnancy, she is, after all, making a human. She did plan to have a natural birth. When the time came she progressed very normally, though none of the birth scenes really showed the length of time a birth really takes. Most women are not ready to give birth a short time after arriving at the hospital, which is a big misconception people have about birth. The best thing about Jules and Evan’s birth scene was that she used a squat bar. The squat bar is an amazing tool for laboring mothers. Squatting allows the baby to move down more efficiently as the body is not working against gravity, plus it allows up to ten percent more dilation. That’s a whole additional centimeter, folks! Jules did end up pushing on her back, which was disappointing, but not shocking. She had her natural birth and the best part was there was no need for the circumcision debate to continue, since she had a surprise girl.


Wendy and Gary became pregnant after two years of trying. Her thunder was soon stolen by her very young mother in law, Skyler, who was pregnant with twins at the same time. Skyler seemingly unintentionally one upped Wendy throughout their pregnancies. Wendy was gassy and developed quite a bit of acne and Skyler was energetic and looked as well as she felt. Wendy still looked great, which isn’t always the case for pregnant women. Viewers didn’t see her pimples or even hear any farts for that matter. She did look a bit rough after she wet her pants or her water broke, it was hard to tell which happened, there was too much of Rebel Wilson’s character, Janice, making noise to focus on what was happening. Being the baby guru, she was aiming for a natural birth, but after laboring for a while she wasn’t handling contractions well and opted for an epidural. What none of the mothers in the movie had was a doula. I have to add that having a labor support person can greatly reduce the need for pain medication. After laboring a while with the epidural, Wendy’s doctor came in and informed her that she needs a cesarean. She didn’t want a c-section and protested and mentioned a birth plan. Birth plans are excellent, but a supportive provider who will honor a birth plan is equally important. Although her cesarean appeared to be necessary; according to the doctor, the baby’s heartbeat wasn’t where it should have been. I won’t over examine the whys and the why nots here. Wendy’s cesarean was fairly typical and her delirium from the anesthesia was really accurately portrayed. After my own cesarean, I distinctly remember remarking how the trees were dancing. Also the risk of cesarean was shown to some degree. Wendy lost a lot of blood in surgery and had to spend a lot of time being repaired. The problem was downplayed, but I am glad that it wasn’t shown as an “easy” experience as so many people believe about c-sections.


In contrast, Gary’s stepmother had a very easy pregnancy and labor. She was very easy going and positive the whole time. She bounced on the birthing ball for most of labor and even sneezed the first baby out. It was refreshing to see a vaginal twin birth. It is so common to assume a c-section is the best way to birth twins, but evidence supports that simply isn’t the case. As with all of the movie birth scenes the third stage of labor wasn’t shown at all. Boom, baby born, that is all. With Skyler the first baby was born and a short time later the second baby came. Where on earth did the placenta go? Am I the only person on earth who wandered about that?


Last but not least we have Holly and Alex, a couple who is in the process of adoption. They tried to have biological children but were unable to. Starting a family can happen in so many ways, which is why it was great that this couple was featured in What to Expect. They had had typical ups and downs that all parents have when expecting a baby. Their adoption came through much sooner than expected, which was quite the intro into parenthood. All parents have surprises and challenges, so it made sense to add a few bumps in the road in the movie for this couple. Becoming a parent is a journey and Holly and Alex made a big one, all the way to Ethiopia. They finally met their son and became a family on the trip.


In general What to Expect is not my cup of tea. I decided to watch it for this series so I could get a better idea of what the average mainstream person would watch and/or believe about birth. I don’t normally recommend the what to expect books to my birth clients. My go-to books are Ina May’s Guide to Childbirth by Ina May Gaskin and Your Best Birth by Ricki Lake. Birth Story and The Business of Being Born are the films that I recommend if someone is looking for specific birth related movies. The upside about the What to Expect When You’re Expecting is it showed a variety of ways to give birth and included natural birth. If I skipped straight to the birth scenes the movie wouldn’t have been half bad.


Stay tuned for more TV and movie birth blogs. Up next: Star Trek! If you have a suggestion for a birth scene for me to watch email it to: doulagroupofevansville@gmail.com

Written by Candice Beck

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