Guest post by Ami Burns, CD(DONA), LCCE, FACCE
“What To Expect When You’re Expecting” authored by Heidi Murkoff and contributer Sharon Mazel, is now in its all-new fourth edition, with over 17 million copies in print, and been a perennial favorite on The New York Times’ bestseller list for years. According to USA Today, WTEWYE has been read by 93 percent of women who read a pregnancy book. In May, “What To Expect When You’re Expecting; The Movie” was released, directed by Kirk Jones, and starring Cameron Diaz, Jennifer Lopez, Elizabeth Banks, Matthew Morrison, and others. Over the years, the material and presentation style of the book have been questioned as potentially creating more fear and questions then providing reassurance and confidence to pregnant women. When I heard that the movie had been released, I asked Ami Burns, a Chicago-based birthed professional to see the movie through the eyes of a Lamaze Certified Childbirth Educator. – SM
SPOILER ALERT: If you plan to see the film “What To Expect When You’re Expecting,” you may want to read the review after you see the film.
What did I expect before buying my ticket to What To Expect When You’re Expecting, the film inspired by Heidi Murkoff’s book? To be honest, not much. I’m not a fan of the book, and I assumed the movie would be another Hollywood portrayal of birth as an emergency, or featuring bumbling dads who don’t know what to do, along with a mom screaming, telling him what an idiot he is as she purple pushes her baby out.
I knew I had to leave my judgement at the ticket counter if I was going to review the movie with my “childbirth educator/doula” hat on, not my “Matthew Morrison is hot so it won’t be a total waste of money if the movie stinks” one.
Lamaze International has the Six Healthy Birth Practices that offer evidence and research which provides a solid foundation for promoting safe and normal birth. Would What To Expect touch on even one? I was curious to find out.
Before I get to answer the question of how well WTEWYE does in following the Healthy Birth Practices, it’s worth noting that as far as childbirth education in general, the only mention comes during a short scene at the doctor’s office when the mom and dad to-be played by Cameron Diaz and Matthew Morrison see a flyer about The Bradley Method. Diaz says Morrison needs to learn it, but we never hear anything else about it, or see anyone take a birth class – Bradley, Lamaze or any other – throughout the movie.
So, let’s take a look at each care practice and see how WTEWYE stacks up against each one.
1. Let Labor Begin On Its Own
I was pleasantly surprised that the women all went into labor naturally – one mom even has a strong contraction on live television. The dad played by Chris Rock talks about walking and having sex to start labor. There’s no mention of induction or augmentation, and one mom’s water breaks as she’s walking around. Nice!
2. Walk, Move Around and Change Positions Throughout Labor
There are a few scenes that show the moms in hospital beds, but at least they’re upright. A mom leans on the wall as her husband rubs her back, and the character played by Brooklyn Decker – a young mom of twins who has the perfect pregnancy — labors on a birth ball at home.
3. Bring a Loved One, Friend or Doula for Continuous Support
Just like there’s barely a mention about childbirth education, doulas aren’t mentioned either. Labor support isn’t talked about in general, but the fathers are very supportive during the births.
4. Avoid Interventions That Aren’t Medically Necessary
Again, I am happy to report no talk of induction or planned cesarean section – even for the mom carrying twins. Elizabeth Banks’ character, who comes prepared with a birth plan, eventually chooses an epidural, reaches 10 cm, but the doctor suggests a cesarean section since the baby’s heart rate is low. Her husband holds her hand during the operation.
5. Avoid Giving Birth On Your Back, and Follow Your Body’s Urges to Push
Here I am on the 5th Healthy Birth Practice and still impressed! One mom uses a squat bar, another pushes semi sitting, and Decker’s character not only only gives birth to twins vaginally, she literally sneezes one of the babies out.
6. Keep Your Baby With You – It’s Best for You, Your Baby and Breastfeeding
While the labor and birth experiences were good, the fimmakers could have done a much better job with this one. Banks’ character owns a store, The Breast Choice, even before she conceives, but we don’t see any of the new moms nursing – or even bottle feeding, for that matter. I was disappointed that one of the last scenes in the hospital is of two dads talking as they watch their babies – and many others – in the nursery.
I’m also glad the filmmakers showed some of the realities of pregnancy – mainly Banks’ character, who is expecting the “perfect glow,” but instead has hemmorhoids, sore breasts and incontinence – and isn’t afraid to be honest about it.
So, I didn’t expect much going in, but overall found What To Expect When You’re Expecting a breezy, romantic comedy that didn’t make the childbirth educator in me cringe.
Did you see the movie? What are your thoughts? Would you recommend this movie to your classes? Could you use clips of this movie in your classes as teaching moments? Have your students and families been to see this and brought up the film in class? What has been their opinions? Let’s share ideas and thoughts on how we as educators can be better prepared to respond to comments and observations by families we work with.
About Ami Burns
Ami Burns, CD(DONA), LCCE, FACCE, is the founder of Birth Talk. In addition to teaching, she uses her media background to promote healthy birth. Ami produced the Telly Award-winning 50 Years of Childbirth Education for Lamaze International, and writes for numerous websites, including allParenting.