What to Expect When You’re Expecting: What do we expect?

Posted: May 17, 2012 by John C. Kwasny, Ph.D. in Comedy, Drama, Rom-com [romantic comedy]
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I think I’ve just been typecast. Assign the review of What to Expect When You’re Expecting to the guy who has been through eight full-term pregnancies with his wife. Sure, I get it. Come to think of it, I’m probably the only one among us Reel Thinking guys who actually read the pregnancy manual that’s the basis for this movie from cover to cover. Hey, I wanted to be prepared! To this day, my wife teases me for how often I quoted from “the manual” (actually many, many manuals) over the nine months leading up to the birth of our firstborn daughter. More on that in a bit.

WTEWYE appears to be a pretty standard ensemble cast dramedy about “real marriage and family life.” One of my personal favorites of this genre was the 1989 movie Parenthood, starring Steve Martin, Jason Robards, Rick Moranis, a young Keanu Reeves, among many others. It chronicled the struggles of yes, you guessed it, parenthood. The film has a lot of heavy subject matter, but for counselor-types like me, I enjoyed all of the family dysfunction. Since then, there have been many more movies that attempt to look at the joys and pains of family life, with WTEWYE being the latest. And, throw in some attractive, popular movie stars acting pregnant (plus the humor of Chris Rock), and you have a sure-fire hit!

Just the plot synopsis from IMDB cracks me up: “Over the moon about starting a family, TV fitness guru Jules and dance show star Evan find that their high-octane celebrity lives don’t stand a chance against the surprise demands of pregnancy. Baby-crazy author and advocate Wendy gets a taste of her own militant mommy advice when pregnancy hormones ravage her body; while Wendy’s husband, Gary, struggles not to be outdone by his competitive alpha-Dad, who’s expecting twins with his much younger trophy wife, Skyler. Photographer Holly is prepared to travel the globe to adopt a child, but her husband Alex isn’t so sure, and tries to quiet his panic by attending a “dudes” support group, where new fathers get to tell it like it really is. And rival food truck chefs Rosie and Marco’s surprise hook-up results in an unexpected quandary: what to do when your first child comes before your first date?” Sounds like five fairly typical American couples, doesn’t it? (Although I am quite stunned to not see at least one homosexual couple in the mix!)

If I actually see the movie one day, the character I would most be interested in is Wendy. She is a high-powered author and conference speaker who trains women how to be perfect new mommies. According to the trailer, she shares with her audience these motivating words: “I’m calling [expletive deleted]. Pregnancy sucks!” All her years of attempting to convince moms of the joys and glories of pregnancy went out the window when she finally experienced it herself. Surprise, surprise…carrying and giving birth to a child is extremely tough and painful! What did she expect?

Well, that’s really the message of the movie, isn’t it? Expecting a baby is really about the unexpected. First of all, many women (like Wendy) do not expect their pregnancy (or labor) to be as difficult and painful as it is. They ignore (or are unaware) that this pain and tribulation is part of the curse found in Genesis 3:16, “To the woman he said, ‘I will surely multiply your pain in childbearing; in pain you shall bring forth your children…'” As much as we all would love to offer women a pain-free method of pregnancy, it is impossible in our sinfully fallen world. Any freedom from suffering that does come during those nine months is purely due to the grace of God.

Another expectation many parents have during pregnancy is that their child will be born “perfectly” healthy. Every time Martie was pregnant, the predominant comment to us was: “Well, it doesn’t matter if it is a boy or girl, as long as it’s healthy!” Now I understand why we say those things to pregnant moms–we all have some level of fear of a child with birth defects. Unfortunately, because we often have this expectation, it makes giving birth to a child with “special needs” that much more difficult to handle. It rocks our world because we expect this to happen to others, not us. Yet none of us are promised healthy children, or even to be able to have children at all! Again, living in a fallen world means that we will have illness, disease, and even birth defects. Supremely painful, yet to be expected in a Biblical worldview.

And, finally, many new moms and dads are just like me. I wanted to have absolutely NO surprises in our pregnancies. I wanted everything to go according to the manual. My expectation was that if we just followed what the experts told us, then all would be well. This sort of need for control is actually quite pitifully humorous (which I’m sure we’ll see a lot of in WTEWYE) because we Christians should know better. Only God is in control…especially in the giving of life. Our expectations are rarely achieved. So, instead of trying so hard to learn what to expect when we’re expecting, we should use times like pregnancy and childbirth to learn to trust God more!

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