How art imitates and informs our life as prospective parents.
May 26, 2011 | By: Liz
I have periodically blogged about how Hollywood portrays infertility, but I have never really focused on how Hollywood or television portrays parenthood. There are tons of great movies and t.v. shows about parenting, but there isn’t a ton that really addresses the transition people go through when they become parents: The Leap from Infertility to Parenthood. Granted there are fantastic movies like Juno that really capture aspects of adoption, but until now I haven’t really seen a movie or t.v. show that helped me understand (even as Monday Morning QB) what the transition — the Leap — is like. I am always “warning” my clients to be prepared for life with baby, but I previously have not had anything I could tell them to watch which accurately represented or characterized the Leap.
Well that has all changed. Last weekend I was watching a movie with my DH (Dear Husband). He had rented the film and I had agreed to watch it (despite an initial lack of interest) because the main character was played by Katherine Heigl, who is as we know, an adoptive mom. Not only do I love her films in general but I always am willing to watch a movie where the actor is in real life a parent through ART (assisted reproductive technologies) or adoption. And I am especially interested if the film involves parenting or the formation of a family. Putting aside a desire to escape my life and enjoy the movie, I always wonder whether the actor’s personal experiences with infertility, ART or adoption will influence his or her choices as an actor.
To be honest, when DH proposed watching this film I had no idea what it was about. I was inclined to pass as I had a vague recollection that the film had not been a tremendous success at the box office. But when I heard that Katherine Heigl (who ranks #2 behind J.A. as one of my favorite female actresses) was one of the lead actors, I caved. And what a good decision that turned out to be!
The movie in question is “Life as We Know It” starring KH and Josh Duhamel (JD). You can check out a trailer at http://lifeasweknowitmovie.warnerbros.com/dvd/
In this movie KH and JD play the close friends of a couple who pass away, and who name KH/JD as their baby’s legal guardians. Romantic comedy aside, the movie is a fantastic and very realistic portrayal of the Leap, and how the relationship between the parents can change. As I was watching this movie, both my DH and I were struck by how much the movie reminded us of what it was like to suddenly go from being wanna-be parents to BOOM being parents.
I think the movie really resonated for me because I am an adoptive parent who had very little notice of our pending adoption and I had never really focused on what it would be like to be a parent (let’s face it I spent the entire time wanting a baby and never realistically envisioned what it would be like to have the baby and be a mom). Once the movie really gets past the characters’ acceptance that they are now parents, there are some very insightful moments about the reality of being a parent and how different that reality is from your expectations. Whether or not you take a baby care class as part of your adoption plan, I highly recommend this film because I think that it really shows you — and in a humorous, light-hearted manner — what you are in for when someone hands you that baby! From changing that first poopy diaper, to installing baby gates and midnight runs to the pediatrician, I think that Life as We Know It is a great primer for prospective parents through adoption or assisted reproductive technologies like gestational surrogacy.
Most people who have gone through infertility tend to have blinders on about the reality of parenting. Whether you only have 24 hours notice or ten months to prepare for your baby’s arrival, this film has some very poignant moments about what the transition feels like and what surprising issues parenting can present us with. Best of all it’s fun to watch. It is a surprisingly good romantic comedy, Josh Duhamel is total eye candy (and I won’t hold it against my DH that he thinks Katherine is eye candy too), and it’s sweet, has a happy ending and all that stuff. So if you are on your way to parenthood after experiencing medical or social infertility, I think this movie is a Must See.
And not to totally discredit my intelligence, my DS (Dear Son) has turned me on to SpongeBob SqaurePants. I had the unexpected pleasure this week (while cleaning up a child’s puke) of watching an episode of SpongeBob involving a baby scallop and SpongeBob’s experiences as a new parent. This episode of SpongeBob presents a similarly hysterical and informative perspective of what the Leap is like to being a full time SAHM. I can’t remember the title of the episode off the top of my head (I will check the DVR and post the name of the episode if I can find it), but suffice it to say that I could relate to SpongeBob’s adjustment to caring for a baby all day and all night while Patrick (his best friend) goes off to work every day as they simulate and satirize what its like to be new parents.
I totally and completely remember that in the beginning of my “maternity leave” I had a rough time. By Wednesday night when DH walked through the door, I was an exhausted mess. Thursday night, when DH returned from work and walked-in the door, I handed over DS and went upstairs to have a good exhausted-woman-cry-in-the-shower. By Friday night, I was prepared for the hand-off at the door, and upon hand-off I bolted out of the house to have coffee at Starbucks (decaf of course b/c I was breastfeeding).
So what am I getting at? “Life as we know it” as parents is very different from life as we know it while waiting for the Stork. I don’t really care whether or not you are taking baby care classes or infant CPR (although I think both are excellent ideas) because the reality of life as a new parent is vastly different than anything we can ever learn in school. As infertile prospective parents we tend to be so focused on our goal of becoming parents that we lose sight of what we are in for when we are parents. It is a transition the likes of which you just can’t understand until you are living it and why I call it the Leap. Life As we Know It and even (surprisingly) Master SpongeBob, have nailed it on the head and I highly recommend watching them (when I find out the title of that SpongeBob episode, I will post it and maybe you can find it somewhere and watch it). Both are totally and completely worth watching.
p.s. please note that I am not complaining about being a parent. I love every minute of this crazy, full-catastrophe life I am living! I want more kids and my attitude now is much more about enjoying and being mindful of the joy in this experience. I am just saying that these movies can help prepare you for the full-catastrophe aspect of parenting.
p.p.s. If you have any other movies that you think are good to watch as prospective parents, post them here. Maybe we can start a list of “Movies to Watch During the Wait”!!
Filed under: adoption, In the News, Infertility In The Movies etc., Infertility on Television, IVF, Peace to Parenthood, Personal Musings, The Journey to Parenthood, The Two Week Wait Care Package, Thinking Out Loud, Third-Party Assisted Reproduction, visualization