Warning: Spoilers included!
Last week Dave and I had a "stay-at-home date night" and hesitantly chose to watch "What to Expect When You're Expecting." Ever since our struggle with infertility, we (mostly I) have avoided tv shows and movies dealing with pregnancy. Of course, it's unavoidable as it's a part of life and a pretty common theme. But, as we tried desperately to get pregnant with no success, watching both Angela and Pam get pregnant on "The Office" soon became torture, so shows like this were abandoned for a while. Once we adopted Litte Piñata, I have become a whole lot more interested in entertainment dealing with babies, but that doesn't mean that pregnancy related things are always easy now, as it's still a part of life where I am left out.
All that to say, our expectations were low going into the movie. We even said we'd stop it if it made us too sad or annoyed. But, we were so pleasantly surprised! It was good to see at least one couple struggling with infertility from the beginning. The characters and situations were believable, though obviously caricatured. We felt the awkwardness of the couple that got pregnant after two years of trying only to discover that his father's young wife was pregnant with twins. We were groaning right along with them. There were so many clever lines that we could totally relate to and made us laugh out loud. It was realistic in showing the various journeys people take to parenthood, and I thought the grief of miscarriage was portrayed well (even though we haven't personally experienced it). Hearing the fears and worries of the adopting couple was so very, very familiar to us. In all, though there was obviously a great deal of growing bellies and pregnancy talk, the issue was not glossed over, overly romanticized, and especially was not taken for granted (as it so often seems to be on TV). Because of this, the many pregnancies hurt less to watch, and I have to say, we would actually recommend the movie (although I may not say this if we were still childless).
But, another thought entered my mind as the movie closed and the couples had their happy endings with their babies. Although the "giving birth" scenes were a bit hard for me to watch, I couldn't help but think of the women for whom those scenes must be even harder to see: birth mothers.
Birthmothers give birth to their children yet choose for them to be raised by other parents. I can't imagine the mixed feelings they must feel when seeing movies or shows focusing on pregnancy and birth! It was something that never crossed my mind before; but what must it be like for them? To see the happy families going home with their babies, while remembering that they left the hospital without theirs. My heart aches for these women.
Our personal adoption story is a beautiful one. And we have a wonderful relationship with Little Piñata's birthmother. She is an amazing woman and we hope to continue a relationship with her throughout his life. And that's something she wants too. But, I can't imagine all she must have been thinking when she left the hospital without the child she just gave birth to. Wow. What a brave decision to choose what she believed was best for her child, even though she knew it would cause her so much grief.
"What to Expect when You're Expecting" presented five couples' stories that were all unique in their own ways, but there are an infinite number of ways to build a family. As an adoptive parent, I am obviously more sensitive to those whose stories involve adoption. But I hope that no matter our story or journey, I will be sensitive and empathetic to those whose lives are quite different from our own. It's so easy to assume that others view life the same way I do, but they don't. Watching "What to Expect" made me wonder how Little Pinata's birthmother must feel and what she must think when seeing movies like this.
I know I came a long way from "date night" to "birthmother grief," but I think it's important to imagine what life must be like for others sometimes. In our culture, we may think that a birthmother's journey ends when she places her child for adoption, but that's not true. She will always remember and love her child her whole life. When we see women out in public we may categorize them as either mothers or not-mothers, but this is not the case. There are women that have carried babies and lost them, who long to be mothers but are not, and even women that have given birth but are not the ones raising their child.