"What to Expect When You’re Expecting" is Nothing Like Getting Pregnant In Real Life

Here’s what the movie gets right and wrong about the realities of preparing for baby.

Most women are plugged into the basics of what to expect when they’re expecting long before there’s any sign of a baby.

I knew all about it -- the nausea, the weight gain, the sore boobs, the anxiety, the excitement, the emergency C-sections, the insatiable hunger -- a bazillion TV seasons before I had my now 3-month-old boy.

After all, I watched Jennifer Aniston bare her prosthetic belly (trust me, cropped tank tops are not your answer to maternity fashion) on “Friends,” and I totally freaked out when Andrea Zuckerman’s flu-like symptoms turned out to be Jesse Vasquez’s spawn on “90210.”

Excruciating deliveries, bountiful baby showers, the surreal first sonogram -- Hollywood’s got that stuff covered.

So when Heidi Murkoff agreed to turn her pregnancy bible, “What To Expect When You’re Expecting,” into a big screen rom-com (à la “He’s Just Not That Into You”), I hoped the writers would honor her straight-talk legacy and reach a little to find the funny in pregnant gal problems that go beyond the physical.

For an ensemble film based on a popular, plot-less baby manual, “What to Expect” delivers more laughs than you may, well, expect. But is it true to life? Here’s what the movie gets right (besides casting Chase Crawford and the hot werewolf from “True Blood”) and wrong about the realities of preparing for baby.

None of These Woman Have "Normal" Jobs

The five pregnant characters in the film are either conveniently self-employed, famous (and therefore wealthy) or don’t need to work. There’s the food truck chef (Anna Kendrick), the reality TV host (Cameron Diaz), the owner of a baby boutique (Elizabeth Banks), the trophy wife (Brooklyn Decker) and the photographer (Jennifer Lopez). Not exactly the stuff of my cubicle nightmares -- just try describing a weird pregnancy symptom over the phone to your doc in an office bullpen.

Getting pregnant in corporate America just isn’t pretty -- I only got paid for a portion of my three-month maternity leave. (Here’s more about maternity leave in America, and what you can do if your own leave is less-than-stellar.) A childless co-worker in the next cube over was bent on offering me breastfeeding advice, and one superior practically laughed at me when I told her I’d made the decision to stay home and start a freelance career.

Where I related: There was, however, one relatable (albeit over-the-top) work moment in the movie: “Holy shit we can’t afford our life!” gasps Jennifer Lopez’s 30-something photographer, Holly, when she gets fired from a gig just before she’s about to close on a house and adopt from Ethiopia.

Turns out, she has reason to gasp, because the cost of having kids is going up. Don’t worry, though, there are a few things you can do about it.

You Should Expect the (Truly) Unexpected Costs

No matter how detailed your excel budget spreadsheet (my husband aptly labeled ours “New Life”), or budgeting folders in the LearnVest My Money Center, there will be line items you haven’t accounted for. Deluxe strollers are $700! The must-have (it’s for their development, people) motorized baby bouncer is $200! (There are, however, a few things you actually can skip purchasing when you’re having a baby.)

At the hospital where I delivered, the private room option with no special amenities cost as much as a night at the Four Seasons Maui, and it was not covered by my insurance. (As such, I ended up sharing a room with a lovely, but loud, Australian family and their fussy baby. My baby was, of course, perfectly behaved.) A skilled mohel for baby’s bris set us (I mean Baby’s grandparents) back a grand. “What to Expect” only nods at one or two scary-funny pregnancy financials. “Bet you wish you’d sprung for the 4D ultrasound,” NASCAR champ Ramsey says to his son (Ben Falcone), who’s also about to be a father with only a grainy black and white print-out to prove it.

Yep, those amazing 4D images often cost extra.

Where I related: I cringed when Cameron Diaz’s Jules picks up a pamphlet about private cord blood banking, a relatively new, debatably necessary, technology that stores baby’s stem cells, at her doctor’s office. I agonized over the expensive (typically a couple of thousand dollars) option, which claims to safeguard against future diseases for your baby, before finally deciding, not without a little guilt, that I’d rather donate my baby’s cord blood to a public bank. Now my baby’s chord blood is “public,” available to any sick person who should need it, as opposed to being stored in a nice, private bank, where only he would be able to use it.

Then there was this: “Twice a year I think about the price of college and cry in the car for an hour,” says Vic (Chris Rock). Unfortunately, once you’re a parent, every big money decision is now forever tied to the insane cost of higher education. To cope, I collect loose change around my apartment and deposit it into my baby’s college fund polka-dot piggy bank. Every nickel counts, right?

The Age Issue

While it’s true that more and more women are waiting longer to have a baby, I was surprised that the majority of mommies-to-be in this film were all in their mid- to late thirties. The average age for a first-time mom actually still hovers around 26. (To find out more about having kids later in life, read this Money Mic.) The movie tackles fertility treatments, miscarriage and the universal bummer that is turning in a sweet Chevy Camaro for a “vagina on wheels” minivan.

Where I related: As someone who had her first child in her late twenties, and who works as a writer, not a TV personality or a restaurateur on wheels, I could relate more to The Dudes -- Chris Rock’s hilarious, sage, Baby Bjorn-wearing walking posse of supportive dads (“No judging!” is their refrain), than to any of the female leads. After all, one of the dude dads says it best: “I love my baby so much I’m worried I’m going to eat him.”

Now that’s a sentiment I can get on board with.

Photo courtesy of “What To Expect“

Reprinted with permission from LearnVest. LearnVest is your hub for all things women and personal finance, from personal stories to tips for getting your own money under control. Follow us by signing up for our daily email newsletter or one of our free financial bootcamps.

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