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Published on Mommy Tracked (http://www.mommytracked.com)

Knocked Up.

By Meredith O’Brien

Say, for argument’s sake, that you’re a behind-the-scenes entertainment journalist who’s given the rare opportunity to become an on-camera correspondent. You’re thrilled, of course, and pretend that the "suggestion" from the network brass that you drop 20 pounds (even though you’re already a stick) never really happened. You go out to celebrate. However your beer goggles get the best of you. And you go home with a stoner of an unemployed dude and get a little frisky. Okay, a lot frisky.

Eight weeks later, just as you’re getting acclimated to your new on-air gig, you suddenly have an urgent need to throw up in a trashcan while you’re in the middle of an interview. And you soon discover that your one night stand has left you with a little souvenir. Later, after internal wrangling, you decide that not only do you want to keep the baby, you also want to give it a try with the dad-to-be.

That’s the premise of the hit comedy "Knocked Up," starring "Grey’s Anatomy’s" Katherine Heigl. And, if you can get past the political analysis of Heigl’s character’s decision to keep the baby – a few have complained that aborting the pregnancy wasn’t given a fair enough on-screen shake – the film addresses a common question: What do you do when you’re in a new job and find out that you’re pregnant?

Like many career women who fear losing their jobs once they’re pregnant, Heigl’s Allison Scott makes the instinctual decision to say nothing to the entertainment network executives and forges ahead. "Just because I’m pregnant, I’m not some ruined woman," Allison says to her hook-up Ben Stone. (Yes. Stone.) She later adds, "I don’t want this baby to determine the rest of our lives."

Allison’s decision not to tell her bosses about the pregnancy is something many women do out of sheer terror, regardless of the advice of several pregnancy web sites [1] which urge women to immediately research [2] their company’s health and maternity policies, figure out post-pregnancy plans and inform the boss some time in the second trimester. The fictional Allison is working in the world of TV journalism, even worse, entertainment TV journalism, where looks often trump credentials and smarts. So having Allison decide not to tell her bosses about her pregnancy is a much bigger deal than someone who works in the accounting department trying to hide a pregnancy with boxy, loose clothing. When you’re an on-camera reporter who wears slinky dresses, people are gonna notice a baby bump.

Thus it was surprising that "Knocked Up" waited so long into the film, when Allison was 16 weeks pregnant and had a perky little protruding belly, before having someone from the network (the wardrobe manager, not the folks who ordered Allison to lose weight) ask her when she was due. As the wardrobe woman helped Allison put a belt on a tight, shiny dress, she remarked that Allison had put on eight pounds in the past month "all in your uterus." (This was in direct contradiction to recommendations from the likes of BabyCenter [3]which admonishes, ". . . [Y]ou probably don’t want to wait [to tell your boss you’re pregnant] until you’re obviously showing.")

As Allison’s belly grew, so did her bold and unwise confidence that her pregnancy would go largely unnoticed. Saying that she was entitled to a three-month maternity leave, Allison said that the network couldn’t fire her for being pregnant because it’s against the law [4].  While it is true that pregnancy discrimination is technically illegal, Allison is working in a TV environment where news women who get the wrong haircuts can put their jobs in jeopardy. Allison’s laissez-faire treatment of how her pregnancy would affect her brand new job – particularly given the "lose weight" dictate – didn’t ring true. Thus it was comedic when Allison was interviewing celeb after celeb along the rope lines at Hollywood events and actors commented on how huge she was and asked whether she was going to drop the baby right there. "The Office’s" Steve Carell got into an argument with Allison who, pregnancy hormones raging, started yelling at him from her perch along the crimson carpet.

Finally, the same two bosses who promoted her, gently chastised an eight-months-pregnant Allison for failing to share her pregnancy news. The head of the network then told her that had she informed him about the pregnancy "you would’ve found out that we think it’s great." He didn’t think it was great because he was a big-hearted fellow who loved babies. The only reason the fictional head of the entertainment network wasn’t harsh in his treatment was because he said his viewers adore pregnant women and that pregnancy boosts the ratings. Therefore, he added, Allison would spend her last month of gestation celebrating "pregnancy month," not only talking about her own pregnancy, but interviewing other pregnant celebs.

 

Had Allison been in another line of work, where being pregnant didn’t advance the bottom line, I can’t imagine that the boss would’ve been as pleased or as gentle. And that’s the moment that every pregnant woman fears. Despite federal laws prohibiting pregnancy discrimination [5] women still worry about how their superiors and colleagues will react and fret about what being a mom will really means to their future career trajectory. Allison’s kid-glove treatment seemed a bit too convenient and easy, particularly for a career in a visual medium. In most vocations, the decision to tell your boss doesn’t wait until the eighth month and it’s oftentimes a nervous moment. While "Knocked Up" is chiefly a movie about an unlikely romance and dealing with unexpected life turns, it dons Hollywood, rose-colored glasses when it comes to workplace pregnancy politics

Meredith O'Brien is the author of A Suburban Mom: Notes from the Asylum [6], a collection of humor columns, and the mother of three. She pens the Boston Mommy [7]  blog about parenting for the Boston Herald's web site and teaches journalism at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst.


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