Having a baby is one of the most wonderful and magical events in a person’s life. Unless that person is me, in which case the very thought of having a baby produces an overwhelming sense of terror. It’s not that I don’t want to have children; it’s just that I’m petrified of parenthood and thinking of it conjures a host of paranoid delusions and nightmarish manifestations.
This week, Lionsgate releases the big screen adaptation of popular natal reference guide What To Expect When You’re Expecting. My cinematic preparation for fatherhood is a decidedly mixed bag that speaks to both sides this internal debate.
Roman Polanski’s classic horror film details all the expected perils of being first-time parents: hectic physician schedules, illness, and infernal deals with the devil. Rosemary’s Baby slowly builds a dark mystery that culminates into one of filmdom’s most shocking scenes. Granted, Rosemary’s (Mia Farrow) husband, Guy Guy (John Cassavetes), is directly responsible for the fiendish outcome, but what if I go in to renew my cell phone contract and somehow accidentally make a similar deal with Beelzebub? Sure, the minutes roll over, but at what cost? At what cost?!
Sometimes, families are formed from the most unlikely combination of people. Such was certainly the case in Judd Apatow’s 2007 comedy Knocked Up. Even if you aren’t planning on having a one-night stand with an anonymous person you meet in a bar, Knocked Up still offers some valuable advice about approaching unexpected parenthood like a mature adult. You know, after the whole taking mushrooms and seeing Cirque du Soleil. Sometimes you just need to buckle down and put in the work; reading the baby books and building the crib. Of course, all this is just a precursor to the kid actually being born.
Even the best laid plans and all the baby books in the world can’t prepare you for being in that hospital room on the big day. Let’s face it, hospitals are scary as it is, but when you throw in the added fright and uncertainty of the delivery of a baby, the mind can’t help but venture to worst-case scenarios. If there is one person who understands the worst-case delivery room scenario, it’s Larry Cohen. His 1974 documentary horror film It’s Alive tells the story of a couple who give birth to savage baby-monster that proceeds to brutally murder…well, everyone. Again, it’s not that I can’t tell the difference between fiction and reality, but I also can’t 100% guarantee that my newborn won’t kill everyone, can I?
Ok, so let’s hypothetically say we make it home from the hospital and, hypothetically, our baby isn’t a mutant murderer. What happens if my wife leaves town and I’m left to my own devices to care for the infant? It’s not that I believe men are completely clueless when it comes to taking care of babies; it’s simply that I just so happen to be completely clueless when it comes to taking care of babies. Luckily, I have my VHS copy of 3 Men and a Baby on hand. If the trio of Tom Selleck, Ted Danson, and Steve Guttenberg can take care of a small child, not to mention carry a movie, there’s hope for me yet. All I need is a turkey baster, a baby-sized hardhat, and perfect three-part vocal harmony. What? Fine, skip the hardhat.
Let’s say, by some miracle, my kid manages to survive to his toddler years. What if he turns out to be pure evil? Again, this is a totally rational fear and I’ll thank you to stop looking at me like that. Watch 1976’s The Omen and tell me little Damien doesn’t make you think twice about becoming a parent. I’m not even so much referring to his being the son of the devil (that fear we’ve already addressed with Rosemary’s Baby). And sure, it’s a tad unsettling that he seems to have the uncanny ability to telepathically conjure fatal accidents for those who stand in the way of his quest to rule the world. But what really freaks me out about Damien is that creepy choral chanting that follows him everywhere he goes. I don’t speak Latin, but I can tell you those people aren’t singing about love and finger-painting.