Why I Spent 3 Years Filming My Infertility Struggles For a Documentary
My husband, Noah, and I spent almost five years trying to make a baby and documented the last three on film. They were three of the ugliest years of my life, yet we decided to capture it all on camera. Our initial intent was to create a short, personal record of our single successful round of IVF. But as time went on and our lives disintegrated into the abyss of assisted reproduction, we realized our story was the same story of millions of other people around the world that needed to be shared.
I can look back and see that this film was a very necessary piece of our process, as important as all the heartbreakingly painful things we endured.
What we have now are an incredible 2-year-old daughter and a feature-length documentary film chronicling our tumultuous journey to get her. It's called One More Shot, and it's available on iTunes, Amazon, and Vimeo On Demand and will be worldwide on Netflix in 2018. The film follows our personal journey through various assisted reproductive technologies and third-party interventions. It explores the social and emotional aspects of infertility from a very raw and personal point of view and redefines the meaning of family.
Now that it's being released, I can look back and see that this film was a very necessary piece of our process, as important as all the heartbreakingly painful things we endured.
And here's why:
We couldn't make a baby, but we could make a movie
Noah and I have used video to document our lives and produce fun projects since we met in a film class back in college. Today, Noah produces unscripted television. So it was natural that we would pick up a camera and start talking when we were trying to wrap our heads around our situation. We didn't know where it would lead, but somehow it felt good to create something tangible. I think that's really important for anyone going through fertility treatments for an extended period of time, because fertility treatments often mean you're doing a lot of work and spending a lot of time and money but don't have anything to show for it (yet). Making this movie gave us a focal point, something real we could see and edit and talk about.
Sharing helped us cope
I respect that talking about one's infertility journey is a very personal choice, but for me, it was the only choice. I'm a talker and a writer. For years I blogged and shared the most intimate and desperate parts of our experience. It helped me connect to others, it got me the support I needed, and it allowed me to slowly start to make sense of what was going on.
Noah is my emotional opposite: reserved and slower to express himself. Making this movie helped him get the space he needed to process his feelings. We've been together for almost 18 years now, and I've yet to see him shed a tear (aside from when the Giants won the World Series in 2010). There were moments when we struggled to honor the very different emotional needs we each had during this emotionally charged time, so if he needed to, he could retreat to hide behind a camera to get some distance from my emotional intensity in order to get in touch with his own inner feelings.
It's important for couples to figure out how to give each other space and honor the different ways they cope with crisis. Then working together to sort through the hundreds of hours of footage helped us build our trauma narrative and bond over the chaos of half a decade of our lives.
To destigmatize infertility
It isn't the pathetic image of a woman helplessly crying next to an empty cradle; it's of a warrior who gets back up every time they get knocked down.
Infertility carries a lot of shame and stigma. Perhaps that's because it involves private parts, and somehow people feel it reflects the value of the woman or the virility of the man. But infertility is a disease that affects almost eight million people. And yet insurance often refuses to pay for fertility treatments, treating them as some kind of elective procedure akin to getting a voluntary boob job. My roots as a social worker compelled me to expose this unfair perception and present what the experience of living on Infertility Island really looks like. It isn't the pathetic image of a woman helplessly crying next to an empty cradle; it's of a warrior who gets back up every time they get knocked down.
To show that there are multiple ways to have a baby
In our film, we interviewed others who had sought alternative options because we needed to learn the other ways to create a family. Those methods include using surrogates or donors, adoption, or successful IVFs or IUIs. Deciding to live childfree is also a resolution to an infertility crisis, but one we were never willing to land on. But by seeing all the choices, we learned how to change our goal from getting pregnant to having a baby. I knew that if we were open to all the different ways a child could come to us, then come hell or high water, we would be parents. We were able to assess what was truly important to us so that we could move forward in a way that felt right.
Because every superhero needs an awesome origin story
I don't want to give too much away, but in 2015, after a touch-and-go pregnancy and a supertraumatic birth, I gave birth to a superhero. She found her way to me so that I could bring her to this world to do amazing things. Everything that didn't work led us to her, and because hindsight is 20/20, I can see that now. The child who was absolutely meant to be mine is, and for her I am so grateful.
I hope this film empowers people to feel pride in their determination to do all the painful things it often takes to make a baby. While I was not always confident that I was going to be able to carry a pregnancy, I was confident that our story was going to help people know they are not alone — in their fears, in their heartbreak, and in their need to reframe what it means to be a family.