One More Shot
In their film, One More Shot, Producer Maya Grobel and her director husband Noah Moskin document the ups and downs of their journey trying to start a family. At times funny, more often than not, extremely intimate, Maya and Noah's film shows us the reality of fertility treatment, that sometimes we in the industry forget. While we are acutely aware of the struggles that our clients have, it's a good example of the heartbreak and deep sadness that so many of our clients have endured up to the point they came to us. Even for those of us in the third party industry who have also been through the pain of infertility and the medical intervention that comes with that diagnosis, One More Shot reminds us that our clients have suffered enough, and more than ever, we need to be the guides who take them through the process of egg donation and/or surrogacy. Gail caught up with Maya and asked her about the film and her journey.
Gail: Your film, One More Shot, documents your fertility journey – why did you decide to do this, right from day one of when you suspected you might have problems conceiving?
Maya: My husband Noah and I had been trying naturally and with some assistance (ovulation tests, Clomid) for about 18 months before we saw a reproductive endocrinologist. Needless to say we didn’t film that part! But when it came time to see the RE, I felt that something might be going on even though we had done preliminary tests that indicated everything was in working order. We decided to film that appointment not really knowing where we were going with the footage. Noah and I and our good friend Gabe, who was the director of photography on the film, met in college and took film classes together. We were always documenting something and making short films so it seemed natural for us to document. As we got deeper and deeper into the quagmire that became our “journey to parenthood,” we realized we had an important story to tell and it really was a version of the story of millions of people who struggle to conceive.
Gail: Was there ever a moment where you thought ‘no this is too much’, no more filming?
Maya: There’s an enema scene that’s within the first ten minutes of the film. We literally filmed everything and had hundreds of hours of footage over the four years we shot. At the time I knew it was important to show what was real and raw. In retrospect I probably could have put on a little make up or wore pants more often. I’m being sarcastic— I’m really proud at how raw the film is. There were moments I know were a struggle for my husband, bouncing between being my partner and the director. Since he was filming much of it and trying to think about the look and getting proper coverage, in moments of intense despair (and there were several), I know it was hard for him to decide if he should turn the camera off to hold me or continue to film. He managed to do both. The footage isn’t always beautiful but it’s real.
Gail: We watched One More Shot in our office and many of us were in tears right from the outset. We saw ourselves and our clients in you – the anger, the tears, hope - so much of infertility is hidden away and kept secret. When you set out documenting your journey did you have the intention that by doing so would help others to share what they’ve been through?
Maya: I don’t know that our intention was to encourage others to share but I think a lot can be gained by sharing a challenging experience. Most people who watch, whether you’ve gone through infertility or not, connect to the feeling of wanting something so bad and coming up short, and a natural consequence is that lots of people write to us and share their story and how they connected, whether they are directly affected by infertility or not! The film is about our journey and alternative family building but also about a marriage under distress, a family in crisis, and a couple’s ability to reframe and rethink something that they (we) always assumed was a given. I’m a clinical social worker and my husband is a TV producer. I had the drive and heart to call BS on the shame and secrecy that surrounds infertility and he had the skills to tell an honest, visual story. Personally, I felt that shame, that brokenness, that frustration and jealousy and all those glorious feelings that come with the territory of infertility, and once I started my blog, Don’t Count Your Eggs, and started writing and connecting to others I realized how many people suffer in silence and how many people feel deeply flawed because of a medical condition, which infertility is, that they have no control over. We hope the film serves as a way to bring awareness and understanding to infertility, and through a more open dialogue about it we hope that shame and stigma can decrease. We also want to normalize the different ways children are brought into this world and help people have pride around their determination to fight and sacrifice and adjust their expectations in order to have a baby. Sharing our story help us transform any shame we might have felt into pride.
Gail: You were relatively young when you encountered fertility problems. If there is one thing you could say to your younger self, what would it be?
Maya: I wish I could have trusted the process a little more and had less fear about if I would ever be a mother, but hindsight is 20/20, right? I was very stressed out and confused. I wish I wouldn’t have been so isolated from my friends but the emotional and relational challenges are very real when you feel so misunderstood. I think more than anything I would have gotten in to see a specialist earlier. My OBGYN never referred me and I wasted a lot of time running in circles. I definitely recommend anyone struggling to just get the proper tests and see a good doctor early because time is never on your side. I was 30 when we started trying. I was in really good health. I was told to just relax. Relaxing does not get a gal pregnant.
Gail: Fertility treatment has been in the public eye recently especially with the birth of Kim Kardashian-West’s baby via surrogacy. Yet, surrogacy and egg donation are considered taboo topics when older celebrities go public with their struggles to conceive. Do you think people should follow your lead and be more open about how their families are created?
Maya: I think how and to whom people share is a very personal and often cultural decision and I understand why some people want to keep it quiet. I mean people who conceive naturally don’t go around sharing how and what their conception process looked like, right? So just because you use alternative means doesn’t mean you necessarily have to share with others, but I do feel very strongly about exploring why you want to be secret and what that means for you. If it’s related to shame I think it’s worth processing that piece because with the ultimate goal being to parent, we don’t want any shame to trickle over from the fertility journey to parenthood. I’m a psychotherapist now working primarily with infertility patients and I see a lot of this and find it very beneficial to think about why secrecy and what it inherently means. I also feel strongly that the secret of third party reproduction should never be kept from the child. Best practices indicate it is best for a donor conceived child or a child conceived though third party reproduction and alternative means to have that information. For me, who (slight spoiler alert) has a child via third party reproduction, I feel it is her right to know her origin and I feel it is my responsibility to take pride in how she came to us. And I do. And she knows, even though she isn’t yet 3. I think a child should never remember the moment they were told they were conceived in an alternative way, it should just be part of their story. I also felt that by sharing I was not only helping others and helping to normalize infertility and alternative family building, but I was helping myself process my feelings and connect to a very supportive and incredible community. Sharing and making this film was very cathartic for us.
Gail: How has the film been received?
Maya: It took us soooooo long to get this film out there because we found out it’s really hard to make a legitimate movie pretty much on your own in the middle of the night with zero budget— but we are so happy to receive emails and Facebook messages about how people feel we are going voice to a community. So many people all over the world relate and they’re using the film to help their friends and family understand. That is all we can ask for.
Gail: Without spoiling the outcome, what’s next for Maya and Noah?
Maya: Well I’ve spoiled it a bit perhaps, but we are working on two projects— one is a semi-sequel to the film and the other is a sibling for our little girl. There is one more embryo in her “batch” that is her full genetic sibling and we are planning to go back for it next month, if the stars align.
Maya Grobel is a California licensed clinical social worker (LCSW) and psychotherapist who specializes in supporting individuals and couples struggling to conceive. She is a mental health professional member of ASRM (American Society for Reproductive Medicine) and SEEDS (Society for Ethics in Egg Donation & Surrogacy) and feels very passionate about her work with this population. With her roots in social work, Maya feels strongly about advocating for the infertility patient and for many years wrote a Resolve Hope award nominated blog called Don’t Count Your Eggsthat followed her five year journey to parenthood, which finally ended with the birth of her daughter via embryo donation in 2015. One More Shot is now available on iTunes, Amazon, Vimeo on Demand and Netflix.