Guest post: "Sharing our story of IVF, pregnancy and loss was great therapy"
Co-director of The New Man Devorah Baum describes the emotional turmoil of her pregnancy - and explains why she and her husband decided to capture it on film
Co-director of The New Man
Posted on: Mon 14-Nov-16 13:07:23
(6 comments )
I would never have thought I'd be comfortable allowing a camera to follow me at home. But when my filmmaker husband started filming what appeared to be a home movie, I was in an unusually good mood. I'd just had it confirmed that I was, after various fertility treatments - with all the dramatic hopes, disappointments and expense such interventions involve - pregnant.
I was 39 and had left it late because of my career, my relationship, and persuading my husband it was something we both wanted. At age 35 we'd begun trying and, finding it wasn't easy, I'd felt a terrible sense of failure - as a woman, above all. I didn't think I should feel that way, but I did. Suddenly my life was full of tests I wasn't passing: fertility tests, pregnancy tests, plus the very testing background of a marriage that had rerouted lovemaking into a programme of unsexy procreation that wasn't working. But now I was pregnant. With twins! Joy!
My husband was delighted for another reason as well: a romcom he'd been trying to make for years had fallen apart, but pregnancy gave us something to train the camera on, he said. My growing tummy could be an emotional touchstone for a film that in other ways observed us from a slightly ironic distance as stereotypical members of our chattering social class. And since we were the film's 'stars', it also enabled us to tell a story about the upheavals within our marriage as we lunged towards parenthood. (It was a romcom, after all.)
At 20 weeks, we discovered something might be wrong. Although it took a while before our camera rolled again, the filming continued as something we both now needed: a way of stepping back from our pain and confusion.
Yet what the film quickly became was a portrait, comic but not unserious, of a kind of crisis of modern masculinity. It conveyed the frustrations of a 'new man' wishing very much he didn't have to be. Why couldn't he be more like his dad? Why did he have to go to antenatal classes, accompany me through labour, even 'bond' with his children via skin-to-skin contact, changing nappies, and whatever else? But his crisis went deeper still. Another feature of our film is the (common but rarely discussed) envy some men have for women's creative power as the bringers of babies into the world. Add to that the fact that many women have potent careers as well – in our case, my career as a university lecturer has proved much more stable than my husband's insecure position as a freelancer – and you begin to understand what was freaking him out.
But since we're basically happy, fortunate people, we poked fun at his frustrations. Pregnancy, though, isn't so predictable – especially not if you're a woman of a certain age with a twin pregnancy arrived at by IVF, sustained by drugs and injections.
So the film shifted unexpectedly towards a different crisis when, at 20 weeks, we discovered something might be wrong. Later it was confirmed that one of the twins wouldn't make it – he'd continue to develop in utero, but wouldn't be born alive. I don't want to go into detail about what we went through at that time, but although it took a while before our camera rolled again, the filming continued as something we both now needed: a way of stepping back from our pain and confusion.
Not everything is in the film – some things are too intimate and distressing to share. But what viewers will see is an originally comic documentary swerving towards the tragic as the chattering in the first part gets subsumed by something approaching silence. That's because I carried to nearly term two babies, two brothers, one who lived – though his life was hanging in the balance until the end – and one who died. Our joy at becoming parents thus came together with a funeral for the boy we lost.
I remain uneasy about sharing that story. Yet co-directing this film, The New Man, and choosing, editorially, what we want to remember, was great therapy. And by sharing our story with test audiences, I also sensed its wider relevance - especially now that so many are arriving at parenthood later in life via IVF. Also, we both want one day for the 'new man' who then entered our lives to know about the brother he lost. So we hope this film might be a means of sharing those unspeakable times with him, and showing him how much he was wanted. We hope too that this film can be a memorial for his brother: an unborn baby, lost but not forgotten, and still loved.
Watch the trailer for The New Man here.
By Devorah Baum
Thanks for sharing this. It sounds like a remarkable piece of work. Wishing you much peace and happiness with the son in your arms, always remembering, of course, the boy you lost.
I too fell pregnant with twins after IVF and lost my son at birth and almost lost his sister. Now sure if I'm strong enough to watch this yet, it's been 2 years but still feels so raw but I think it's a lovely thing for your surviving twin to have as a way of looking back and remembering his brother. I hope you're all as ok as you can be.
This is very close to my heart and I will watch
I lost a twin at 16 weeks in pregnancy, it was very difficult. The surviving baby is 4 now.
Have a look at the Skye High Foundation on Facebook, set up this year after they lost a twin, she wanted something universally recognised at neo natal cots that a baby was a survivor from a multiple birth and to treat the parents sensitively.
It was very hard to manage a birth and a miscarriage.
Big hugs to all other Mums, especially the one helping others by making the documentary. Not that I will be able to watch!
It's bringing tears to my eyes already and I haven't watched the trailer. I had one round of ivf, it failed and I stopped and we re-focused our efforts in adoption. Now we have a beautiful son that amazingly has my mad hair and my husband's reflective nature. Strangers think he is ours and we know he is our son.