Monday, July 29, 2013
The Power of Words: HBO Documentary First Comes Love: A Single Woman's Journey through Fertility Treatments to Parenthood
HBO’s two-hour documentary, First Comes Love, debuts tonight. It shares director Nina Davenport’s journey as a single woman through fertility treatments towards parenthood. She has watched her peers and younger friends and family have children. She was especially affected by the birth of her niece, over a decade ago. She has wanted to marry and have children, but has never found the right man. And she recently turned 40, which has made her reassess her life.
First Comes Love documents Davenport’s journey – initially seeking advice and support from family and friends, asking a friend to be a sperm donor, going through fertility treatments, giving birth, and raising her child. The documentary isn’t about adoption, nor is it about infertility per se, but many adoptive and prospective adoptive parents have experiences with infertility, and I think there are several intersections between this film and the experiences of many parents who eventually adopt. It will likely be an emotional ride for any viewer who has gone through fertility treatments.
Nina explains, “Seemingly everyone on earth has managed to marry and procreate, except me.” Viewers might find the advice and concerns given to Nina as painfully familiar. An uncle asks whether he will be expected to fill the father role. Her father tells her that her idea is ridiculous. Other friends complain to her that parenting is hard work, seeming to suggest that she should be grateful for not having children. Single adoptive parents might cringe with recognition at the question asked bluntly by a child, “Why would you want to have a baby without a husband?” Another family member reminds her that children are expensive. When Nina’s father learns that she is pregnant, his initial advice to her is, “get an abortion.” The film reminds me how much pain can be caused by careless, tactless, or even well-intentioned words. Adoption is an emotionally complex issue surrounded by scores of other emotionally complex issues. Many people impacted by adoption have strong feelings and opinions, and it is so easy for us to vent our feelings and hurt each where sensitivity and grace on all sides could do so much good.
One of Nina’s friends doesn’t offer advice, but instead helps her synthesize her own feelings with everything she’s heard – the challenges you see are logistical, but your motivation is a desire to love.
Martian Child gives a pretty good look at the feedback given to a single man as he considers adoption. Some people express concerns, but ultimately support him. Thankfully, Nina’s family accepts her child – who really does grow up to be a playful, curious and happy kid. Nina experiences the transition from “parenthood as an imagined ideal” to “parenthood as actual routines.”
The film does raise some thoughts…
For the adopting parties:
- Why do you want to be a parent? Why are you choosing this path to parenthood?
- Do you have support systems in place to help you on the journey?
- If you are pursuing infertility treatments, realize that the fruit of your efforts isn’t just “parenthood,” it’s also the creation of a real, live human being.
- If you are pursuing adoption, realize the child you adopt isn’t a means to parenthood – but a human being with history and life experiences.
- Like Nina mentions in the film, have you had feelings of jealousy, guilt, resentment, or grief that your parenthood didn’t come “the old fashioned way?” Have you dealt with those feelings?
For friends and family
- What were your initial reactions when you learned that your loved one was pursuing adoption?
- What have you told them?
- Your loved ones are in a difficult season of discernment. Discouraging words can be devastating. Your support can be more meaningful than you know.
First Comes Love makes its television debut tonight on HBO at 9:00 EST.
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