Filmmaker Shannon O'Rourke's MAYBE BABY was another bright spot (and much more than a catchy name.) It's an intimate documentary that traces the emotional and physiological journeys of four middle-aged women as they pursue pregnancy ... It's a heartrending tale that sheds light on what motherhood means in contemporary America.
-Marlow Stern, Manhattan Movie Magazine
Writer Sara Fain reviewed MAYBE BABY in her blog, "Starfish Envy:"
Tonight I watched a documentary called "Maybe Baby," produced and directed by Shannon O'Rourke (full disclosure, she's the friend of a friend), which follows six single women (none of them spring chickens) trying to have babies, and I am SO not a movie reviewer, so take it with a grain of salt when I say I thought this movie was terrific, but... I thought this movie was terrific.
For one thing, I learned a lot. Like, the California Cryobank has masterbatoriums. Who knew? MASTERBATORIUMS! Suddenly, I want there to be a sequel to Mr. Magorium's Wonder Emporium! And you know where I think they should set it? Thaaat's right. The Masterbatorium Emporium. You think I'm being facetious, but I'm gonna work on a pitch. Take it to HBO. Make a ba-zillion dollars.
I also learned that the California Cryobank distributes 2500 ampules of sperm every month, and 40% of them go to single women. When I say "you're not alone in being alone in this," I MEAN IT, PEOPLE! Every month, more than a thousand ampules of sperm JUST FROM THE CALIFORNIA CRYOBANK get shipped off via Fed Ex to SINGLE WOMEN ALL OVER THE WORLD! That's a lot of starfish envy, folks.
Now, I'm being glib because that's my way, but there were things in this documentary that broke my heart. In pieces. Teeny, tiny, cracked-heart shaped slivers. One woman threw garage sales to raise money for her in vitro treatments (and eventually had a baby using an egg donor, which is more heart wrenching and then heart warming than heart breaking now that I think about it). Another ran out of money and had to stop trying. Another accepted that she simply wasn't going to be a mom.
Now, my blood pressure's been a little elevated lately (although I read on the internet today that it's completely fine by British standards, so GO BRITS!), which I think is just because of the heat in my UN-AIR-CONDITIONED-HOUSE and the hideously awful air I've been breathing thanks to the wildfires, but it's still totally freaking me out and spinning me into "what if I can't even do this?!' land. I'm not even pregnant, I'm not even TRYING to get pregnant, and I'm positive I have preeclampsia. Premature preeclampsia. Pre-pregnancy premature preeclampsia. It could happen. Because what you DON"T want, when you watch a documentary like this, is to end up like the women it doesn't work out for.
You want to be like Betsy, who got pregnant the first time she did in vitro. Or like Joanna, who was turned down by one doctor because of her advanced age (43) and went to another one and within three months was pregnant with her adorable son Tyler. THAT is how it is supposed to go for YOU. YOU are the success story, the happy mom with the giggling, healthy, dimpled toddler. (Apparently, the most popular sperm donors have dimples.)
Most of all, watching Maybe Baby made me feel incredibly lucky. Because, whether I get pregnant or not, I don't have to throw a garage sale to try (thanks, tax refund!). And that, alone, is an enormous relief, because it is simply TOO DAMN HOT to go through my stuff right now. Seriously, if it's on the curb, you can just have it.
ABC2 in Australia aired MAYBE BABY on February 25 and here's the review in "The Age:"
INVARIABLY, TV documentaries about IVF and other forms of assisted reproduction technologies are opportunities to marvel at ghee-whiz scientific breakthroughs, to ponder thorny ethical issues and to vicariously share the euphoria of couples who have been handed the opportunity that nature has denied them. This one takes a different tack as it surveys a clutch of single women in the US who, for one reason or another, haven't met Mr Right and are unlikely to and are dangerously close to their reproductive prime. It doesn't question, let alone moralise over, the women's burning desire to become mothers, acknowledging but not dwelling on the cost they will endure to access the technology, the statistical chances of conception and the potential difficulties they will face as a sole parent. Producer and director Shannon O'Rourke wisely avoids pushing the cloying emotional buttons that usually go with this topic. Rather, she focuses with sympathy on the women's journeys as they abandon the expectation and hope of partnering with another, of natural conception and, in the case of those using donor eggs and sperm, of a biological connection to the child. These sisters are definitely doing it for themselves.
MAYBE BABY has been broadcast on TV in Iceland, the Netherlands, Belgium, Israel, Sweden and Australia.
The film has also been acquired for educational use by the NIH, Stanford, Cornell, University of Virginia, Georgetown, University of Ottawa, University of Winnipeg, among many others.
Check out my blog for updates about MAYBE BABY and what's been going on with me (Shannon, the filmmaker!)
Here's what Mel Vapour, Berkeley Video & Film Festival, says about MAYBE BABY:
Shannon O’Rourke’s “Maybe Baby”, is the quintessential bible for birthing and biological timeclocks. Superbly documented, researched and filmed, O’Rourke follows several women on their intimate path of reproduction liberation.
This terrific documentary follows half-a-dozen single women (including one lesbian couple,) trying to have children through in-vitro fertilization. We take the ride with them through donor selection, pregnancy tests, impregnations, miscarriages and a few real live babies at the end. The amazingly unobtrusive camera captures their hopes and misgivings, joy and despair as these very brave women weave their way through medical appointments, support groups, and family discussions. Anyone actually considering in-vitro, let alone just interested in the human dimension of reproductive science, should see this film.
-Rick Bolton, Film Fresh
Here's an interview I did with Tamara Krinsky of iKlipz when I was at SXSW, check it out:
Both screenings at SXSW went really well. I even had a very nice interview, although not too flattering photo: http://www.austinchronicle.com/gyrobase/Issue/story?oid=oid:456438
Maybe Baby will be unveiled at the 2007 South by Southwest (SXSW) Film Festival in March, 2007. Yay!
In November, 2005, Shannon went to Stephens College in Columbia, MO where she showed her first film, In the Name of Love to a documentary filmmaking class taught by the wonderful filmmaker, Kerri Yost. Shannon also showed a rough cut of Maybe Baby as part of the college's "Citizen Jane" series. It was a lot of fun and we got some terrific feedback.
Here's an article about the trip: