Congratulations on your new documentary, “One More Shot.” When did you and your husband Noah decide to begin chronicling your fertility journey?
Maya: Thanks! Noah and I started filming just before our first appointment with the Reproductive Endocrinologist. We had been trying for about 18 months at that point, had done a few rounds of clomid and preliminary testing that all seemed to indicate everything was in working order, but I knew something wasn’t adding up. Noah and I and our good friend Gabe, who was the director of photography on the film, all met in college where we took film classes together. The three of us were always filming something, documenting things— it seemed very natural for us to pick up a camera and document. So we did. We had no idea where it was going to go, and the deeper we got into the abyss of our journey, the more we knew we had a story that felt important to tell.
When did you know that you wanted to be a mother?
Maya: Always. Being a mother was the one thing I’ve always known I wanted. My parents tell me I was obsessed with babies and pregnant women as a child and would go up to strangers in the grocery store to rub a round belly or hug a random baby. I babysat throughout my teen years, taught preschool in college then went on to teach and then became a therapist working primarily with kids. There was no doubt in my mind that I wanted, and was going to be a mother.
Which aspects of infertility do you believe were the most challenging for you, personally? What were the most challenging parts for your husband?
Maya: All of it was challenging, really. The physical aspects and how crappy your body feels jacked up on so many hormones for years. The emotional aspect— the anxiety and fears that nothing will ever work. The isolation from friends and supports and constantly feeling misunderstood. The financial burden and stress— it’s all pretty terrible.
Noah felt helpless in a lot of ways. He has the mentality – like a lot of people – “If there’s a problem, let’s fix it.” Over years of going through this, we both learned that it’s not always something you can just fix. He also had trouble with how tough it was socially. Whether or not you talk about it with friends and family, this is a problem that was incredibly intense for us, and ended up isolating us socially.
How did being a professional social worker change the way you approached your fertility journey? Do you believe you were better prepared emotionally or that there was more pressure to successfully navigate any hard feelings that came up?
Maya: I think the fact that I was a therapist made me feel like even more of a failure when I couldn’t access the coping tools I thought I had pretty solidly in my tool box. The upside of being a therapist and working at an agency was that most of my friends/colleagues were therapists so I felt like I had a lot of support. And having my own emotional chaos to navigate often made me a better therapist for my clients, oddly enough. But I did feel like I should have been able to friggin’ stop crying and be more optimistic at times.
What were some of your favorite resources for coping emotionally while trying to conceive? Do you have any tips or resources you could share?
Maya: I read a few books — Waiting for Daisy by Peggy Orenstein was one that I read a few times. I had a mantra and I just told myself I was going to be a mother. If I could be open and flexible to how it would happen, I would be ok. I did a lot of yoga and did a yoga teacher training with a wonderful teacher and I was able to reconnect with my body and feel strong and then teach and that made me feel good. Noah and I designated specific times to not talk about fertility— we watched a lot of stand-up comedy. I did the best I could to take care of myself but looking back I really just muscled through those dark infertility years. Honestly, writing my blog, Don’t Count Your Eggs, and connecting to so many people around the world was really helpful. Making the film was also cathartic. Having something tangible to create was important for us since we were having such a hard time creating a baby.
Who were some of your own fertility mentors and how do you believe they helped you in the earlier phases of your fertility treatments?
Maya: This question is kind of an extension of the previous one because one of the ways I coped was by having fertility mentors. I thought about the idea of matching mentors with newbies on IF Island and am so impressed and excited about Fruitful Fertility! I somehow stumbled upon a few women, two in particular, who were really open about their journey. They both had school aged children and it was really helpful to be able to call or meet for coffee to talk about what was going on for me and to be reminded that I wasn’t insane, just very heartbroken and fearful. Having these “mentors” led Noah and I to seek out different people who built their family in different ways. We wanted to interview people for the film who used alternative methods— surrogates, egg/sperm donors, IVF, adoption— to build their family. That gave us hope that there were choices and eventually (hopefully) something would work.
How did you organically find your fertility mentors?
Maya: Honestly, I can’t totally remember. One woman was the parent of a kid I tutored when he was in elementary school. She was asking me when I was going to have kids and at first I kind of skirted around the question and after a while I ended up sharing that we were having a really hard time. She then told me one of her sons was adopted and the other was conceived via egg donor and surrogate, and I was totally blown away. I found that the more I shared the more others shared with me and the wall of secrecy crumbled. That’s when I started becoming really open about it. This particular woman is in our film, she was the first interview we did and I was so grateful for her support along the way.
Can you tell us a little bit about embryo donation? What made you and Noah decide that this was the right path for you?
Maya: Noah and I felt like we had tried everything— IUI, IVF, IVF with my sister’s eggs…we were thinking about trying to get a frozen egg donor but had already spent so much money we were terrified that maybe there was also an unknown problem with my uterus and I couldn’t carry. We were looking more deeply into adoption when I called a clinic and ended up talking to the donor coordinator for a while with intentions of trying to find a good frozen egg donor match, and our conversation led us to two sets of donated embryos that ethnically were a good match for us (half-Japanese like me) and they were proven in that healthy children were born from the specific batches. She sent a little information about the egg donor for each of the sets and one really stood out to me. Something just felt right and if we were open to adopting, here was a way for us to have a child that wasn’t genetically related but that I could carry. I really wanted the experience of being pregnant and I appreciated being able to have control over the environment in utero. And it was a much faster and less expensive option that traditional adoption. So it made sense to me. It took Noah a little longer to wrap his head around it but eventually he did and honestly this was the baby that was meant to be ours. 100%.
How does it feel now to be a mother after so many years of trying to get pregnant?
Maya: Exhausting but amazing. I think five years of infertility, a super stressful touch and go pregnancy and a traumatic experience giving birth set me up for a bit of an emotional deficit. I had a lot of anxiety about our daughter in the beginning and had to really sort out what baggage I was carrying over from Infertility Island. But I just loved this little person so much and couldn’t believe we got to keep her. She was ours. She’s almost three know and that blows my mind. She’s the most incredible little person on earth and I get to be her Mama. I’m so grateful for her every day and so grateful that none of the other treatments worked because then we wouldn’t have her.
Looking back, what do you wish you could tell your younger self about trying to conceive? What do you wish you had known at the beginning?
Maya: I think each of us has to go through our own process as best as we can in the best way that we can. I wish I could have told myself to trust the process and everything would eventually be ok, but I don’t know that I would have believed that or that it would have necessarily been true. It was true for us. Had the embryo not worked I’m not sure what would have happened. I know that we would have resolved the crisis in some way. For some it’s by having a child, for others it’s shifting perspective and finding a way to live childfree. I’m not sure how I would have handled the latter if it came to that. Because we were open to adoption I felt like eventually we would be parents so maybe I could have stayed more grounded in that. More than anything, in the beginning, I wish I would have known more people who struggled. I didn’t know anyone but the few mentors I had and that was after almost 2 years of trying. That’s why I think what you’re doing at Fruitful Fertility is so great and helpful for people.
ONE MORE SHOT is distributed by Distribber/GoDigital and will be available for purchase on iTunes and Amazon on November 4. It will premiere on Netflix in January, 2018. In their everyday lives Maya is a licensed clinical social worker who specializes in infertility. Noah is a television producer who works mainly in the reality and unscripted genre. For more info from the filmmakers contact: firstname.lastname@example.org or visit www.onemoreshotfilm.com.