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The painful silence of recurrent pregnancy loss and stillbirth. A first hand perspective and perhaps finally, a voice.

February 15, 2013 | By: | Filed under: Current Affairs, Deadly Silence, Faith and Infertility, infertility in the media, Infertility In The Movies etc., Infertility on Television, IVF, Miscarriage, Peace to Parenthood, Personal Musings, Recurrent Pregnancy Loss, Stillbirth, The Journey to Parenthood, Thinking Out Loud, Third-Party Assisted Reproduction

The shrowd of silence around stillbirth and pregnancy loss finally is being lifted.  Someone is making a documentary about miscarriage, recurrent pregnancy loss, and stillbirth.  This morning I watched the trailer of “Still”  a documentary devoted to raising awareness of the pain of the loss of a pregnancy, a child born too soon, or a stillbirth.  I think “Still” may focus more on stillbirth or pre-term delivery, but some of the articles I read as I researched its production indicated that the documentary intends to address recurrent pregnancy loss and/or miscarriage more than is touched upon in this trailer.

As I watched the trailer I was reminded of a long call I had with a new client this week.  It is rare that I have a client who has a similar background to my own experience with infertility.  Like me she has experienced 12 unexplained pregnancy losses (although I sort of stopped counting about a year ago when I went through it again . . . something about hitting the number 13 and I really decided it didn’t matter how many I had, I have had enough, one is enough).  Only in addition to experiencing a number of first term (non-chemical) pregnancy losses, my new client also lost pregnancies in the second trimester and near the beginning of the third trimester.  We had a lengthy conversation about how isolating it is, how lonely it is, how there is no person other than your partner or spouse who “gets it” (and even then sometimes perhaps they don’t totally get it because it isn’t their body), and how the silence that surrounds pregnancy loss can engulf one’s life, one’s existence.  Our call also reminded me of a blog I posted about a gravestone I once saw that marked the death of fetus.  As I commented in that blog, it wasn’t a pro-life stunt.  It was a family who had been given permission not only to mark the death of their baby while in utero (or loss of their pregnancy) but to recognize all those other families that have suffered the same pain.  In silence.

Reproductive medicine has provided so many advances to assist infertile couples in achieving their dreamed of family but recurrent pregnancy loss remains largely unexplained.  While theories abound, there are far too many of us who don’t know why this happens to us, repeatedly.  Reproductive medicine and reproductive law now give us the option of having our biological child carried by someone who is likely to deliver that child when we can’t.  Indeed, the option to use a surrogate after experiencing pregnancy loss is perhaps the driving force behind at least half of my clients who come to me to assist them with legal agreements as they begin their journey using a surrogate.   As is the case with the call and the client I just mentioned.

As many of you know, in the absence of an explanation of why my babies die, I was too frightened that a surrogate might lose my child.  I couldn’t ask another woman to risk experiencing the pain I have dealt with so many times.  Adoption was always something my husband and I had wanted to pursue so when we were faced with the [dreaded] conversation where our doctor told us we were out of options other than surrogacy or adoption, it was a no-brainer for us.  It was going to be adoption.  And as one of the women in the trailer for “Still” points out, I wouldn’t turn back the clock or make different decisions; because without those pregnancy losses I wouldn’t be parenting the two beautiful children I have now.  I cannot imagine a life without these particular little souls in it.  It seems like a heartbreaking price to pay but as I told my new client, one day when this is all over and you are holding your baby in your arms, it will make sense and you will know that but for all that came before (all 12 of those horrendously difficult pregnancy losses) this little baby wouldn’t be yours.

But as she journeys toward that day where she hopefully does feel that sense of peace and gratitude for the child in her arms, she is left with a huge void.  She has no one to talk to.  I had no one to talk to.  Even my best IVF friends didn’t understand how I felt.  Excuse me:  how I FEEL.  I still feel pain on a day that one of my longtime friend’s celebrates, the day she heard the heartbeat of each of the babies she was carrying.  I don’t begrudge her that joy.  I celebrate with her.  But for me, inside, it always is a reminder of the miscarriage that I experienced just a few days earlier.  My client and I share a special bond, one of knowing what each carries inside her and the thoughts that creep into our mind throughout the day.  Thoughts that largely go un-shared with anyone.

Will “Still” do justice to this topic, to this diagnosis, to the countless women and men who have endured the loss of a life growing inside them or one that came into the world far too early to survive?  I think so.  I hope so.  Because I would like nothing more than for women like me who are going through what I went through, women like my new client, to have a voice in the reproductive community.  To have doctors pay attention to our kind of infertility.  To have better resources and support groups.  To just plain have a voice to express their pain.  Amazing options for family building notwithstanding, the pain associated with recurrent pregnancy loss, miscarriage, and stillbirth shouldn’t continue to be shrouded in silence.

And so today I thank the people behind this documentary entitled “Still”.  THANK YOU for initiating a dialogue that is long overdue.

And one final note, to all those physicians who have dedicated their careers to exploring the mystery of recurrent pregnancy loss . . . THANK YOU.

 

If you would like to watch the trailer click here 

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Why does Jennifer Aniston’s quest to be a mother inspire me so?

August 19, 2010 | By: | Filed under: Current Affairs, Egg Donation, Faith and Infertility, In the News, Infertility In The Movies etc., Peace to Parenthood, Personal Musings, The Journey to Parenthood, Thinking Out Loud, Uncategorized, visualization

Everyone knows that I am fan of Jennifer’s.  I actually probably wouldn’t be married to my DH if it wasn’t for some advice her mom gave me a long time ago.  But seriously, Jennifer is an extraordinary woman in all respects, and from my perspective even more so for the way she is approaching her quest to be a mom.

At 41, most of know that Jennifer is likely to be facing some fertility issues (although with her health conscious lifestyle and yoga-bod maybe she’s found the way to turn back time, she sure looks it anyway!).  While most of us would be doing a little freak-out dance now, and panicking about the ticking time bomb that are our ovaries, Ms. Aniston seems anything but panicked.  In fact, she seems rather Zen about it all.  And that is exactly my point and what inspires me.

First, the woman KNOWS she is going to be a mom.  One way or another the woman has total and complete faith that she will become a mom.  Rather than spiraling into depression (as I did and many of us do), Jennifer has seemed to have found a way to let go and TRUST.  This is, I think, the gateway to success.

I really truly believe that it is when you completely accept and embrace the concept that you will be a mother, no matter what and no matter how (IUI, IVF, IVF donor egg, gestational surrogacy, adoption, whatever is your path), that fertility treatments have the highest success rates.  Study after study shows that the mind-body connection cannot and should not be ignored.  Women who are able to be in the place that Jennifer Aniston seems to be in, are the women who are more likely to succeed with fertility treatments.  It’s fact not fiction.  I know — as does JA — that she’s got an edge on success that I wish more of my friends and clients had: The inner-knowingness of the inevitability of their impending state of motherhood.

Another thing that I think sets her apart from many of us (and I include myself in this group when I was in the first 4 or 5 years of treatment), is that by all media accounts, she seems fairly open to many different paths to parenthood.  I am not privy to her conversations with her BFF’s but I am guessing that there isn’t much she isn’t considering about how she’s going to become a mom.  That too puts her on the fast track to “mommydom”.  Not all of us can be as enlightened and confident as she is, and I am not saying that she doesn’t have her moments of . . . doubt  . . . but I really think that the confidence and openness that Jennifer Aniston is talking about whenever she is interviewed about becoming a mom is something that tells me it ain’t gonna be long before she’s announcing the arrival or the impending arrival of a little baby Aniston.

And for what its worth, I think she’s a fantastic role model for every woman, single or married, over the age of 35 who’s trying to become a mom.

ASSUME IT IS GOING TO HAPPEN, AND IT WILL.

p.s. and when you can’t totally assume it will happen, fake it, fake it until you make-it  . . . because that’s another sure fire way to get your mommy-Zen fire burning.

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What do the Academy Awards and the Dixie Chics have to teach us about Infertility?

March 8, 2010 | By: | Filed under: Thinking Out Loud

I have decided that the Dixie Chics have the best infertility anthem ever; the song “So hard”.  Actually that entire album is great when you are down on your child bearing capabilities or waiting for a baby.  I was listening to it this morning at the dog park and I was thinking about the comments Celine Dion got on her story in People Mag, and on an unsolicited series of communications I received from a partner at a law firm I used to work for.  He linked to me in Linked In and proceeded to accuse me of committing all sorts of sins by helping people have babies through IVF and even domestic adoption.   Much as one reader criticized Celine Dion for not adopting internationally, this man accused of me “moral relativism” (whatever that is) and said that IVF was conceited.  Yeah, well, to each his own I guess.  Quite frankly, to all those people on high horses thinking they have done something god like because they rescued a child from an orphanage somewhere like Russia, I ask what about all the children in foster care in this country?  I think The Blind Side (the movie Sandra Bullock won her oscar for last night) is an incredibly eye opening story about what Americans are not seeing in their own country, and how children are suffering here.  And Precious.  OMG.

I mean really, you want to accuse me of moral relativism for going through 7 IVF cycles, 10 miscarriages, and three domestic adoptions (only two of which resulted in permanent placements, and my gorgeous beautiful babies), fine so be it, but don’t give me some holier than thou BS, you want to do good and say you are superior to me, adopt an older child from the foster care system, someone who has been abused or abandoned.  Sandra Bullock thanked all those very wise and strong people who have loved a child that was otherwise left without hope.  Indeed two of the Best Picture nominees, The Blind Side and Precious, would be movies I suggest the people who criticized Celine Dion and the gentleman who accused me of having poor morals, watch and think about.

Do you really think that any single one of us has the right to judge the other?  Especially when it comes to something so intimate like family building.  I don’t believe it’s conceited to want to feel a baby grow inside me.  I don’t believe it’s conceited to want to adopt a newborn, nor do I think the vast majority of birth mothers in the US are “coerced” (as that gentleman alleged) by other people into placing their child for adoption.  They may be economically coerced, they may be coerced by the life they are stuck in, but any birth mother that can make the self sacrificing choice to place her child with another family to give that child a better life (whether in this country or another) is someone truly worthy of being called a hero.  And the international adoption community was until recently (and may still be) rife with black market baby stealing, and ethical issues that the Hague was designed to prevent.  No system of child bearing, family building, whatever you want to call it is better than another.  None of us are morally superior to the other.  None of us.  We all have to walk our own path.

And as the Dixie Chics understand very well, for most of us infertile people, that path is So hard.

So do me a favor.  Lay off Celine Dion for trying to have another baby through IVF.  Lay off me for trying to help people have children however they choose to do so.  My goal is to build families and to return the gifts that have been given to me by Dr. Chung (a gift to his patients and reproductive science), all the amazing people at Cornell (M. and L., Dr. Rosenwaks and Dr. Spandorfer), my husband, my children’s birth parents, just to name a few of the people who have blessed me.

And know this, my office, my practice, my agency, are and will always hopefully be a safe haven for my clients.  I promise never to judge you.  I promise to help you achieve your dreams (even if that means working with another agency, lawyer, whatever) . . . I am paying my blessings forward (as another great movie would say).  Moral relativism or not.

And what the hell is moral relativism anyway?

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Is there really finally a movie about infertility?

February 22, 2010 | By: | Filed under: Check This Out, Infertility In The Movies etc.

Okay, Jennifer Aniston and Johnny Depp do not star in this film but it was posted on a friend’s FB page and I watched the trailer.  And I think you should too.  I want to watch the entire movie . . . but more importantly, as I continue on my review of movies from Hollywood with an infertility theme (latest was Julie and Julia) I really think that someone other than a physician with connections needs to do a movie on this.  Or a television show.  Something.  not to get on my soapbox too many times but seriously, 12 million Americans have infertility.  You don’t think some screenwriter out there could come up with a realistic screenplay for a movie on infertility?????  Or hey, what about reality tv?  We have 16 and pregnant, the duggars, a baby story, stories of adoptees reuniting with their birth families, survivor, an adoption story, why on god’s green earth don’t we have a tv show documenting what we go through to become parents???????

In the meantime, watch this.  It’s worth it.  Infertility Movie

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Movie Review – A Smile Like Yours

March 3, 2009 | By: | Filed under: Infertility In The Movies etc.

Hi everyone! This is Danielle, Liz’s associate.  It’s been a while since I blogged! 

When Liz told me about her new idea for the blog – watching and reviewing movies about infertility and adoption – I thought it would be interesting to join in the project.  I, too, often get so irritated by the way Hollywood deals with these subjects.  Sometimes I even get angry – don’t get me started on the “shady adoption lawyer” cliché that spanned so many episodes of Desperate Housewives a few seasons ago (the entire way that show handled Gabriel’s infertility and subsequent “miraculous” conceptions really bothered me, but I will make that the subject of a different Hollywood post!).  So, Liz let me borrow her first movie – A Smile Like Yours, with Greg Kinnear and Lauren Holly, and I thought I would post my reaction here.  

I watched this movie with some friends – none of whom have any experience with infertility (to my knowledge), so it was interesting to hear the reactions from people who were not familiar with the situations presented in this movie, as well. 

We all liked it.  Ok, it’s not Oscar-worthy or anything, but it was a cute, touching movie that, in my opinion, depicted the experiences of a couple experiencing infertility honestly and sensitively.  A brief synopsis – the movie is about a couple who, after unsuccessfully attempting conception the old fashion way, find themselves trying cycle after cycle to have a child through ART, until it puts a strain on their marriage and they need to reevaluate what they really want for their marriage and their family.  I thought they did a great job of showing just how taxing the endless doctors appointments and disappointments of numerous failed cycles can be on a relationship.  Without giving away too much of the plot (for those of you who want to see the movie), let’s just say that “another woman” threatens the marriage at one point.  When I asked the roomful of people that I was with what their opinions were after watching the movie, the first thing they said was that they couldn’t believe how much strain trying to have a child could put on a couple.  They commented on how, after all those months of trying, and all those doctors appointments and medical procedures, they can see how it would be easy to loose sight of why you are doing all this in the first place, and they understood why the couple in the movie decided to step back and take a break for a while – to rediscover themselves and their marriage, and regroup before trying again.

When Liz watched the movie, she mentioned to me that she thought the ending was misleading, and I agree.  SPOILER ALERT: Don’t continue reading if you have plans to watch this movie, because I am about to reveal the ending!!  Like I mentioned, before the end of the movie, the couple decides to take a break from trying to conceive and just enjoy being married for a while.  The next scene starts with “Two Years Later” written across the screen – and the couple is happily taking their triplets out for a joy ride (in a convertible, mind you!) and playing with them at the park. There is no mention about how they had those triplets, and anyone without knowledge of ART and infertility would likely assume that it was another one of those “Hollywood miracles” (like the formally infertile Gabriel from Desperate Housewives, or Charlotte from Sex and the City who just happened to get pregnant accidentally after years of trying and being told by doctors that they were infertile).  I, and Liz, of course, immediately assumed that they went back for at least one more IVF cycle, and this time they were successful with triplets.  So I asked the people in the room with me what they thought about this scene – how did they think the couple got pregnant?  And their initial responses were along the lines of “they just relaxed about it and it happened.” Hmm….they just relaxed and had triplets on their own?  Not likely.  I explained the more likely scenario to my friends, who then agreed that I was probably right.  It is unfortunate that this otherwise well-done movie helped perpetrate the “just relax and it will happen” stereotype that seems to permeate so much of Hollywood (on-screen and off).

So…with that said, overall I would recommend this movie.  With the exception of the last scene, I think they did a great job portraying the life of a couple dealing with infertility.   I just wish they would have made the correct ending a little clearer – maybe the screen should have read “Two Years – and 2 more IVF cycles – later.”  That probably would have been more accurate!

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