Pushing Motherhood – a Documentary About Waiting

Sybil and Linda are best friends. They met as dancers — working dancers who toured the world with big name acts, who appeared in TV shows and movies, and produced their own Hollywood titles too. The demands, both physical and otherwise, of such careers left no room for family in these women’s lives.

Until just a few years ago.

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Sybil Azur and Linda Cevallos-French directed and produced the documentary “Pushing Motherhood,” which chronicles their late-in-life journeys to get pregnant and start their families. Available only on Vimeo, “Pushing Motherhood” is $3.99 to rent and $9.99 to buy. I was 35 when I had my second and last son, so I was technically considered “Advanced Maternal Age,” but since both of my pregnancies were textbook “normal,” I wondered if I would find this film interesting.

I was riveted.

Both women decided to get married and have babies around the same time – both were older, having delayed family planning until after their careers were well-established. They had waited long enough that their doctors measured their hormone levels even before they tried to conceive, to make sure their eggs were still viable. The tests showed that they were.

But that’s where their experiences began to differ. Sybil and her husband were able to conceive fairly quickly with no medical intervention. Still, the documentary does a very good job of communicating the worry that an older first-time mother experiences, even when things go well. Even younger women in the prime of their fertile years experience that worry, so they will relate to this story, too.

Meanwhile, Linda and her husband, the film’s co-producer and editor Brian French, weren’t having such an easy time of it. They went through artificial insemination, then in vitro fertilization without a successful pregnancy. By now I’ve known many people who have undergone these costly, emotional, and physically taxing processes, but I never knew quite how involved they were until I saw this film. The camera – sometimes handled by Linda herself mid-procedure – captures her shots, her needles, her vials and bottles and syringes. Close up shots of her skin, trying to find a place to inject the daily doses of hormones that are meant to prepare her body for a pregnancy. In the film, Linda is a good sport. I can imagine that her hormonal monster may have gotten left on the cutting room floor, so to speak. If I were Linda, I would certainly make that executive decision. But she does leave in the emotional scenes when she learns from her doctors that not all of the embryos created during the IVF process would be viable, or that she was not indeed pregnant, as she had hoped.

Most of all, what struck me was Linda and Brian’s almost palpable sense of hope. Even as she wept after receiving sad news, Linda remained hopeful. The film gets all the way to the end, and there she is with her big eyes and her bright smile, and her ever-supportive husband.

By then, Sybil has had one baby, and is pregnant with a second. Their stories have diverged. Both women have happy endings, as the viewer learns while the credits roll, but I’ll save the content of that part for you to experience if you watch the film.

“Pushing Motherhood” also includes interviews with other women who waited until they were older to try to have babies and doctors who help these women conceive, and facts that flash on the screen to educate the viewer about just how hard it is to get pregnant when you are older than 35, and why. That so many of the women didn’t expect it to be difficult to conceive is surprising to me, considering all the people I know in my life who have had similar troubles. But we all think we’ll be the exception, don’t we?

For me, a woman whose baby-making days are done and done, I found “Pushing Motherhood” an elegant, eye-opening film made personal through the stories of Sybil and Linda. I really never knew just how trying the fertility battle of an older mother can be. For younger women, this film should be an inspiration, a reminder of what a miracle conception is, and how even the best efforts of the most skilled scientists and doctors can fail at mimicking what nature does. That, and girls, you’ve been warned. If you wait until you’re 40, it could be a lot harder than just throwing your birth control pills away.

Pushing Motherhood Trailer:

Pushing Motherhood from Tempo Entertainment on Vimeo.