Monday, July 29, 2013

Reflections on the show

I just watched First Comes Love. I thought I should blog about it while it's fresh in my mind. 

I enjoyed it, first and foremost. It didn't do some things I expected it to - get perspectives from lots of other thinker/ trier/SMC types (although she does have two sequences involving other SMCs); it didn't show very much about the pregnancy (it kind of flies by, and she gets pregnant on her first IVF, so no fertility struggles at all). So anyone looking for a detailed, fraught story of a woman's struggle to become a single mother - this isn't it. But it is her story, which is more about her relationship with her parents and reminiscing about her childhood and their childhoods than it is about struggles to become pregnant or raise the child on her own. So that did surprise me.

I was envious of her support network. She has one childless, single friend who is basically her partner through the whole process, who despite exhibiting some misgivings about being expected to be "on call" all the time, seems to get over this fairly easily and is, in fact, a de facto other parent. The biological father, a gay friend, is also surprisingly present for pretty much every milestone (it seems), also despite having sworn off any responsibility. When she returns from the hospital she has a crew of three friends camping out in her living room to help. If this weren't a documentary, I would laugh at how unrealistic this all is, that all these people say they're going to help and then actually do. So I envied her all this help - but again, it's her story. It's what really happened. 

In the end it seemed to me that the real struggle of this woman's life is not having a baby on her own - which seems like a snap - but reconciling herself to her father, in a very childish way, still seeking his approval for her choice of career and choices in general (when she first tells him she's pregnant, he says, "call the abortionist!"). That to me is the real story of this documentary, not being a single mother. 

I guess as one who had the opposite experience of most middle class Americans - the kind of people who grew up in intact families in the suburbs whose parents placed high expectations on them and frowned on any artistic leanings - I find it hard to relate. I grew up in a crazy, messy, chaotic family with an absent dad and a musician mother who actively discouraged any desire in me to go to college or do anything in a traditional way. I see again and again stories of free-spirited adult children trying to win the approval of their stubborn conservative Johnson-era parents, and I just don't get it. But then again because my parents were both so unpleasant, I was able to "individuate" in my thirties; most people never do. Seeking parental approval at this ripe old age just seems dumb to me. So I have a very different perspective from most people. 

To sum up, I wish it had been more SMC-related; I wish she had interviewed Mikki Morisette or Jane Mattes; I wish she had exhibited more anxiety about the pregnancy or process of IVF; I wish she had struggled more as a new parent. But this is her story, not mine or anyone else's. I'm so glad at least somebody had the wherewithal to document the woman's perspective of having a baby on your own. It's definitely a first.

One question that's been bugging me lately. If someone has a baby with a male friend who, whether intentionally or not, is a part of the child's life - are they really an SMC? Is it the same as someone who sets out from the beginning that there be no dad and no possibility of a dad? Curious to hear your thoughts on this.


  1. I think it depends how the relationship plays out. If there's financial support from the bio father, I'd have a hard time calling the mother a true SMC. Same goes if there is regular visitation or care provided by the bio father. Being an SMC isn't just about getting pregnant and giving birth (or adopting), but about raising that child as the only parent and having to wear multiple hats, face the difficult "dad" questions, and take full responsibility for that child 100% of the time.

  2. I don't have cable so unfortunately I didn't get to see it, hopefully sometime in the future I'll be able to. I'll be curious to see what other Choice Moms think or how they relate to her experience. Technically, she is a SMC. She's single. She chose to be a mother. But from the sounds of it that's were her and my similarities end. That's one of the problems with labels, it can group together a bunch of different people with different situations and experiences and equate them as being the same due to a small similary. How we answer the "daddy question" will be different just as it would be for someone who is a SMC through adoption rather than conceiving. I was talking to another single mom the other day and she couldn't understand why I didn't have time/couldn't afford to do some of the things she could (she's divorced, gets child support and the kids spend half the time with their dads). I finally just said I am not a single mom the way you are a single mom. Just as in the SMC community there are different ways of being a Choice Mom. I would like to see a documentary on several Choice Moms and the different journeys they had.

  3. I'm glad you alerted us to this yesterday -- I had a good time watching it last night. I suppose if any of us had made a documentary about our journeys, the story would have been completely different. Having a child for Nina clearly meant inspecting /reflecting on her relationship with her parents.

    I was pretty disgusted with the father but not surprised at some of his reactions, given his age and his general attitude. I couldn't really understand why Nina was so desperate for his approval (maybe it was for the doc, but she introduced the subject of SMC-hood by asking what he thought of it, etc, whereas I just told my parents that this is what I had decided to do!). And the conversation where she complains that he hasn't supported her as a single mother made my eyes roll -- he made it very clear from the start that he wasn't interested in bankrolling her life choices! (Although I wonder to what extent he actually did.) Given the size of the family house, I feel like her family is very well off, and maybe she was used to getting a leg up in all situations.

    I imagine the friends-on-call thing must be a perk of living in NYC with a bunch of transplants. I know a lot of people who have moved to Minneapolis from elsewhere across the country, and they're much tighter as a group than I've ever experienced with my own close friends. Luckily, my family lives in this area, and I have a great relationship with them, so I've never depended on friends the way I saw Nina do.

  4. Surly Mama I agree that there should be different perspectives of the SMC as there are so many situations and stories.

  5. I finally watched it tonight and was really surprised by the lack of ttc coverage. No agonizing over timing, uterine lining thickness, how many eggs they get, how many fertilize and make it to day 3, etc. No worried 2ww checking for symptoms, no POAS 5 days later...I could go on, but everyone here knows what I'm talking about!

    Her dad was SUCH a classic conservative, with zero empathy and no faith in his own daughter's judgement till the baby was in front of him and it was affecting his life directly.