Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Infertiles in Film

Greetings, Earthlings.

Once again my uterus, apparently ever-distracted by a butterfly or a shiny object, has decided to not churn out a period (or heaven forbid an attempt to ovulate) so I am kickstarting her yet again with a 10 day progesterone boogie.

I did pretty well last year with the IVF injections, apart from two incidents.  One, I decided to 'distract' myself by watching a Pixar movie I knew nothing about,  and that movie was "Up" (it should come with a freaking warning label).  Two, I was sleeping, Bub was washing dishes and dropped a pan.  Convinced that it was clearly an act of terror, the delivery of some passive aggressive message, I awoke fully prepared to hang him for treason.  Apart from that, I was my usual storky self with a few extra bruises and the super human ability to eat an entire side of cow in under 30 seconds.

That being said, I do not do well with Progesterone.

I stare into the abyss and turn inward.  I end up listening to far more Velvet Underground than any well functioning human should. Instead of falling into my usual YouTube hole of corgi's doing extraordinary things, I end up watching sad infertility videos and "Nosferatu" on Netflix.  My 'let's look on the goofy side of life!' inner furbie gets fed a little hormone after midnight, turns into a full on red-eyed gremlin and demands 'Let's feel all the things all at once!'. No me gusta.

Plus while my weekend was glorious, I seem to have in addition to progesterone caught some sort of small bug... so my usual happy-go-lucky, eternal-Christmas, claymation self has been replaced by an evil tyrant with an abundance of chin hair.

I have a new character to introduce on my list of homies, and we'll call her 'Jazzy' (we met on our HS dance team and shared a deep seeded hatred for one of our coaches, as well as total bafflement at our other coaches choice in eye make up). We hadn't chatted in many-a-year but are facebook friends.  Several months ago she made a pregnancy announcement (she has a son who is so cute I could eat him Nosferatu style) and then shortly after unfortunately had to share that she had a miscarriage.  (Yet more proof that the shittiest things happen to wonderful people).

I went out on a limb and sent her a private message basically saying 'sorry you're in our club it fucking blows.... I am pissed on your behalf'.  We've been chatting regularly ever since and she's on my shortlist of people who, when they get pregnant, I will be genuinely stoked for.  We mostly just lament - as one does with infertiles - but she reads my blog sometimes, and every now & again I send her to a blog post or give a book suggestion... you know, under the heading of 'shit I wish someone would've shared with me'. (This is of course all a down-payment, because should my shenanigans actually result in a baby I will need someone to explain to me what one does with one of those).

Today I've been thinking about our infertile representation in film; partly because I've been thinking about the new members in our ranks, partly because I've read a few blog posts the last couple of weeks about our representation in books, and partly because progesterone apparently gives me an unstoppable need to watch sad infertile YouTube videos with the inevitable Coldplay song on in the background.

I'm a writer, so I definitely have a reading fetish - but I'm a film nerd above all things.  Nothing gives me quite the infertile nerd boner as seeing one of us represented in film.

So I thought I'd share a few of my favorite cathartic infertile movies (full of spoilers, my apologies), and see what you all have to add to the list.  These would all be for the moments where you're not trying to distract yourself (damn you, Up) but for when you're in the mood for a little emotional cutting.


I love "Away We Go".

Maya Rudolph and John Krasinski play an expecting couple who are on the hunt for the perfect place to raise their daughter.  With the clock ticking they visit a few different cities where they have friends to see if they 'fit' there.

How much do I love the scene where they have dinner with their pushy hippie friends?  Answer:  so much.  I am a dirty hippie, mind you, but as I've mentioned on here before I am a hippie that enjoys pain medication and a realistic approach to things, and has to consciously keep my bug eyes from rolling to the back of my head when I see Alicia Silverstone baby-birding her kid..  While I have absolutely no sense of what my birthplan will be, I on more than one occasion (as I'm sure you have) have been in a discussion with someone who implied that if I didn't do it their way I would be a 'less than' Mom.

Mind you, it's an indie movie following a pregnant woman who is not infertile so you are probably wondering why the fuck I am suggesting it.

First, I think it's just an interesting movie about finding your own way when it comes to how you want to raise your kids.

Second, the pole dance scene.

They visit a husband and wife they are friends with who have a house full of adopted kids. They are clearly very happy and very in love.  After they go out and have a few drinks, they go to 'pole dancing karaoke' (is this a thing??).  They lose track of where the wife is, there's a break in the dance music, and the speakers start playing "Oh, sweet nuthin'" by Velvet Underground.  (It does not help my heartbreak watching it that this is exactly one of the songs I listen to when I'm stuck in an infertility hole). The wife begins to do the saddest, slowest dance, and the husband admits that she just had her 5th miscarriage. (For the life of me I can't find just this clip, so skip to 8:15 to watch it, or watch the whole damn thing because it's good).

I've seen scenes in movies where they talk about miscarriage - inevitably girlfriend wakes up in the middle of the night bleeding, goes to hospital, cue tears.  Those get me too, don't get me wrong - but this one really got me.

I think it's that instead of having her give a monologue about how much she's hurting, she just kind of sways around for a moment in her melancholy without a whole lot left to say.  Chris Messina is just watching her, talking about the helplessness of it all, as she just does her thing.  She has all this love in her life, clearly, but in this one thing she feels alone on a stage...and the way she looks at her pregnant friend in the end just slays me.

Okay you've never heard of it.  Hunt down some 99cent VHS copy on Amazon, I'mma tellin' ya.

It is, entirely, about finding your absolute soulmate and then having to go through infertility treatments with that person.  It's heartbreaking and it's also really funny.

Gene Wilder meets Christine Lahti, they fall in love, they immediately start to try for a family.  It covers the absurdity of timed intercourse, IUIs, IVF, the strain it has on a marriage, miscarriage, briefly adoption.. all of it.  And it's actually a movie I liked long before I ever had any dealings with infertility.

Sidenote:  when I was nine I used to say "as long as I don't marry someone that looks like Gene Wilder".  Are you shitting me, 9 year old Jenny?  Who doesn't want to marry Gene Wilder??

Okay I'm not necessarily talking about the book or the movie "The Help" (even though they're both good), I'm just talking about Jessica Chastain's character Celia Foote.

For reasons that are totally ungettable to me, some people didn't like the character.  I dug her.

The jist... It's the 1960s in Mississippi.  Celia gets married, and moves into a town where she desperately wants to get in with the well-established group of lady friends who have resided their forever.  She's different, she's a little ditzy and clumsy, and for a multitude of reasons they're all pretty freaking mean to her.

Reading it and watching it I related to her the most before I even got to the infertility part - obviously not because I'm a Marilyn Monroe looking rich lady.  If I moved to Mississippi in the 60s, no matter how much I wanted girlfriends I would absolutely be the girl that stuck out like a sore thumb and didn't fit in, who said and wore the wrong things and didn't get a chance to show how kind she was.  Absolutely.

Part of the way into the movie (or book) it's revealed that Celia keeps having recurrent miscarriages.  She has them quietly, and buries her babies under a rosebush in her backyard unbeknownst to her husband.

She struck a chord for me (book and movie) because in every possible way, despite dressing and acting as the epitome of what a woman should be, she ends up feeling like a failure as a woman... From her lack of fitting in to her lack of domestic abilities to her lack of being able to carry a child to term.  She's completely embarrassed by all of it, but continually tries to handle it in a way where that doesn't come across.

So I know some people didn't particularly like Celia's character, but I loved her. For a multitude of reasons she's made to feel 'less than', and tries her best to cover it with optimism and pretty outfits.

That's it for my list-  I reserve the right to add to it later.  What am I missing?


  1. I recently watched The Odd Life of Timothy Green... it killed me. But it was pretty well done.

    And seriously, who doesn't love Gene Wilder! :) He rocks. I'm going to have to look into that movie now.

  2. I love the movie " Away we go". That scene I bawled like a friggin baby. I think they had it spot on. The scene where she dances and the scene where she asks Mya Rudolph if everything has been okay in the pregnancy....no problems huh....yeah I've been there and grilled my friends about their pregnancies.. You do it with out even realizing your doing it.

    I'll have to look for the gene wilder movie......love him and Gilda!!

    The help I liked too, and the book. The miscarriage scene was hard for me to watch. It's so painful to be there and to feel like a failure. I've had 4 miscarries at home, and one at the doc. It's sucks, it's painful. But I understood why she hid it from her husband....I got it completely.

  3. I had forgotten about that scene in Away We Go, but reading your description I remember it so clearly. It was a devastating moment and I remember feeling gutted by it. Thanks for the reminder.

    I so loved Celia; she was my favorite character in a cast of really wonderful characters and I felt so much empathy for her as the white trash girl who couldn't fit in or do anything right. Thank you for spotlighting her too.

    And I'll definitely check out that Gene Wilder flick. Thanks for the reco.

  4. I loved Away We Go and Celia. I haven't seen the Gene Wilder movie but will make sure to do so. Thanks for putting this list together! Keep some more coming!

  5. Will have to dig through the online crates and find the Gene Hackman one. I def don't remember that one, but for obvious reasons. I love Maya Rudolph and loved Away We Go. I actually liked What to Expect When You are Expecting too. Sure, more of the blockbuster variety, but they actually do a really good job making fun of the super fertile idiots in that movie, making it completely acceptable to hate them and love the infertile people in it instead.

    Glad to know my body is not the only one on strike too. CD42 here and NADA! Last provera pill was 10 stinkin days ago and NADA... never wanted to get a period so badly in my life. Fun stuff!

  6. "Prometheus". I went because I 1. love sci fi & 2. want to bang Michael Fassbender. #WINNING, right? Then they throw in the whole "I can't create life; what does that say about me?" line (Noomi Rapace's character) & my DH instantly turned to look @ me in the theater & find me starting to sob. I've seen it on DVD a few times & it still gets me.

  7. How could anyone hate poor Celia Foote? Poor woman broke my heart and I read that book long before we even started to have children. Never heard of Away we go but that look the friend gives when she finds out Maya Rudolf's pregnancy has had no problems so far... that breaks my heart.

  8. You're absolutely right, Up totally needs a warning label! The first time I saw it, all this infertility and miscarriage crap was still in the future, but that montage still killed me.
    And, that scene from Away We Go... I had no interest in seeing that movie, but what a powerful scene! It's not often that we hear about miscarriage from the father's perspective; it felt so real and raw. The way John K's character just sat there wide-eyed and not knowing what to say.... spot on.
    I usually stay away from movies that deal with infertility, because it's so difficult to portray it realistically and in a way that doesn't offend every infertile couple in the world.

  9. My uncle was the editor on "Up". I think I emailed him after I saw it and was like "WTF??!!???" I should not be bawling in the beginning of a movie. Definitely needs some kind of warning label.
    I really liked Away we Go. I might have seen it pre-infertility (or pre-infertility treatment) so wasn't as struck at the time by that scene. But I do remember it now that you mention it. Strangely one of the things that I remember most about the movie is that Maya Rudolph wore a dress I have for a good part of the movie. A dress from Target of all places.
    I didn't know people out there hated Celia. What? I felt so bad for her and just wanted to hug her.

  10. Omg I am hearting Chris Messina more and more these days -- definitely since getting hooked on the Mindy Project but also because of that scene in Away We Go. So difficult to watch, but in all the right ways. A very poignant moment. Also love when Maggie Gyllenhaal says about the stroller, "But why would you want to push them away from you?" Too much...

  11. can i throw in tina fey from baby momma...i know it's not technically in the miscarriage category...but any woman facing infertility who gives the thums up to spraying Pam on her golden ticket rather then rubbing it with olive oil has my vote in helping to keep a sense of humor on a very tender subject.

  12. Now I'm going to have to watch "Away We Go", as that clip was amazing. Hard to watch, but amazing. Thanks for the recommendation.

    The scene that gets me every time is in a silly '90s rom-com, "Forget Paris" with Billy Crystal and Debra Winger. It's an uneven movie, but there are a few scenes that always had me laughing, and it's an easy story to follow, so it made a good movie when I needed a laugh and didn't feel like paying attention too much. Until I found out I was infertile, at least.

    I was watching "Forget Paris" one day, and I had forgotten that the couple in the movie struggles with infertility and elects to do IVF. Lots of fertile people say stupid things, the stupid things real life people say to infertile people. There's a grand joke about getting sperm to the clinic in time. But after that, there's a scene in which the couple goes to see a friend's new baby in the hospital after failed IVFs. Debra Winger's character stands outside the hospital nursery window, looking in on all those newborns, and tells her husband "I'm tired." He says something to the effect of "Let's go home, then." "No," she persists, "I'm tired of all of this," and it's clear she's ready to stop treatment. The genuine emotion there had me sobbing before I could even think. I was surprised at how much that scene affected me.

    Oh, and "Up"...that scene at the beginning always made me cry even before infertility entered the picture and now I absolutely can't stop myself. Just a few minutes, no words, and yet everything is expressed so perfectly.

  13. You are a writer, ignore my comment on your next post then! I want to read your books!?!? X.:-)

  14. I haven't seen "Away we go" but will definitely check it out. BUT..I'd like to add one to the DON'T BOTHER list: Babymakers (2012), After failing to get his wife pregnant, a guy (Schneider) recruits his pals to steal the deposit he left at a sperm bank years ago. It was just as terrible as all reviews say. It wasn't worth the $1 rental (stumbled upon it looking for Baby Mama). Just DON'T. :o)

  15. Per your recommendation, C & I watched Away We Go. We really liked it. The scene in the strip club was perfect - exactly as you described. And I LOVED that all the fertile couples were messed UP! (Allison Janney and Maggie Gyllenhaal are both brilliant.)

    And 'Funny About Love' arrived from Netflix today. I'm waiting for our houseguests to leave tomorrow so I can watch it with a big bowl of truffle popcorn!

    1. Oh girl.. I'm so excited someone else is watching this movie! That makes me want to watch it tonight. Have a pack of kleenex handy and let me know what you think pronto!

  16. Gawd, how have I been following you on Twitter but totally ignorant of your blog for this long? Must comment on all the (outdated) posts!

    Guess who watched _The Help_ as a "distraction" while writhing in pain on the couch during her third miscarriage this past February? Yea, totally didn't know about that plot line. It was actually alright, though, because I did enjoy the distraction of the movie and that scene left me so very appreciative of the world we live in where I can (and do) openly talk about our struggles to so many in my life and on the Interwebs.

    Every. single. IFer owes it to themselves to watch the British flick "Maybe Baby." (It's on Netflix... go... now.) It's up and down, too predictable, includes too much unnecessary drama, but I will put up with any amount of movie awfulness to see Mr. Bean as an RE. (Oh, and a young Hugh Laurie as the male half of the infertile duo.)

    One warning -- moped scene. Make sure you've peed recently or you risk losing bladder control on your couch as you laugh explosively.

  17. I know this is an older post, but I wanted to add Young Adult to the list. Charlize Theron's miscarriage reveal scene left me breathless in the theater. Here's a clip (not sure what's going on with the Spanish subtitles, but it's the only one I could find): http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=piDXAa8YImg

    It's a great movie to watch when you're feeling like a real bitch.

  18. I've just installed iStripper, and now I can watch the sexiest virtual strippers getting naked on my taskbar.