About ten percent of women in the United States have trouble getting or staying pregnant. And roughly one in 20 men have issues with sperm mobility. In fact, only 80 percent of couples in the U.S. get pregnant. In other words: Infertility isn’t uncommon. But because of stigma and misconceptions associated with it, it’s rarely treated as such. And, for couples who are having trouble conceiving and need support as they work through the stress and seek fertility treatments, it can be incredibly difficult.
Noah Moskin and Maya Grobel understand this. The Los Angeles couple had trouble conceiving. Within a year, Maya was diagnosed with a ‘diminishing ovarian reserve’. So they began the process of In-Vitro Fertilization (IVF), and embarked on a four-year journey to conception. It was difficult, they said, to not blame themselves or feel ashamed. And to find support. So they decided to document the experience. The ensuing film, One More Shot, is available now and details their winding road to parenthood and what they learned on the way.
Fatherly spoke to Noah and Maya about ‘One More Shot‘, the shame and stigma associated with infertility, and how their marriage became deeper as a result of their journey.
You had a long, winding road to becoming parents. Start at the beginning.
Maya: Noah and I met in college. We were together for about ten years before we started trying. They say if you’re under 35, to wait a year when you try, and then see a doctor. So we went to my OB after a year and had all the preliminary tests done. Nothing was working. So we saw a reproductive endocrinologist when I was 32.
I was diagnosed with diminished ovarian reserve. So, my ovaries just didn’t produce a lot of eggs. But there were still some eggs in there, so the doctor recommended we just go straight to IVF. So we did an IVF cycle in 2012. We met the doctor in, like, May, and we did the IVF cycles in October. It was a lot of testing, and trying, and seeing if my body was ready and seeing if I had enough follicles to even make it worth it and doing acupuncture. All the embryos fell apart. That was a pretty devastating moment, I think, for us. We realized it was not as simple as doing everything to doctor said.
From there, we explored adoption a little bit. We were trying to figure out how to make this happen. We started to think about filming our journey as a helpful documentation for people and for ourselves. So we did a couple of inseminations while we were trying to figure things out, and then my sister offered to donate her eggs. We did an egg donation cycle with my sister in the summer of 2013. We had a few embryos, we transferred them, and nothing worked. We wanted to get out of this lifestyle of two people trying to make a baby for years. So, we found an embryo in a clinic in Seattle that seemed like a really good fit for us. That embryo just turned four years old last week.
Well, happy birthday to the embryo! How long did this process take?
M: From start to finish, this was kind of a five-year-period. But the beginning was the obsessive ovulation testing and all of that fun stuff.
Was there anything that really shocked you about going through fertility treatments and IVF?
Noah: One of the things we didn’t think about or expect was just like, how emotionally draining and isolating it can be. We didn’t talk too much about what we were going through. Our close, close friends —
M: Well, I did.
N: Yeah, Maya wrote a blog about it. I didn’t talk too much about it to my friends. There was a point where our friends were starting to have their first kids. People can be sympathetic, but we didn’t know anybody going through the same stuff, or anybody who had gone through it already. There was no point of reference for us.
That was really hard. It can be so isolating. You talk to your friends about it. And you know, they’re like, “It’ll happen. Keep trying!” To their point, there’s no good answer for your friend to say other than “I’m sorry.” I think that’s why Maya starting to write the blog about it helped connect her with people who were going through it. As we started making our film, it gave me, in particular, a focal point. It was something to worry about so I wouldn’t have to worry about what we were going through personally.
M: It was an easier way for you to talk about it, I think, too.
N: Yeah. These sort of creative endeavors that we were doing helped us both process it and connect with people.
Was there anything else that surprised you?
M: I didn’t realize how not straightforward the process was, altogether. You kind of think like: okay, you’re having fertility issues, you see this kind of doctor and then they fix it or make it better. Every time I would go in there, something else came up. We scheduled so many things around ‘this happening’ at ‘this time’ and then we had to throw it all out the window. Plus, we really had to work hard to be on the same page. I mean, Noah and I have known each other since we were 20 years old. The idea that we had to work at how we communicate was kind of surprising.
N: I also think of how all-encompassing it can be. I don’t know if it’s that way for every couple, but I think for us, it was like, every conversation ended up going back to the next procedure or how sad we were.
M: It was like problem solving. We didn’t expect that we’d be problem solving in order to have a family.
It’s almost like your first trimester was five years long.
N: Yeah. Because of that, when we got to the actual first trimester, at that point, we had no problem saying anything to anybody. ‘We got this thing in! This better take!’ So we had gotten over any kind of jitters or being superstitious about anything. We just wanted it to happen.
Why did you decide to make the documentary?
M: We thought we’d have maybe a five-minute short film about IVF that we could show our kid. As our lives began to fall into the abyss of fertility treatments, we realized it was a much bigger story. The original intention wasn’t to make a movie — it was to document. We thought it would be a straightforward, short thing, and then it wasn’t. That’s when we realized our story is the story of millions of other people who are experiencing this alone.
N: I kind of used it as a processing tool. I work in reality TV as a producer. I’m used to sitting down with someone and asking them about their feelings. We just sat down and interviewed each other. Because I still had stuff to work through in terms of what I was feeling, it almost made it easier to be interviewed than to have those conversations before you go to bed. We thought this would be a five-minute short, we’d do IVF, and it would work. And then we ended up with 200 hours of footage.
That’s a lot of footage. But it must have been nice to have a set way to communicate and process what you were going through.
M: I feel like the camera helped provide a little bit of separation between my really intense feelings and Noah’s need for a little space to process. When a couple is tasked with having to rethink how they are going to start their family, it really brings to light the different ways they process feelings, or emote, or express themselves. I think, like —
N: Or how you communicate with the other person.
M: Yeah. And I do feel like we had it pretty good, because we had been together for so long and grew up with each other. But it really forced us to figure out how we talked to each other, and to respect the different ways we process and think. It was harder for me, as the person whose body was being poked and prodded. I felt like my body was the “reason” why this wasn’t working.
That must’ve been very difficult.
M: Noah really said, from the get-go, that this wasn’t my fault. That this was ‘our’ situation. I think that language, and banding together around this being ‘our’ issue to solve together, really helped me feel less like he’d be better off with someone else with someone who had eggs.
N: I learned that it’s not my job to fix everything. It’s a natural inclination for me. Maya always liked having a game plan, but the answer doesn’t have to be “We’ll figure it out. We’ll make this happen.” The answer can be: “I’m sad, and I’ll be sad with you.” Sometimes the best thing is to be sad together, and to be disappointed together or vulnerable together.
Was pregnancy an easier ride for you both?
M: My pregnancy was just a hot mess, medically. I nearly died at childbirth. I had a hematoma, the embryo was separating in the first eight to 10 weeks, and I was bleeding every day, and then I had to go on bedrest. It was one thing after another, with the pregnancy. I was gigantic by the time that I gave birth. Somehow, we muscled through this very scary pregnancy and very scary birth. The baby was fine at birth. So, none of this went the way we wanted it to, right? Nothing went the way it was supposed to, and yet, we made it out on the other side and we have this incredible kid, who was supposed to be our kid all along. She was in a freezer for five years, in another state. That was our kid. She was there all along. She was made the year we started trying. Not that there’s magic about it, but —
N: It fit.
M: It fit. She is our kid. You would see us as a family if you know her, there is no doubt.