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The Fertility Gamble: Shannon O'Rourke on 'Maybe Baby'

Determined to "take life by the balls," Betsy decides to have a baby at age 37. Wall Street financier Joanne can't wait any longer for Mr. Right at age 43, so, she muses, "I had to frickin' pay for the sperm." Martina, a vivacious teacher, longs for a child of her own at age 42. Julie, who is a lesbian, has had seven intrauterine inseminations at age 35 and is still hoping. Barbara, age 44, has been given 5% odds. Audrey, age 41, has been denied the chance to adopt because she has rheumatoid arthritis.

These women's interwoven stories make up Maybe Baby, Shannon O'Rourke's heartfelt documentary about baby love, the fertility gamble, and the changing face of the American family. Filmed over four years with remarkable candor, the film follows the "emotional endurance test" of donor selection, shots, symptoms, and side effects, pee sticks and blood tests, ultrasounds, and fateful announcements. Meanwhile, it raises questions about the ramifications – social and personal – of single motherhood by choice.

"It really does take a village," says O'Rourke, a freelance field producer with Discovery Health's Special Delivery among her credits. "They all carved out their own support networks, ones that worked best for them."

One organization, Single Mothers by Choice, connects Martina with Karen, another single mother who has used an egg donor. Their acquaintance blossoms into a mutually supportive friendship – and two children who were conceived using similar methods.

Yet the medical profit motive complicates matters. Audrey has spent $90,000 on her fertility quest; Martina finances hers with garage sales. At one point Joanne calls some of the clinics "moneymaking machines."

"I'm sure there are some doctors who are less altruistic than others," O'Rourke says. "It's a $4 billion-a-year industry, and there's no guarantee. There are only a few industries where you're going to keep spending and spending, and you may not even have a positive outcome."

Julie finds a lower-cost clinic but is refused treatment. O'Rourke says that when she began the film she was "absolutely shocked" by such blatant inequalities.

"They did not want to treat a woman without a partner," she explains. "Julie faces this discrimination, and she's in Michigan, which is a pretty progressive state."

But women like Julie, she says, are part of a turning tide. "Fifty-one percent of women are single now. That's a huge jump from what it was 10 years ago. There are all types of alternative families – two daddies, two mommies, three parents – and I think it's great."


2pm, Dobie

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