When filmmaker Nina Davenport found herself 41-years-old and unmarried in New York City, she refused to let her circumstances prevent her from having a child. In her documentary First Comes Love, which premiered Monday night on HBO, Davenport records her nontraditional journey toward motherhood. Her experience is a testament to that fact that a conventional route to parenthood — “first comes love, then comes marriage, then comes the baby in the baby carriage” — is not necessarily the only path.
Feeling the stress of her “rapidly diminishing ovarian reserve,” Davenport asks her sister-in-law if she should give up on Mr. Right and have a baby on her own. Her relationship with her late mother and her desire to feel that same connection with a child of her own drives her life-changing decision. Ultimately, Davenport, who decides that experiencing motherhood and finding love with a partner must not necessarily fall in a traditional order, becomes a single mother through in vitro fertilization.
Davenport is certainly not the only single woman to choose biological childbirth over adoption. Her documentary follows several other single women who have elected the same path and her doctors attest to the fact that many single women in New York City select the same lifestyle.
Source: The New York Times
While Davenport’s decision to give birth is incredibly rewarding, the documentary portrays the challenges that any single mother faces. Davenport’s precarious financial situation is one of the most prevalent themes throughout her film and one of her largest sources of stress. The filmmaker's father, with whom she shares a very complex relationship, serves as a constant reminder of the monetary strain she will experience as a single mother. A struggling filmmaker, Davenport is aware that she will not experience the same luxuries as her brothers — one a banker and the other corporate lawyer. Plus, after growing up as the daughter of a successful Harvard grad, she still clings to her idealized childhood and worries that she will not be able to give her child all the same advantages in life.
Davenport also faces the challenges of going through the monumental and often difficult experience of pregnancy alone. The in vitro fertilization (IVF) hormone therapy is intense, and at times she questions her decision to undertake the responsibility of childbirth alone. But while Davenport is unmarried, she certainly does not raise her child alone. Her sperm donor and gay friend Eric, as well as her fellow single, best friend, Amy provide the support she needs throughout the childbirth experience and after.
Davenport's father, like the majority of his generation, clings to a definition of a traditional family. His is among the voices that claim "the family is the nucleus of civilization and the basic social unit of society," meaning that family, to him, is defined as a heterosexual couple comprised of a working father and stay at home mother.
Contrary to this outdated model, First Comes Love speaks to the fact that the concept of a traditional family is no longer the only route to parenthood. Homosexual couples as well as single mothers and fathers that choose to start families are becoming more mainstream. Davenport and others like her are demonstrating that there is no single way to define family; rather, parenting is determined by the love and care that one can provide for a child. As a strong, determined and independent woman, Davenport also breaks down the common stereotypes associated with single mothers.
Davenport, like many women, felt an intense impulse to have a child. And she would not let her single status determine or put boundaries on the life she imagined for herself.
Davenport’s healthy and beautiful baby boy, Jasper, will not grow up with a father like the majority of his peers. He will, however, grow up equally loved, cared for, and cherished by his mother and support system.
Source: Harvard Film Archive