When Noah Moskin and Maya Grobel learned they couldn’t conceive naturally, they grabbed a camera and filmed their experience overcoming infertility to build a family.
Noah Moskin and Maya Grobel met in college during film class, fell in love, and got married. When it came time for them to start a family, they tapped into their affection for film and began recording their experience.
“We started by interviewing each other and [sharing] how we were feeling,” Moskin told Healthline.
Because their journey to parenthood took longer than they expected, the couple ended up having hundreds of hours of footage, which they turned into the documentary “One More Shot.”
The film reveals raw and personal details of their experience with infertility.
“It felt powerful to create something that could connect with people in such an intimate way and normalize the different ways families come together,” Grobel told Healthline.
After a year and a half of trying to conceive naturally, at the age of 32, Grobel received a diagnosis of diminished ovarian reserve. That means the number and quality of her eggs was lower than expected for her age.
According to the fertility center Center for Human Reproduction in New York City, about 10 percent of people with uteruses experience diminished ovarian reserve.
“Having a baby was nonnegotiable for me. It wasn’t an option for me to be childfree, so I had this intense desperation of [figuring out] how I’m going to have a baby,” she said. “Since my body wasn’t creating the ingredients to do so, [all I could think about] was how else are we going to do this.”
The couple decided to try in vitro fertilization (IVF). This procedure involved extracting Grobel’s eggs from her uterus and combining them with Moskin’s sperm to create embryos. The embryos would then be transferred to Grobel’s uterus in hopes of her becoming pregnant.
However, the couple’s embryos weren’t viable to carry on with the procedure.
By sharing their heartbreak in the documentary, Grobel and Moskin hope to remove the stigma surrounding infertility.
“The language around fertility isn’t positive. People will say, ‘I failed IVF.’ That’s the way the industry talks about it. It’s not intended to shame people, but there is this overall feeling of there is something wrong with me, I’m broken,” Grobel said.
After their first IVF attempt, the couple sought help from Grobel’s sister, who agreed to be an egg donor. When the procedure didn’t work, Grobel and Moskin began looking into other options.
During their research and in the film, they interviewed several couples who share their stories of adoption, egg donation, surrogacy, and more.
“The more people I connected with, the more I realized that our story is just a version of so many other stories, and that many people don’t feel heard,” Grobel said. “The more I looked into it, it became clear that there were options and we could be hopeful.”
Along with hope, each option also brought more financial strain.
“You’re trying to have a family and it’s hard to put a dollar amount on that. Money is stressful for most people, and then you consider what the money value of having a child is and it’s more stressful,” Moskin said.
The couple talked with families who spent $250,000, took out second mortgages, and acquired loans in their pursuit of having a child.
“When you’re spending all this money, it’s a gamble. If you do a procedure and it doesn’t work, you start from scratch,” Moskin said.
Navigating coverage with insurance companies adds additional stress.
Dr. Gloria Richard-Davis, director of reproductive endocrinology and infertility at the University of Arkansas Medical Sciences and author of “Planning Parenthood,” says generally a financial screener at the doctor’s office informs patients of what’s covered and what’s not.
However, she suggests that patients verify the information with their insurance company.
“I recommend communicating with your insurance company in writing. We have found, depending on the agent answering the phone, the answer to the question changes. So, document. Once you know what is covered or not, the center can give you an estimated cost of your treatment,” Richard-Davis told Healthline.
She also advises to be upfront with your doctor about what you can afford.
“There are some companies that finance fertility treatments, so ask. Some of my patients have family members that chip in. In the long run, it is worth the investment,” Richard-Davis said.
Grobel and Moskin were surprised by how many procedures and tests were not covered by insurance.
“We always knew it was expensive, but we were blown away by how expensive it was. Infertility is a medical diagnosis, and the fact that insurance companies don’t cover it invalidates it in some ways,” said Grobel. “Basic blood tests we had to pay out of pocket. My ovaries are part of my body, so why is it elective?”
During their four-year journey to parenthood, Grobel says accepting the unknown was the most difficult.
“I was physically and emotionally exhausted. I was handcuffed to my ovaries. I wasn’t supposed to exercise at [certain] times. I was on a strict diet with my acupuncturist. It took over my life. I felt like a pincushion fertility patient, not a person in the world,” she said. “But just wondering and not knowing if I was pregnant was the most stressful.”
For Moskin, the desire to fix their struggles took the most toll on him.
“If it’s not your body that’s going through the trauma, you want to fix it and know how to solve it. That I couldn’t solve it was really frustrating. You can’t just fix it yourself or call in a mechanic. We tried and tried and couldn’t fix it,” Moskin said.
To cope with the stress during their journey, Moskin took up rock climbing and camping.
“I put myself in situations where I couldn’t think of anything but what was right in front of me. So if it was climbing, I didn’t want to fall, so I didn’t think about our next doctor appointment,” he said.
Creating the film was also cathartic for him.
“I’d do my day job and come home at night and edit. And that made me separate what was emotional or important for us in the moment and what could be a good scene,” he said.
When her sister was undergoing procedures to be an egg donor, Grobel took courses to become a yoga teacher.
“I took this course because my body wasn’t needed in the same way during that time,” Grobel said.
In addition to their individual physical endeavors, the couple sculpted out time to have fun together, like going to baseball games, concerts, and comedy shows.
“Allowing yourself to live a little bit and take care of each other without the responsibility of making each other feel better was important. When we’d go out, we’d make them times where we didn’t allow fertility talk,” Grobel said.
Richard-Davis agrees with their coping strategies. She also suggests seeking out mind-body connection.
“I recommend to many patients yoga, meditation, exercise. There are apps that walk you through deep breathing and relaxation exercises. The VA developed an app with Stanford and other academic centers called CBT-I (cognitive behavioral therapy for insomnia) that guides you through exercises that quiets your mind,” she said.
Managing social situations and friendships differently was another area Moskin and Grobel had to work through.
“I had friends who were having eight kids while we were going through this, and I’d keep my distant from them. You have to battle self-preservation and don’t put yourself in situations that you don’t feel comfortable in,” Moskin said. “But also, you have to understand that if your friends are having kids, it’s not an insult to you.”
Grobel says she appreciated most when a friend offered empathy.
“When people offer advice, that doesn’t help. Best thing a friend can do is acknowledge what you’re going through and that they don’t quite understand it. Saying ‘I know this is really hard for you. I don’t know the details of what it feels like, but I’m here’ is perfect.”
In February 2014, Grobel became pregnant via embryo donation, in which a remaining frozen embryo produced by another couple during their IVF process four years earlier was successfully implanted into Grobel.
Grobel and Moskin’s daughter, Mika, was born on March 20, 2015.
They hope sharing their journey can decrease feelings of isolation, shame, or stigma often associated with infertility and bring to light the multiple paths to parenthood.
Davis agrees with their message of hope.
“I encourage my patients to not stop short of success. It may require multiple attempts or moving on to more aggressive therapy,” she said. “It is generally possible to get pregnant, [although] not all options are acceptable or affordable for everyone.”
Cathy Cassata is a freelance writer who specializes in stories about health, mental health, and human behavior. She has a knack for writing with emotion and connecting with readers in an insightful and engaging way. Read more of her work here.