Media Parents TALENT Lauren Pushkin is a Director, Editor and Promo Producer and can be found in the TALENT section of www.mediaparents.co.uk She writes here about her new project, Becoming Mum, a documentary series that follows six first time mums as they begin their journey with a new life from birth to six months.
Lauren – The Idea
It all started with a photograph. Jacob, my darling son, was seven months old and I had arranged, along with my new mummy friends, to have a photo session to celebrate passing the six month mark. Due to crying, tired and over excited babies, we only managed to have one group photograph, but when I saw the result the idea for this documentary came immediately.
Over these first few months my life had changed immeasurably and before Jacob was born I knew it would be hard, but the reality was so, so different to my expectations. When I looked at my friends in the photograph I knew that it had been the same for them. Yet their journeys had been so different to mine. We all came from similar backgrounds, all had similar set ups and support networks, but each of us had faced such diverse challenges, different tears and different joys. Someone’s baby had had a hernia at three weeks old, and then an emergency operation. Another’s had severe reflux and had been constantly back and forth to hospital, doctors and specialists. On the other hand one’s dream baby hardly cried, and another’s baby slept through from three weeks old. For me, I had such a terrible birth that it stopped me immediately bonding with Jacob. For the first month I had gone into survival mode, just trying to get through the days. It wasn’t until Jacob was five weeks old that the tears came in floods and I finally realised how much I loved him.
I could see all of our our stories before my very eyes and I realised that if I followed and filmed another group of women these stories would be there for all to see.
But what I also wanted to capture was the truth. The seven of us had been so truthful with each other, something you find quite alien in the world of baby olympics. I wanted to show the challenges for what they are, and wanted my documentary to say to mums and mums-to-be ‘Don’t worry, it’s OK for it to be hard’.
So the idea was born, I would follow and film four to six new mums on their journey with baby from birth to six months. All I needed now was a collaborator.
Melissa Cortizo was the ideal person, not only because we had worked together on so many projects over the years, but also because she was a strong, and ambitious, new-mum like me. In fact when Melissa had found out she was pregnant she decided to leave the security of a job she had been in for years and start her own company. Not a very conventional thing to do, but this showed that she was a passionate person who had belief in herself and her ability. On my part, she had been through the same things as me very recently. Her baby Emilia was six months older than Jacob. Both of us understood the subject matter from the inside, something I felt was vital for this documentary.
MELISSA -TURNING THE IDEA INTO REALITY
Emilia was an easy baby. She ate, she slept, she cried and then she smiled. Yet my relationship with my husband changed overnight and so did my relationship with myself. Nothing at all can prepare you for motherhood, the ups and downs, the pressure, the guilt, the resentment, nor the overwhelming love and responsibility you have for this helpless baby that you’ve brought into the world.
It was when Emilia and Jacob were becoming acquainted over a rice cake that Lauren announced “I’ve got a brilliant idea!”. My first thought was that she was crazy – how on earth were we going to find the spare time to follow six new mums when I was running my own business and had a child to look after that had just taken her first steps? But Lauren is a great storyteller, and I’ve always valued her opinions and never doubted her judgement or ambition. So whilst I worried about the workload, I was also excited about the story, and the idea of us working closely together on such an intimate and challenging project, something we new about all too well.
The search for our contributors was on, and before we knew it we were writing adverts to place in doctors’ receptions and hospitals, emailing everyone in our contact books, getting the word out on forums, and even organising focus groups of new mums to discuss some of the highs and lows they had experienced.
Our next step was The Baby Show, a place we new would be swarming with new mums so we contacted them and they were completely behind our project. Armed with press passes and our camera equipment, we pitched up amongst the finest breast pumps and the like to see who was willing to share their remarkable journey with us.
After a month of work, we ended up with a list of over 30 mums-to-be, all from different backgrounds, all with different support networks and of different ages.
Then then we whittled it down to our chosen six.
Our mums and mums-to-be are truly diverse. From 38 year old Ngozi who has been desperately trying for a baby for 13 years, to 18 year old and single Georgia who never ever dreamed she would fall pregnant. We have the American Julia who has spent her life forging a successful career (even winning entrepreneur of the year 2010) and Rachel, the Welsh girl who wants nothing more than to be a stay-at-home mother. There’s Mily the free-spirited hippie who wants to do away with vaccines and opt instead for homeopathy, and lastly Sandie, the logical, medical Scot who thinks everything can be solved by a text book. One thing was apparent to us immediately; although all of these women were very different in many ways, they had one standout thing in common, and this was that their expectations of what motherhood would be like was going to be completely different to the reality … and this is what we would capture.
Filming the pre birth interviews was easy enough. (Although keeping our own views to ourselves was a challenge in itself.) But the waiting game for the babies to be born was so nerve wracking. The problem was that although all of these women had agreed to be contributors, we knew (more than they did) how much their life was going to change. We had filmed them talking about natural births and how relaxed it would be, but as we’d been through it ourselves, we could almost guarantee that this would not be the case. We also felt that when reality finally came we would be the furthest thing from the minds of these new mothers. In truth it felt like we were back in the dating game … waiting for the phone to ring, trying to read different meanings into text messages, worried when we didn’t get a response to our emails. We knew that all our efforts had to go into maintaining a relationship with our lovely ladies, so that we would be called upon when the time came. And not long after our first mum had her baby we were there. She had a beautiful baby girl and it was amazing to be a part of her first few hours.
Melissa – How the film is developing
For Ngozi, our lady who has been trying for 13 years, it has been a truly horrific first month. After a horrendous birth and an emergency c section, her beautiful daughter was born, but Ngozi encountered more medical trauma. Three days after the birth she was rushed to hospital with bleeding. In her first two weeks she spent so much time going back and forth to the hospital that her relationship with her newborn suffered, the baby that she dreamed to have in her arms all of her adult life. For Sandie, our lovely, strong Scot, things have not been much better. When Bobby was born everything was brilliant. We filmed Sandie at the hospital and captured a very happy new family. All seemed to be going swimmingly until a week later when Bobby was weighed. A midwife was horrible to Sandie telling her that Bobby had lost far too much weight and that Sandie was responsible. And as the next few weeks went on he continued to lose weight, and we have watched Sandie dissipate from the strong, self assured woman she is, to an unsure girl who is stressed and cannot stop crying. Julia is our third first time mum. She is an entrepreneur who has it all. She is a successful business woman, owning her own photographic studios, she is a highly regarded photographer, a journalist and now a mummy blogger. But for her it has been very hard too fit it all in. She has been overly stressed trying to work, blog and breastfeed a baby who will feed for eight hours in every twelve. She is truly exhausted and we can see that for someone with such a strong determination to do her best in all she does, this is the biggest challenge of her life.
Lauren – Future plans
We are already mentally editing together our stories. They are so different and so great and we are still only six weeks in to production with three of our mums still to give birth. Our plans are to edit together some promos once all of our mums stories are underway and then to approach commissioners, or even production companies who could co-produce this with us.
It is a massive project and we have learnt so much in this short space of time. We are using every piece of experience we have accumulated in the twelve years we have been in the media. This project is so different, because we are doing everything ourselves … directing, producing, production managing, editing, shooting, writing etc..
and what we have noticed throughout is how many people are helping us along the way. Every location or press office we have contacted has been so helpful and excited about our project, every health professional, breast specialist, and doctor has been more than willing to contribute and wish the programme well. And as for the mums that we are following, we really feel blessed to be sharing their journeys with them.
For me, the documentary is the first project I feel truly passionate about for many years. I think that having Jacob has allowed me to focus on what I really want to do and to find and capture the stories I really want to tell, and I know that Melissa feels the same.
The only problem for us now, (and our husbands), is that this project is making us feel a bit too broody.
To find out all of our latest news follow us on twitter @becomingmumtv or go to our website www.becomingmum.tv To follow the filmmakers on twitter ff @laurenpushkin or @media_spaces