The Mommy Track

Jan, 43, a petite, tanned psychotherapist, is giving a tour of her one-bedroom West Village walk-up. “This is Annie’s room,” she says, opening the door to what was formerly a closet. Meanwhile, her 18-month-old adopted daughter is methodically pulling every book and stuffed animal off the shelves in the living room, which doubles as Jan’s office. When she’s done, the gleeful toddler finds a purse and adds its contents – train schedules, photos, gold bracelets – to the wreckage. Jan looks at her watch. Her first patient will arrive in an hour.

In 1996, Jan, whose longtime boyfriend had recently died of Lou Gehrig’s disease, began meeting with a dozen other single Manhattan women in their thirties and forties who were determined to become mothers – one way or another. Two years ago, the moms-to-be became the subjects of And Baby Makes Two, a new documentary by Judy Katz and Oren Rudavsky that opens at the Quad Cinema on June 25.

Negotiating the subways with a stroller, hauling diapers up five flights of stairs, and agonizing over preschools – by themselves – is not how Jan or any of her co-stars imagined their lives. Debbie, 43, a dark-haired, slender midwife, stops by at Jan’s while her son is with his baby-sitter. “I said, ‘I can’t do it,’ ” she says about having a child without a husband. “It just felt overwhelming.” But after polling ex-boyfriends, she persuaded an acquaintance to be a donor the old-fashioned way and gave birth to her son, Joshua, in one of the film’s most intense moments.

Now eleven of the group members have babies. Lori, 45, the group’s pioneer mother, comes by to drop off a bag of her adopted daughter Tema’s hand-me-downs for Annie. The moms chat about how exhausting Joshua’s “big” personality can be, and how Lori lost her job. Although they’re not the first-ever single mothers, they’re quick to point out that their situation is unique. They are not facing the same trials as low-income single moms. Nor do they see themselves in celebrity single moms like Madonna and Sandra Bernhard, or in lesbian couples who are also having fatherless pregnancies. “They have a community that supports their lifestyle,” says Debbie, “and we don’t. I almost said to my therapist, ‘I wish I were gay.’ “

With a few minutes to spare before Jan’s appointments, the mommies venture to a nearby park where sugar-charged kids are firing Uzi-style water guns from a jungle gym. The talk turns, inevitably, to fathers. Lori thought she’d have a few more years to come up with an explanation for her daughter until one recent evening. Tema, who is “obsessed with daddies,” was crying and asking for her father – whom she’s never known. “I said, ‘What would your daddy do? Kiss you on your belly? Mommy can do that!’ ” Lori says. “But it didn’t do the job.” “The thing is, we all want fathers for our children,” says Debbie. “I’m still hoping I’ll meet somebody. I’m thinking about the Internet. I can wait till my son goes to sleep and be in my bathrobe looking for my husband.” She sighs. “I guess I’ll just tell Josh, ‘Look at Annie – she doesn’t have a daddy!’ Thank God we live in New York.”

The Mommy Track