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Family Portrait: First Comes Love's Nina Davenport

Filmmaker and single mom Nina Davenport talks about having a baby on her own, her latest documentary and the best places to hang out in Brooklyn.

  • Photograph: Berman Fenelus

    Family Portrait: Filmmaker Nina Davenport and son

  • Photograph: Berman Fenelus

    Family Portrait: Filmmaker Nina Davenport and son

  • Photograph: Berman Fenelus

    Family Portrait: Filmmaker Nina Davenport and son

  • Photograph: Berman Fenelus

    Family Portrait: Filmmaker Nina Davenport and son

  • Photograph: Berman Fenelus

    Family Portrait: Filmmaker Nina Davenport and son

  • Photograph: Berman Fenelus

    Family Portrait: Filmmaker Nina Davenport and son

  • Photograph: Berman Fenelus

    Family Portrait: Filmmaker Nina Davenport and son

  • Photograph: Berman Fenelus

    Family Portrait: Filmmaker Nina Davenport and son

  • Photograph: Berman Fenelus

    Family Portrait: Filmmaker Nina Davenport and son

Photograph: Berman Fenelus

Family Portrait: Filmmaker Nina Davenport and son


At age 41, New York filmmaker Nina Davenport made a big decision: She decided to stop waiting around for Mr. Right and have a baby on her own. "I really wanted a kid and I realized I better have one now or never," says Davenport, who documented her journey to becoming a mom (delivery room photos and all) in First Comes Love, a new compelling film airing on HBO this month. "I had already made Always a Bridesmaid about how I was a wedding videographer and dating a guy who couldn't commit and this felt like the perfect sequel." Now living in Boerum Hill with son Jasper, Davenport chatted with us about her film, the best part of being a mom and their favorite spots to spend time in the city.

Tell us what your friends and family thought about your decision.
There was definitely mixed reactions. Some were very supportive and said to go for it. A lot of people thought it was crazy. There was a lot of chatter about how was I going to maintain my "lifestyle" as a filmmaker and be a mom. I came up with this brilliant move to merge the single mom thing with the film thing.

Is being a single mom easier or harder than you thought?
Easier. I love every second with Jasper. I can never get enough of him. You can also see in the film that all of these people gravitated towards me and have become significant parts of Jasper's life. I didn't expect that.

Well, they do say it takes a village.
It's a phrase people throw around but it's not always true in this day and age. It's a very alienated culture that we live in. I feel like l've, in some ways, gotten more support. Jasper has a really rich life. He has so many adults invested in him. For him, it's great. It's not 'I don't have a father,' but 'I have a mommy and a lot of other people,' which includes a father and a lot of aunties.

Is your friend Eric, otherwise known as the sperm donor, part of his life?
Yes, he is and his family as well—especially grandma! His aunties are also a big part of his life. He's never asked me about the father situation, but he has asked me why none of his aunties have baby. A lot of them don't have kids and he's like their kid. He has several mothers—arguably five!

What's the best part of being a mom?

Where do you start? It's the best thing in the whold world. They're fascinating, hilarious and it's so wonderful to completely love someone—it's unconditional love. You know that the love is going to be the foundation for that person for the rest of their life. You're giving them something so valuable. I had a very special close relationship with my mother and that's what motivated me to have a baby. I wanted to experience that bond from her perspective.

What message do you hope the film sends?
One of my friends described it to me as beautufil ode to love, women and motherhood. Looking at it as a social issue, if I had felt it was an option to have a baby on my own all those years when I was looking to find a man I would have been a lot less frustrated. I felt like i had to have x to get y and it put me in a powerless position. It's not an equal playing field. Men can wait. I'm not saying go out and have a baby on your own, but if you can afford it and you have the emotional stability, you can do it.

Jasper's been on camera since before he was born! Do you continue to document his life?
I'm doing it more with the iPhone, and not with a professional quality camera. I really need to start doing that again. He's so dynamic and cute that i can imagine another film about him at some point.

Big question—are you dating?
Yes! I think it's really important when you become a parent—particularly a mom—to make every effort to keep the other parts of your life alive, whether it's reading, participating in cultural activities or dating.

THEIR FAVORITE...

DINNER SPOT
"Moo Burger on Court Street is a great place to take kids. it's delicious for adults, they have kid-friendly food and the staff is so tolerant of children—you never get the evil eye! Jasper is really into their hot dog and french fries."

PLAYGROUND
"I love any playground! That's one of the joys of becoming a parent in New York City—discovering life on the playground. It's so fun and you have license to talk to anyone. I love Carroll Park and we also love the playground in Washington Square Park. We sometimes come into Manhattan just to go there. It has a great vibe."

MUSEUM
"We love the Brooklyn Children's Museum. It has one of the cutest thing—these little pretend stores that kids can play in. Jasper loves it in there."


LOCAL CAFE

"Van Leeuwen on Bergen Street has great ice cream, coffee and pastries—it's basically the extension of our apartment! Jasper goes straight behind the counter and the staff plays with him. He's like a mascot! We can spend hours there!"

AFTERNOON OUTING
"We go to the pier in Red Hook a lot. Jasper can look at the Statue of Liberty and we've gone kayaking there too."

EXTRACURRICULAR CLASS
"Jasper went to StageCoach for acting classes—it was excellent. They work in the Monterssori school. He played a duck and during the performance he was trying to remove his costume and come to me!"


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