The First Mother Who Loved Her Name

‘Causeway’s’ Lila Neugebauer on directing Jennifer Lawrence and the joy of Elaine May

The first words that came to mind with Lila Neugebauer’s name were, “You have to love her for that ‘F’ word.”

“I grew up in northern New Mexico, in Santa Fe (population 1,945),” Neugebauer said, “where I watched too many movies and heard too many news stations and read too many comic books with far too many letters on the end of the word ‘F.’ I just made that up, it’s my version of that.”

But as she explains, she learned to love her name, which had a different meaning in her family. That was when she realized that the “F” in Lila was very much an “I” — for her daughter Lila Mae Neugebauer-Wrenn.

Lila died in 2011 from a rare and rare genetic disorder known as neurofibromatosis. She passed away at the age of 19, and with it, she, and her entire family, lost the ability to have children. She was the first and only child to survive.

“I didn’t know that I really loved her,” Neugebauer said, “but she was the first person who taught me to let the world know it.”

A few years after Lila died, Neugebauer and her husband, Steve Neugebauer, divorced.

Neugebauer then decided to try for another child of her own. And this time, she would do it without having to take the risk of having her own child with a genetic disorder.

It would be a new kind of challenge, and a new way of life.

Her first step, “to go off to college — I had it all figured out,” she said. “I was going to study science, and to get a

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