Friday, April 29, 2011

Parenting After Infertility

RESOLVE is celebrating National Infertility Awareness Week by asking people to Bust A Myth about infertility.

Myth: The pain of infertility is cured with parenthood.

I am an adoptive mother of one. My husband, AJ and I are also expecting another baby boy through international adoption. Our son, Min who is now 4 came home from S. Korea in June of 2008. Parenthood is a dream come true. We couldn't be happier with our little family, and it is very exciting to have a brother for our son. However, the very long and arduous journey to parenthood has left an imprint on my soul forever.

Infertility, the disease of infertility changes one's life. We tried for nearly 4 years to conceive through Assisted Reproductive Technology. I had an ectopic pregnancy, and shortly thereafter our attempts to get pregnant stopped. The financial and emotional toll were too much. We were faced with an extremely difficult question.

Will we ever be parents?

When you have to ask yourself this question because of circumstances out of your control, the words seem like those uttered by someone else. The thought makes your insides ache; the conversation surrounding your future life with or without children implodes a sadness beyond comprehension. I will never forget that period of time when every sight and sound of babies and families made tears sting my eyes. So many people were moving on with their lives and becoming parents, and we were alone with our grief. We were alone with our inability to plan for a pregnancy and enjoy telling our parents that they would be grandparents. We were missing out on so many important milestones.

Everything became about the word "if." If we have a child, we will use this room for the nursery. If I get pregnant, we won't be able to go on that vacation next year. If we become parents, teaching him or her how to play baseball, golf, or fish will be so wonderful.

"If" hung in the balance and was a constant reminder that we did not know what our future entailed as a couple or individuals.

When Min came home, a friend of mine said, "Now you're in the club." She meant the parenthood club. But I thought to myself, I'm in a lot of clubs. I was still infertile and without the experience of pregnancy. And it hurt.

Procreating is such a natural part of being human. When you are forced to come to terms with the fact that it may never happen, you are giving up a large piece of yourself. It’s a blow so unexpected it takes your breathe away. As a woman I feel like I will never be able to catch up in the circle of conversations that revolve around becoming a mom. When I get together with women, the first third of conversation regarding pregnancy, giving birth, breast feeding, swaddling an infant (my son came to us at 15 months), and deciphering if baby looks like mom or dad will forever elude me. I am different and always will be.

There are so many days when infertility escapes me, and I am simply happy to see my son grow into a little boy. I am planning the nursery for baby Wee's arrival. Having a child is a blessing no matter how they came into your life. But at 33 years old, still in child-bearing years and still surrounded by peers having babies and growing their families, I continually have to face the disappointment of infertility. The ability to grieve a loss and move on cannot take place because the loss is continual. The reminders turn up every where.

I work hard on finding peace with my situation. I may never experience pregnancy, but I am experiencing parenthood through a very special means. Unexpected circumstances brought our son home. Sifting through experiences of the past 7 years I find the hidden gifts bestowed upon us due to the struggle of infertility. My understanding of why AJ and I have been met with this challenge becomes clearer every day.

I am happy beyond words that all of those "if's" became a reality. I see the little socks strewn across my living room, sippy cup on the counter, and Min's pre-school backpack hanging on its hook and genuinely relish the moments. Infertility led me to the path of adoption, and I am so proud to be an adoptive parent. AJ and I feel so fortunate that our inability to conceive led us to our son, and the arrival of our second son is extremely exciting.

To quote the book “Many Lives, Many Masters” by Dr. Brian Weiss, MD, “Patience and timing. Everything comes when it must come. A life cannot be rushed, cannot be worked on a schedule as so many people want it to be. We must accept what comes to us at a given time, and not ask for more. Time is not as we see time but rather in lessons that are learned.”

Click here to learn more about infertility.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Grant Cycle 2011

Our grant cycle for 2011 is drawing to a close. Deadline for applications is May 1, 2011.

The grant review committee will begin working on the applications over the next 2 months.

The amount and number of grants is do be determined.

We gave away four $3000 grants in 2010.

Two were for adoption and two were for medical assistance.

If you applied, you will receive a letter stating whether or not you received a grant.

Best wishes to all. We wish we could help everyone.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Get to Know- Melissa Ford and Book Giveaway

Melissa Ford is the author of the award-winning website, Stirrup Queens which was recognized by the Wall Street Journal as one of the top ten motherhood blogs. Melissa completed her MFA at the University of Massachusetts. She is an editor at BlogHer. Ford lives in Washington, D.C. with her husband, Joshua, and their twins.

I had the pleasure of meeting Melissa in June of 2009 at RESOLVE's Night of Hope Fundraiser. Stirrup-Queens and all the support it provides the Adoption, Loss, Infertility Community was an inspiration to me. Parenthood for Me was a brand new organization at the time and Melissa's support greatly helped spread the word of our foundation.

Melissa is author of the breakthrough book Navigating the Land of IF.

She also published her first novel Life from Scratch.

PFM is giving away a copy of Life from Scratch. See below for giveaway rules- VERY EASY.

Now the interview:

What is your history with infertility?

I was diagnosed with female-factor infertility back in 2002. My diagnosis came out over many years -- with one of the problems (two clotting disorders) only being diagnosed after the birth of the twins who we conceived on an IUI with injectables cycle.

How did your blog Stirrup Queens begin?

I started it when we returned to trying to add another child to our family, prior to starting treatments again. I had such a hard time emotionally the first time around, and Josh jokingly said that he wanted me to tell someone else my feelings so I didn't save them only for him at 11 pm at night. He helped me set up the blog. I also knew I wanted to write a book, and I wanted to use the blog to connect with other bloggers so they could contribute.

Did you ever imagine it would become such a phenomenon?

Not at all. I mean, I built what I wanted. And like many things, if one person wanted it, others might want it too. For instance, I wanted a blogroll broken down into categories, so I made it for myself. And if it already existed, it made sense to share it with others. And it turned out other people wanted that too. And that's how many parts of the site were built.

Were you always a professional writer? Did you always plan on writing and publishing a book?

I have an MFA, so I've always known that I wanted to write books. But writing a book and publishing a book are two separate beasts -- I wasn't always positive I would publish. I had stopped writing for a long time after we were diagnosed as infertile (actually, before the diagnosis, back when we knew something was wrong, but before we were diagnosed). I was simply too depressed to write. It was really important to me to keep writing this time around. Maybe some of that was about fixing something that I had let break the first time around. I really lost a huge piece of myself when I stopped writing back in 2001/2002. I didn't write again until 2004.

What do you think about how much the infertility community has changed in terms of support in just the past five years?

It's grown a lot, and with growth comes both more avenues for support AND fractured concentration of support. There are simply so many blogs these days that it's impossible to know every one and to keep up with everyone's stories. Luckily, niche communities pop up -- usually, it seems, based on when people came into the blogosphere more than diagnosis or situation. And within those smaller niches, you see the same support that existed 5 years ago when the blogosphere was smaller.

What are the biggest hurdles that remain for infertiles?

You mean beyond the outside world not really working with us towards the goal of making parenthood accessible to all? I think it's being a strong self-advocate. Also, the misinformation out there. The media seems to love a good fear-based story, and the general public gets a lot of their information from the media rather than self-experience.

Do you have more projects in mind to help the ALI community?

I always have projects in mind. I'm glad people embrace and race forward with me, trying out new things. I love to recreate that feeling of community in the face-to-face world on an online space.

To win "Life from Scratch"

Runner-up will win a long sleeve Parenthood for Me t-shirt.

Giveaway open until Sunday, May 1, 2011. A winner will be chosen randomly. Please make sure there is away to contact you if you are the winner.

*picture of Melissa provided by Mary Gardella

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Get To Know- Guest Author

My name is Kim and I have been a member of the infertility community for nearly nine years. My husband and I threw out the birth control pills a month after our wedding and will soon be celebrating our ninth wedding anniversary, just the two of us. My emotions surrounding infertility have evolved as I’ve grown older.

At the start I was in a lonely, quiet panic - one that must be kept a secret, for admitting one's infertility is like admitting you’re a sexual failure or something equal to it. I felt guilty and somehow thought it was my fault - perhaps I didn’t pray hard enough to be heard, didn’t eat well enough to be healthy, wasn’t relaxed enough to get pregnant.

In my mid-twenties infertility became an issue to overcome in alternative ways. Increasing restlessness and the pursuit of major achievements became my way of coping. Maybe a doctorate degree, joining the Peace Corps, teaching overseas will give me my purpose? Perhaps an all raw food diet, eliminating dairy and meat, drinking herbal concoctions might be the solution? Alas, none of those things or the mere pursuit of them has helped, resulting in unfinished projects and a continued sense of failure.

Then I turned 29 years old, a year before 30, and I was no longer able to ignore the fruitless attempts to quiet the desperate desires of my heart. Off to the world of reproductive endocrinologists I went with a smile of satisfaction on my face that this would be the answer to my problem. The doctor said to me upon my first visit that he would see me pregnant “within six months”. Yeah... right.

For the past eight of those infertility years I have felt utterly and entirely alone and isolated - left to deal with my anger, worry, anxiety, and frustration on my own. And then I went online.

I have noticed that this epiphany is one that many in the infertility community experience. We feel isolation, the loss of former friendships, social anxiety, frustration, ignored (and its ugly stepsister, ignorance), and then for the lucky ones, we find a community of individuals who understand and support us. For me, the community I found was Resolve’s online forum, “Inspire”. Through this site, I have built friendships, celebrated successes, mourned losses, received advice and offered some to those who needed it. For the first time, I felt fully supported and realized that I was not the only one; my experiences were shared by many.

While being an active part in this community, I began to notice themes. I’ll bet if you visit Inspire, you will see some of these themes on the homepage news feed on any given day - loss of important friendships, best friends behaving like Momzillas, family members being insensitive, and along with those things, further isolation and loneliness.

It was because of these continuing themes that I decided, with the strong encouragement of other infertile online friends, that our community needed a way to socialize that could be safe (from ignorance), fun (opposite of infertility), and promoted new friendships. This is how The Ladies in Waiting Book Club came to be.

The Ladies in Waiting Book Club is a book club for (mostly) women who are experiencing the many losses those with infertility face. We are a diverse group of individuals experiencing: primary infertility, secondary infertility, pregnancy loss, pregnancy after ART, donor reproduction, childlessness, and adoption. We gather online together daily to discuss books we have chosen (both infertility related and not), share related ideas (recipes, music, art, crafts, humor, to name a few), and make new friends.

The Ladies in Waiting Book Club is strong in its support and advocacy. We support each other through contests and giveaways, participating as a united front during National Infertility Awareness Week, (April 24-30) and giving voice to new authors in the infertility community.

The Ladies in Waiting Book Club has been my way of giving back to my infertility community which, for the first time, gave me the kind of hope, friendship, and unwavering support I had so desperately needed.

Visit Kim's blog to learn more. The Ladies in Waiting Bookclub.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

2011 Annual Gala

Parenthood for Me Annual Gala

Our 2011 Annual Gala held April 2 was a magical night. 109 guests came to support Parenthood for Me and those dreaming of parenthood and family. We had a wonderful silent auction filled with many different donated items including Red Sox tickets, artwork, concert tickets, a spa overnight, and flat screen TV. A huge thank you to CNY Fertility and Healing Arts, our headline sponsor for the second year in a row. We raised $17,000- over 100% increase since last year's gala. Thank you to everyone who helped make this accomplishment possible. We are accepting applications until May 1, 2011 for this year's grant cycle. Visit the website for more details-

The event started at 6:30 with cocktail hour meet and greet and time to bid on the silent auction. Dinner was served at 8 and the program began at 9:00.

All board members were recognized:

Charles Montante- Chairman

Erica Schlaefer- President

Kevin Mulcahy- Vice President

Rob Spatola- Treasurer

Jerry Furciniti

Nancy Koris

Melissa Mulcahy

Abbey Naples

Our honorary guests were the Wetherald Family who received a grant last year. Mr. Wetherald wanted to say a few words that night explaining how they came to be adoptive parents. I wish I could share the entire speech with you as it was very touching. I found out that when they received the call that they were a grantee, the call could not have come at a better time. They were trying to pool together the last few thousand dollars for their trip to China. Just when they thought that they would have to push the trip another month to collect money, our Chairman called to tell them they were receiving a grant. They were able to pick up their son.

We also honored Dr. Eberhard Muechler with the 2011 Commitment to Excellence Award. He was the first doctor to perform in vitro fertilization in Rochester at the University of Rochester Medical Center. He spent 43 years assisting couples in becoming parents. Dr. Muechler is a warm, funny, and caring man. It has been such a pleasure getting to know him. I also wish I could share his entire speech with you. But I must mention that his opening paragraph said that when asked to receive our award, he was placed in a tough spot because Prince William had invited him to the royal wedding as well and he had to decline to come to our gala. What a great sense of humor! The inaugural Commitment to Excellence Award went to our Vice President, Kevin Mulcahy for his dedication to building Parenthood for Me. My speech was short but expressed my gratitude for all those who helped to make Parenthood for Me such a great success in just 2 years.

Since infertility became a part of my life I have learned many lessons about the hidden gifts bestowed from enduring difficult times. Becoming an adoptive parent and being forced to fight for parenthood has opened up my life in countless ways.

Starting a nonprofit with the help of my husband AJ and many different people who were already in my life at the time and who came into my may just be the most rewarding experience of my life next to being a mother. The human kindness I have witnessed since starting this foundation never ceases to amaze me. It started with a new friend taking me to dinner and sharing her wisdom of the nonprofit world with me. When she handed me $100 dollars and claimed it as her donation, I was brought to tears. Practically a stranger she gave me something more than money but the claim that she believed in me and what I was fighting for.

I am still in shock at the response I have received nationwide due to starting Parenthood for Me. The support from strangers and people I will never meet in real life. The kind words, the respect and admiration for doing something that I believe in. Those who have stepped forward either because they too have suffered through infertility or because they opened their heart to those struggling to have a family.

There was a time when I simply did not understand the challenge of not being able to conceive a child. It’s a blow so unexpected it takes your breathe away. Procreating is such a natural part of being human. When you are forced to come to terms with the fact that it may never happen, you are giving up a large piece of yourself. However, the hole left in my heart has been filled beyond capacity. I receive emails daily thanking me for following through on an idea and making it happen. I try to explain that I could never have done this on my own. I could never have followed through with the idea that came to AJ and I one night after our son had been home for a few months. The board of directors, the professionals that help set up the corporation, each person that tweeted, blogged, and told their friends about PFM have helped this organization grow so fast. I feel extremely lucky for many reasons. I am surrounded by wonderful people. I have a beautiful son and am proud to say AJ and I are expecting another baby boy from Korea in December.

But at the ripe age of 31 I found my place in this world. I began to understand why I am here, my purpose. Who knows exactly why I was able to take my difficult times and make them into something positive. But forming this organization and giving back has given me an inner peace that many search for their entire lives.

To quote the book “Many Lives, Many Masters” by Dr. Brian Weiss, MD, “Patience and timing. Everything comes when it must come. A life cannot be rushed, cannot be worked on a schedule as so many people want it to be. We must accept what comes to us at a given time, and not ask for more. Time is not as we see time but rather in lessons that are learned.” Thank you for your support. You are helping a fledgling nonprofit take flight. You are laying the ground work for hundreds of people to receive a gift of hope that parenthood is possible.

Erica, Dr. Muechler, and Abbey Naples

Erica and AJ Schlaefer- Founders

Thank you to all donors and sponsors. You can find them listed on our website.

We look forward to announcing our 2011 grantees.

To donate to Parenthood for Me click here.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Parenthood for Me on TV

Please watch our segment on the Rochester program,"Many Voices, Many Visions."

Erica and Dr. Eberhard Muechler speak together about Parenthood for Me and Dr. Muechler's history as a Reproductive Endocrinologist in Rochester, NY. Dr. Muechler performed the very first IVF procedure at the University of Rochester Medical Center. He spent 43 years helping couples become parents a fulfill their dreams of family. Dr. Muechler was the recipient of the 2011 Commitment to Excellence Award.

There are 2 different links. First segment- Erica speaks about history of PFM.- click here. Second segment with Dr. Muechler- click here.

The annual gala was a huge success! More details to follow.


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