The news out of Ohio and California earlier this month, involving frozen embryo storage malfunctions at several fertility clinics, is beyond devastating. Investigations into how these malfunctions occurred are now underway, but that is of little consequence to the families who have lost their embryos in the process.
One mom-of-two, who has been through fertility treatments herself, is taking a big step to help the families who were affected by the accident — by donating her own four remaining embryos. Niki Schaefer recently explained her decision to give away the embryos in a Facebook post, where she encouraged other women in a similar position to consider doing the same.
“I thought I would eventually donate them to research because I couldn’t mentally handle the thought of Noah and Lane’s formerly frozen siblings being on this earth and not knowing them,” Schaefer wrote in her post. “The unfortunate events that compromised the frozen embryos at the UH Fertility Center changed my mind.”
Schaefer tells Babble that she knows all too well the pain and struggles IVF couples go through to make their dream of having a baby a reality.
“IVF is incredibly taxing on your body, your mind and your bank account,” she says, adding, “It is a very isolating and anxiety-provoking time in peoples’ lives.”
According to Schaefer, her journey with IVF began shorty after getting married in 2007, when she was diagnosed with Polycystic Ovarian Disease (PCOS).
“In 2008 my husband and I started trying intrauterine insemination (IUI) but that never worked,” she explains. “So we began trying IVF.”
Schaefer says she experienced Ovarian Hyperstimulation during her first round of IVF, but the second round worked and she was able to get pregnant with her son, Noah, who is now almost nine.
The couple wanted to try for another baby in 2010 and this time it took three IVF attempts for Schaefer to conceive. “By that point, I was at the end of my rope, physically and mentally,” she tells Babble. “Although compared to so many who struggle with infertility, what I went through was nothing.”
Schaefer says that when she heard the news about the fertility clinic malfunctions she was heartbroken. “The lost embryos and eggs were peoples’ hope of having the families that they dreamed of,” she shares. “It would be devastating to lose that after all you put into creating that hope for yourself.”
Which is why she made the generous decision to donate her embryos. She also wanted to bring something positive to a negative situation.
“I decided last Friday to donate my embryos and talked about it with Dr. Goldfarb, who runs the UH Fertility Center, and is the doctor I went to have my children when he was affiliated with a different hospital,” says Schaefer.
She was also inspired to share her story publicly after reading social media posts the morning after the news broke, and seeing many people urging the parents to sue the hospital.
“I am an attorney myself,” Schaefer notes, “and the negative tone of the posts, and the fact that the doctors they were vilifying are people I know are also devastated by what happened (in a different way), made me want to bring something positive to the dialogue.”
When asked about the response to her post, Schaefer says it has been “overwhelming and humbling and incredible.” She also notes that “many, many women have followed suit” and donated embryos to the clinics, as well. It’s incredible to see what an influence this mom has had in just a few short days, thanks to one poignant message on social media.
Schaefer truly is an incredible example of how one person can make a difference, be a positive example, and allow for some good to emerge from a heartbreaking situation.