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Five Hundred Twenty Five Thousand Six Hundred Minutes – How do you measure your life in infertility treatment?

March 26, 2015 | By: | Filed under: Deadly Silence, Egg Donation, Faith and Infertility, Infertility Awareness, infertility in the media, IVF, Miscarriage, National Infertility Awareness, Peace to Parenthood, Personal Musings, Recurrent Pregnancy Loss, The Journey to Parenthood, Thinking Out Loud, Third-Party Assisted Reproduction, Treatment, Uncategorized, visualization


Five Hundred Twenty Five Thousand Six Hundred Minutes

How do you measure your life in infertility treatment?

How do you measure a day, or a year?


Five hundred twenty five thousand six hundred tests
Five hundred twenty five thousand moments, oh dear
Five hundred twenty five thousand six hundred dollars
How do you measure, measure an IVF year?

In daylights, in sunsets
In phone calls, in cups of coffee
In inches, in pounds, in needles, in surgery
In five hundred twenty five thousand six hundred minutes
How do you measure, a year of infertility?

How about love for the baby you’re creating?
How about love for the people helping you conceive?
How about love for your partner or a friend?
Measure in love

Cycles of love
Cycles of love

Five hundred twenty five thousand six hundred blood draws
Five hundred twenty five thousand follicles to count
Five hundred twenty five thousand six hundred heartbeats
How do you measure the life of an infertile woman or a man?

In diagnoses that she learned
Or in times that he cried
In money they lost or the day the baby died?

It’s time now, to sing out
Though the story never ends
Let’s celebrate
Remember a year in the life of our infertile friends

Remember to love
Oh, you got to, you got to remember to love
Remember to love
You know that love is a gift from up above
Remember to love
Share love, give love, spread love
Measure in love
Measure, measure your infertility in love

Cycles of love
Cycles of love
Measure your infertility, measure your life in love

Inspired By Rent — Seasons Of Love, Lyrics



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Sherri Shepherd’s Surrogacy Battle and the View from the Other Side.

March 16, 2015 | By: | Filed under: Current Affairs, Egg Donation, Faith and Infertility, Gestational Carrier, In the News, In-House Egg Donation Programs, infertility in the media, Infertility on Television, IVF, Personal Musings, Surrogacy, Thinking Out Loud

Sherri Shepherd.  Who hasn’t heard her name recently?  The former host of The View is in the midst of a major lawsuit with her ex-husband over her son.  She claims she doesn’t have any responsibility for the child she helped bring into this world.  REALLY??  Is she serious?  Sadly, yes.  And she’s leaving this issue — what could be a ground-breaking decision in the laws pertaining to third-party assisted reproduction — to a Judge to decide.  She couldn’t work it out privately with her Ex.  Nope, she had to go to Court.

I used to like Ms. Shepherd.  She spoke on behalf of the infertile.  She was our advocate.  She was one of the very few public — celebrity voices — speaking about the pain of infertility.  I am trying to have faith in our judicial system right now because Ms. Shepherd has destroyed my faith in the power of the infertile woman.  What she is doing, is to me, disgraceful.  Wow!  I guess I am angry.

I went to a benefit a few years ago for RESOLVE.  It was its annual Night of Hope and Ms. Shepherd was receiving an award for raising awareness about infertility.  She gave a moving speech about the pain we go through when we cannot conceive without medical help — without help from third-parties.  She moved me to tears talking about how much she wanted a baby and to be a mother and how sad she was every time her fertility treatment failed.  It was very clear during that speech that she wanted nothing more than what every other infertile woman wants, a BABY.  And now she’s trying to dump the responsibility for that baby — that longed-for, hoped-for, much-wanted baby — on someone else.  And that someone else is her egg donor or surrogate, that third party without whom she and Mr. Sally would not have conceived, and realized what she said was her dream.  Her dream of becoming a mother.

Many of us don’t realize that dream and that’s why I find her actions to be such a slap in the face.  To go from being a proud infertile woman putting one foot in front of the other and thanking her fertility specialist (I can remember his name) for helping her, to dumping responsibility that is rightly hers on the people who helped her achieve that dream.  That’s just wrong.  It is morally wrong and it is legally wrong.  I am going to stop discussing the moral component of it because I get the fact that there are people in this world for whom I hold little or no respect.  But from a legal standpoint, what she’s doing is profoundly dangerous and could potentially turn reproductive law upside down, and erase years of progress helping women just like Ms. Shepherd become mothers.

I should comment that I don’t know many details about Ms. Shepherd’s egg donation arrangement or surrogacy arrangement.  But if she’s litigating this issue in Pennsylvania then I am guessing her surrogate is a resident of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and that the laws of that Commonwealth govern the surrogacy agreement.  The thing is, there isn’t really any law in Pennsylvania when it comes to third-party assisted reproduction.  There isn’t a statute governing third-party assisted reproduction and when there isn’t a statute governing the actions of intended parents like Ms. Shepherd and Mr. Sally, the laws of third-party assisted reproduction typically look to the intent of the intended parents (Ms. Shepherd and Mr. Sally) prior to the conception of the child.  Typically those intentions are spelled out either in an egg donation agreement or gestational surrogacy agreement (or both), or in some cases through consent forms signed by an egg donor at the fertility clinic at the time she donated her eggs.  But the bottom line is that there is some written statement that the egg donor does not want to have parental rights to any child conceived from her donation, and that the intended parents want to have parental rights and all the responsibilities that come with parenthood for any child conceived from the donation of eggs by the donor.  Similarly, the intended parents (Ms. Shepherd and Mr. Sally) would — and in this case did — enter into a gestational surrogacy agreement which would clearly spell out that the intended parents (Ms. Shepherd and Mr. Sally) were going to be the parents of the child the surrogate carried, and the surrogate would not have any parental rights.  A well-written agreement would address what would happen in the event the intended parents divorce prior to the birth of the child.  Typically the intended parents are still the parents even if they divorce but maybe her agreement says something different, or is silent on the point.  But the bottom line is that in order to have conceived this child, Ms. Shepherd’s egg donor waived all parental rights and Ms. Shepherd assumed them; and Ms. Shepherd stated her unequivocal desire and intent to be a parent of the child her surrogate was carrying and her surrogate expressed no desire or intention to ever be the child’s parent.  I would be shocked if the legal documents at issue in her case don’t refer to the parties’ intent about who were going to be this child’s parents.  Ms. Shepherd claims she was defrauded into entering into the agreement.  I find that hard to believe given the years of infertility treatment she went through and the statements I heard her make that night at RESOLVE.  I think she wanted this baby.

The question is whether the Judge will uphold the terms of those documents or contracts.  And that is where I get scared.  What if the Judge decides that the agreement with the surrogate is unenforceable for some reason and that Ms. Shepherd isn’t legally responsible for this child, that she isn’t his mother?  What then?  Does any intended parent get to change their mind when they one day decide that they don’t want to be a parent anymore?  Where does that leave the law of intent as it informs decisions related to third-party assisted reproduction?  Is the intent of the parties what governs the determination of parentage or is a gestational surrogacy agreement or egg donation agreement just another contract that can be thrown out of court on technical or some other grounds?  Decades of law pertaining to third-party assisted reproduction are at risk.  All the hard work my colleagues have done to make it possible for Ms. Shepherd even to consider having a child through third-party assisted reproduction could be damaged, even worse, destroyed.  Will Pennsylvania remain a surrogate-friendly state?  I get sick thinking about it.

Ms. Shepherd has crossed over to the other side, that of becoming a parent after battling infertility.  And apparently she doesn’t like the view so much.  I get the fact that Ms. Shepherd is angry at her ex-husband.  I get the fact that she doesn’t want to be in this child’s life.  I may not agree with her moral positions but legally I am horrified at the way she is going about getting out of her obligations as a parent.  What she is doing has the potential to set the law back in ways so significant as to preclude other infertile women and men from having a child through third-party assisted reproduction.  I am at a loss to understand how someone who was such a staunch advocate for the infertility community and who so desperately wanted a baby could get to a place where she wanted to put the rights of so many others like her at risk.  I cannot fathom why someone would risk establishing a legal precedent that could jeaopardize the rights of so many just like her.

This all begs one question:  What would Ms. Shepherd have said three or four years ago about someone taking the position she is taking today?  Probably nothing nice.

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Never, Ever Give Up

October 29, 2014 | By: | Filed under: adoption, Age and Infertility, Egg Donation, Faith and Infertility, IVF, Peace to Parenthood, Personal Musings, Surrogacy, Thinking Out Loud, Thoughts on Choosing an Egg Donor

Today is one of those days where I wish I could make all the hurt and pain go away for one of my clients.  For today, everything seems to be falling apart on their path to parenthood.  The thing is, I cannot count the number of clients I have had who have been in similar situations — afraid that they had run out of options or run out of money — and we found a way, they perservered for another day and then another day after that until I got the glorious news that they finally had a baby on the way (whether through egg donation, surrogacy or adoption).

With everyone of those clients I refused to give up, I refused to let them give up.  Because I have seen so, so many of those “never gonna happen to me/us” situations have a happy ending.

More to the point, I have spoken with so many of those parents who, in the end, were grateful for all the mishaps, all the donors who changed their mind or were screened-out, the changing of surrogates after two failed embryo transfers with only one embryo left . . . whatever the situation was (and there are so many I am not even going to begin to try and describe them all–you know how hard this can be), every single time when I got the call to tell me the joyous news, my client express grattitude for all the mishaps.  GRATTITUDE.  Because but for those mishaps, they wouldn’t be holding THIS baby, at this moment, and they couldn’t imagine not having THIS baby.

This happened to me too.  Had one of our adoptions not been disrupted (as in the baby went back to its birth mother after placement), I wouldn’t have the family I have today.  I loved that baby but I love THIS family more.

Whatever happens on your path, whenever you have a crappy-puts-you-over-the-edge-you-can’t-take-it-anymore-this-is-never-going-to-happen-for-me kind of day, remember that tomorrow is a new day with a new opportunity.  That there are more options and more choices, you just have to keep looking and putting one foot in front of the other.  It may suck today but one day, it might all actually make sense.  At the very least, one day you will know that but for all that came before, you wouldn’t be holding THIS baby.

So this my advice for today:

Never, Ever Give Up.  At least that’s what the sign above my desk says, and I believe it says it all.

(I like this necklace too)

never ever give up hope

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The Risk of Choosing The Mindset of Infertility

October 24, 2014 | By: | Filed under: adoption, Age and Infertility, Deadly Silence, Egg Donation, Faith and Infertility, Gestational Carrier, infertility in the media, Infertility In The Movies etc., Infertility on Television, IVF, Peace to Parenthood, Personal Musings, Recurrent Pregnancy Loss, Surrogacy, The Infertility Survival Handbook, The Journey to Parenthood, Thinking Out Loud, Third-Party Assisted Reproduction, Treatment, Uncategorized, visualization

I’m back (after a blogging break) and I’m mad.  Very mad.  I am mad at doctors, mad at the media, mad at the reproductive community, mad, mad, mad!  Why am I mad you ask?

Good Question.

It took me awhile to figure it out, which makes me even . . . madder!  Okay I know that’s not a real word but you get my point . . . I think it’s been building up inside me for . . . oh about 15 years.  Because 15 years ago (give or take a few years) I was officially LABELLED as INFERTILE.  It is not a nice label.  It is not a label anyone ever wants.  And yet there it is.  A LABEL in my medical chart.

It’s like having a huge tattoo on my forehead that screams to doctors and the world:


This is a label which makes your doctor look at you differently.  A label which makes YOU look at YOU differently. A label which makes you look at your partner differently, and makes your partner look at you differently.

The LABEL stuck with me for over 15 years.  And indeed, after years of IVF those labels became so convincing to everyone, and I mean everyone, that no one believed there was any hope for me.  It was like getting put into a closed box which doctors didn’t even want to try to open.

I listened to doctors, and nurses, and even friends, as they recounted the statistical UNlikelihood that I would conceive and carry a baby, as the statistics of the likelihood of what I wanted more than anything, became smaller and smaller, and smaller.  I let them convince me it was impossible.

The list of reasons they gave me was huge.  Insurmountably huge. And so I believed them when they told me I wouldn’t conceive.  I believed them when they gave me diagnosis after diagnosis.  I didn’t question their opinions or their conclusions.  I didn’t challenge my own belief in the power of my mind, the power of my body, the power of ME!


And that’s why I am mad.

I let them compartmentalize me.

I let them put me in a box with a label and give up on me.

I let ME give up on ME.

Today there are countless ways to build a family.  IUI, IVF, IVF with donor egg, IVF with donor sperm, IVF with egg and sperm donor, embryo donation, gestational surrogacy (with any of the aforementioned IVF combinations), traditional surrogacy, domestic newborn adoption, foster-care adoption, international adoption; and there are more options than what I have mentioned.  It is a colorful and beautiful world filled with reproductive and family building options.  I live and breathe it every day as I help others move toward their dream of building a family.  But I couldn’t see any of it for myself.  All I could see was that tattoo staring back at me in my bathroom mirror every morning.


I read when magazines and newspapers attributed the label to countless celebrities, the media’s whispered words of shame and failure . . . [insert celebrity name here] can’t get pregnant] . . . she’s INFERTILE.  But I didn’t believe it for them.  I believed they would (or will) prove the label was wrong.  Prove the media was wrong.  I believed that others could defy that label which defined me.


God I hate that word.  I hate the feelings it brings out in me.  Feelings of failure, sadness, desperation, and now anger.  But I am not angry that I am infertile.  I am angry that I gave up on myself.  But then something happened.  Something that wasn’t supposed to happen . . . not to me, not to someone with all those LABELS.  Something extraordinary happened that caused me to challenge my doctors’ assumptions, that caused me to look at the LABEL tattooed on my forehead and ask:



And then I realized it isn’t impossible.  Nothing is impossible.  In fact everything is POSSIBLE.  And with that realization my entire world changed.  My longheld beliefs about myself and my infertility CHANGED.  Everything I feel and believe about what I have lived through for well over 15 years, what I tell my clients, how I look at the community and industry in which I work, has shifted.  I suffered for over 15 years for no reason.  There was always hope.  I just wouldn’t let myself see it.  But I see it now.  I see HOPE everywhere, for everyone, even for ME.  No one really knows who is infertile.  Not even your doctor.  Nothing anyone tells you has to be true.  Not unless you believe it’s true.

My point is this:

Do NOT let your doctor get you down.

Do NOT let your doctor dismiss you.

Do NOT buy into the label(s).

Do NOT believe statistics.


I have finally realized that everything and anything is possible.  Because it is.


It will happen to you in the perfect time, and in the perfect way.  But you do not have to suffer while you wait. Do not do what I did.  Do not buy into the labels.  Do not give up or give in.

Instead of choosing the mindset of infertility, choose the mindset of belief.  Choose the mindset of knowing that your time will come.  Accept, believe, and KNOW that everything and anything . . . and I mean ANYTHING . . . is POSSIBLE.

Because it IS.

And I know this because after 15 years of living with the label, and living with the tattoo on my forehead, something happened which proved everyone wrong about everything.  I now know that


I am


My body is 


and so is


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Adoption friendliness at its best. How one nurse blew me away and changed how I think about adoption placements.

October 18, 2013 | By: | Filed under: adoption, Faith and Infertility, Peace to Parenthood, Personal Musings, The Journey to Parenthood, Thinking Out Loud, visualization

Adoption is a complex world.  As anyone who is going through the process, or who has gone through the process knows, the legal issues are complicated, the emotional issues are highly charged — about as charged as a scene from the Wile E. Coyote cartoon, where he gets blown-up by accident from the mega tons of TNT he has left to detonate in the path of the Road Runner —  and everyone is walking on pins and needles.  And my description does not begin to adequately address the thoughts, feelings, and experiences of birth parents.   I am NOT comparing birth parents or adoptive parents to the Road Runner or Wile E. Coyote, I am just pointing out that there is a lot of powerful emotional stuff going on in the midst of an adoption, most especially the time around the baby is placed in the arms of the adoptive parents, and the fact that the tension and emotionally charged nature of many adoption situations remind me (on an emotional level) of this cartoon.

Due the highly charged nature of this particular time in the adoption process, many adoptive parents emotionally hold themselves at arm’s length from their new baby until they are told that the legal process is complete and/or that birth parents’ parental rights are terminated.  The time at which birth parent rights get terminated varies from state to state and varies whether you are working with an agency or an attorney.  Indeed the adoptive parents involvement at or around the time of the baby’s birth often varies tremendously based on whether you are working with an agency or an attorney, and even more so among agencies.  Every attorney and agency has their own way of trying to protect everyone’s emotions during what I am going to call the Wile E. Coyote Phase of the adoption process, the period of time after the baby is born and before birth parents’ rights have been terminated and when the baby is “placed” with its** forever family.  It doesn’t mean that I think this time period often results in the detonation of emotional TNT, indeed it is my experience that the vast, vast majority of situations work out after a baby is born.  Some don’t, as I can personally attest to, but most and I repeat MOST do work out and a new [adoptive] family is born.

As an adoptive mother I have always felt that the Wile E. Coyote Phase is perhaps the hardest part of the adoption process.  Not so much because a birth mother can choose to parent during this last and final phase of the adoption process (just as we think we are getting to the proverbial finish line) but because so many of our hopes and dreams have to give way to legal procedures, agency procedures, hospital procedures, adoptive triad dynamics, and it’s just not how we envisioned what it would be like to become a parent.  We have faced this reality for a long time before Wile E. Coyote comes along, but those feelings and dreams tend to creep more to the surface when you are surrendering everything to a process that is almost wholly outside your control.  The only thing in your control is how you react and respond to what is going on around you, and how you choose to feel about it.  However, both from personal and professional experience it is my practice to advise my clients that this is a difficult time period and to try and walk into the placement phase, or Wile E. Coyote Phase, with an open but guarded heart.  And more importantly to let go of all of your expectations of how you think becoming a parent “should” be and do your best to surrender to the process, to Wile E. Coyote.

Yet, a recent experience has set my opinions, thoughts, feelings and my future advice to clients, on it’s HEAD.  I have learned that I have been looking at it the wrong way and thus depriving not only myself of certain experiences, but those of people who look to me for advice and counsel.  One person has totally shifted my perspective of the Wile E. Coyote Phase.

What happened?  Great question.

Approaching the end of the Wile E. Coyote Phase, an adoptive couple** was getting ready for their baby to be discharged from the hospital.  The birth parents had signed all of their legal consents to the adoption and although they were not yet legally binding under the laws of this particular state, as the birth parents still needed to appear before a Judge and agree to the adoption and the termination of their parental rights,  it was time for the adoptive parents** to take the baby “home” to their hotel to wait out the remainder of the Road Runner’s race and the Wile E. Coyote Phase.  After carefully dressing the baby and getting it** settled into its car seat, the adoptive dad** was sent to the parking lot to get the car.  Adoptive mom**, after finishing packing up their belongings, reached to get the baby and the car seat, preparing to walk out of the hospital and get in the car to go to the hotel.  As she scooped up the car seat the nurse came in and asked adoptive mom what she was doing.  Of course adoptive mom’s heart stopped; she immediately began worrying that Wile E. Coyote had just detonated some or all of his TNT.  With her heart in her throat, adoptive mom calmly turned to the nurse and said she had been instructed be her attorney and the pediatrician that they could go to their hotel with the baby, she believed she had signed all the necessary paperwork, and inquired if there was some kind of a problem.  Indeed there was said this nurse, at which point the nurse asked the adoptive mom what gave her the right to walk out of the hospital with the baby?  Confused, the adoptive mom asked the nurse what she meant.

The nurse — being extremely emotionally intelligent and adoption friendly, and my current heroine — explained that: “NO NEW MOTHER WALKS out of this hospital.  Please wait while I get you a wheelchair.”

Now I don’t know about any of you other infertile ladies or adoptive moms but one of my personal dreams has always involved being wheeled out of the hospital holding my baby in my arms.  I still cry at scenes like the one in the movie “Marley and Me” where Jennifer Aniston’s character is holding their new baby girl in her arms in a wheelchair while Owen Wilson’s character video tapes the scene.  I never got that experience and while I wouldn’t change a thing in my life, you know I am honest about this stuff and it makes me sad that there are certain dreams that I have had to let go of along my journey to parenthood.  Heck, I was jealous when I walked along side our birth mother after we were discharged from the hospital as she was the one in the wheelchair holding the baby in the car seat, not me.  Never mind the fact that she was holding my hand so that we were walking together.  I wanted to be the one in the wheelchair and I had to accept that I wasn’t, and I probably was never going to experience that particular dream.  I don’t think I am alone in harboring this little secret that one of the things I had dreamed about while growing up was that wheelchair ride.  And that wheelchair ride is not something adoptive mothers get to experience.  Or so I previously thought, believed and experienced.

Back to the hospital, adoptive mom argues with the nurse that she didn’t give birth to the baby and didn’t need the wheelchair; she was “only” the adoptive mother, certainly the hospital must need the wheelchair for someone else?  But the nurse wouldn’t relent.  She didn’t care a wit about adoptive mom’s “labor experience”, or lack thereof.  The nurse was very clear with adoptive mom that regardless of the circumstances by which she was becoming a mother adoptive mom was THE MOM, and as a MOM, a NEW MOM, she was to be discharged just like any other new mother;  ALL NEW MOTHERS get discharged in a wheelchair.  They continued to discuss this issue until the nurse brought everything to a head and asked adoptive mom: “don’t you want to be discharged in a wheelchair like any other mother would be?  Don’t you want that experience for yourself?”  Crying, adoptive mom admitted she would love to be discharged in a wheelchair.  At which point the nurse instructed that MOM had better get a hold of DAD so he could video record their exiting the hospital with MOM holding the baby in its car seat in the wheelchair.

The point was not lost on me nor was it lost on adoptive mom.  We are all new mothers no matter how our babies come to us and we are entitled to have our dreams come true regardless of the manner in which we become parents.  The fact that this nurse understood the grieving process adoptive mother’s often go through, and the importance of our dreams, is a testament to her education and experience.  Perhaps she herself adopted, or she knows someone who has, or even more to her credit perhaps she just understands how important are some of the images women hold of the milestones of our lives and recognize that without that wheelchair ride we may be reminded — even if it’s on some small level in comparison to the joy and gratitude in our hearts — that our path didn’t take the turns we expected.  Whatever the reason, this nurse got me thinking about how important moments like that are, especially during the Wile E. Coyote Phase, and how much of a celebration we are missing by giving so much power to that cartoon of a coyote.

That wheelchair ride brought profound joy and a sense of celebration to adoptive mom and adoptive dad, and may well provide something even larger than that to the baby.  As that baby grows up and asks to hear its adoption story, that baby will get to see an image that all of its “bio-baby” friends probably get/got to see.  But I am not just talking about mom and dad leaving the hospital in the wheelchair carefully holding that car seat, I am talking about the utter joy, bliss and excitement on mom’s and dad’s faces as they left the hospital.  To be able to see that excitement — which existed long before the baby’s birth — and the pure joy the baby’s parents were experiencing as they brought their new baby home, helps that baby/child understand how much it was wanted and how much love its parents’ hold in their hearts.  Other aspects of our children’s adoption story will express those emotions, but a picture truly says a thousand words, and videos even more so.  In this case I think that video probably is one of the most valued and treasured pieces of their journey to parenthood.

There are so many levels on which that wheelchair ride takes my breath away.  I long to meet this nurse and thank her, not only for what she did for these adoptive parents but for what she has done for their family, for me, and for the new approach I am beginning to take to the Wile E. Coyote Phase of the adoption process.

I am curious to know how many other adoptive parents have been given this wheelchair ride.  If you have, please post something in reply to this blog or email me privately (Liz@storklawyer.com).  If you wish you had that wheelchair ride, and are as moved as I am by what this nurse did, please let me know that too.  And if you want to have that wheelchair ride  ASK FOR IT.  Because as that nurse said, every new mother deserves to leave the hospital in a wheelchair (assuming that is what the new mother wants).  I recognize that not all adoptions are going to provide circumstances that enable an adoptive mom to have that wheelchair ride, but in those circumstances that do permit it, this nurse has taught me even more about all the nuances involved in the fact that biology alone doesn’t make a family, and a new understanding that we are not as powerless as we may feel, that we don’t have to give up all of our dreams, all of the time.

My final thought or comment of this blog is to all of the nurses in all of the maternity wards who are involved with or helping an adoptive family, if you don’t or can’t offer that wheelchair ride, please consider the thoughts and feelings identified in this blog and consider changing or working to change things so that more of us new moms get that wheelchair ride.

Because we deserve to have that experience.


** general terms have been used in this blog on purpose to help identify roles in the adoption process and emotions related thereto, but without any intent to devalue or belittle the roles of the people who enter into adoption plans every day.

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