Hundreds of families were left devastated earlier this month when they were suddenly told they would be unable to have children of their own.
On March 4, storage malfunctions at fertility clinics in suburban Cleveland and San Francisco caused thousands of stored embryos to no longer be viable. This was crushing news for the 700 couples who got the call—families who stored their eggs in the hopes of later being able to conceive a child.
The news also deeply affected Niki Schaefer, a mother of two from Chagrin Falls, Ohio. While she wasn’t one of the victims of the storage disaster, she felt a deep connection for the affected mothers:
She had previously frozen her embryos to have her own children.
Schaefer’s two children, 8-year-old son Noah and 6-year-old daughter Lane, were both conceived through in vitro fertilization.
But while both were eventually successful, it was an arduous process full of false starts and disappointments.
“I was traumatized by the experience,” she told Today. “It’s heartbreaking, and it’s completely beyond your control. Fate is in the hands of doctors and magic—and everything else it takes to have a kid.”
So she knew firsthand the pain that these mothers who lost their eggs must be going through.
“It’s the loss of a chance to have that family that you’re trying so hard to get,” she said. “People who freeze their eggs because they’re getting their ovaries removed or going through chemo and can’t try again.”
Schaefer looked at her own children and felt sorrow for the hopeful parents.
“I looked at Lane, my daughter, who is a frozen embryo or formerly frozen embryo,” she told FOX 8 Cleveland. “Knowing that these people lost their chance to have theirs, it is heartbreaking.”
This woman was inspired to do something—and found the perfect way to help the other mothers.
She would donate her own leftover eggs!
Schaefer had four leftover embryos from her own procedure, still frozen in storage years later. She had always been unsure of what to do with them: she meant to donate them, but felt uneasy knowing there would be kids out there who shared her DNA and looked just like her.
But the fertility clinic incident finally gave her the push she needed.
“It feels very fortuitous that I was indecisive about what to do with them all these years now that we have the opportunity to really use them for good,” she said.
She shared her story on Facebook, and called on other women to help out if they can.
“If you are in my shoes, please consider doing the same,” Schaefer wrote. “I often say there is a sisterhood of women touched by infertility. This is an opportunity to be real sisters and bring light to the darkness that these families.”
While it doesn’t undo the loss of the victim’s own embryos, it’s inspiring to see strangers stepping up to help the victims during a difficult time. And as Schaefer knows firsthand, sometimes all you need is a little hope:
“What always made me feel better was to try again,” Schaefer told Today. “It is excruciating and painful, mentally and physically, but that was the answer for me.”
“And I know that there are people who aren’t going to be able to do that, and that’s so sad. And that’s where people like me come in.”