Ornament Kits Available – Starting New Traditions

The holiday season is upon us. Raise your hand if you’re less than thrilled. Growing up, my parents had all kinds of holiday traditions that I figured I’d carry on one day with my own child. My mother read us a Christmas themed book every day until Christmas and we received small gifts that were tucked into the pockets of the advent calendar. There was the large family Christmas party on my mom’s side with a slew of cousins of all ages on the Saturday before Christmas and Christmas Eve dinner at my paternal grandparents’ house with silver taper candles on the table, mistletoe, and a fire burning in the fireplace. We received new pajamas to wear to bed on Christmas Eve and my dad had a special style of handwriting that he painstakingly squeezed onto the tags of the gifts from Santa.

Every year, I look at the advent calendars in the stores, consider buying one, and then decide to wait until I have a child in the house to purchase one. A few years ago, I had a melt down in the Christmas aisle in Kohl’s as a result. I have a large collection of ornaments that I usually can’t wait to get out of storage and unwrap. I love them because they’re all like tiny pieces of art. However, the past couple of years, I’ve downsized, getting a small table top tree and only displaying a small amount of them, or just doing a garland on the fireplace and no tree at all. I just don’t feel like I have the energy to deal with it all. Infertility has drained so much of it from me.

So, in an effort to start some new traditions of my own, a child in the house or not, I decided to do a limited edition, commemorative ornament making kit for ART of IF. My hope is that we’ll have a different kit each year and it will be an opportunity for me, and those of you who would also like to participate, to set aside some time and space for creative expression around the holidays and have an outlet for some of the less than comfortable feelings that come along with them.


The kits come with everything you need to make the ornament. In this case, the shatterproof plastic bulb (safe for fur babies and human babies alike), strips of paper, ribbon, a metallic silver pen, step by step photo instructions, and a list of ideas for what you might like to write on the strips before curling them up and tucking them inside. They’re available in our ART of IF colors in either shades of blue, or shades of red and are $10 each plus shipping and handling. We have 50 kits available and you can buy them until they are gone. However, if you’d like them in time for Christmas, please submit your order by December 10. You can fill out the order form here. The money that we make will go back into the project and used toward our mission of raising awareness about infertility and providing creative outlets to those dealing with the disease.

Hang in there! Together, we’ll make it through.


Coping with Infertility: Celeste’s Journey through Song and Art

My name is Lauren Gaynor and I am a senior at Michigan State University studying English and Professional Writing. I am the new undergraduate research assistant for The ART of Infertility project and I am overwhelmed and excited by the fact that I have the opportunity to share some of these stories with you.

The first story that I am about to share is reflective of Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month. Although Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month is in October, we still felt it important to share this story of Celeste who is all too familiar with this kind of loss. Celeste shows us how she copes with these experiences of loss through art and singing.

The ART of Infertility first met Celeste at the Tri-State Walk of Hope this past September. As we packed up our tent, Celeste shared with us her recent experience of infertility and loss – the passing away of Robin and Rosa.

Celeste Image

Celeste has coped with her infertility through her love of song and expressive art.

After trying to conceive unofficially since September 2011, Celeste officially began trying in June 2012 and has been working with a reproductive endocrinologist since 2013. Six intrauterine inseminations, four in vitro fertilizations and 3 transfers all resulted in negative pregnancy tests, with the exception of her pregnancy with Robin and Rosa.

She conceived a set of twins on November 11, 2014. Unfortunately, she suffered an early pregnancy loss with son, Robin, on December 22, 2014. After being diagnosed with congenital heart disease, her daughter Rosa joined Robin on May 29, 2015.

Celeste channeled her loss and grief through art and music and we asked if she would like to share some of her pieces for a special blog post. Inspired by the work at the Carly Marie project, Celeste captures her loss, grief and journey through her reflections and artwork. The artistic pieces featured are meant to foster Celeste’s connection with Robin and Rosa, express her grief and emotion and continue on the hope of her journey with infertility.

Piece #1

Celeste Piece 1

Celeste shares, “I made this piece as a part of the Carly Marie “Capture Your Grief” photo healing project. The project is meant to help bereaved parents move through their grief during Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month. The top for Day Three was ‘In Honour.’”

“I started with pencil and paper, and thought about my twins. How would l like to honor them this day? The pencil sort of took over, and out poured my heart on paper. I then finalized the piece in ink.”

According to Celeste, the heart surrounding their names represents infinite love while the Gemini zodiac is for Rosa’s name and the Capricorn zodiac is for Robin’s name. The heart below their names represents their conception date. The infinite love that Celeste has for her babies is shown through the border of hearts surrounding the piece.

“When I look at it again, it makes me think of the Petri dish in which fertilization occurred. There is so much love and beauty in that moment, even if the environment was clinical and scientific.”

Not only is Celeste an artist but she is also an avid singer. Therefore, she inserted text inside of the heart that displayed the lyrics to songs that she sang to her babies while they were in the womb. Celeste would sit in their nursery and sing “You Are My Sunshine” (Traditional), “I Will Wait” (Mumford & Sons), “Human” (Christina Perri) and a plethora of others. Their memory is engrained in the song, art and spirit of Celeste’s intentions through this piece.

Piece #2
Day 11: Glow In The Woods
Celeste Piece 3


Glow in the Woods captures the grief and pain of losing her children. Although their memory lives on in some of her pieces, grief will still sometimes overtake the joy of their memory. It seems that this grief is related to being lost in the woods. “At first, I feel terrified and abandoned. But then, I look around and catch glimpses of light to find my way back home. My family is my life. John especially. With each passing day, he helps me see the light. He is my glow in the woods.”

Celeste compares IVF and ART to the thorny brush of the forest encapsulating and trapping her. These seem to be suffocating rather than setting her free. Celeste states that this is the infertility forest but, “the glow in the infertility forest is the thought that I have the power to decide when enough is enough.”

No matter what Celeste has her husband by her side. If all of the work and intrauterine inseminations and in-vitro fertilization doesn’t result in a child, it will be okay in the end because as Celeste says, “My husband is by my side and love is all I need.”

Piece #3
Broken Dreams
Celeste Piece 2

Despite all of the love and support throughout the process of conceiving, Celeste shares that it was difficult to remain hopeful throughout all of the broken hopes and dreams.

“Infertility and loss have changed my whole world. I used to be a reckless daydreamer and thought that the sky was the limit. Now after experiencing 6 failed intrauterine insemination cycles, 5 failed in-vitro fertilization cycles and the loss of twins, I am afraid to dream.”

This piece truly captures the dark cloud that seems to overwhelm all of the love, support and persistence that Celeste dealt with during her infertility. Despite the hopes and dreams of Celeste, reality seemed to take over and create fear and depression in place of her dreams.

Piece #4
Dark + Light

Celeste Piece 4

Despite broken hopes and dreams, Celeste reminds herself, that there is always sunshine on the horizon. Celeste proves that hope doesn’t always fade and love is all that she needs to persevere through the pain.

This intention captures giving birth and the pain, grief and joy that accompanied Rosa’s life. “Giving birth to Rosa made me realize that without pain, there would be no joy. The physical pains of labor and delivery were intense. But the moment the nurse placed her in my arms, the pain lifted from my memory and all I could see what sunshine.”

The contrast of the dark clouds and bright sunshine bring to life the beauty and struggle of Celeste’s infertility. “The dark storm cloud represents the pain and negativity that infertility brings to my life. The fear and doubt of my childhood dream which is in question.”

The unknown darkness of not being able to fulfill a dream is frightening and beautifully captured by Celeste’s artistry. Celeste’s art shows that for her despite the darkness, there is always hope behind the clouds. “The sunburst behind it, again, is the joyous and beautiful things to come from my infertility struggle. The hope that, at times is mostly concealed, continually tries to break free. The sunshine, while we cannot see it every day, is always there.”

Calling all Photographers!

Calling all Photographers!

A couple of weeks ago, Maria and I were working around my dining room table when I announced that I’m now comfortable enough to start doing some ART of IF interviews via telephone and having local photographers do the accompanying portraits. “Wow! Look who’s giving up some control,” Maria responded. “Good for you!”

It’s true that I’ve been very protective of the interview and portrait process. Maria and I have discovered that the interview and photo session are a part of the therapy and opportunity for healing that ART of IF offers. It’s an opportunity to set aside a time and space to reflect on the experience of life with infertility. Not only for our ART of IF participants, but for us as well.


Elizabeth and ART of IF participant, Kati, on location at a shoot in Chicagoland.

The photography also helps us tell a particular story and it’s nice to do the interviews and portraits during the same session. Although I’ve dabbled in a variety of art forms in order to tell the story of my infertility, I am first and foremost a photographer. It’s been important to me to be the one to capture the project’s images. Maria and I will still be the ones conducting interviews and photos shoots when possible. However, in order for our oral history archive to grow and for us to further fulfill our mission of capturing the diverse voices and perspectives of infertility, it’s important that we let go of some control. We can’t be everywhere at once, after all.

Kati and her husband are living childfree after infertility and are very involved in planning their community's Founders Day Festival. Here's Kati on parade day.

Kati and her husband are living childfree after infertility and are very involved in planning their community’s Founders Day Festival. Here’s Kati on parade day.

So, we are reaching out to you, our community, to see if there are any of you who would be interested in volunteering and helping us with our mission, and maybe experiencing some healing around your own experience with infertility in the process. We’d like to have a database of photographers around the country, and world, who we can call on to do portraits for the project as needed. Additionally, we’d like to have a list of those who are skilled at photographing artwork and documenting events.

Sound appealing? If so, we’d love to receive some information about you, your work, and why you’d like to be a volunteer photographer with ART of Infertility. You can download the application here.

We look forward to working with you!


Still Waiting – Infertility and Adoption

Today’s blog post is from Jackie. Jackie and her husband, Kevin, are waiting to be matched for a domestic infant adoption. Read their story below and please consider sharing their profile so, hopefully, they won’t have to wait much longer to make their dreams of parenthood come true.


Kevin and I knew we wanted to parents one day.  After we were married we attempted to start a family of our own.  After trying without any success for a while we decided maybe it was time to seek a professional opinion from a doctor.  Fast forward 5 years, and 5 doctors later and here we are still hoping to become parents.

kevin and jackie adopt

After testing and fertility treatments we found that having a child was not going to be very plausible for us as a couple; although it has not been completely ruled out.  Struggling with infertility has been hard for us.  Infertility gives you a completely different outlook on life and the world once you’ve lived inside of it.  Our relationships with family and friends have changed.  Small talk with acquaintances, or strangers, can be difficult as soon as, “Do you have children?” or “When will you start a family?” questions come up.  Also a simple walk through the grocery store can be rough. Yes, I see those parents doting over their child.  Yes, I see the aisle of baby toys, diapers, and oh so cute outfits.  Yes, I see a pregnant mom waddling through the aisle looking ready to meet her baby.  These things that we once never seemed to notice are now all we see around us.  Jealousy and sadness are unfortunate ‘side effects’ of infertility.  I am not angry at these people I see out and about living their lives and becoming parents; however, it is hard not be jealous or sad when it is something that you have wanted and tried for for so long.

 Our relationships with family and friends have changed.  Small talk with acquaintances, or strangers, can be difficult as soon as, “Do you have children?” or “When will you start a family?” questions come up.

We decided that one way we could possibly have a chance at becoming parents was to pursue adoption.   We did not have much reservation about pursuing adoption, rather we both felt very comfortable with the idea of building a family this way.  My father, and two of his siblings were adopted, and Kevin has two adopted cousins.  Adoption is already a part of our lives so it did not seem odd or inconceivable that we could be happy with a family built that way.

We have been pursuing adoption with an agency known as Greater Hopes Family Services in Grand Rapids, MI.  We have worked closely with them for the past year and a half and we have been waiting for the opportunity to become parents.  In the mean time we have found ways to deal with our infertility and lack of family by keeping busy with things we enjoy.  We enjoy spending time with our family and working on projects around the house while we wait for the opportunity to become parents.  We have love to share and we are lucky enough to have fur babies to share our love with.

memphis dog

We have a 9 year old lab named Memphis who is definitely great for cuddling.  We also recently just adopted a new lab mix puppy named Cali.  When we brought Cali home we went thought the late night crying as she adjusted to her new surroundings.  We are still working on potty training and teaching her the ropes.  As we went through all of this with our new puppy we couldn’t help but feel that this new puppy is like our new baby.  She is keeping us on our toes and also keeping us up at night.  She is creating more laundry, making messes, and not loving bath time. She truly is like a new child in our lives.  It is important to us that we can give our love in this way and it makes us feel important to someone.


For the time being these two are our children and we are proud parents to two wonderful fuzzy puppies.  We still hope to someday become a ‘traditional’ parent by being able to share our love with an adopted child(ren).  We have an online profile that we often share on social media in hopes of it falling on the eyes of someone who may be able to make this parenting thing a reality.  Until that day we will continue to love each other and our fur babies.

Thoughts on Adoption from the Archive

We’ve had the opportunity to interview many families who have come together through adoption. In honor of National Adoption Month, we’ll be sharing some of those stories through our blog. First up, some thoughts on adoption from Liz, Abigail, and Joan.

Liz (and Andy) – Adopted from foster care as well as via private domestic adoption.


Liz and Andy at home with their three children.

“Before we had these guys, I wanted nothing to do with people who had kids. I didn’t want to see a pregnant woman. I would go out of my way to avoid them. I was jealous. That should be me. That should be us. We should be having kids now. That’s totally gone away now. These are MY babies. They may not have come from us, but this was God’s plan for us. It would have been really nice to know his plan ahead of time but I wouldn’t change it for the world.”

Abigail – Adopted internationally.


Abigail in her office in the Los Angeles area.

“I had made an appointment during the process of my second IVF for an orientation with an adoption agency for after the results of my second IVF. I got the call and the doctor said, you’re pregnant but you’re going to lose it in a couple days and I can still get teary talking about it. I, personally, am not fond of the term chemical pregnancy. It’s a pregnancy, if you got pregnant, you got pregnant. I left that adoption meeting with hope for the first time and it became very clear which direction I would go and I went. It was the right choice for me at that time. I wasn’t closing the doors to pregnancy or nursuing at that time.”

“It took 9 months from that meeting to bringing our baby home. We adopted our son from Guatemala and it was an incredible, wonderful experience and it became very clear, very fast that my son just had to be born from another body. We brought him home and I had decided that I was going to nurse him because nursing was something I was missing also. I brought him home at 3 months and 4 days. A friend of mine gave birth at the same time and she pumped extra breast milk for me. I used the Lact-Aid supplementer and I put him to the breast 5 times a day and within two weeks I was producing milk on my own without any meds.”

Joan – Private domestic adoption.


Joan holds artwork that her daughter, Josie, created.

“We wanted very definitely to do open adoption, which was essentially the wave of the future that was opening up right then and there. The process of adoption is incredible intrusive, the home study, the interviews with the therapist, it just goes on and on. You have to be willing to be incredibly transparent to become an adoptive parent. Since I’ve adopted, I’ve found that my reaction to the process has been that adoption is portrayed a lot in a very negative way. We only hear about the adoptions that fail, the adoptions that don’t work out for whatever reason and it just has a very negative connotation in many cultures.”

“There’s loss in every part of the adoption triangle. The birth mother has to grieve losing her child, her child’s time with her. The adoptive parents have to grieve losing the ability to have a biological child and be clear with that in order to be good parents and then the adoptive child has to come to terms with “being given away”.

“It’s a leap of faith in more ways than you ever expect but a wonderful leap.”



Pregnancy Loss Cards bring Healing

Infant and Pregnancy Loss Awareness Month is technically over but I hope that its effects are long lasting. During October, I had the opportunity to talk to Dr. Jessica Zucker and calligrapher, Anne Robin, creators of a new line of pregnancy loss cards. The story of how art and writing has brought them healing, and how they hope their cards will bring healing to others, is below. Please be aware that the story does contain descriptions and themes of pregnancy loss.


On a Thursday in October three years ago, Jessica Zucker was 16 weeks into her pregnancy when she began miscarrying at home. She was there alone and describes the experience as incredibly painful, intense, emotional, and horrifying. “I have these memories burned into my mind and my heart. Having her fall out, having to cut the cord, looking at her, putting her on a towel, and putting her in a bag.”

While her husband rushed home, Jessica was hemorrhaging. Fortunately, he made it in time to get her to the doctor but the amount of blood loss she was having made an un-medicated D&C necessary. That night, she drank wine and ate chocolate in bed. Jessica explains that grieving the loss of her daughter was made even more complicated by the fact that she herself also could have died. She wonders how she mustered the strength to make it through. “My grief would just come out. I would be driving somewhere and I would just start bawling or even screaming at the horror of how things happened,” Jessica said.


As a way to process her grief, Jessica, a clinical psychologist who specializes in women’s reproductive and maternal mental health in Los Angeles, began writing about loss. At first, she wrote about the politics of pregnancy loss and explored why we live in a culture where we can’t talk about the experience of miscarriage, where women somehow feel ashamed about their experiences. Then, last October, during Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month, Jessica initiated #ihadamiscarriage and went public with her own story in a piece she wrote for the New York Times. She explains that it’s helped so much because she’s connected with such wonderful women in the loss community around the world. “I feel my greatest way to honor my daughter, to honor our brief life together, our brief connection, has really been through my writing and I think that’s been the way that I’ve actually healed.”

“I feel my greatest way to honor my daughter, to honor our brief life together, our brief connection, has really been through my writing and I think that’s been the way that I’ve actually healed.”

Wanting to fill a void in the cultural conversation and in the marketplace surrounding pregnancy loss, Jessica decided to create a line of cards; to create something concrete and meaningful as a way to connect after a loss. Research shows that, after miscarriage, women are blaming themselves, feeling guilty, and feeling incredibly isolated. “My hope is that the cards convey messages that help women feel seen, feel validated in their experience, feel understood, and inevitably feel less alone because the card sender is thinking of them.” Jessica explains.

She also thought the cards could provide a sort of go-to guide for people who wonder what to say after someone they love experiences loss. They want to say the “right” thing, but many times don’t know what to say so they stumble.


Jessica knew which messages she wanted to convey through the cards but needed help designing them. She reached out to calligrapher, Anne Robin, who also has experience with pregnancy loss. “There were three (miscarriages) at different stages, all within the first trimester. One of them was at 12 weeks, one was at 11 weeks, and then two babies that we found out at 20 weeks had severe inter-cranial hemorrhage.” recalls Anne. “They realized there must have been some kind of genetic problem but they couldn’t find it.”

Anne was told by her geneticist to “just try again.” “That’s easier said than done, obviously, but I was pretty determined and felt like I needed to, like I couldn’t NOT try again, and again, and again, until it finally worked.” Anne recalls.

Eventually, it did work, and Anne now has a 4-month old son. As a way to memorialize her babies, she has a little box she keeps ultrasounds in, along with letters she’s written to them, and other mementos. “I still wanted something very physical so the one thing I did and I do really kind of cherish is had a new necklace made with a ‘C’ for my older son, that’s cut out of a circle, and then for the two babies that we lost much later, kind of the two that felt more real to me, I have these kind of empty rings. It’s something that I always have on me and it feels special and now my baby holds onto it a lot. He’ll have one of his fingers through the rings so that always feels really symbolic to me.” Anne explains.


Anne also used Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month last year to share her story publicly, creating a series of prints around the topic of pregnancy loss that were available for purchase, download, and use, on her website. She wanted to do something else this year and was looking for a project when Jessica approached her about doing the artwork for her pregnancy loss cards. “I finally had this baby in June and was interested in kind of coming full circle. Last year I was doing this all at seven weeks pregnant and totally terrified.” Anne explained, adding that, this year, she had a little bit more peace about her experiences and felt like she could really invest time and heart into the process.

I was pretty determined and felt like I needed to, like I couldn’t NOT try again, and again, and again, until it finally worked.”

To get started, Anne had Jessica look at her Instagram account to send her a list of fonts she liked and they brainstormed ideas. Realizing they both have an affinity for Mid-Century Modern design, Anne moved forward with shades of turquoise, mustardy yellow, and brick red, following a color scheme falling within that design aesthetic. “I didn’t want to make them super bright because I felt like they should be more muted because of the subject matter,” Anne explains.

Once a general design plan was in place, Jessica let Anne run with it.  “I love everything she does so it’s kind of ridiculous. I told her, you go for it, this part is all you,” she said.

What resulted was a series of pregnancy loss cards featuring honest messages, and gorgeous calligraphy. While some of the stronger language may not resonate with everyone, Jessica hopes that there’s a card in the series for everybody and wanted to convey a sense of consistency.


With messages including, I’m here for you always and I love you like crazy, Jessica explains, “I’m trying to underscore the point that I’m here for you right now because this happened and then next week we can hang out in this uncomfortable space together because this is part of life and where a lot of growth, unfortunately, happens.”

She adds that rushing grief doesn’t help anybody and ignoring it most definitely doesn’t either. “I think it’s incredibly important to try to resist judging one’s grief and that we should really shy away from comparing and contrasting grief or loss experiences.” The card stating grief has no timeline expands on this theme. “Women shouldn’t have to worry that they’re going to make somebody uncomfortable or that it’s inappropriate somehow to talk about their loss. That they should feel well within x amount of time,” Jessica says.

It was important to Jessica to have a card for pregnancy after loss, and she describes the baby loss/still birth announcement in the collection as stunning and so meaningful and important.

Both Jessica and Anne have been completely overwhelmed and excited by how well the cards have been received. “At first we were literally talking about printing 25 copies of each card. We had no idea the press we were going to get and the reaction that people would love them so much.” says Anne, adding how nice it’s been that people have been expressing gratitude that the cards are now available.


Working on this line of cards has been an important part of Jessica and Anne working through emotions surrounding their own experiences with loss and it seems that the cards are definitely fulfilling Jessica’s goal of delivering honest and truthful messages, filling a gap in the marketplace, and sparking a discussion about pregnancy loss. She explains, “We have to embrace that this is part of trying to create life and women shouldn’t feel that they have to be quiet about it.”

Jessica’s hope is that future generations grow up in a landscape that is incredibly different when it comes to these important and normative issues, saying, “It can be like a rollercoaster ride. you can be laughing one day or one hour and, the next hour, screaming about your pain and that’s okay.”