Lisa Schuman, LCSW is a leading family-building expert, licensed therapist and the Founding Director of The Center for Family Building. The Center provides guidance, advice and specialist counseling for couples and individuals during their journey to parenthood, helping people from all over the world build the families of their dreams.
We’ve loved getting to know Lisa – she works tirelessly to further the cause of intended parents who need assistance to build their families, even testifying to the State Senate Judiciary Committee on the subject of legalizing compensated surrogacy in New York! She’s written numerous articles, including on LGBTQ and single parent family building, and also runs workshops for children who joined their families through gamete donation or adoption.
In her own words, “I can talk the talk but I have also walked the walk” – her work is inspired by her personal family-building experience, which included fertility treatment, surgeries, alternative therapies, surrogacy and adoption. Check out our interview to learn more about Lisa and the amazing community she’s built through The Center for Family Building.
The inspiring Lisa Schuman, Founder of The Center for Family Building
1. As the Founder of The Center for Family Building and a leading expert in the space, having helped people around the globe build the families of their dreams – how did you get here? Can you share your own family building journey and what inspired you to help so many others?
I went through many years of fertility treatment…decades ago, when treatment was not as advanced as it is now. I had every treatment imaginable. Some don’t even exist anymore. It was a long, hard road and I decided then that I would devote my life’s work to helping people have an easier path to parenthood. I have been working in this field for decades. My team and I have the best research, training many types of stress reduction techniques available and have learned many short cuts along the way that we share with patients every day. There is no need to reinvent the wheel.
The Center for Family Building provides guidance, advice and specialist counseling along the journey to parenthood
2. Through your role counseling and educating intended parents at The Center for Family Building and as the Director of Mental Health Services for Reproductive Medicine Associates of Connecticut and Gay Parents to Be – you’re a leading voice in mental health support. How far do you think the industry has come as far as understanding the importance of supporting intended parents in this way on their journey and where do you think it can still evolve?
We have come a long way. Unfortunately, there is a lot of misinformation out there and Dr. Google is not your friend. Patients need to get their information from reliable sources and, for many they feel hard to find.
Lisa testified to the State Senate Judiciary Committee on the subject of legalizing compensated surrogacy in New York.
3. What is the premise of your ‘My Lifebook’ and what do you hope it brings into the lives of children whose parents share it with them?
Lifebooks have been used in adoption for decades but there is no similar product for people who use donor conception or surrogacy to have their child and it is just as important. Also, many of the books out there are too heteronormative and don’t include everyone in the system.
I run workshops for donor conceived children and I find they like to have a story that is just about them. I have a nice list of books on my website (www.familybuilding.net) but children also like to have their own story that they can return to over and over when they have questions. My Lifebook is a wonderful place for parents and parents-to-be to chronicle their child’s journey from their hearts to their homes. It is a gift that gives parents something productive to do while they are waiting, records information they may later forget or not think of and is a beautiful keepsake their child will cherish always.
Offering some good advice, two helping hands, and a smile!
4. The past year has been far from ideal, but there are hopefully a few silver linings personally and professionally. For example compensated surrogacy just became legal in New York (and leading up to that, you were chosen as the only therapist to testify to the State Senate Judiciary Committee on the subject). Also, more time with family is so valuable! What are a few of your highlights or positive notes from this crazy, covid, quarantined year?
For some people this year has been horrible. For others it has been stressful. Yet, some good things have come from it for many people. I feel very privileged to be chosen to testify and see this law come to fruition. Our reproductive rights are now safer with our current administration and many of us have enjoyed spending time with family and even working in our slippers.
We do need to celebrate the good but also take care of the stressors that are caused by the restrictions and fears surrounding COVID-19. Therefore, I created an ebook I would love to share with your audience. It outlines ways to manage your stress. The stress reduction techniques are broken into three groups. It’s best to use tools from each group and appreciate that you may use some tools at certain times and find other tools more helpful at other times.
Lisa Schuman’s e-book: Covid-19 and Stress: Strategies for Fertility Patients
5. Finally, what is your advice for intended parents on GoStork, who are just beginning their own family building journey?
Honor your feelings but think with your mind. Finding a donor or surrogate can be an emotionally charged pursuit. That is completely understandable. However, there are some things over which you have some control and others over which you have no control. My suggestion is to think through the decisions within your control first and use a therapist who specializes in this area to help you manage your emotions. This way, you will reduce your stress and reduce your chance of having regrets.
Thank you for this wise and heartfelt advice, Lisa, and for sharing your story and your incredible life’s work with us. We appreciate all your advocacy efforts – you’re literally changing lives.