Tina Mullhollen with daughter Katie, Gift of Life's first baby.
“It’s not in there” the technician said when a hopeful Kristi and Fred looked on to see the ultrasound results, the initial indication that their first pregnancy was a failure. Those few words, spoken offhandedly, were a veritable death knell to the couple’s hopes.
Kristi, Fred and Nathan
Anna at age 18 months
Kayla at age one month
“Your help has made us happier than I could ever put into words. I have tears in my eyes right now just thinking about it.”-Angie, in a note thanking the Foundation for “our little miracle, Kayla.”
Happiness, dreams and gifts
Transforming the impossible into the possible and thereby providing happiness for once-childless couples is what Madeleine “Mady” Gordon accomplishes with The Madeleine Gordon Gift of Life Foundation.
Since 1995, the Foundation has been a dream come true for many childless couples. By helping them counter involuntary childlessness and ease the costly financial burden associated with In Vitro Fertilization treatment, the Foundation has brought life and restored happiness to numerous families. More than seventy-five babies have been born to couples who might otherwise have remained childless had it not been for Mady’s gift of life.
The American dream
The American dream is based on building a family, having children of our own.
Tina Mulhollen has a testament to this in a school paper her mother saved: “we had to write about ourselves ten years into the future... and I wrote that I would have five kids.” As in Tina’s case, the startling reality is that about one in three women in the United States, an estimated nine million couples, experience problems with infertility.
If intervention is required, couples seek the help of infertility specialists involved in assisted reproductive procedures. In some cases, In Vitro Fertilization (IVF), the most costly and most common procedure, becomes necessary.
In the IVF procedure, a protracted and delicate process, a woman’s eggs are surgically extracted and then fertilized in a lab with her husband’s sperm. One or two of the resultant embryos are then transferred back to her for the continuation of pregnancy.
Infertility: the emotional toll
Since there are one in three odds, chances are that you or someone close to you is suffering or has suffered this infertility trauma. And chances are you were not even aware of their suffering. Infertility, or involuntary childlessness, is often a silent killer of both self-esteem and relationships. Because infertility involves such a personal and intimate part of a couple’s life, both may be reluctant to share the extent of the struggle even with one another. The burden of responsibility is greater for the partner whose condition keeps them infertile, whether it is because of tubal disease, endometriosis, problems associated with the sperm or the fallopian tubes or other unexplained causes.
And those that speak of the condition express their self-doubt, shame and embarrassment oftentimes rooted in belief systems associated with such in-grained strongholds as societal norms and familial expectations.
Although infertility strikes so many couples, the topic is often considered taboo even while, paradoxically, the discussion of a couple’s having children is commonplace. Many are haunted by the casual exchanges with unknowing people who might call from across a crowded room of party-goers, “Hey! When are you two going to finally start a family?”
Infertility: the financial toll
Countrywide, the costs for each IVF cycle range between $12,000 and $20,000, and many have to undergo two or three cycles before they become pregnant, if at all. Cost is a major consideration for most patients considering IVF treatments.
In most cases, insurance pays nothing for the treatment. In many of the rest, coverage is very limited. Few insurance companies in the country cover IVF or other assisted reproductive procedure costs. According to the FertilityProRegistry Network, a national network of certified reproductive endocrinologists, “only nine of the fifty states mandate that insurance companies cover these infertility treatments.”
Ohio and the Ohio Insurance Department offer nothing written to define “infertility services,” and the code that discusses these services is open to interpretation and generally limited to $2,000. Those with another medical condition or medically related problem, such as endometriosis, are not eligible. Neither Kentucky nor Indiana currently has laws providing coverage for infertility services.
So the emotionally struggling couple also suffers financial hardship and may fall into enormous debt: credit cards are maxed out, wedding rings are pawned and modest houses are re-mortgaged. The couple’s family tries to help when they can and even infertility specialists try to help patients find loan programs.
Mady's birthday wish for others
Madeleine Gordon herself had already suffered through a fifteen-year struggle with infertility. After years of visiting prominent medical centers and specialists, and enduring round after round of exhaustive treatments, she became pregnant. But joy was short-lived. The pregnancy was ectopic, or outside the uterus, and the baby did not survive. Through it all, Mady kept her plight from even her closest friends. Gradually, devastation gave way to resignation. As she neared her fiftieth birthday, Madeleine Gordon’s life took a turn that would forever change her life’s work.
While attending a religious service, the congregation was urged to do something in life for which they have passion. Mady had long considered her own journey with involuntary childlessness, and was grateful that she had had the financial wherewithal to pursue whatever avenues looked hopeful. But what about others? Couples under the financial burden of infertility treatments. The answer became what is now The Madeleine Gordon Gift of Life Foundation.
At its inception, Mady asked her many friends to a turning-fifty event that became a kick-off to the Foundation. Rather than a typical birthday party, Mady gathered eighty friends—many of whom were still unaware of her ordeal with infertility—and asked for Foundation donations rather than presents. And so, appropriately, the Gift of Life Foundation began as a celebration.
The Foundation continues as a passionate commitment to helping couples where there has been despair and disappointment. It continues to help these couples meet the financial demands and realize the dream for baby and family.
© 2014-2021 The Madeleine Gordon Gift of Life Foundation
Promoting the possibility of new life by raising funds for deserving Cincinnati-area couples facing infertility
Katie, our first Gift of Life baby, holds Winnie, our 60th baby.
Mady with Gabriella, Alexis and Radi Jr., three of the 75+ children "brought to life" with the help of the Gift of Life Foundation