Lisa Schuman, the Director of Mental Health Services at Reproductive Medicine Associates of Connecticut (RMACT), has been counseling individuals and couples in the reproductive community for more than two decades. She’s also helping families who came together via surrogacy or adoption better understand their family story.
“Whether you are just beginning to build your family, or you already have children with the assistance of donor-conception, it can be difficult to know how to prepare to help your child understand their origins,” Schuman said. “So we provide groups and workshops to help parents and parents-to-be find answers to their questions.”
Schuman is an award-winning researcher who has given lectures about non-genetic parenthood issues, learning differences, and self-esteem among other parenting topics. At RMACT, she provides patients with support, guidance and education on their journeys to parenthood.
With the Center for Family Building, Schuman is now offering programs and workshops to help families figure out the best way to document and tell their unique family story.
“My LifeBook will tell the story of how your child was born in your heart and finally arrived in your home,” Schuman said. “Children love hearing about how they came into the world, and My LifeBook can help them feel connected to their beginnings.”
Schuman also helps donor-conceived children craft their own narratives through the Center’s TIP TOP programs. In these workshops, Schuman said she sees firsthand how much children enjoy hearing about how they came into the world.
For parents who form families by surrogacy or adoption, Schuman said there is no need to wait until their child is home to begin chronicling.
“Beginning to construct your narrative can be beneficial to you too,” she said. “Your LifeBook can be productive for the entire family.”
If an individual or couple is building their family with the assistance of a donor or surrogate, Schuman said there are likely to be many stops and starts on the path to parenthood, and it can feel frustrating not being in the driver’s seat.
However, she said recording the earliest parts of your child’s life story can help reduce anxiety, help to record special or enjoyable moments and retain personal items that your child may later appreciate, and give you an opportunity to create an object that your child can cherish.
“When life feels out of your control, putting your energy into a positive pursuit and seeing the benefits of that action can feel very stabilizing,” Schuman said. “Creating My LifeBook can be a perfect way to use your excess energy in a positive way.”
Young children understand information in concrete terms, and will understand more nuanced and abstract information as they grow. In fact, Schuman said over the years, children can continue to use their My Lifebook during times when they are exploring their identities and trying to understand who they are in the world.
“Like adults, some children are private and others are very outgoing,” she said. “Regardless of your child’s temperament, they will treasure My LifeBook as it chronicles their unique and personal story.”