Events, TEDxColumbus

Meet the Speakers: Liv Gjestvang

 On Friday, November 16, 2018, fourteen Columbus area residents will become part of the TEDxColumbus community when they present their talks for On the Edge.


Meet Liv Gjestvang:

Local parent shares an inspiring story of a growing family circle


By Wendy Cornett


Assisted reproduction can be an intensely personal and powerful experience. Sharing the gift of family with someone who needs help requires iron-clad mutual trust. One Columbus woman reveals her remarkable journey as both receiver and giver of the ultimate gift.


Three years ago, Liv Gjestvang took a monumental leap of faith. She had to trust the medical procedure that would lead to her conceiving a child; trust her body to do everything it was supposed to do to grow a healthy baby; and trust her own resolve to withstand – both physically and emotionally – that moment of separation, when the child she carried and delivered would go to live with another couple.


“Julie and I had already had two kids,” Liv shared, referring to her partner. “It was clear we didn’t want to raise another child, but I had really enjoyed being pregnant.”


Liv and Julie had welcomed their two children with the help of sperm donors – friends Mark and Erik, who had their two daughters with the help of a surrogate, Wen.


“I had been really touched by seeing Mark and Erik have their two girls and knowing that, Wen, helped them have a family because it was something that she believed in,” Liv recalled. “It was a really powerful thing for me to see what that looked like for her to be pregnant and give them the gift of family – twice. And it stuck with me.”


So when friends living in Amsterdam were ready to expand their family, the seed of inspiration that had been planted while watching Mark and Erik’s family grow was ready to surface.


“This was something that I had wanted to do for a really long time,” Liv said. “It was somewhat surprising to me the level of emotion it elicited in people I talked to. I could see it resonating – the power in being able to give a family to people who couldn’t do it on their own.”


While Liv’s desire to help another couple start a family grew organically out of her life experiences, the process itself was a journey through the unknown.


“There were moments when I remember feeling like I was going up that first hill on a roller coaster. I was pregnant. I was having a baby. This was going to happen. There was no getting off,” she said candidly. “The only way through this was to go all the way through it.”


Liv and Julie now share living, breathing bonds with two other couples who comprise their extended family. The unshakable trust that brought them together paved the way to profound joy and gratitude.


“This process has given us more than a baby,” Liv reflected. “It has expanded our family in a bigger way that I think we all truly value.”


Liv Gjestvang moved to Columbus from Brooklyn in 2002 and has spent her career working in education, technology and the arts. As Associate Vice President for Learning Technology at Ohio State, she leads educational technology initiatives, including the Affordable Learning Exchange and Digital Flagship. 


She has taught film and video at the Wexner Center for the Arts, Taos Talking Pictures and the Sundance Film Festival, and is founding director of Youth Video OUTreach, where she worked with gay and lesbian high school students to create the award-winning documentary 20 Straws: Growing Up Gay. 


Liv also is co-director of the Educause Learning Technology Leadership Institute and has written and presented about community media, social justice, college affordability and transformative leadership across the United States.