I am having trouble putting into words one of the most incredible experiences of my life. I am not the same person that I was before I attended RESOLVE’S Advocacy Day on May, 8 2013 in Washington, D.C.. I went to Advocacy Day proud to represent the infertility community and excited to advocate for those who are in the midst of their struggles. I also went to Advocacy Day to educate the fertile community, many of whom do not see infertility as a medical issue but rather as an unfortunate circumstance that adoption can cure. Adoption is a phenomenal option for couples struggling with infertility, but medical procedures that treat the disease should also be viable, affordable options for building a family. My hope in participating in Advocacy Day was that by starting conversations with our Congressional representatives about our journey, we could chip away at the stigma placed on infertile couples so that when my daughter reaches adulthood she will not have to fight so hard to get the services she may need. More fundamentally, I wanted to break the silence surrounding this condition that so often leaves couples feeling helpless and misunderstood.
So I packed my superhero cape and my fancy new suit dress, and traveled to D.C. ready to save the infertile men and women of the world. But what RESOLVE and the amazing infertile community did when I got there was take my cape off and wrap it tenderly around my shoulders, like a blanket, and healed my heart in a way I didn’t think possible. The night I arrived there was a reception that allowed the advocates to socialize in a more informal setting. It was there I finally got to meet some of the amazing women I had been in contact with on the internet for several years. And I had the pleasure of speaking to other women whom had traveled from all over the country. Although I had not met any of these incredible women before, there were no awkward conversations. We all had the common thread of infertility to break the ice. We were part of a sisterhood forged by pain, heartache, devastation, humility and loss. Sometimes infertility can make you feel so alone, even if you are in a room with 100 people. Simply walking into the reception and feeling that I was immediately understood, down to my deepest insecurity and vulnerability, made the 5-hour train ride to D.C. worth it.
After the reception, a group of us went out to dinner. As we introduced ourselves, I was humbled and honored to be with such a strong group of women. We sat and talked like we had known each other our whole lives. No one asked me, “Are you going to have more children?” No one said, “Maybe if you just relaxed, it could happen.” Experiencing infertility has changed the way I view the world, and these women had the same unique world view that I did. They too get a sick feeling in their stomach when they walk by the pregnancy tests in the local drug store. They too have had to bravely congratulate and buy baby gifts for so many friends who are now on their second, third or maybe even fourth child. Talking with these women about shared experiences was, for me, very uplifting and healing.
The next morning, before we left to speak to our Congressional leaders, there was an information session on the importance of being at Advocacy Day. I cried as women got up and shared their experiences of pain and loss with the audience. Their pain was my pain. My passion for the cause was further ignited by speakers reminding me that we had everything to gain by speaking with our representatives today and nothing left to lose. Infertility had already taken so much from us already. The rest of the day I walked through the offices of Congress talking to aides who can actually make a real difference in the world. I told them my story, and how the two bills we were advocating for were so very important. I shook their hands, looked them in the eye and asked them if I had their support. Wow.
How could I be doing all of this? There were days along my journey that I felt completely broken. Suffering from endometriosis, a disease that causes infertility and chronic pain (as if I didn't need a constant reminder of my condition), there are STILL days I feel completely broken. Some days at the lowest points of my journey, it is so difficult to stop feeling devastated to the core. It often takes a conscious reminder to say, “Even though my reproductive parts are broken, I am not broken. I am not just my reproductive parts. Before I went to D.C. for Advocacy Day, I kept saying to my husband, “I cannot believe I am doing this. Can you believe I am doing this?” When you feel physically sick, hormonally unbalanced and emotionally drained for so long, sometimes taking a walk down the street seems like an insurmountable feat. After I stopped trying to conceive last year I have been slowly healing and coming to terms with the profound, lasting impact infertility will have in my life. Going to D.C. to advocate for the infertility community helped me to heal those broken pieces. As I got on the train back to New York that night, I felt a little more whole.
It was then that I started thinking about how getting a bill passed is actually very similar to an infertile person trying to conceive. That is why the RESOLVE advocates are the fiercest, most competent advocates to hit Capitol Hill. There will be times when we will have to navigate lots of red tape and do a lot of the leg work ourselves and yet we will channel the patience and tenacity to get the job done. There will be times when we may have to convince other professionals WHO SHOULD KNOW BETTER that there is absolute truth in what we are saying and yet we will stand by our convictions even though we may be dismissed or even persecuted for our beliefs. There will be times on our journey that we may have to compromise to reach our ultimate goals and yet we will find a way to work with what we have been given for the greater good. There will be times that we are willingly acting under the uncertainty that all of our hard work and fighting may lead to nowhere and yet will keep strong our focus and determination. There will be times that we will feel hopeless and discouraged by this difficult process and yet we will dig deep and stay afloat. Sound familiar? This is what infertile women do every day.
Allow me to re-word a quote from Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., “The ultimate measure of a (wo)man is not where (s)he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where (s)he stands at times of challenge and controversy.” I would like to thank all of the women whom I was privileged to stand beside on Advocacy Day. I would like to thank RESOLVE for doing an incredible job of organizing this event. I am a better person for having met all of you and for having been there. I am so incredibly grateful for the opportunity to change infertility from a condition of powerlessness and despair to a cause for empowerment and strength, when for so long it has led me to feel broken and inferior. Here’s to seeing even MORE of you for Advocacy Day 2014. Next year I will not bother packing my super hero cape. The ability to stand united and tell our stories is what allowed our hearts to soar.
How to Help:
I urge you to check out the two bills we are advocating to get passed. Write to your Congressional Leaders and ask them to support these measure that help those in the infertile community.
The Family Act: This bill makes infertility treatments more affordable to middle class families.
The Women Veterans and Other Healthcare Improvement Act: The bill gives access to the needed infertility treatments that wounded veterans need to conceive and start a family.