Wednesday, June 19, 2013

From Passion to Action: Advocacy Day 2013

The California advocates taking on Capitol Hill
The past month has been a non-stop travel fest for me. I drove the California coast, flew from the west coast to the east and back twice, went on a camping adventure and boarded a boat to a nearby island for a day of fun in the sun. Now that I am finally home and catching my breath, I finally digesting the amazing trip that started this crazy month- my trip to Washington DC for RESOLVE's Advocacy Day.

Since I first became aware of RESOLVE, I have heard about what an empowering experience Advocacy Day is and I always knew that one day, I wanted to be a part of it. Talking to the men and women in politics that make things happen, sharing my story, speaking out for the millions of Americans that struggle with infertility, making a difference toward passing legislation that will help so many of those sufferers, how could I not want to be a part of something so meaningful, so cathartic, so powerful? But living on the opposite side of the country, I have also long assumed it would be too overwhelming, time consuming, and expensive to make the trip anytime soon. This past year though, my inner advocate has come out in full force and become a huge part of the outer me. There isn't anyone in my life that doesn't know what an important cause infertility support is to me. I knew that there was no room for excuses or delays. This year was the year. This Advocacy Day was the day. 

And what a day it turned out to be. The rumors were true. Telling my story to the aids and staffers of my Senators and Representatives was cathartic. Walking miles across Capitol Hill to share information about important family building legislation with political offices was invigorating. Connecting with other advocates from across the country and from my own backyard was was inspiring. Everything about my experience was enlightening and empowering. I not only learned a great deal about the political process, I took an active part in it.

Each time I met with a staffer to tell them about The Family Act and The Women Veterans and Other Health Care Improvements Act, I was asked why this was so important to me, why I thought these measures mattered so much, how they would help someone like me, who despite my struggle with infertility has had the good fortune of becoming a parent. After all, an IVF tax credit will come too late to offset the costs of my previous treatments. The truth is, it's not my personal story or struggle that matters, it is giving EVERY aspiring parent the ability to build their family. I am one of the lucky ones. Yes, I spent my daughter's college fund bringing her into the world but I had the option to do that. So many who learn that IVF or adoption are their only family building options, don't have that ability and parenthood shouldn't be a luxury afforded only to those who have the means to finance expensive family building options. 

The struggle with infertility, as many of you know, can be so lonely, so isolating. Finding the community I did online was incredible and such a source of support and comfort for me. But being in a room or crowded DC hallway with hundreds of other women and men who knew what this fight was like, gave me a sense of community deeper than I had ever imagined. After years of chatting with amazing women on Twitter, I was able to give them the real life hugs I had always wished them virtually. I heard, in person, the emotion and rawness of what someone else had gone through to become a parent or how they had come to their decision to live child-free. I could squeeze the hand of those who came to Advocacy Day mid-cycle or in an adoption wait and let them know I was hoping & rooting for them. The power of that in-person contact was unbelievable and amazing and it is something I will always cherish. And there is nothing quite as awesome as enjoying a cocktail and dinner in a private dining room full of a dozen or so women chatting loudly about ovaries, homestudies, and wandy dates without ever having to worry if anyone is confused or uncomfortable- well except maybe the waiter.
But just because you could not be there on Advocacy Day, it doesn't mean that you can't still be a part of this community by being a voice for it. Write to your Congressional Leaders and ask them to support these measure that help those in the infertile community. Speak out. Share your story. Support others doing the same. Every little step makes a difference. Remember what you learned from School House Rock

Just like Bill's friend says, passing any new legislation requires lots and lots of courage and patience, but we have faced infertility! We have found more patience and courage within ourselves than we ever realized any one person was capable of possessing! If any group can show the fortitude and bravery required for this process, it is us! 

Here is the info you need to know about the legislation we were advocating for on Capitol Hill this May:
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.

Take time to learn more about the legislation and then make your voice heard! Thanks to my own struggle to become a parent, issues related to infertility naturally became a passion for me and thanks to amazing events like Advocacy Day, I am excited to be taking action too.