Take a Moment and Picture Your Fertility: A Guest Post from Dr. Paul Turek

Today we feature a guest blog post from Dr. Paul Turek of the Turek Clinic. An award-winning urologist and Men’s Health Advocate, Dr. Turek explains the importance of thinking about male fertility and how Men’s Health Month (in June) serves as an reminder of the particular challenges men face in regards to their fertility. We look forward to joining Dr. Turek on June 16, 2016 from 7:00 – 9:00pm at the Turek Clinic in San Francisco. This event is free and open to the public! You can reserve you spot here.

Read more about Dr. Turek’s commitment to male fertility and the way art can begin to express many of its challenges.

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How do you solve tough problems? Maybe you pick at them until they’re gone. Maybe you dance around them until they’re contained. One thing I like to do is to step away and examine them as an outsider, from a completely different perspective. In other words, get out of the trees and look at the whole forest. It’s amazing what you can learn from taking a new angle.

Inconceivable by Aine Quimby. Oil on canvas. Part of the ART of IF collection.

Inconceivable by Aine Quimby. Oil on canvas. Part of the ART of IF collection.

Honing Heuristics

There are quite a few problems in the field of men’s health that need solving. To me, this is more than just trying my hardest to solve the infertility or sexual health problems of patients I see daily. There are other, equally important but more diffuse, issues with which I am also obsessed, including:

What better time to think about these issues than during Men’s Health Month, which is now upon us. And what better way to start off the month than by taking a completely different perspective on things.

Pop Up Art

For millennia, art has struck every emotionally charged chord in the composition that is life. Using caricature, satire and symbolism, it has dished vanity, excess, corruption, greed, and politics. At the same time, it has memorialized life, love, sex and everything else under the sun that holds human meaning. I admire what Pablo Picasso said about art: “The purpose of art is washing the dust of daily life off our souls.” It seems natural, then, to have a Pop-Up Art Show about men and fertility.

Elizabeth Walker is founder and curator of The ART of Infertility, a travelling infertility artwork, oral history and portraiture project. I attended a show she held in LA last year and was deeply moved by the emotional rawness and creative expression in art made by those affected by the scourge of infertility. Sculptures of beautiful flowers made from IVF needles and syringes; a lovely baby’s crib filled with empty fertility medication vials, bottles and boxes. If you don’t believe that the epidemic of infertility affects lives like cancer or the plague, you need hear these stories, told through art.

And now you can. Please join me for the next Art of Infertility Pop Up Art Show entitled Picture Your Fertility: An Interactive Art Event for #MensHealth to be held in my San Francisco office on June 16th. Be sure to reserve your space by registering here. Plan to be there as we share the infertility journeys of men and their families through artwork and stories. Partake of food and drink, and feel free to tell your own story at our art-making stations. Maybe, just maybe, in some small way, this brief evening-of-art will wash away the dust of daily life from your soul and thereby render it reachable and realizable.

The Art of Infertility, The Turek Clinic & Men’s Health Network present:
A Pop Up Art Show
“Picture Your Fertility: An Interactive Art Event for #MensHealth”
June 16, 2016 from 7:00pm to 9:00pm
The Turek Clinic San Francisco
55 Francisco St, Suite 300
San Francisco, CA 94133
Tax-deductible donations welcome!

Friday News Round Up – May 27

Our news round up today starts with the story of plans for a new memorial garden for infertility and fertility loss in San Francisco, where we’ll be in a few weeks for our Men’s Health Week event at The Turek Clinic. Plan to join us on June 16th from 7-9 pm to view artwork from the project’s permanent collection and make some of your own!
-Elizabeth

Memory Garden to Provide a Place to Mourn Infertility and Fertility Loss
by Jessica Zimmer
The Potrero View

Plans for the new memorial garden. Image Credit - The Potrero View.

Plans for the new memorial garden. Image Credit – The Potrero View.

“People who have had these losses have suffered alone,” said Salkin.  “They may not even have talked to their best friend about it. The Memory Garden is a way to take a conversation that’s not quite underground, but terribly muted and limited, to the community. With the Garden, we’re essentially putting our arms around the shoulders of those who have experienced a loss and saying, ‘We’re here for you.’”

CCRM Network to Open State-of-the-Art Facility in Manhattan
PR Newswire

“CCRM is excited to open its first clinic in the Northeastern United States. This move will help us continue to grow as a global leader and serve CCRM families even better than before,” said Dr. Schoolcraft.

Dan Majesky Letter: Husband Posts About Heartbreak of Infertility
by Isabelle Khoo
The Huffington Post Canada

Describing the loss of their baby, the 37-year-old said: “I’ve felt time stop before. Car accidents, falling off a fence, a mountain bike jump gone wrong. I have not felt the vertigo of infinity like when we were told our baby was dead.”

Leah and Dan Majesky

Leah and Dan Majesky

World report on fertility treatments reveals high use of intracytoplasmic sperm injection: Editor attacks the over-use as ‘ineffective and costly care’
Science Daily

“The majority of the patients who will get pregnant with intracytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI) will also do so with IVF.” Studies have shown that ICSI results in fewer live births than IVF when used for couples where male infertility is not the problem. “Intending to improve their patients’ pregnancy probability by preventing fertilization failure, well-meaning doctors actually decrease their chances. This has to stop. We have pledged to do no harm,” he writes.

 

 

Naturopathic Medicine and Fertility

Today, we’re re-running a guest blog from Dr. Aumatma, who I had the pleasure of meeting at her practice in Oakland, CA last summer and learning from at the Xtraordinary Fertility retreat in Ben Lomonde, CA in October of last year.  Thanks, Dr. Aumatma, for sharing with us!

Elizabeth

What is Naturopathic Medicine and is it different from acupuncture when it comes to treatment for fertility?

Lots of people struggling with infertility know about acupuncture. There is lots of data. And, it’s pretty popular to be getting acupuncture while you’re optimizing your fertility so that you can start that family you dream of. What you may not know is that acupuncture is quite different from Naturopathic Medicine, though they have a similar philosophy of using nature to support the healing process. From this article, I hope to inspire you with something that you haven’t already tried or considered, and encourage you to reach out sooner if you are on this path—the sooner your reach out do a Naturopathic Fertility Specialist, the better… because this medicine really will help you fill the gap between your Western doctor and your acupuncturist. So, in a lot of ways, Naturopathic Doctors are truly integrative doctors, with an ability to understand both eastern and western thought.

Naturopathic Medicine has a few basic tenets that seem almost common sense. Use of natural substances (such as herbal medicine, nutrition, and homeopathy) to help rebalance the body and allow for the healing force to heal itself, is the ideal. Naturopathic Doctors are trained in 4-6 year medical programs that integrate eastern and western medicine. While Western Medicine is primarily focused on diagnosis, followed by “fixing” the problem, Naturopathic Medicine is focused on discovering the root cause. Many people consider Western Medicine to be a proficient band-aid. Western Medicine does have many advantages such as the advance of technology that allows doctors to help with things that even a hundred years ago may have appeared miraculous.

Acupuncture and Chinese Medicine, on the other hand, have gotten good results for helping women rebalance their bodies from stress, reverse the damage to ovaries and eggs, as well as tonify the body overall to be able to conceive. I know lots of women get great results with Acupuncture.

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Naturopathic Doctors fulfill a very different need, however. NDs consider it fundamentally important to understand the functions and pathways of the body and intimately understand hormones that can affect health and wellness. In addition to this foundation, however, Naturopathic Medicine also includes training in natural modalities for supporting the vital force of the body to heal. These therapies vary from Naturopathic doctor to doctor, as different practitioners may focus on different therapies. A majority of NDs do practice herbal medicine, functional medicine, nutrition, homeopathy, energy healing, and more.

Infertility is a complex diagnosis with many potential underlying causes. Naturopathic Doctors are particularly proficient in helping uncover a deep underlying cause that may not be obvious. Because Naturopathic Medicine views the body in a holistic way with a myriad of connections (that could be deemed otherwise unrelated), it is easy for NDs to recognize the deeper issues that may be contributing to a couple’s inability to conceive.

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In my experience, Acupuncture is a great adjunct to Naturopathic Medicine & IVF/IUI. My recommendation is to go all out, with multiple approaches, because the complexity of infertility needs to be addressed on many levels. All of the different approaches fill very unique needs for the client, but there’s no one right answer. When we, as practitioners, collaborate fully, our clients get results faster. And, that’s what I am all about! When couples are ready to start a family and they are getting older and don’t have a lot of time, I think it’s ideal to use a multi-disciplinary approach. It breaks my heart when clients come to me after having tried acupuncture for 5 years… I wonder why they waited 5 years before trying something else or adding something else? Often, they come from referrals from their acupuncturist, but it’s only after they have fully exhausted their time with the acupuncturist. And, I have been able to help most of these couples– however, I just wonder if they wouldn’t have been saved anguish and disappointment if their work with me was started sooner, in collaboration with acupuncture.

So, overall, what I can offer clients is very different from acupuncture. Acupuncture can strengthen the body, help with stress, and re-balance the energetic body. I really like to work on the physical-mental-emotional from a different perspective. On the physical level, we want to detoxify and clear the channels of the body. Then, we are testing and rebalancing hormones (often undiagnosed abnormalities that Western Medicine missed). And lastly, we work on the mental – energetic layers. In short, using a mind-body approach to conceiving and birthing a healthy child is essential — and can happen easily when you have a team of practitioners caring for you and your partner’s health and well-being.

Remember they say, “it takes a village to raise a child?”…. these days, I say, it takes a village to conceive and birth a child. Who’s making up your healing village?

By Dr. Aumatma

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www.draumatma.com

Visualizing Health – Krystal’s Story

Today we’re sharing a tiny bit of Krystal’s story via this mixed media piece she created.
She shares with us. “This is what I want my reproductive organs to look like. Unfortunately, my uterus has polyps, my ovaries are old, and polycystic, and I have blocked tubes.”

Larsen-Happy-Uterus-(1)

Happy Uterus
Krystal Larsen
Mixed Media

How would you draw, paint, or sculpt your organs to represent what you would like them to look like vs. what they do?

Elizabeth

 

Infertility has become my life’s work. – Heidi’s Story

Like many we meet through the project, Heidi Hayes’ career has been shaped by her journey with infertility. She shares that journey with us through this guest blog today. Thank you, Heidi, for sharing your story!
– Elizabeth

Infertility.

I never thought this little word could describe me.  For such a small word, it had the power to define my life and lead me to people I would never have otherwise met. It’s not a word that embraces you. It’s a word full of desperation, tears and unrealized dreams.

I was 32 when I first went to a fertility clinic and was diagnosed with unexplained infertility. Even the word diagnosed feels ironic next to unexplained! My husband of 4 years and I were not able to have a baby. We had been trying and each month I was full of hope, only to have it dashed.

We began our journey, like most couples, with IUIs and ultimately we moved on to IVF cycles. I produced lots of eggs and they made lots of embryos— which was great! But I really wish I had been wise enough to do some research on laboratory quality. On our first cycle, they froze our embryos on day 3, even though typically embryos frozen at the blastocyst stage perform better. With each frozen embryo transfer cycle, followed by more IVF cycles, my courage, resolve and spirit were depleted. All of my friends were announcing their pregnancies and month after month, I attended baby showers and new baby debuts.

I remember one day, sitting in my car in front of my best friend’s house. That day signified my loss and utter despair in the infertility process. I was her best friend; how could I miss her baby shower? But my red eyes when I arrived were all she needed to see to understand how painful the day was for me. I stayed for a short time and left before the baby gifts were opened. But I knew she understood that the real gift I brought was my willingness to be at the event in the first place.

How do you get through the pain of infertility? It’s hard not to shut down and crawl into a shell. My instinct was to insulate myself from all things baby. I had to continually fight against the bitterness and envy I felt. I found it difficult to surrender control.

heidi hayes egg donor bank usa bw

I survived infertility by using 3 coping mechanisms. First, I had to give up the notion that I could control the process. We cannot control our bodies, and by thinking we can, we only place unnecessary guilt and expectations on ourselves. Second, I persevered. I wanted to quit more often than not, but I pushed forward as if in a stupor, unwilling to consider the costs of stopping or even continuing. Third, I stopped telling. I confided in a few good friends, but otherwise I kept my monthly cycle to myself. I found it hard to have multiple people ask me about the outcome of a cycle. It was like reopening the wound over and over again.

After our unsuccessful IVF and IUI cycles, we moved on to adoption. Thankfully, we were successful in this process and brought home a 7 month old baby from Guatemala. Naively we went back for baby number two, 1 year before Guatemala closed its doors to adoption. We fought for our baby girl and traveled to visit her on several occasions. Nearly 6 years later, we were told by Homeland Security that our adoption would not be completed. The loss of a baby I had held and dreamed about was devastating.

Unwilling to be the victim of infertility, we pondered the thought of using an egg donor. Ultimately, we switched our fertility practice and started again. Our first cycle produced 2 very mediocre embryos. Our doctor prepared us for the failure we would inevitably experience. But God had other plans for us. Elated, we gave birth to twins!

As I look back on our infertility, I can still feel the devastation associated with the word. But what was once nothing but grey and black now has undertones of magenta, yellow and orange. My infertility is paying me back for all of the tears I have shed. I have fought the fight and come out victorious with three beautiful children. I wanted them desperately and have pushed aside a myriad of distractions to give them my undivided attention. Infertility has become my life’s work with Donor Egg Bank USA. heidi hayes donor egg bank usa postHelping others to experience the success of having a baby to hold and love is my mission. Would I have felt this way had I not walked as a close companion with infertility? Embracing my infertility has molded me for the best and has given me the serenity to help others achieve their peace as well.

heidi hayes photoBio: Heidi Hayes is the CEO of Donor Egg Bank USA, a nationwide registry of egg donors. She has more than 20 years of healthcare experience and has worked extensively in the field of reproductive endocrinology. Through her work, Heidi has helped thousands of couples realize their dream of having family.

News Round Up: All About Veterans

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CSPAN announcing HR 2577 passed.

This week’s News Round Up is all about veterans because a historic vote just took place and passed! The Mil-Con Bill, now named HR 2577, passed yesterday in the full United States Senate by a vote of 89 to 8, with Senators Corker, Crapo, Flake, Lankford, Lee, Paul, Risch, and Sessions voting against it and Senators Boxer, Cruz, and Sanders not voting. Confirmed: it *included* the Amendment providing funding for IVF for Veterans. It will now move forward to a conference committee to reconcile the bill and then go back to both the House and Senate for a vote.

Kuddos to all of you who called Congress this past week encouraging your local Senators to support this bill. Citizen advocacy does work!

Today, we localize the importance of this bill by sharing a recent news story of Michelle Wager, a MI veteran who has been facing her own infertility journey.

michelle wager

Michelle Wager, a MI veteran facing infertility.

“A roadside bomb blew off one of Wager’s legs, badly damaged the other and broke her back. Doctors say she coded three times. Her recovery was long and painful. Military health benefits covered the cost to get Wager back on her feet, but there was another problem. Her menstrual cycles had completely stopped, doctors say her injuries threw her body into early menopause. She was just 31 years old and her chances of having a child were slim to none.”

You can read more of Michelle’s story here.

We invite you to learn more about the challenge veterans face when pursuing family-building options and to contact your federal representatives asking them to co-sponsor S 469, the Women Veterans and Family Health Services Act. Find your representatives here.

 

Audrey’s Perspective on Parenting after Infertility

We featured Chas’ blog on Tuesday. Today, we’re sharing his wife Audrey’s perspective on parenting after infertility. This post does contain images of babies and parenting. Thanks, Chas and Audrey, for sharing your story.
– Elizabeth

“My baby, my baby, my baby!” That’s all I could say after the midwife put Ella skin-to-skin with me right after she was born. I remember feeling Chas touching my head, and feeling Ella’s feet in my hand, and thinking I was still in a dream. Obviously throughout the whole pregnancy the goal was to get to this moment, but even in labor it still didn’t feel real that I was going to get to be a mommy.

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Because of our infertility journey I feel like we celebrated every single milestone with vigor. We had a gender reveal party, weekly bump pictures, 2 baby showers, maternity pictures, baseball games, a mother’s day trip to Disneyland, the whole shebang. We knew this was a gift, and we knew the fragility of it, so whatever we could celebrate we did. In that celebration though I realized I was losing a lot of the ladies I had become friends with through infertility.

Being in an infertility support group is a hard thing. You are there to shield yourself from the outside world of pregnancy, and babies, but unless you’ve chosen to live childless the whole group wants to be in that outside world. After our announcement I noticed a lot of people started to pull away, and I understood. My joy was their pain. I had been there. I had watched over and over again my infertility sisters become pregnant and deliver their miracles all while wondering when my turn would come. When you really delve into the community, so much of your identity is wrapped up in infertility, and trying to figure out how to balance your new future of parenting along with your past struggle to get to this point is tricky. When people would ask me how my pregnancy was going, and I told them I wasn’t feeling so well I was labeled as ungrateful.

I threw up my whole pregnancy. I don’t mean I had some morning sickness in the first trimester, I mean I carried the green vomit bags with me everywhere, went to the hospital for fluids, lost a lot of weight, and had a whole throw up routine with Chas (he would bring me water to rinse my mouth, and pull out little strips of toilette paper to wipe my face). I stopped telling a lot of people because every time I did the number one response I got was “you wanted this” or the always classic “be careful what you pray for”, and they were absolutely right. I had wanted this and prayed for this more than I had ever wanted anything, but the throwing my guts up wasn’t in the plan.

Once Ella was here my anxiety was at an all time high. For the first 2 weeks every day at 5:30 I would cry for half an hour. I was so mad at myself for experiencing baby blues because in my mind I had wanted this so much that my want for my daughter should overcome any hormonal changes that I was going through. I couldn’t put her down (which later developed into a nasty sleeping habit we had to break). Every time I would lay her in her bassinet to sleep I would feel guilty that she wasn’t in my arms. If I had worked that hard to have a baby then that baby was going to be in my arms! I needed help from Chas, but I didn’t know what he could do, or how to ask for it. It took a few months of developing a rhythm before things started to settle into our new normal. I had to let go of what things “should” look like, and comparing myself to other moms, and just let myself be the mom I wanted to be.

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Parenting is more everything than I thought it would be. It’s more love, more worrying, harder, more rewarding, more overwhelming, more joy, more nerve-wracking, and this list goes on. I always knew that I would love being a mommy, but I didn’t know how much I would love being Ella’s mommy. I look at her and think about the struggle it took for her to get here, and know that that struggle shaped Chas and I into the parents that she needed.

Infertility is the Worst – The Artwork of Kelly Zechmeister-Smith

A few weeks ago, Maria and I had the pleasure of interviewing Kelly Zechmeister-Smith at her home in Ann Arbor, MI. Kelly created a series of watercolors that represent real life experiences she had while trying to get pregnant.

This Friday, we’ll be displaying some of Kelly’s paintings, and the artwork and stories of others living with infertility in Michigan, at the Michigan Assisted Reproductive Technology Summit (MiART Summit) in Novi. The MiART Summit is being held by the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services – Maternal and Child Health Epidemiology Section in collaboration with the Michigan Infertility Advisory Committee to bring together diverse stakeholders to learn about infertility and the use of ART in Michigan; explore the association between ART and the incidence of multiple birth, preterm birth, and low birth weight; and develop recommendations to improve ART access, practices, and outcomes in Michigan.

We’ll be sharing our interview with Kelly in a future post but wanted to share some of her artwork today.

Infertility is the Worst
Kelly Zechmeister-Smith
Medium – micron pen and watercolor paint

Artist’s Statement: This work began with an inexplicable creative urgency to represent my layered feelings surrounding my own unexplained infertility (UI)–a maddening diagnosis.  Creating small, cartoonish self portraits highlighting my daily experiences as a childless artist and teacher quickly became a therapeutic outlet for me.  My hope is that the viewer finds these pieces a playful yet raw glimpse into the life of someone struggling with UI.

Infertility is the Worst III by Kelly Zechmeister-Smith

Infertility is the Worst III by Kelly Zechmeister-Smith

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Infertility is the Worst I by Kelly Zechmeister-Smith

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Infertility is the Worst II by Kelly Zechmeister-Smith

Parenting After Infertility – Reflections from Chas

This week, we’re running perspectives on parenting after infertility from Chas and Audrey, whose daughter, Ella, was born after their seventh IUI. Chas has been a guest blogger for us in the past and we’ll also be sharing his story at our event at The Turek Clinic in San Francisco on June 16th. We hope you’ll join us! We’re sharing Chas’ perspective’s today. Look for Audrey’s on Thursday. This post does contain an image of a baby and parenting. 
– Elizabeth 

“Enjoy it, it goes by so quick! Wait till she is a teenager!” I nod my head and give a faint smile just like I would with all the “just relax it will happen in time” advice we would get when we were trying to start our family.

I feel like there is no “after” infertility. It really never leaves you after you have gone through it. Infertility becomes a part of who you are as a person, a couple, and as a family. It will always be part of Ella’s story. I remember the exact day my wife triggered November 1st, 2014 at a friend’s house warming/Halloween party. I feel most couples who haven’t struggled to have their own family wouldn’t know that kind of thing. I also know the exact day my daughter was conceived November 3rd 2014 at Kaiser Vacaville with my wife wearing her fuzzy Halloween socks, and Northern California Walk of Hope shirt on our 7th and last IUI.

My wife and I gave so much of ourselves in our struggle to have a child I feel we are giving as much if not more of ourselves to be the best parents we can be. We don’t want to be just good parents, but the absolute best for our daughter. Parenthood has been a lot harder than I would have thought, but also so much more rewarding. I will admit that waking up at every single cry was a little bit of a struggle for me. My wife would attest to this fact, but those moments where it was just me, and my daughter alone when only I could soothe her will be forever etched in my memory. Her coos are what kept me going on those sleepless nights where I had to go to work the next morning.

Chas with newborn Ella, who was conceived on their seventh and final IUI.

Chas with newborn Ella, who was conceived on their seventh and final IUI.

Going back to work was rough for me. I just wanted to be home with the daughter we tried so long to have. I didn’t want to have a family just to be constantly away from them. I was jealous my wife was able to take close to 6 months off when Ella was born. I felt I missed so much in the 10 hours I was gone, and Ella was already a completely different little human when I got back home. Thank goodness we live in a digital age because if it wasn’t for FaceTime, and picture sending it would have been a lot harder than it was.

FMLA is amazing. Those 6 weeks I was able to be at home with my daughter were just pure bliss (except for the whole sleep training part). Being there every minute of every day is something I wish every father could have. It made me appreciate everything my wife had done during her 6 months off. Seeing Ella smile when I woke her up for the day would make me melt. I like to think I’m a tough guy but around my daughter I’m just a teddy bear.

I am thankful everyday that I get to be a father. I really didn’t think it was going to happen for me. Now that Ella is almost 9 months everyone asks, “So when is the next one coming?” Part of me wants to say Ella took 3 years of heartbreak and 7 IUI’s! I just want to enjoy her and all her little milestones. The other part of me is starting to think Ella would be an awesome big sister, and as she gets older I start to miss her baby stages. I know it won’t be easy but maybe lightning in a bottle (or syringe) can happen twice.

Myth: Advocacy Day is Over and The Work Is Done

This past Wednesday Elizabeth, myself and several hundreds of other infertility professionals and infertile individuals met with our representatives asking them to support The Veterans Amendment to the Senate Appropriations Mil-Con Bill. This bill would provide funding for the VA to offer IVF to wounded veterans. Currently, the VA does not provide IVF coverage to our Veterans. You can learn more about this injustice hereWe just learned that the Senate will be voting on this issue this week! And so, our #IFAdvocacy work is not over — it is just beginning! Please take time this week to contact your Senators and urge them to support this very important bill! 

Below, we are busting the myth that Advocacy Day is just a one-day event. We provide reflections on Advocacy Day and some strategies to help you encourage those in your infertility support network to continue this important advocacy work all year long.

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Empowering! Exhilarating! Amazing! Awe-Inspiring! 

Elizabeth and Maria at Advocacy Day's Welcome Reception located in the Russell Senate Building.

Elizabeth and Maria at Advocacy Day’s Welcome Reception located in the Russell Senate Building.

These are just a few words that can attempt to capture the overwhelming rush of energy you feel attending an Advocacy Day.

This year though was particularly invigorating given the day’s partnership with veterans and advocating for the VA to change their anti-family-building policies that provide no IVF care to veterans (click here to find out specifics of these policies). Taking on such an issue opened many doors, both on the right and the left, highlighting to staffers, legislative aides and the representatives themselves the injustice these VA policies have on family-building for military families.

At the opening reception, we were powerfully reminded by a military family the importance of advocating for sponsorship of these veterans bills. A military spouse remarked

“War has changed their family, it shouldn’t keep them from having one.”

Upon uttering these words, you could hear the gasps of emotion from the audience. Energy was filling our lungs.

And on Wednesday May 11th, we took that energy and got to work walking the hill as we wore our orange ribbons and #IVF4Vets buttons.Twitter blew up, Facebook pages blew up, even congressional reps and aids seemed a bit surprised.

Nearly 200 infertile advocates took over the hill on May 11th, changing the conversation.

Nearly 200 infertile advocates took over the hill on May 11th, changing the anticipated conversation.

But now, we are all back home. We have returned to our day-to-day, returned to hosting our support groups, returned to our own personal struggles with infertility. The question that we now need to focus on is no longer, how will I get my representatives to support better infertility coverage? We did that. We got their attention. We even made CNN.

tapper

Jake Tapper of CNN covers our Advocacy Day and push to get #IVF4Vets.

The question is now, how can I continue to remind my representatives that #IFAdvocacy is not just a day – it is a movement for social change, a move towards family-building, a move towards reproductive social justice. How do we do this though? How do we bottle up all of that energizing spirit and tap into it on a consistent basis?

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Elizabeth, visiting Rep. Walhberg’s (R-MI) office for the third time to ask him to support #IFAdvocacy.

Think about it as a monthly bill that you have to pay (and doesn’t yet have automatic bill payment setup). Pick a date in your calandar. Perhaps it is the 11th since we met with our reps on the 11th. Give yourself a monthly alert on this date to connect once more with your represenatives. Send out an email, send a tweet. Take those business cards you received and email their aids. On Father’s Day, remind those our representatives of how hard this day can be for those looking to build their families. On Thanksgiving and Christmas, do the same. Be an advocate all year long. This takes work.

We know that it does. But if we want #IFAdvocacy and #IVF4Vets we need to hold ourselves and our representatives accountable. In the words of Rep. Tammy Duckworth, the hill is our house. Let’s be sure to demand to our representatives that infertility coverage is something we are putting in our house.

Rep. Tammy Duckworth (D-IL) speaking at the morning training session about her own personal story with infertility while serving in the military.

Rep. Tammy Duckworth (D-IL) speaking at the morning training session about her own personal story with infertility while serving in the military.