News Round Up: All About Veterans

senate

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.

 

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.

Let’s Remember Advocacy Day Is Just the Beginning

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?

13230315_10154236330306742_2925500788373099402_n

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.

Myth – Infertility awareness is only important for one week in April.

Last week was a big week for us, it was National Infertility Awareness Week. We believe in raising awareness about infertility year round and one of the biggest days of the year is right around the corner. What is it? Advocacy Day. It’s a day when those in the infertility community, and their friends and family, descend on Washington, D.C. and have meetings with their legislators, encouraging them to support the bills that will improve the lives of those with infertility by helping them build their families. If you’ve never done anything like that before, it might sound a bit scary. I’ll admit I was a bit nervous the first year I attended. However, that nervousness was quickly replaced with a feeling of strength and empowerment I hadn’t before felt in my infertility journey.

Maria and I attended our first Advocacy Day in 2014. It's where we met! Here we are with Maria's husband, Kevin Jordan, and one of my best friends, Sarah Powell.

Maria and I attended our first Advocacy Day in 2014. It’s where we met! Here we are with Maria’s husband, Kevin Jordan, and one of my best friends, Sarah Powell.

Advocacy Day is on May 11th this year. The deadline for registration is this Wednesday, May 4th. Have ever felt discouraged by the out of pocket expenses you’ve incurred due to your disease? Ever wished that there was more research being done about conditions like Endometriosis or PCOS that can contribute to infertility? Have you wished that there was more support for potential adoptive families? Have you thought it’s an outrage that there is a ban on IVF for veterans? If so, this is an opportunity for you to tell law makers how you feel and be a part of changing things for the better. Maria and I will be there, along with many of the individuals you’ve read stories about here. Candace Wohl, Judy Horn, Lindsey, Jennifer, Katie Lelito, Cindy Flynn, Brooke Kingston, Risa Levine, Angela Bergmann, and more. If any of these people’s stories inspired you, here’s a chance to meet them in person! I will happily introduce you!

Need more inspiration? Check out the videos below!

Please, meet us at Advocacy Day!

Elizabeth

 

 

 

News Roundup – April 15

A few stories that caught our eye this week. 

-Elizabeth

VETERANS: Murray Amendment to Cover Reproductive Services for Injured Veterans Passes Key Committee

“This amendment is about fulfilling our promise to the military families who we ask to sacrifice and serve our country on our behalf,” Senator Murray said. “I’m so proud to see Democrats and Republicans working together to move this forward, but I know this is just the first hurdle. I will be fighting to see this through to the end so this country can keep up its commitment to care for our veterans and their spouses who dream of having a family.”

 

More babies, fewer multiple births, are resulting from assisted reproduction

Los Angeles Times

Melissa Healy

“In 2014, between 22% and 31% of women undergoing infertility treatment were electing to have just a single embryo transferred, with women under 35 choosing that option at higher rates than women over 40. That rate of “elective single-embryo transfers,” however, remains much lower than physician groups have called for.”

Assisted reproduction is on the rise in the United States, resulting in the birth of 65,175 babies in 2014, says a new report. (Ken Hively / Los Angeles Times)

Assisted reproduction is on the rise in the United States, resulting in the birth of 65,175 babies in 2014, says a new report. (Ken Hively / Los Angeles Times)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Infertility issues take financial, emotional toll

The Tennessean

Hollie Deese

“We’re trying to find out about exactly how much all of this is going to cost,” she says. “I’m still paying on treatments that I did in 2010 with my ex-husband. We had to take out a loan for our treatment we did in November, and we’ll be paying on it for two years. We don’t want to put ourselves in a horrible financial situation.

“There are so many times that you just want to give up and say, ‘I’m done.’ Then, you think of the big picture, that you really want to be a parent, and you’ll do whatever it takes.”

Jessica Ray at her home in Gallatin. The 31-year-old Gallatin photographer still hopes to become a mom one day despite her infertility issues. (Photo: George Walker IV / The Tennessean)

Jessica Ray at her home in Gallatin. The 31-year-old Gallatin photographer still hopes to become a mom one day despite her infertility issues.
(Photo: George Walker IV / The Tennessean)

 

 

Reflections on Advocacy Day from Infertility Professional, and Patient, Lindsey

Bringing you another personal story by way of my interviews in Columbus a few weeks ago. Lindsey, who is both an infertility patient, and a health care professional in the field, shares why advocacy is important to her. Thanks, Lindsey, for sharing your story!

Elizabeth

“I practice as an OB/GYN Nurse Practitioner and specialize in infertility. I was an RN and worked in the cardiac ICU and then case management so nothing women’s health related. Then, my husband and I got married and started trying to get pregnant. We had a lot of trouble. I felt like the nurses and other people I encountered along the way as a patient had a complete lack of knowledge of what to do with me. It’s a specialty field so I feel like it’s not necessarily the nurses’ fault. I just think, in general, it’s an area that people don’t know anything about unless they work in it. Physicians don’t necessarily do as much or know as much as they should before you end up getting to a specialist. I feel like there’s a lot of wasted time. I decided to go to grad school so I could help other people.”

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Lindsey at work in her Columbus, Ohio OB/GYN office.

“I want to share my story because infertility is just not talked about enough. People don’t know enough about it, or realize that it impacts so many people. It won’t be such a taboo topic if it’s something that people are actually aware of. It’s been so hushed and so unspoken that people don’t know enough about it to care enough about it.”

“The first year I went to Advocacy Day, RESOLVE: The National Infertility Association, really wanted to get professionals there because they think that the senators and representatives take well to professionals who see infertility on large scales. I find it extremely frustrating that legislators, and people in general, don’t fight for coverage for IVF and insurance for those with infertility. Working in the field, we pay for type 2 diabetes in people who have poor lifestyle choices, we pay for lung cancer in people who have smoked. We cover all of these diseases that are, not always but many times, preventable. Infertility typically is not, yet there’s no coverage for it. It’s such a disparity in medicine that we don’t treat a disease like infertility. That’s something I push at Advocacy Day. We cover preventable disease, we cover self inflicted disease, and we don’t cover this.”

“If people are nervous about going to Advocacy Day, I think that once they go, they’ll want to go back because it’s empowering. They’ll feel like they’re making a difference then they won’t question it again.”

– Lindsey

Please consider joining ART of IF and Lindsey in Washington, D.C. for Advocacy Day on May 11th. 

 

 

 

 

Going the Distance for Infertility Coverage – Reflections on Advocacy Day from Brooke

Today, Brooke Kingston shares why she travels 2000 miles from home to Washington, D.C. for Advocacy Day each year. Thanks, Brooke, for sharing your story!

Elizabeth

Brooke-in-DC-2015

Brooke after sharing a portion of her story with ART of Infertility during our mini interview sessions before Advocacy Day, 2015.

Two years ago this May, I boarded a plane in Phoenix, Arizona destined for Dulles International Airport in Virginia, a place I’d never been. I picked up my rental car and drove to a home in Sterling, where I would be staying for the next week. I was about to meet someone I’d been online friends with for 3 years, but had never met face to face. Our plans were to get pedicures, eat good food, and spend a day in Washington, D.C. talking to members of Congress.

You’re thinking I’m crazy, right? Maybe a little.

When I think back to the leap of faith I took flying across the country, meeting (and planning to stay with) someone I’d never met and committing to walk the halls of the Capitol, I’m still a bit surprised with myself. I’m a homebody. I hate public speaking. Why would I do something like this? To explain that, I need to back up a little more.

Five years ago this summer, my husband and I were diagnosed with joint fertility issues. We were given a 2% chance of ever conceiving on our own. Having agreed ahead of time that we wouldn’t do IVF, we spent the next year coming to the decision that we would choose a childfree lifestyle as our resolution to infertility. It was the hardest choice we’ll ever make as a married couple, but we made it together and committed ourselves to each other and began to heal.

Part of my healing process is creating. I took up new crafts and converted what would have been the nursery into an office and craft room. I learned to knit and returned to painting, something I’d enjoyed in high school. I baked and decorated cookies and cakes. I dabbled in photography and sewing. My Pinterest boards grew exponentially. When our first nephew was born in the summer of 2014, I learned to quilt and made 7 quilts in as many months, gifting them with love to friends and family. I poured myself in creating to fill the void.

The fifth quilt Brooke created.

The fifth quilt Brooke created.

The other part of my healing process is taking action. Infertility left me feeling helpless, and then angry at that feeling of powerlessness. To face that anger, as well as to find community and support, I became involved with RESOLVE: The National Infertility Association. I started as a support group attendee shortly after our diagnosis and eventually became a group leader. I became involved in fundraising through the Arizona Walk of Hope, and eventually became the chair of the event. Later, I would become an Ambassador and assume the responsibility of being a positive face of RESOLVE in the community.

Brooke with fellow Advocacy Day attendees at the welcome reception in 2015.

Brooke with fellow Advocacy Day attendees at the welcome reception in 2015.

In the midst of this volunteer work, I heard about Advocacy Day. In 2013, I remember posting on Facebook that I would be there in 2014. I didn’t know what all was involved, but that was my goal, and I would not fail. Those were my words: “I will not fail.” I spent the next year saving for airfare. A friend who I’d met through infertility message boards and become close with – thanks to our spectacularly matched wit and diagnoses – offered her home as my place to stay and agreed to join me at the Capitol. I was beyond excited and nervous, but on May 7th, 2014, the day of my first Advocacy Day, I achieved the goal I’d made over a year earlier.

Brooke at Senator McCain's office during Advocacy Day 2014.

Brooke at Senator McCain’s office during Advocacy Day 2014.

It’s hard to describe the exact feeling of being at Advocacy Day. It’s awe-inspiring: from meeting the staff of RESOLVE, to hearing the empowering speeches of the event chairs at the morning training, to being in the Capitol building amidst the hustle and bustle of staffers and trams and security points. It’s intimidating sitting in front of a congressional staffer (most of whom were younger than me – you kind of want to ask if their parents know where they are), telling them you’re there because you’re infertile and you want their boss to support legislation that will make life better for people like you. It can be difficult to remember all the statements you carefully rehearsed and the facts about the bills you memorized when you’re nervous and your mouth feels dry and your palms are sweaty. Their political philosophy may be wildly different and you may feel like you’re talking to a wall.

But your voice is HEARD.

Whether my congressperson agrees with me or not, my voice was heard, and it was heard on behalf of 7.3 million Americans who weren’t there in that room that day. That’s an incredible sense of accomplishment. Even if they don’t agree to co-sponsor a bill, when we tell them that we’re there with a group of over 150 people from all over the country, that makes an impact. That tells them that we are a force, and that we matter. That’s the incredible feeling that drives me to attend Advocacy Day, to set aside my fear of public speaking for the greater good of my community. This May will be my third consecutive year attending, and I have no plans to quit.

Brooke and her online turned in-real-life friend, getting pedicures before Advocacy Day 2015.

Brooke and her online turned in-real-life friend getting pedicures before Advocacy Day 2015.

As for the friend I stayed with that first year, I’m doing that again, too. We’ve become the best of friends, and this is something we’re committed to doing together, along with the growing number of advocates we meet each year. Advocacy isn’t only about the message we deliver directly to congress. It’s about our community and how we foster it and make the environment better for those who can’t speak out. It’s about being with other people who understand the emotional complexity of the disease and using those emotions to drive action.

It’s about taking a leap of faith and believing that you can create a difference, start a conversation, and make things better for others.

Please consider joining Brooke at Advocacy Day in Washington, D.C. on May 11 this year. You can learn about how to get involved at resolve.org.

 

 

Water, the President, and Infertility

You’ve probably heard of the water crisis in Flint, MI. In case you haven’t, here’s the gist of it. While the city of Flint was under emergency management by order of Governor Rick Snyder in 2014, a decision was made to discontinue sourcing the city’s water from the city of Detroit.

As a cost saving measure, Flint’s water supply would instead come from the Flint River. The river water was so corrosive that it broke down the city’s lead pipes, leaching toxic levels into the Flint residents’ water. Lead poisoning in children can cause developmental delays, vomiting, hearing loss, and more. In adults, it can cause memory loss, high blood pressure, reduced sperm count, miscarriage, the list goes on. In addition to lead poisoning, an outbreak of Legionnaire’s Disease, which is possibly the result of the contaminated water supply, has killed 10 people. This is all completely horrific.

In October, Flint’s water supply was switched back and is once again sourced from Detroit. However, the damage to the pipes has been done and the water is still unsafe. It wasn’t until January 5th though, that Governor Snyder declared a State of Emergency and on January 16th, President Obama declared the situation in Flint a federal state of emergency. Obama was visiting Detroit yesterday and spoke about this disaster.

flint water crisis

Nearly seven years into my experience with infertility, it’s rare that I have those moments that anyone with an infertility diagnosis knows well. They come out of nowhere. The hit by a truck, breath knocked out of you, heart breaking into a hundred pieces moments when someone asks you if you have children, you see a young child reach for his father’s hand, or a pregnant woman lovingly rubs her belly. I’ve come a long way in dealing with the emotions that come along with this disease. However, listening to coverage of President Obama’s speech on my local NPR station, Michigan Radio, while sitting in traffic during my commute last night, I nearly burst into tears. The reporter quoted the president and then followed up with audio from his speech, reflecting on the crisis in Flint.

“I’m very proud of what I’ve done as president, but the only job that’s more important to me is the job of father. And, I know that if I was a parent up there, I would be beside myself that my kids’ health could be at risk. That’s why over the weekend, I declared a federal emergency in Flint to send more resources on top of the assistance that we’ve already put on the ground.”

Obama went on to say that he’s designated a federal coordinator to make sure the people in Flint get what they need from their country, that he’s met with Flint’s Mayor, Karen Weaver, and told her that he’s going to have her back, and all of the people of Flint’s back, as they work their way through this terrible tragedy.

My heart broke when I heard those words. My heart is racing now, after listening to Obama’s speech again to transcribe his sentiments. The President says he’s proudest of his role as a parent, a role that millions of Americans long for, yet are unable to achieve, because they have the disease of infertility.  The federal government has the city of Flint’s back, as it absolutely should, yet there is no federal mandate for health coverage for the diagnosis or treatment of infertility.

Most Americans don’t have infertility coverage and many have to pay completely out of pocket for their health expenses due to this disease, a disease that is recognized by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) as a public health concern. The federal government doesn’t even have the backs of veterans who are infertile as a direct result of injuries sustained in the line of duty. There is currently a Veterans Administration ban on coverage for in vitro fertilization, a procedure that could bring the dream of parenthood to thousands of veterans of war who can’t become mothers and fathers without it. Parenthood. The role which their commander in chief values above all.

The people of Flint are worried about their health, scared of what their futures might hold, or might not hold, as a result of the public health crisis of contaminated drinking water. People are outraged so they’re raising their voices and they’re being heard.

This is why I raise awareness through infertility art exhibits, art and writing workshops, and conference presentations with ART of Infertility. This is why I lobby on Capitol Hill each year on Advocacy Day for legislation that, if put into effect, will help those with the disease of infertility build their families through treatment or adoption.

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Maria and me on Advocacy Day 2015.

My infertility diagnosis affects my health and well being and alters the possibilities for my future. It makes me outraged that my loved ones and I don’t have access to the care we need to treat our disease. So, I write my members of congress, meet with them on Capitol Hill, align myself with members of the infertility community so we can support each other. I shed light on the trials of infertility through portraits and interviews of those dealing with the disease and curate exhibits of artwork created by them so the public, our insurers, and legislators can better understand why it’s important that we gain the health coverage we need.

Like the president, I’m proud of the work I have done. However, my job won’t be finished until every person who wants to be a mother, or wants to be a father, has access to the resources they need to achieve their dream.

-Elizabeth

Advocacy Day is on May 11 this year. Please join me in Washington, D.C! Click here for more info.

Advocacy Day Interviews

Maria:

These past two weeks been a whirlwind! New exhibit and workshop dates are currently being planned for the project, we hosted our workshop and exhibit at Busboys & Poets in DC, we met with our MI legislators to discuss infertility legislation, we gathered new infertility stories for the project, plus we successfully met our Kickstarter goal! Thank you for all who supported us, both financially and those who continue to publicly support and share information about the project. Liz and I continue to pinch ourselves in amazement about how the project has evolved over this past year.

Many of you may not know that Liz and I first met during this time last year at RESOLVE: The National Infertility Association’s Advocacy Day. We bonded over our infertility stories, experiences leading RESOLVE peer-led support groups, and our passion and interest in the arts as a heuristic for infertility healing. Our friendship has blossomed over the past year, incorporating many of these shared interests and our professional backgrounds into the project.

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Liz and me in front of the Capitol during Advocacy Day last week.

 

So while I reflect on our time spent in DC last week, I think about how Advocacy Day brought the two of us together and really helped to shape the project into a national infertility oral history and art exhibit. This year, Advocacy Day continues to serve as a fruitful day connecting hundreds of infertile women and men. Liz and I were lucky enough to spend time with a few of these individuals by inviting a few women to participate in a “mini” interview session for the project.

Here we met Jo and Brooke. Two empowering, positive, strong, and courageous women. Talking with them and learning about their artifacts (Jo, a tatoo; Brooke, a quilt) that they choose to share with the project, I was struck in the moment of interviewing each of them that this is why I come to Advocacy Day. This is why I tell my story to Congress. This is why I believe that infertility should become recognized as a national public health issue. These women. Sitting before me. Telling me their stories. They inspire me and remind me that I’m not alone. That our infertility stories matter. That together as an infertile community, we are strong, we are powerful, we can change the cultural stigmas that are attached to infertility. I want to thank Jo and Brooke for agreeing to share their stories (shown below). I hope that others will find them equally inspiring and empowering.

 

Elizabeth: 

I’m in awe every time I sit down to interview an individual or family about their experience with infertility. Since starting the project, I’ve completed around 70 interviews and they never fail to remind me of the passion and desire that those with infertility have for building their (our) families and what they are willing to do to make that happen, whether they end up parenting, or choosing to be a family of two and live child free.

Sadly, because of the lack of the acknowledgment of infertility as a public health concern (even though it is recognized as such by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention), and insurance coverage for this disease; many endure years of treatment, and pay for most, if not all of it, out of pocket. That’s why I choose to advocate for legislation that will help those with infertility build their families.

An important part of that is sharing my story, and, through the ART of IF, I’ve had the honor and privilege of documenting and sharing the stories of others as well. It’s been an important part of being able to process my feelings about my disease and I find it amazing that I’m able to help others do that too. During our time in D.C., Maria and I were able to sit down with seven amazing women, Tomiko, Brooke, Angela, Katie, Jo, Annie, and Renee, and hear a bit of their stories. Thank you all for letting us in to your lives and journeys!

Renee, Annie, Elizabeth, Maria, and Jo at the wrap up reception during Advocacy Day.

Renee, Annie, Elizabeth, Maria, and Jo at the wrap up reception during Advocacy Day.

Meeting with my state and local representatives at Advocacy Day made me realize what an incredible tool the project could be for sharing the importance of the issues we were presenting (you can find a list of those issues and bills at RESOLVE: The National Infertility Association’s website by clicking here) and I’m excited about ways we can do outreach through the project to help make a difference on both a state and federal level.

Brooke:

Infertility Advocate, Brooke Kingston, in Washington, D.C. for RESOLVE:The National Infertility Association's Advocacy Day.

Infertility Advocate, Brooke Kingston, in Washington, D.C. for RESOLVE:The National Infertility Association’s Advocacy Day.

 Brooke tells us why she wanted to participate in the ART of Infertility project.

Brooke shares reflections on her infertility diagnosis and decision to live child free.

Brooke finds a creative outlet for her infertility through a variety of hobbies. Here, she holds a quilt she created.

Brooke finds a creative outlet for her infertility through a variety of hobbies. Here, she holds a quilt she created.

“My husband and I are five years into our experience with infertility, and chose a childfree lifestyle as our resolution. I’ve always been crafty and took solace in creative hobbies. When my sister announced her pregnancy in November 2013, I struggled a lot emotionally. The second I laid eyes on my nephew, I fell in love with him and wanted to give him the world. I had a strong urge to carry on my late grandmother’s tradition of gifting new babies with her handmade quilts. My nephew received my first quilt, and I’ve finished 6 others since September 2014. This quilt is the fifth I started, and was used as a prop in the photo session my husband and I did to celebrate of fifth wedding anniversary.”

-Brooke

Brooke’s advice for others who have been diagnosed with infertility. 

 

Jo:

Jo advocates at both the state and federal levels for changes that would improve the lives of those with infertility.

Jo shares with us why she wanted to participate in the ART of Infertility project.

 

Jo’s diagnosis includes diminished ovarian reserve and cysts, while her husband has male factor infertility due to a previous vasectomy. Here, she explains more.

 

After many cycles of both IUI and IVF, Jo has never been pregnant. Listen to the two clips below to hear about her treatment and how she has had to pay for them out-of-pocket since she has run out of insurance coverage.

Jo's tattoo of an eight cell embryo was created by artist, Jude LeTronik.

Jo’s tattoo of an eight cell embryo was created by artist, Jude LeTronik.

Recently, Jo got a tattoo to honor her journey and has a sort of prayer, or spell, for her next upcoming IVF to work. Listen to her talk more about the reasons why she chose this image. If you’d like to learn more about the tattoo artist, you can check out her website. http://www.judeletronik.com