There's a quote I've always loved by Maya Angelou. It's, "I learned a long time ago the wisest thing I can do is be on my own side, be an advocate for myself and others like me." It's so simple, and yet conveys so much. It says that you can take something that has affected you in a negative way and make it a positive for both yourself and for others who have been affected by the same issue.
The issue that I've personally been affected by has been infertility. When I first began treatment, I cast myself as the lonely infertile (cue sad violin music). No one understood me, no one knew what it was like and I felt like I alone was being punished.
Slowly, though, I began to come out of my infertility closet. I started a blog chronicling my journey, I created a Twitter account dedicated to making every attempt to put the fun in infertility, I began having brunches with my fellow infertiles, where we'd vent over fruit salad and, as time went on, I connected with some of the most special, supportive, strong-as-hell women that you could ever meet.
The fact that on my last IVF cycle ALL of my medications were donated from my fellow infertile friends always chokes me up. My son's life is the direct product of the infertility community's generosity.
Even though my journey was quite often an emotional and heartbreaking one, I've made every effort to take those "infertile lemons" and make some seriously delicious lemonade -- often spiked with vodka.
This is why when I heard about RESOLVE, the National Infertility Association, organizing an Advocacy Day, I was inspired. It's one thing to write a funny blog about your reproductive parts, but it's entirely another to make a real impact on legislation to help others who are fertility challenged.
On May 7th, many people like myself will be volunteering their personal time in order to ask Congress to support legislation that will allow more people to afford IVF treatments, wounded vets to seek IVF treatment and provide access and relief to those who would otherwise not be able to build their family through adoption.
Particularly through my job with Fertility Authority, I have spoken to countless people who want nothing more than to be parents. Many of these people have well-paying jobs and even reputable insurance but they still can't afford the treatment necessary.
Truth be told, I was one of those people. I had a great job with an established company and outstanding benefits. However, my insurance only covered one cycle of IVF. It ended up taking me three IVF's to conceive my son. Keep in mind that, on average, it costs $12,500 (without medication costs) for one cycle of in vitro. If my son ever says I never really wanted him in a moment of teenage angst, I plan to show him all the money I spent on fertility treatment.
Infertility is a real medical issue just like any other medical issue that is covered by insurance. I feel like so many don't realize that. This is why I'm particularly excited about Advocacy Day -- it can be so powerful for the infertility community to speak to elected officials to help them better understand the needs of those trying to build a family.
To quote another wise person, Epictetus once said, "It's not what happens to you, but how you react to it that matters." No one wants to have heartache, struggles, disappointments or strain. If you have gone through any issue though, no matter what it is, it can be profoundly empowering to own it and, in any way you feel comfortable, make a difference.
If you are one of the fabulous, funny fertility challenged, I urge you to help fight the cause. Whether it's changing laws or simply changing minds in your social circle, everyone can be an advocate.