I'm behind. Deeply behind. I still have to write K's 10-month update. And then I have to fill you in on her surgery (don't worry, she's fine). But I want to write first about Advocacy Day. I meant to do it as soon as I returned home on Thursday, but time - as it often happens - slips away quickly. In hindsight, I'm glad I didn't write about it immediately. It's given me time to reflect on my trip, the connections I made, or strengthened, in many cases, and what I walked away with.
I'll be perfectly honest: I started my day not knowing how I would feel once I arrived. I wasn't sure how I would react to sharing my story in front of strangers. Not that I don't do that here, in this space. But this was different. This was sitting down face-to-face and talking about some of the hardest, most intimate details about my life. Would I cry? I tend to be emotional. Would I get flustered? I'm not the best public speaker. Would my stomach be in knots the entire time?
I had the privilege of advocating alongside C, who blogs over at Stuck on Pause. In those initial moments walking through the halls and going over our talking points, I had butterflies. Major butterflies. I didn't know what to expect of myself. We had a training session before we scurried off to our meetings. We were never alone. We were completely, 100% prepared. None of this mattered: I still felt my nerves defying me in the pit of my stomach.
Yet, when I started to speak for the first time - in our meeting with Senator Bill Nelson's office - every one of my fears faded away. The weight on my shoulders about "not messing up" simply disappeared. It was in this moment when I realized that there wasn't any messing up to do. There were no mistakes to be made. I was in our nation's capitol, telling our government MY story about MY family, and lobbying for all of those who couldn't be with us. I was doing something. I was speaking out. I was doing my part to make a difference for this community. Everyone told me for weeks how empowering this would feel, but I had to experience it for myself to realize how true it rang.
But it didn't stop there. My time at Advocacy Day wasn't just about feeling empowered. It was also about feeling inspired. I met so many women - so many wonderful women - and heard dozens of stories that will impact me for the rest of my life. Stories of women who've gone through multiple rounds of IVF, suffered multiple losses, were injured serving this country, and the list goes on. Every person I met, every story I listened to, made me realize how much I love being a part of this community.
That's right: I love being infertile. I don't love what I had to go through to become a parent. I don't love what this disease has done to my body, my soul, or the bodies and souls of others who suffer. What I love is that we are a family. Sure, we're dysfunctional at times, but there's no other family that I can imagine myself being in. If I had to be cursed with any disease in the world, this is what I would choose all over again. Because instead of letting something like this define us, we go out and define it. We show others what we are capable of. We don't stand up with our backs to the walls. Instead, we march ourselves to Capitol Hill and we fight for our rights. We fight for what we are so deserving of: the families that we always dreamt we would have.
It was nothing short of amazing. Sadly, though, our work isn't done. Marching down the halls on Advocacy Day wasn't the finish line. It was merely a starting point. It was the energy we needed to propel us forward, full steam ahead, in the direction of positive change for infertility sufferers. We need your help to do that. We need every member of this community to step up. Tell your story. Reach out to your Congressmen. Ask them to support The Family Act (S 881/HR 1851) as well as The Women Veterans and Other Health Care Improvements Act (S 131/HR 958). Consider making a donation to RESOLVE, an organization that fights tirelessly on behalf of those who suffer from infertility.
And I hope that you'll join me next year on The Hill. As I told my Congressional leaders, my family building journey is complete. However, I won't stop fighting until my friends - my "sisters" - get the help they deserve. I won't back down until my disease is recognized. And I sure as hell won't leave this as a burden for my daughter to bear in 20 to 30 years.