04/08/2006

Your cervix and the next recipients of the Super Bowl trophy will thank you

The U.S. Senate is currently considering S.1955, a measure that opponents are calling the "Lose Your Benefits" bill.  Formally and doublespeakfully titled the Health Insurance Marketplace Modernization and Affordability Act, this bill would allow insurance companies to flat-out ignore nearly all state laws that require coverage for certain conditions or treatments — you know, those little extras like cervical cancer screening, bone marrow transplants, alcoholism and drug abuse treatment, mental health services, breast reconstruction, minimum maternity stay, provision of diabetic supplies, inclusion of domestic partners in policy coverage, direct access to your OB-GYN, continuity of care during pregnancy, mammography, contraceptives, infertility diagnosis and treatment...

Now, this is the part where you're supposed to be hearing a needle dragging abruptly across a record, if you are old enough to remember records.  If you are not old enough to remember records, you are too young to be reading my blog, because I am about to filth it up good.

I'm sure the distinguished dingus who sponsored this bill, Senator Michael Enzi of Wyoming, is a perfectly nice man — he does, after all, like ice cream, fishing, and Wyoming's largest illegal grow op tomatoes — but his record on issues that matter to me is abysmal.  If you ask me, it sounds like Sen. Enzi (R., duh), deserves the colorectal screening of his ever-loving life.  As I am not a medical professional, I am unfamiliar with the instruments normally used in such a procedure, but, heck, I'm resourceful and could probably figure something out.

If Enzi's bill is passed into law, people in every state could lose health care benefits (PDF) that insurers are currently required by law to offer.  Whether you're fortunate enough to have state-mandated infertility coverage, or buying oral contraceptives for the cost of a reasonable co-pay, or contemplating a hospital stay to give birth, or, heck, just walking around, minding your own business, while your cervix quietly does its thing, take note.

And please take action.  Contact your senator and urge him or her to oppose S.1955.

Many thanks to art-sweet for the heads up and for a boilerplate letter you can copy and send.

08:39 PM in Hellbound handbasket | Permalink | Comments (77)

05/31/2006

News you can use while my ovaries snooze

Item: A team of Norwegian researchers has found that IVF may increase the risk of placenta previa.  Smaller studies have suggested a connection in the past; this is the largest such study to date.  From data on more than 845,000 pregnancies, researchers have suggested that undergoing IVF imparts three times the chance of misplacing the bloody thing.

Item: Senate bill 1955 has been defeated.  It failed to get cloture a couple of weeks ago.  Thanks to all who contacted your legislators, and a big sloppy wet kiss to Mike Enzi.  Love ya, babe.

Item: The "rhythm method," the only mode of contraception sanctioned by the Catholic church, may kill off more embryos than other methods of contraception.  In the Journal of Medical Ethics, a Professor Luc Bovens of the London School of Economics contends (PDF) that "the rhythm method may well be responsible for massive embryonic death, and the same logic that turned pro-lifers away from morning after pills, IUDs, and pill usage, should also make them nervous about the rhythm method."  Bovens suggests that the rhythm method, which involves having intercourse on the fringes of a woman's fertile period, can lead to the conception of embryos that are less likely to be viable.  A researcher at Cornell finds Bovens' theory intriguing: "It's quite plausible that more abnormal embryos are conceived at the limits of sperm — and especially egg — viability," he says, "and that these are more frequent in women practising rhythm contraception than those having unprotected intercourse at random stages of the menstrual cycle."

Aaaaand item: My E2 after 5 days of stims is...13.  At my baseline a week ago, my E2 was...14.  Looking good, Julie, looking good.  (Now would be an excellent time to break out those "Why, my E2 dropped ten points from baseline and I ended up pregnant with healthy boy/girl twins that cycle!" stories if you've got 'em, but, well, I'd be surprised if you did.)

That's the news and I...am...outta here.

Update: Cycle cancelled!  Bender commencing!

01:12 PM in Hellbound handbasket, Notes from astride the stirrups | Permalink | Comments (117)

05/04/2007

Also please ask your rep to play "Freebird"

Ladies and gentlemen, it's time to give it up for HR 735!

(Now is when you applaud wildly, shout "Whooooo!" and make those rock 'n' roll devil horns with your hands.  I think those are simply adorable.)

Known as the Family Building Act of 2005, HR 735 calls for all group insurance plans to offer coverage for infertility diagnosis and treatment.  The bill, initially introduced by Rep. Anthony Weiner (D-NY) and currently being revised and resubmitted for the new Congress, stipulates that if a plan covers obstetrical benefits, it must also provide "coverage for treatment of infertility deemed appropriate by a participant or beneficiary and the treating physician."  That's right: if they pay to see you through pregnancy, they also have to help you get that far.

(Now is when you thrash your head back and forth, lost to the pounding rhythm, body and mind enslaved by the insistent thrum of a relentless bass line.  While you are still disoriented, please also purchase a souvenir T-shirt.)

Some highlights:

  • The bill acknowledges in its opening lines that infertility affects approximately 10% of the reproductive-aged population; that the majority of insurance plans do not provide coverage for infertility treatment; and that "a fundamental part of the human experience is fulfilling the desire to reproduce."
  • The bill defines infertility as "a disease or condition that results in the abnormal function of the reproductive system," and encompasses not only those of us who can't conceive within a year, but those who can't carry a pregnancy to term.
  • The bill calls for coverage of up to four IVF retrievals, or, "if a live birth follows a completed oocyte retrieval, then at least 2 more completed oocyte retrievals shall be covered, with a lifetime cap of six retrievals."
  • The bill's definition of ART includes IVF, GIFT, ZIFT, embryo cryopreservation, egg or embryo donation, and surrogate birth.

(I think the time is right to hump the mic stand in a most theatrical fashion.)

Now, although infertile people share a particular life experience, we're not politically homogeneous.  Not all of us approve of universal insurance coverage for treatment.  That disagreement often stems from concerns about the rising cost of health care, particularly as it affects small businesses.  I'm not a serious student of the issue, so I can't speak with any authority, but a quick bit of research seems to indicate that the additional cost for this supplemental coverage would fall somewhere between $1 and $3 per member per month.  (RESOLVE suggests that coverage might actually reduce costs.)  I can understand, I suppose, why someone might not be eager to pay more every month to give someone else the chance to have a child.  I do understand; I just don't feel the same way.  Babies — or at least access to the most appropriate, most effective high-tech treatment — for all my friends!

(Now is when you either rush the stage, throw me into the first six rows of seats, and stomp the shit out of me in a frenzy of collective outrage, or lovingly wing your underpants — thong, boxer, or granny — at me.)

If you feel the same way and want to help the upcoming revision of HR 735 become law, here's what you need to do:

  1. Familiarize yourself with what the bill proposes so that you can speak or write persuasively in support of it.
  2. Contact your representative and ask that he or she co-sponsor the Family Building Act of 2007.  E-mail is good, a phone call is better, and a real letter — paper!  ink!  correct postage!  real human spit on the envelope flap! — is best of all.  (RESOLVE has a form letter you can send to your rep via e-mail; if you want to compose your own message, you can do so through his or her official site.  You can also find your rep's phone number and mailing address via the House's Web site.)
  3. Follow up.  A poster on IVFC who's active in infertility advocacy says, "It takes a lot of nagging to get anything done. You're all going to have to call and ask for the legislative aide covering health care policy in your congressperson's office a couple of times before they will even remember to look at it."  If you send a letter, she says, "Follow up after you send the original letter. I have spoken with legislative aides in congressional offices and they all say the same thing: because they get tons of letters asking for help, support, et cetera, it is difficult to give each one the attention they deserve, but when they get follow up phone calls, they are more likely to believe that it is important to the sender, rather than some form letter that they can ignore.  So please follow up with a phone call, ask to speak to the person handling insurance or health care issues, and tell them that this legislation is very important to you.  Tell them you would like a call back when they agree to co-sponsor it. And if you don't hear from them in two weeks, call again."

(That was the drum solo.  I say it rocked, and I'll brook no dissent.)

What will you say to your representative?  It's up to you, of course.  One poster at IVFC wrote this to hers:

I just came across the birth announcement for your beautiful baby girl online and wanted to write a note of congratulations. Seeing your face, and that of your wife, reflected in your child must be miraculous. Sadly, my husband and I may never know that joy because our insurance will not cover infertility treatment and the cost of self-financed care is high. Sir, I pray that the birth of your child will help you appreciate all the more what couples like us have lost and are losing and that you keep us in mind when the The Family Building Act is reintroduced in Congress. Couples like us, indeed all insured people, should have access to the medical treatments that can bring life into their lives and light into their hearts. May we all experience the the same joy, love and peace that you and your wife now know.

..."Ridiculously sappy," she added pragmatically, "but sure to appeal to a big flaming Republican" like her rep.

Oh, and it also wouldn't hurt to lift your shirt.  I hear the bassist really gets off on that.

11:29 AM in Hellbound handbasket | Permalink | Comments (77)

10/10/2008

Rocky Mountain huh?

They're calling it the Personhood Initiative of 2008.  Next month Coloradoans will vote on whether to amend their state Constitution "to include the pre-born from the moment of fertilization as having their 'personhood' clearly established."

This description comes from Colorado for Equal Rights, the force behind proposed amendment 48, "Equal Rights" in this case being as much of a creepy buzzwordy misnomer as "pre-born."  The thrust of the measure, say its supporters, is "to define a person in Colorado as a human being from the moment of fertilization."

Kristi Burton is the 21-year-old sponsor behind amendment 48 and the co-founder of Colorado for Equal Rights.  Instead of employing straightforward anti-choice rhetoric, she takes a stealthier tack.  She insists that the goal of the amendment is simple: to establish a legal definition of when life begins.  "The Personhood Amendment isn't an attack on women's health care," she writes; it's about "empowering the voter," and about "catching our laws up to our science," which has, according to Burton, resolved the question of when life truly begins.  (It, uh, hasn't.) 

She claims her organization has no greater aim than to settle that question, that the measure's goal is only to enable future debate about bigger issues.  You know, bigger issues like abortion.  And stem cell research.  And almost certainly assisted reproduction.  And most likely contraception.  Possibly cancer treatment, too.  And theoretically even a miscarrying woman's right to privacy — or, at the extreme, to lose a pregnancy without being jailed.  (Remember Virginia?)

Just as the measure's possible consequences do, its opponents' concerns go beyond the matter of abortion.  "If the amendment passes," two of 48's detractors point out, "Colorado's juvenile courts will have jurisdiction whenever doctors or family members disagree with a pregnant woman's medical decisions," citing cases where women were forced to undergo C-sections against their wishes.

As far as ART is concerned, if measures like amendment 48 don't lead to outlawing IVF outright, they will at the very least invite governmental intrusion on the intensely personal issues that every ART patient struggles with — how many embryos can be created during a cycle, for example.  And what you must do with any you choose not to transfer.  And what options are available to you when you discover that the embryo that has implanted has chromosomal or physical defects.  (Hint: Damn few.)  And exactly how gay you can be and still have the right to treatment.  (Hint: Zero.  Zero gay.)

Opponents of amendment 48 count among their number pro-choice activists, of course, but also physicians, legal scholars, victims of sexual assault, religious leaders, and the governor of Colorado, a pro-lifer who nevertheless charges that this measure goes too far, calling it "bad policy, bad medicine and bad law." 

Let me reiterate: Even Colorado's highest elected official, a Catholic who ran for office on a pro-life platform, opposes 48.

The Denver Post calls the measure "legal mischief."  Colorado's Lieutenant Governor says it makes her state's other "wacko ballot initiatives" "look tame," and calls it "an extreme agenda run amok."  I call it scary as hell, and I don't even live in Colorado.  This measure is part of a long-term national strategy that seeks to undermine and ultimately terminate our reproductive freedom — not only the right to end a pregnancy, but, for infertile people, the ability to build our families at all.

Amendment 48, and similar measures in other states, simply can't be allowed to pass.  If you live in Colorado, please vote.

A grateful flap of the voting booth curtain to Audrey and How to Make a Family.

11:31 AM in Hellbound handbasket | Permalink | Comments (64)

10/16/2008

Why no one with a uterus should vote for John McCain

Senator John McCain, Republican candidate for president, on late-term abortions, and whether they should remain legal when the health of the mother is at stake:

"Health for the mother." You know, that's been stretched by the pro-abortion movement in America to mean almost anything. That's the extreme pro-abortion position, quote, "health."

For purposes of my argument, it doesn't matter how you feel about abortion.  Forget your own feelings about abortion.  My own are rather liberal, offputtingly so to many people, so forget those, too.  Forget your disappointment, if you feel it as I do, in hearing Senator Obama use the anti-choice movement's buzzwords, "partial-birth abortion," without busting out an angry McCainish sneer.

Focus instead on the air quotes McCain used, the belittling wiggle of his fingers as he summarily dismissed women facing what's possibly the ultimate lose-lose situation: your baby or your life.

[Source: Talking Points Memo]

Your baby.  Your life.  If you're reading this blog, chances are good that you're a mother, a pregnant woman, a woman who plans to become pregnant, or a woman who's trying.  He means you.  He means us when he holds up his hands and says with that single scornful gesture that we don't matter.  That we are a figment of the "pro-abortion movement's" imagination.  That — what, we're making this whole "staying pregnant might kill me" thing up?  (That he did this on Pregnancy and Infant Loss Remembrance Day is, of course, coincidental, but the irony, it is not lost.)

This is important to all of us, but to infertile women it has a particular significance.  Everyone in the infertility blogosphere knows women who delivered babies prematurely because of life-threatening complications.  Most of us know women whose illness set in too early for their babies to survive.  And many of us know that simply by virtue of needing IVF to get pregnant, we're more than twice as likely to develop preeclampsia, which causes, by conservative estimates, 76,000 maternal deaths and 500,000 infant deaths worldwide each year.  [Source: Preeclampsia Foundation]

Not only is John McCain saying we shouldn't have the right to terminate a pregnancy in the event that our lives are at stake, he's telling us he's skeptical that that happens at all.

We know better.

Look, I wasn't going to vote for him anyway.  That's true for more reasons than I can list.  But this is why I think no one should — no one of childbearing capacity.  No women.  In fact, no one who cares about women.  No one who cares about even just one specific woman.  In fact!  In fact, no one with a brain.  Because even if you're implacably, unconditionally opposed to abortion, a matter on which reasonable people disagree, I don't see any way a thinking person can look at those air quotes and see anything but pandering, contempt, and a dangerous willful ignorance.

10:10 AM in Hellbound handbasket | Permalink | Comments (436)

11/04/2008

Enlightened electorate, my ass

At dinner last night Charlie asked me, "Mama, have you ever votened before?"

I assured him that I have votened whenever the opportunity has arisen.  "In fact, your dad and I voted today," I said.  (I did not mention the strange and horrifying moment at City Hall when I realized I'd parked Ben's stroller immediately under a poster advertising my state's safe haven program, and then walked away to get my ballot.  A mere six feet away, in the same room with a clear line of sight, but still.  My God.)  "I voted for Barack Obama," I told him.

"That's who Zane votened for," he said darkly, furrowing his brow as he named an acquaintance of his, a child I find actively irritating, who has, according to Charlie, cordially offered on occasion "to poke my eyes out."  ("I'm never coming to your house," the kid once told me in an aggressive attempt to hurt my feelings.  "I don't recall inviting you," I answered blandly.  In your face, anemic-looking three-year-old.)

"Who are you voting for?" I asked Charlie, charmed by this conversation.

He brightened immediately.  "I'm voting for John," he said, "for pretsnitzet to be in charge of the whole world."

So I made him go stand in the driveway.  As far as I know, he's out there still.

If you're in the U.S., go vote.  Or I'll send Zane to find you and poke your eyes out.

06:20 AM in Charles in charge, Hellbound handbasket | Permalink | Comments (65)

03/05/2009

Really love your peaches, want to shake your dumbass state senator

Dear Georgia,

Hey, if you're not too busy following NASCAR or looking at each other in surprise and murmuring, "How 'bout them Dawgs?" or finding mammal bones in candy that should by all that's holy be boneless — and I understand if you are — can you please do something about Georgia Senate Bill 169, the so-called Ethical Treatment of Human Embryos Act?  It's important.  If it passes, it could mean the end of effective IVF treatment for the men and women of your state.

Bad law.  Let's run the bullets:

  • It limits the number of embryos to be transferred in a cycle to two for women under 40 and three for women over 40.
  • It limits the number of eggs that can be fertilized to the number to be transferred in that cycle — two or three, depending on age, with no accommodation made for the inevitable attrition that occurs.  (Ahhhh, "nothing to transfer" — are there any sweeter words in the English language?  Besides perhaps "pro-life slips it to us backdoor-style"?)
  • No cryopreservation of embryos, a concern made moot by the previous provisions.  (I guess they want to make sure Georgia's infertile people know just how screwed they are.)
  • No destruction of embryos, also moot but a tasty little morsel to toss to the hungry conservative dogs who will gobble this bill right up.  (I am well aware that I am cementing my reputation as a black-hearted enemy of tiny frozen people everywhere by flagging this provision as objectionable, but I firmly believe in a patient's right to have her embryos destroyed if it suits her to do so.)
  • No compensation for gamete donors, a move that will dramatically decrease the number of people willing to donate.
  • No companion legislation that offers insurance coverage for infertility treatment — the only possible consolation for demanding that patients accept supboptimal treatment.

Hudgens  The bill was introduced by State Senator Ralph Hudgens (R, and I know you're shocked).  According to Hudgens, it was inspired by our good friend Nadya Suleman, who is "going to cost the state of California millions of dollars over the years; the taxpayers are going to have to fund the 14 children she has.  I don’t want that to happen in Georgia."  I beg Senator Hudgens' leave to doubt that responsible fiscal policy is his primary concern; the bill, which also declares that "a living in vitro human embryo is a biological human being," was crafted in concert with Georgia Right to Life.

If you live in Georgia, here's what you can do:

If this bill becomes law, it will result in a disastrous decline in the standard of IVF treatment in Georgia.  It will impose a financial hardship on infertile people, requiring them either to undergo multiple expensive cycles or to travel for treatment.  It will undermine the financial stability of Georgia's reproductive medicine industry.  (Do you want to be the one to tell that nice doctor there'll be no boat this Christmas?  But I kid.  I kid because I'm bitter.)  And it will be a foot firmly planted in the door for other incursions against our reproductive liberties.

Georgians, please: put down those suspiciously crunchy M&Ms and take action today.  There's not much time.


Love,
Julie

P.S. to Missouri: Heads up.  You're next.

P.P.S. to the press: Stop calling Nadya Suleman Octomom.  Jesus.  Just...GodStop.

UPDATE: The bill has been referred to a subcommittee "for more research" — asleep but not dead.  Please continue to let your legislators know how you feel for when this thing oozes back out of committee, as it could all too easily do.  Thanks.

10:44 AM in Hellbound handbasket | Permalink | Comments (133)

04/28/2009

The chicken is involved, and also committed

Once you've been touched by infertility, how can you not stay aware?  Even with two kids, even past my own years of crisis, I still see it everywhere.  Today's example comes from Margaret Wise Brown's children's classic, Big Red Barn, where even that poor sad bastard of a chicken...

Bigredbarn1

...has a co-worker who just doesn't get it:

Bigredbarn2

Go on.  Count 'em.  Ten!  Now eat it, Nadya Suleman.

This is National Infertility Awareness Week.  To, ah, celebrate, I called my congressman's office today and asked, aaaaagain, for him to support legislation to provide insurance coverage for infertility treatment.  I bought Pamela Jeanne's book because her story — the story of staying involuntarily childless — needs to be heard, and I bought Tertia's book, which ends the way I wish every infertility story did, because I needed to prop up a wobbly table wanted to support a friend who helped me through a really tough time.  And I thought, am thinking nonstop, about how lucky I am that 2,000 stories at bedtime leave me able to quote from memory about chickens, fertile and in-.

RESOLVE suggests seven ways to raise awareness of infertility.  What are you doing for NIAW?  Haranguing your legislators?  Listening without judgment to a friend?  Learning something new?  Challenging an assumption?  Shooting your fertility meds in a public bathroom without hiding in a stall, where just anyone could walk in and see?  (Rock on with your bad self.) 

Are you doing anything to make an impact?  Extra points if you're eating an egg salad sandwich.  What can I say?  That little bantam hen pissed me off.

02:58 PM in Hellbound handbasket | Permalink | Comments (46)

06/11/2009

To the distinguished gentleman in the Pharaonic headdress

Dear Composite Member of Congress Totally Not Based on Anyone in Particular:

Hey, how's it hanging?  I mean, of course, the fate of this great nation, which you hold in your powerful hands.  I was in no way referring, in an irreverent and vulgar manner, to any part of your august person that may or may not be pendulous.  But now that you mention it...

Couldn't help but notice that photo on your web site of you and your wife flanked by — how many is that? — eight?  Eight children?  Fheeeeeeeeeeeeeew.  (That's me whistling, onomatopoeia-style.)  You sure look nice with every single one of you wearing a white shirt and jeans.  I always think those let's-all-dress-the-same photos are adorable.  It tells me, "Here is a family that prizes homogeneity, complacency, and a monochromatic lowest-common-denominatorism over sloppy-assed individuality."  Kudos to you, I say!  Kudos!  Or I might, if the word "kudos" had ever before passed my lips.

About that family of yours.  I mean it — it really is a nice picture.  I can tell from your expression that you're proud of those kids, and you should be.  They look healthy and vibrant, and gathered around you and your wife, my God, do they look loved.  I can tell that from body language alone, unobscured even by the blinding white oxfords.  (Thanks, by the way, for not opting for turtlenecks.)

But back to your august person, neither more nor less but exactly as dangling as befits an elected representative of such distinction.  Seeing those eight magnificent kids of yours, I'm going to go out on a limb and assume you haven't faced any fertility problems.  Which is good!  I'm glad for you!  Your picture would look a lot different, I bet, if you had.  There might not be so many children.  There might be fewer.  They might not look like you.  There might be none at all.

Imagine what that would be like.  What if that picture were different?

It's hard when you can't build the family you hope for.

I will be in your D.C. office on Thursday, June 25 as part of RESOLVE's Advocacy Day to ask you to address that fact.  To affirm that you understand that your constituents need your help.  To convince you to take action on the following points:

  • Shore up access to adoption by extending the adoption tax credit.  The current provision is set to expire in December 2010.  If this is allowed to happen, the amount of relief available to adopting families will decrease from $12,150 to a maximum of $5,000.  By supporting H.R. 213, you can protect your constituents' financial ability to adopt.  Waiting families are counting on you.
  • Guarantee greater access to medical care by requiring health insurance plans to cover treatment for infertility.  By co-sponsoring H.R. 697, the Family Building Act of 2009, you'll be delivering on that promise you made to improve health care for your constituents — more of whom suffer from infertility than you know.  And you'll still be keeping that promise to make health care affordable — comprehensive coverage could actually reduce overall insurance costs.

But this is just an outline.  I will dazzle you with the facts in person.  How did I get so lucky, you are asking yourself, to have the chance to behold such an unstoppable juggernaut of persuasion in action?  (You only think you're thinking, How can I make sure to be not only out of the office that day, but on a fact-finding mission in some faraway place where she can't find me?  But you're not.  Because that would be ridiculous.  I promise I would find you.)

As to why?  Mostly, I guess, because I got mine.  I have my family.  After expensive procedures, years of uncertainty, and nothing much propelling me but nerve and a sick feeling in the pit of my stomach, I have two loud, beautiful, strong, improbable, wonderful, wonderful boys.  And it guts me to know that others  won't get that because they can't afford to try.

When I was in the thick of treatment myself, I couldn't have mustered the emotional energy to make much noise about this.  Now I can, because although God knows I love a spirited game of What Did You Just Put in Your Mouth?  Now Spit That Out Immediately, I am a woman of broadly varied interests and, yes, I believe I can spare the time.  And I know the value of who I have, which galvanizes me: Everyone who wants a family should have a chance to create one.  I'm asking you to help give them that chance — people I care about, but also people I'll never meet.  People like you, only not as lucky; like your colleagues — some of whom, I guarantee, have wrestled with infertility without your even noticing; like me.  You could say, in the most general sense, that I'm asking for a friend.

So on June 25, I'll come knocking.  Tell your aides.  I know they'll want to welcome me warmly.  Plus I want them to be ready to take notes.  Because aside from my earnest pitch, I'm probably gonna have a few more suggestions about that picture.  Next time may I recommend you and your crew deck yourselves out with just a little more pizzazz?  Maybe something in a golden snake hat?


Thanking you in advance, I remain,
Your friend the constituent,
Who actually did vote for you,
And even threw some campaign dollars your way,
Go on, check,
Julie


P.S. to interested onlookers: You come, too.  We need your help.  And, my God, so does your congressman.

12:56 PM in Hellbound handbasket | Permalink | Comments (32)

07/07/2009

Advocacy Day wrapup

So here is what I decided, waiting in line to enter one of the buildings of the Senate:

People who want the best for us, people who mean to be helpful when speaking to us about infertility, will almost inevitably say something stupid.  Something that hurts, something that will still make us angry years later even once we're past the worst of it.

And we've all spent time fashioning the perfect response, whether it's an incisive remark or a raw and honest letter explaining just why what that person said was wrong.  But then not finding the nerve to say it in the moment when it would do the most good, or cancelling that e-mail message without sending it, because we know the ignorance had been backed by kind intentions.

I was thinking of this as I stood in line, talking to a woman who was also there for Advocacy Day.  She was there for her daughter, who was undergoing treatment.  She spoke about witnessing what her daughter was going through, feeling helpless at first but now galvanized.  She talked about her own fertility problems, knowing firsthand how much her daughter hurt, and wanting to do whatever she could, not only to ease that pain, but to let her child know she supported her in a real and useful way.  And as I listened, I was moved.  Wait, that's too mild; actually, I was rocked. 

And I thought, what if, instead of saying something snippy, or sending a link to an article that will never be read, or taking our hurt feelings — our rightfully hurt feelings — and squashing them down into a little internal ball of bitterness, we said, "I know you love me and you mean to be helpful, so here's what you can do"?

I doubt there's any magic formula to elicit the emotional support every infertile person needs,but few of us actually get.  It's sometimes hard to ask for, and sometimes hard to give.  But the practical support, the concrete effort — what if we just asked for it?  What if we said, "Can you please call your congressman and ask him to help build my family?  Can you please write a letter?  Attend a meeting?  Do something?"

I wonder what that would be like, if each of us convinced just one person to do that.  If you can think about the possibility without feeling tempted to try it, well, you're a tougher mark than I am.

...


I don't really know what to say about Advocacy Day except that I have never had a more empowering moment as an infertile person.  You walk onto Capitol Hill feeling ant-sized, dwarfed by these imposing buildings.  I mean, my God, Thomas goddamn Jefferson.  And you think — well, I thought — Who do I think I am, mounting the same steps where Lincoln gnawed on his lunchtime lamb shank?

By the end of the day, you know who you are.  You're a citizen who has the right, and maybe even the duty, to ask your elected representatives to act on your behalf.  You're well prepared and passionate.  You've met with your representatives' aides, you've spoken about your personal experiences, and you've made a clear and direct request for action.  You deserve to be heard, you know it, and you've demanded it.

Easy.

It really was easy.  We volunteer advocates were thoroughly trained by RESOLVE's Advocacy Day team.  We were told what to expect, given a list of talking points, and stirred into action by a really moving address by the Advocacy Day organizer, who said, in part,

Rene Descartes said, “I think, therefore I am."  [...]  The question is, is that enough? And no, just being isn’t enough.  We all want to count.  To matter.  And for so many of us, having children was how we saw ourselves mattering. Seeing our reflection in the existence of that other, that child that we wanted to love.

I’m here to tell you that you’ve just taken the first step out of just being and becoming someone who matters. You’re on the path to regaining your worth, your self esteem.  [...]

What I can tell you is that you matter.  You matter because your actions matter.  Your efforts count.  Your voices are heard.  And by you believing that you matter, and raising your voices on this issue, you are making not only yourselves matter, but every person still lying in bed this morning wondering how they’re going to drag themselves out to face another day.

Today, you take back your dignity, your self worth. And you demand recognition for an issue affecting millions and millions of invisible families across the country. And with your efforts, these people become visible again.

So Monsieur Descartes, hear this: I act, therefore I matter.


And if you can read that without wanting to storm the barricades, well, you're a tougher mark than I am.

...


So we met in the morning before our appointments on Capitol Hill, and I looked around the room at the 100 or so volunteers there, and I thought, So many stories in this single room.  No one was there because she'd failed her first two Clomid IUI, you know?

And there among us was our very own Stirrup Queen, who in telling her own story encourages so many to tell theirs.  That night I sat in her kitchen — pizza, pasta, chocolate chip cookies, more delicious even than you imagine — and had the kind of conversation I long for, the storytelling of someone who's been there, is still there, and won't forget what it's like to be there even once she leaves.  That night her stories were told in counterpoint with Josh, as funny and generous as she is.  The company was so good that I didn't want to leave, and repaid them for their hospitality by missing my train, needing a ride, and inconveniencing them greatly.  I am one fresh hell of a dinner guest.

I'm currently out of town on vacation, but when I get back I'll post at length about the next leg of Stirrupalooza, our celebration of Mel's book.  As a quick preview, I'll say that prizes will be in the offing for anyone who's posted a review of the book on your blog or on one of the booksellers' sites, so if you'd like to participate, read the book (or even an excerpt) and make your opinion known.  If you can read her book without wanting to spread the word, well, you're a tougher mark than I am.

11:47 AM in Hellbound handbasket | Permalink | Comments (27)