Fertility Advocacy, Mother's Day & Letters
Last night in Ladies Night In (LNI) in Danbury, we talked about Mother’s Day while struggling with infertility. There were many of us who had some rough Mother’s Days in the past. How many of us were focused on concentrating on our own mother’s this weekend.
It reminded me that I wrote a blog last year bringing together Mother’s Day and advocacy, the blog that I have slightly reconfigured here, for you.
Mother's Day During Fertility Treatment
I recalled one of the mother’s days during my six year journey with infertility, where I was completely unavailable for my mother. My heart felt like it was in tatters and it seemed impossible to even utter the word mother that Sunday, much less offer a happy presence.
It was one of the few moments that my mother was impatient with me– after all it was Mother’s Day, she was my mother and had been all my life. We had always celebrated Mother’s Day, she was clear that she didn’t get it. Why was this year any different? And she was also clear, she expected to be celebrated. By me.
I was lucky. I had two wonderful sisters who worked extra hard that year. Did it replace me? Well, no, obviously not, but it did take the sting out of things. My mom wasn’t sitting around with no child, (adult or not) giving her gifts and cards.
This one isn’t easy. It really isn’t. Or it really can be.
I recall another LNI where a beloved participant shared how her third Mother’s Day in fertility treatment was for her. In her words, “I sat there. I tried to cry. I thought about sad things. I thought about no babies in my house. I thought about world peace and world hunger. I screwed up my eyes, trying hard to cry. I screwed them up even tighter. And nope, it just wasn’t coming. I got up, I enjoyed my day. I was tearless, for the first time on a Mother’s Day”.
There are thoughts that have been rumbling around in my brain for the last week.
Here are the seemingly independent thoughts:
- Mother’s Day
- My (not so new) job title, “Patient Advocate”
- Advocacy Day in Washington, D.C., organized by Resolve
They don’t look so independent and disconnected written down. Good, maybe I’m not rambling as much as I thought I was.
Let’s take them one at a time.
Mother's Day & Infertility
From last year’s blog: I want to share an experience with you that I had on Sunday, Mother’s Day. I was at a workshop with my husband. There were one hundred couples, two hundred people in all. When the facilitator gathered us together to start the morning session, I dreaded it, but fully expected it– the announcement. The congratulations. Mother’s Day, of course. Honoring all the mother’s in the room. He took it a step further and asked all the mothers in the room to stand up. My husband grabbed my hand; he knew my reaction. Tremendous sadness.
A few minutes later, there was a microphone available to talk about the work we had done the night before. Bill looked at me and said, “Do it”. I knew what he was talking about, of course I did. And I didn’t want to do it. There were two hundred people in the room! None of whom I knew past a pleasant hello. The facilitator was a great guy, imparting lots of sage wisdom– I didn’t want to be the one to seem to criticize him.
I raised my hand. I took the microphone. I stood up, knees shaking a little. “I want to honor all the men and women in the room who are not mothers”. Ok, well, that needed a little work. I sat down. The facilitator was a little confused, but sorted it out and acknowledged the women in the room who were not mothers. We went on with the course and all was fine.
Honoring All Men & Women, If They Are Parents Or Not
An hour or so later we took a quick break. I hadn’t even made it to the bathroom before I was stopped by a woman who gave me a big hug and thank you. She was in the middle of an IVF cycle and appreciated being acknowledged as having worth, mother or no mother. Several other people came over to speak to Bill and me during that break. One comment that I heard from a man I had not even noticed before he approached us was that the woman sitting behind me looked like she had been punched in the stomach when the facilitator had wished everyone a Happy Mother’s Day and asked the moms to stand. And how her face was wreathed in smiles when I stood and made my less than eloquent statement. Bill and I spent several minutes with a woman who shared stories about her “furry” babies. French bulldogs, whom she adopted when she and her husband made the hard decision to stop fertility treatment cycles. All in all, eight people found the courage to come and speak with me. I cherished each and every one of those conversations.
Just to be very clear, this is not about me patting myself on the back. This is not about how wonderful a person I am. How brave I am. How compassionate I am. It’s just not.
One in Six to Eight Couples Have Trouble Conceiving
It’s about a simple math equation. There were two hundred people in the room. The statistics on infertility are clear. One in 6-8 couples have trouble conceiving. I am no math genius, I made it very simple. There were two hundred people. There were women in that room who had experienced infertility, or lost a pregnancy, or had a child with fertility treatment or were childfree not quite by choice. I had absolutely no doubt that there were women in the room who felt “less than” by the reminder that they were not moms. As if they needed reminding.
Why did I stand up? Because didn’t want those women to feel alone. Because they needed to know they weren’t alone. Because that’s what I do. I stand up for people with infertility. That leads me to number two, my not so new job title.
My Not So New Job Title – Fertility Patient Advocate
Thank you to Reproductive Medicine Associates of Connecticut (RMACT) for creating a position for me with a job title that fits so perfectly. Thank you for understanding the need for such a role in a fertility practice. Even one whose doctors, clinical team and support teams routinely show genuine compassion towards their patients. I would have stood up anyway on Sunday, of course I would have. Having the power of the title, “Patient Advocate”, having it considered meaningful and important made standing that much easier and more clear that it was necessary. I’ve been a fertility activist for 27 years, I know to stand up.
And here we come to advocacy and what that means. It means standing up in a room and honoring women because they are women, whether they are mothers or not. And men because they are men, whether or not they are fathers.
It means going in front of people, senators, members of the congress, house representatives and more– people who can affect change. Next week is Advocacy Day in Washington DC. Thank you Resolve, for being the force to pull this effort together.
Advocacy Day – Get Involved in Infertility Coverage, Rights & Awareness
Print a letter. Copy it several times. Sign letters to your two state senators and to your congressperson. Get your friends and relatives to sign. Send them to me.
Add your voice. Understand your rights. Learn what is being done and said about infertility insurance coverage, rights and awareness.
Advocacy is done on all different scales. From the very personal, confiding in a friend so that they get help if it seems needed, to standing up in front of two hundred people with your knees shaking to, going to Washington and speaking with policy makers.
What are you comfortable doing? Write to me at this secure email address– FertileYoga@gmail.com Send me your letters.
I can share your voice, here, anonymously.
I can add your voice to mine in Washington DC next week with RESOLVE.
As promised, this year, I will be there.
Can you help?
About Lisa Rosenthal
Lisa has over thirty years of experience in the fertility field. After her personal infertility journey, she felt dissatisfied with the lack of comprehensive services available to support her. She was determined to help others undergoing fertility treatment. Lisa has been with RMACT for eleven years and serves as Patient Advocate and the Strategic Content Lead.
Lisa is the teacher and founder of Fertile Yoga, a program designed to support men and women on their quest for their families through gentle movement and meditation.
Lisa’s true passion is supporting patients getting into treatment, being able to stay in treatment and staying whole and complete throughout the process. Lisa is also a Certified Grief Recovery Specialist, which is helpful in her work with fertility patients.
Her experience also includes working with RESOLVE: The National Infertility Association and The American Fertility Association (now Path2Parenthood), where she was Educational Coordinator, Conference Director and Assistant Executive Director.