July 28, 2010

A Belly Full of Fire, Part Five: Millions of voices calling for change

This is the fifth and final post of my five-part series on infertility advocacy. Catch up on Part One: Advocate or Abdicate, Part Two: The Wounded Healer, Part Three: Which Direction Do We Swim?, and Part Four: In a Perfect World.

PS: I'm also just over a dozen people shy of 200 followers to this blog. Once I hit 200, I'll do my first giveaway! Click here to follow my blog.

"We know the battle ahead will be long, but always remember that no matter what obstacles stand in our way, nothing can stand in the way of the power of millions of voices calling for change."
- Barack Obama (NH Primary Concession Speech, 2008)

“Nobody can go back and start a new beginning, but anyone can start today and make a new ending.”
- Maria Robinson

A Belly Full of Fire, Part Five: Millions of voices calling for change

You've felt the fire burning in your belly. You've taken the pledge. You've seen how advocacy can be a source of healing. You've considered the possibility of being a part of a movement, whether you're the lone nut or the first follower. And for a few moments, you could picture why all this hard work is totally worth it.

So... now what?

Reader StolenEggs (aka Fox in the Henhouse) made a great comment on Monday's post about up/downstream approaches to advocacy:

But I wonder how many people are actually a little like deer caught in headlights wondering, "Which way do I go?" In the end they are neither upstream nor down because they are frozen due to the sheer enormity of the situation.

I can totally respect that: Rome wasn't built in a day, throwing starfish back into the sea and all that. Raising awareness and advocating for infertility isn't something you can successfully accomplish in one day. Hell, it might not even be something we can successfully accomplish in a lifetime... but we can try.

My hope is that this series has stirred something within you, inspired you, fueled that fire in your belly. I can't tell you exactly how you can advocate for infertility: everyone finds their own path. Only you know how comfortable you are, what boundaries you are willing to push within yourself, how far you are willing to go.

...but of course I'm not going to abandon you after four posts and leave you with "Go west, young advocate!" I can give you a little nudge on some brainstorming. But the rest is up to you.

Like the post about upstream/downstream work, there's a lot you can do on both the small and larger scales, and even in between. It all depends on your comfort level and time commitment- and those of course can be fluid and change over time. Here are some ideas to get you started with becoming your own infertility advocate:

From the comfort of your living room, you can...

+ Utilize social media: Your blog, Twitter, Facebook... a lot of you are already doing this. Get your message out there. Keep it fresh, unique, engaging. Build readership and followership. Get yourself on blogrolls. Network. Check out my blogroll on the sidebar, or Mel's massive ALI blogroll over at Stirrup Queens to get started. If you're in New England, consider joining the New England Infertility Blogger Network.

+ Visit RESOLVE's website: Recently updated and full of resources. Go explore it and see what it has to offer, whether it's the Pledge, the Center for Infertility Justice, or Project IF - there are lots of great resources for you to get started on a national level in a "from the comfort of your own home" way.

+ Write letters to your legislators: Emailing is great, phone calls are nice too, but when legislators have to actually open a mailed letter, there's a greater chance your words will actually be seen by said legislator. For the cost of a postage stamp (lol, I sound like Sally Struthers) you too can advocate for infertility awareness. This is especially important for states with mandated coverage or those who have pending legislation that threatens or supports infertility causes.

+ Email your friends, family, colleagues: A bit more daring, but just as effective. Tell them what you're going through. Ask for their support, whether emotionally or financially. I am still inspired by Willow at Write, Baby, Repeat, who wrote to her two cousins in April asking them if they'd be willing to donate their eggs. Talk about putting yourself out there. Even though they ultimately said no, what an act of bravery, of awareness building. A request like that doesn't stay locked in the corners of your brain- I'm sure her cousins will be much more sensitive, compassionate people for it. Even in such a small dynamic as one family, awareness is raised and advocacy happens. You have to start somewhere, right? And the ripples will spread out from there... her best friend agreed to donate her eggs two months later.

+ Donate money for infertility awareness/advocacy: I know it's hard to donate in a down economy. We've got a looming first-home purchase hanging over our heads, but I still try to find even a couple of bucks to throw to my important causes. I do it because I figure if I put enough good out into the Universe maybe it'll throw a little back at me. Also, check with your employer to see if they do employee matching for charitable donations. Tada! Double your contribution. Some organizations I'll pitch for your donation: RESOLVE, RESOLVE of New England, Parenthood For Me, and Rachel's Well.

+ Become an "armchair" philanthropist: Take it one step further... Try organizing your own fundraiser via your blog or FB or email. Set a goal. Set a timeline. Ask for donations. Maybe build in some incentives. Even if you only get $10 that's $10 more than you started with and $10 toward an important cause. Success isn't necessarily measured in the amount of what you can raise doing something like this but in the fact that you raised anything at all. Or join a fundraiser already in progress, like reader Sonja has for the A.M.S. Endometriosis Foundation Online Auction. Or how Busted Kate helped a grieving family with DuckFest. Or how Parenthood For Me started her own non-profit that gives grants for adoptive couples! Or how Mrs. Tiye over at Broken Brown Egg is helping to raise awareness about how infertility impacts the African-American community at her first A.H.A. Gala For Infertility Awareness in Chicago in September.

There are lots of bloggers out there who are finding ways to raise awareness, raise funds, and advocate for change. These are just the few I could think off the top of my head, but if you're a reader here and I've missed the amazing advocacy work you're doing such as fundraisers and other things, leave a comment and share with everyone else!

Lastly, I want to talk about Obama's quote above. (I try to keep my politics out of this blog aside from legislative advocacy as it relates to infertility and women's health.) I was WAY late on the will.i.am "Yes We Can" bandwagon, but when I first heard it, it moved me to tears. What's even more amazing is that the lyrics come directly from his concession speech from the New Hampshire primaries, when he lost to Hilary Clinton. It was a pretty big loss, but here we are, addressing him as Mr. President rather than Mr. Senator. I have always found this quote inspiring: even when he was knocked down, Obama still mustered up the strength to keep going. It's a lesson for life.

After 6,350 words devoted to infertility advocacy in this series, it all boils down to this:

1. If we don't advocate for infertility awareness for ourselves, no one will do it for us. We need to step up to the plate as a community.

2. Advocacy serves as a proactive way to heal old wounds and regain a sense of control with a disease that seems to rob so much control from us.

3. Find a way to advocate in a way that feels comfortable to you. Fuel that fire in your belly. Then, when you're ready, push yourself one step further.

4. Remember that infertility advocacy is not a lost cause. Do this for yourself. Do it for your partner. Do it for the 7.3 million people in this country. Do it because it matters and for what all the possibilities of successful advocacy could be. Have hope.

5. Start your advocacy today, from the comfort of your own living room. Just do something and start right now. Commit to change. Be the change, as Gandhi would say.

The time for silence surrounding infertility is over. The time for a positive, open dialogue is long overdue. The time has come for a million voices calling for change.

Will you be one of them?

Photo by Abe Novy via Flickr.


Anonymous said...

This was a fantastic series, Keiko. Bravo for being such a strong voice in our community. YES WE CAN make a difference and be the change.

StolenEggs said...

Bravo! Great series. And thanks for the shout out. ;)
Perhaps your voice will make the whole thing seem not quite as daunting and help people out of their frozen fear.

Jen said...

YOU are making a difference. <3

Mrs.Tiye said...

Thanks sooo much for the mention, Keiko! I love the fire in you!

As sucky as it is for us all to be here...I'm glad to have met such AMAZING women in this fight. It gives a LOT of power back to spirits who once felt powerless.

Jo said...

This series could not have come at a better time for me. I've just recently outed myself on FB, and also encountered problems moving to a fertility-mandated state where I STILL don't qualify for fertility coverage. So, needless to say, there's some letter-writing and general advocacy in my very near future.

Thank you for reminding us all how important our voices truly are.


Sonja said...

2. Advocacy serves as a proactive way to heal old wounds and regain a sense of control with a disease that seems to rob so much control from us.

This could not be more true, and altho I do my advocacy to help others, I won't lie, it helps me too!!

PS: Thanks so much for the shout out!

justine said...

Yes! I WILL!!!! This has been such a terrific series, Keiko! I hope you will turn it into a talk soon, and go on a speaking tour!