For Patients

Flipping the Script is On Us

By Justine Froelker

Whenever I get included in anything infertility and loss awareness wise there are three parts of my brain that fire:

  1. Ego – Duh, my story needs to be a part of this.

  2. Shame – Who do you think you are? You shouldn’t even be included, no one wants to hear or is ready for your story and message.

  3. Gratitude – Thank you so much for including me and remembering my scary story is more common than people think or want to admit.

My name is Justine Froelker, and I am the infertility advocate whose story scares the bejeezus out of most in our community.

A recap:

We tried IVF due to my history of back surgeries and body casts in high school.

We lost three babies.

The money was gone.

Our hearts were broken.

We stopped treatments before we got the babies.

We are not choosing adoption.

We are accepting a childless not by choice, or as I like to call it, a childfull, life.

I am a forever grieving mother who chooses to do the work to see the gifts in everything.

I am happy and sad…you can watch my TEDx talk on that.

I am happier than I ever was before failed IVF because I choose every day to honor my three, and myself, in the work of happy. I realized the infertility journey had left me a shell of who I once was without the ability to ever go back to her, or even the desire to go back to her. I have fought for, created, and received this incredible life, a life that didn’t turn out how I hoped, dreamed or planned.

Infertility is not who I am. A woman without her children here on earth is not who I am.

These are part of my story. At the end of the day, we will all have our traumas, losses, and tragedies, none of us get out of this life unscathed, sure as hell not the infertility and loss journey. The day we speak more of these truths, and speak the shame that is inherent in this community is the day we free ourselves and flip the script for our loved ones and society to better understand us.

If we want more compassion and empathy from our lawmakers, doctors, and loved ones when it comes to the infertility and loss journey, we must better ask for what we want and need. Asking for what we want and need means we must speak our stories with authentic vulnerability and rewrite our shame.

As a Certified Daring Way™ Facilitator (trained by Dr. Brené Brown), I teach, talk, and model shame resilience and vulnerable living and loving every single day. Shame defined by Brené is the deeply painful feeling of being flawed and therefore unworthy of love and belonging. I don’t know about you, but my body not being able to do what I thought, and what society thinks, it is supposed to be able to do in getting pregnant and birthing a baby easily made me feel not enough and unworthy.

This isn’t fair.

I deserve this.

Am I being punished?

Is anyone else struggling with this?

Why is this happening to me?

When we own this shame, speak our truth, and ask for what we want and need, we are more likely to get the empathy and compassion we so desperately need and deserve from the people in our lives. For someone to sit with us in our pain, and simply say, “This freaking sucks. I am here,” rather than, “Why don’t you just adopt or just relax…” requires us to get vulnerable first. Healing only takes place in connection, and connection requires vulnerability.

Flipping the script is on us.

Is this scary work?

Yes.

Is it worth it?

Absolutely.

We have a taste of this within our own community if we can stay out of comparison, which is a whole other blog post… When you let your loved ones into your truth, give them the words, ask for what you want and need, you are way more likely to get it. Now, they will mess up and sometimes they won’t have it to give because we are all flawed human beings.

But you asked.

You owned your truth.

You honored your story.

Which means it can’t own you anymore.

Hi, I am Justine Froelker.

I mother more mothers than I can count, and my three in heaven.

I am a mother.

Full of grit and grace, Justine Froelker uses her fiery passion, the occasional curse word, and her witty humor to share her vulnerability and truth to light up the world. Justine is an advocate for speaking about shame and learning to thrive when life doesn't turn out how you hoped, dreamed, or even planned that it would. Justine is a Licensed Professional Counselor and a Certified Daring Way™ Facilitator with over 18 years of experience (based on the research of Dr. Brené Brown). She is the author of her best-selling books, Ever Upward and The Mother of Second Chances.  Justine currently lives in Saint Louis with her husband, Chad, and their three dogs. She enjoys her childfull life by spending time with friends and family, practicing creative self-care, laughing (many times at herself) and building butterfly gardens on her acre of land, which has made her an accidental butterfly farmer.

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6 Things Infertility Taught Me

By Brianna Steele

6 Things Infertility Taught Me

There is no question, my journey to parenthood was the hardest thing I’ve ever dealt with.  My entire life I dreamed of becoming a mother and the thought of this dream not happening was heartbreaking. I wouldn’t wish infertility on anyone but I do believe that infertility taught me six things that changed my life for the better.

Patience

I’ve always been a Type A, go-getter.  I was working in my dream job by age 21, I had my Master’s degree by age 22, I married my high school sweetheart at 23… I really thought I could plan for everything that I wanted in life but this journey taught me not everything is in my control and I needed to be patient.  The never-ending waiting for your next doctor’s appointment, waiting for your medicine to arrive, or waiting for the next cycle was extremely hard and it seemed like the light at the end of the tunnel was far, far away. What gave me patience and hope was the many options that were available: IUI’s, IVF, surrogacy, and adoption. There were so many options and I knew one of these options would help me become a mom. Every day I kept telling myself that I was one day closer to becoming a mom and that kept me going.

Strength

There were times that I didn’t want to face the outside world and didn’t want to get on social media because I knew I’d probably see a baby announcement.  Though I was always happy for others, I was also incredibly sad for myself. That being said, through the sadness and fear, I kept reminding myself that I was made to be a mother and I needed to be strong and fight like one. Sometimes you have to go through really hard struggles to realize how strong you are.Empathy

In this world, we are so quick to judge.  Infertility taught me that you don’t always know what someone is going through.  Everyone is going through some tough battle that you might not have any idea about.  I wish everyone would look deeper into a person before they make any assumptions. Wouldn’t this world be more beautiful if we all did this?

Gratefulness

One of the best pieces of advice I can give someone who is struggling with infertility is to treat yourself when something doesn’t go the way you wanted it to.  Whenever a treatment failed for us, we booked a trip to cheer us up because traveling makes our hearts happy. Due to a lot of failed treatments we were able to travel to several different countries. I’m thankful for these trips because it opened my eyes (and my husbands) to so many different cultures, provided me so much joy during this hard time, and most importantly, it taught me to be grateful for what I do have.  I know trips aren’t always feasible but do something that makes you happy and brings you joy after a failed treatment, whether that be a pedicure, a trip, spend the day with a loved one, or even just a night out. You deserve it and it’s always nice to be reminded to be grateful for what you do have.

The TTC Community and TTC Sisterhood is a Real Thing

The TTC Community on Instagram was so supportive and non-judgmental during my journey. We’d pray for each other, cry for each other, and were always there during the good times and the bad.  They also “understood” what you were going through. This community made me feel not alone. There are a lot of good people in this world, you just have to find them. If you’re going through infertility, please find us on Instagram (my username is MyTwinMomAdventures). We are a VERY welcoming group and would love to have you.

It Made Me a Better Mother

This will sound very cliché, but I truly believe this struggle made me a better parent. I’m sure I would’ve been a good mom even if I hadn’t struggled with infertility but infertility made me realize what miracles my children are.  It made me a more understanding, patient, and grateful mother. I thank God, every single day that I get to be their mom. I will never take being a mom for granted.

When going through infertility, you can easily get caught up in how horrible, unfair, and sad everything is. Or you can take what’s happening and learn from it. I was often consumed in anger and sadness but I did learn these important lessons and I truly believe that I am a better person because of the journey I went through.

BRIANNA IS A MOM TO BOY/GIRL TWINS, CAMDEN AND ELLA! SHE AND HER HUSBAND STRUGGLED WITH INFERTILITY FOR YEARS. AFTER THREE ROUNDS OF IVF (IN VITRO FERTILIZATION), THEY WERE BLESSED WITH THEIR MIRACLE TWINS. WHEN SHE’S NOT WITH HER FAMILY, SHE’S PURSUING ONE OF HER PASSIONS: TRAVELING (40 COUNTRIES AND COUNTING!), WORKING OUT, ORGANIZING, DECORATING, COOKING, BLOGGING, OR WATCHING REALITY TV!

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The Natural Route

By Caroline Harries

My husband, Colby, and I received our infertility diagnosis 6 years ago, in April of 2012. As most couples who have been diagnosed with infertility would understand and agree, we were completely caught off guard. You get married and you have kids, right? Well for 1 in 8 couples this is not the case and we happen to fall into that statistic. This diagnosis came quickly and although we were so thankful to find out what we were up against sooner, rather than later, it was still devastating. What we thought was just routine tests before we started our family, turned out to be much different as we were diagnosed with both female and male fertility.

What we found out in those first few months of trying to start our family was that I had lots of irregular hormones and a tumor on my pituitary gland and Colby was diagnosed with azoospermia, which is the fancy word for no sperm. Despite the diagnosis given, our journey has been different from many in that we have decided not to pursue medical intervention, but take a more natural route. Even though doctors told us the only chance we have to get pregnant is by in vitro fertilization, we are still on the path for believing for a supernatural miracle. We have received a lot of push back for this decision, but are thankful for the peace and freedom along the way. We have used our time of waiting to focus on our marriage and enjoy the things we love to do, like travel all over the world, spend time with our nieces and nephews and compete in triathlons and 5K's. Even though infertility brings many apart, for us and our journey, it has brought us closer together. We decided from the beginning that it was no ones fault; not my husbands and not mine, but that we are in this together. We are very open with each other about our journey and we agree that there is no one to blame. We truly view our wait as a learning experience and we are grateful for everything we have learned along the way.

In addition to the blessings that have come from our wait in our marriage, there have been so many other blessings as well. A year into our diagnosis I started a support group for women desiring to be mothers called Moms in the Making. It's been such an honor to serve and celebrate others as we wait for our own miracle. I'm so thankful to connect with women from all over the world through the online community, in-person support groups, an annual conference and a virtual group.

I want to encourage you that no matter what route you choose, whether it's to pursue medical intervention or to choose a more natural route, make sure to keep your marriage a priority. Advocate for you and your husband and do what is best for the two of you, not what is best for the doctors or those around you. I also encourage you to share your story or find an online or local support group. Whatever your story looks like or how long you have been waiting, know that there is every reason to have hope! Know that you are not alone! Know that there are other couples all over the world who understand the struggle and who are willing to join you in cheering you along in the pain.

Caroline Harries has a heart for those who are waiting on breakthrough from the Lord. Her unwavering faith is evident as she believes for her own miracle of children. She delights in encouraging women through her internationally followed blog and book, In Due Time, as well as her ministry to those desiring to become mothers, Moms in the Making. Caroline loves traveling the world with her husband and stays active by competing in triathlons. She holds a degree in finance and marketing from Baylor University in Texas, where she and her husband live. {Let's Connect} Facebook • Instagram • Bloglovin • Pinterest •Google + • Twitter

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Caroline Harries has a heart for those who are waiting on breakthrough from the Lord. Her unwavering faith is evident as she believes for her own miracle of children. She delights in encouraging women through her internationally followed blog and book, In Due Time, as well as her ministry to those desiring to become mothers, Moms in the Making. Caroline loves traveling the world with her husband and stays active by competing in triathlons. She holds a degree in finance and marketing from Baylor University in Texas, where she and her husband live. {Let's Connect} Facebook • Instagram • Bloglovin • Pinterest •Google + • Twitter

Flip the Script

By Chelsea Ritchie

This week marks an important week in the world of infertility as it is National Infertility Awareness Week (NIAW). It’s a week where people unite, help educate others about infertility and open up conversations to all that it all entails. I am so grateful for the infertility community and RESOLVE as we work to educate others on what it’s like to wear these shoes.

Let’s talk about the facts here. Infertility affects 1 in 8 couples. 1 in 8. That’s tragic. It’s a disease that doesn’t discriminate – it touches men and women. Black and white. Rich and poor. Young and old. You are all in once you get the diagnosis. Your heart becomes invested, your body becomes tormented and your faith is tested. You learn to deal with grief daily, wishing things were different, coping with the loss of dreams, and navigating your way through anger, jealousy, sadness and brokenness.

This year, RESOLVE has set the theme for NIAW by spreading the message to “Flip the Script”. There are so many ways to branch out on this topic, but today I want to touch on helping those around us flip the script on what they say once they hear about our infertility.

We’ve all been there. Aunt Marge asks “When are you and Jimmy going to have a baby?! You aren’t getting any younger!” You feel the sting and quickly reply with a tense grin “We are trying, it’s not always that easy.” “Of course it is!” she barks back, “Just lay with your legs up a little longer. Or go on vacation and relax! This family is fertile.”

I know you understand.

After you spend 10 minutes in the bathroom pulling yourself together and wiping dry the blood caused from the lip you had to bite to keep from screaming, you walk out and pretend like you aren’t hurting. I’ve been there, I know you have too.

Let’s flip the script. Let’s start EDUCATING people on what not to say when we share our hardships. Can you imagine if someone told you they had cancer, and you replied that they just need to relax a little, get drunk on vacation, and try drinking Robitussin? Let’s be honest, that would never happen. We need to do our part to continue to educate others, to help others show sympathy when they hear of our diagnosis’s, and teach them what to say and what not to say. I hope this list helps you in that direction today! Please, feel free to share this to get the conversations going!

What Not To Say: “Ohhh, you just need to relax.” Or “You’re trying too hard!” or “Don’t think too much about it”

What to Say Instead: “I am so sorry you are going through this.”

 What Not to Say:  “You should just adopt.” or the infamous “I know someone who tried for a long time and as soon as they adopted, they got pregnant.”

What to Say Instead: “I am so sorry, this must be so difficult. What can I do for you?”

 What Not to Say: “It’s okay, there must be a reason.”

What to Say Instead: “I am here for you whenever you want to talk.”

 What Not To Say:  “Well, you are sooooo young, you have time.”

What to Say Instead:  “I cannot imagine how hard it must be to want to start your family and be unable to. I am here for you and will be praying for you.”

What Not to Say: “Oh, I wish I had that problem! I just look at my husband and BOOM! We are pregnant.”

What to Say Instead: “It must be so hard to see so many pregnant women all the time. You are stronger than you will ever realize.”

What Not to Say: “The cost of all of these doctors’ appointments will be so worth it when you are holding your child.”

What to Say Instead: “All of those doctor’s appointment sand medications must add up. If you ever want me to bring over dinner and a movie and hang out at home, please let me know.”

 What Not to Say: “You want a child? Ha! Here, take mine!”

What to Say Instead: “I care and I am so sorry you are experiencing this kind of pain. Let me know if there’s anything I can do to make this burden easier.”

Bottom line – In order to flip the script, in order to stop creating more pain and start creating more empathy, we all have to be willing to be vulnerable and enter into someone else’s intimate sorrow. And we have to be willing to speak up when someone says something insensitive and hurtful, as hard as that is. It’s okay if not everyone identifies with the struggle, but sensitivity can go a long way.

Connect with Chelsea more, and follow her at her blog Trials Bring Joy, on Instagram at @chels819, and on Facebook at Trials Bring Joy.

Chelsea is a Midwestern girl who loves connecting with fellow women and bloggers about the topic of infertility, living authentically, and motherhood. She’s been married to Josh for almost 13 years and now celebrates life as a twin mom to Kirsten and Logan, born after nearly a decade of infertility. Chelsea loves a good cup of coffee, a cozy bookshop and mindless reality TV. She values engaging her faith and embracing difficult seasons with joy. She also co-authored the devotional In the Wait, which you can find on Amazon.

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I Didn't See THAT Coming! One Woman's Struggle with Infertility and How it Changed Her Life

By Lyneda Lincoln

How did I get here?! I have NO idea how I got here!

As a little girl dreaming about the life I aspired to have – a high powered career, a doting husband, two beautiful children – it never crossed my mind that I might not be able to have one of those things. From a young age I was told that if I wanted something, I just had to work hard enough, and it could be mine; something about the world being my oyster – you know the saying. So, that’s what I did. I worked hard. I was dedicated. I crushed high school. I sailed through college. I landed an amazing job with a Fortune 100 company right out of college at the ripe age of 22. And finally, that sexy guy that I had kept on my arm for the past four years - my best friend turned love of my life - finally asked me to marry him! I was getting everything I ever wanted. But, why shouldn’t I? I followed the recipe of life that had been handed to me – I worked hard and maintained focus. For that, I deserved everything I ever wanted. Crack that oyster open y’all! I want my pearl!!

My husband and I had decided before we got married that we wanted to spend the first two years of our marriage just enjoying each other and settling into adult life. After that, we’d start the next part of our journey together and have that first child we had been fantasizing about. It was the perfect plan. But, this was the first time I would find that life doesn’t always quite go as planned. A year after we got married, I was unwillingly saddled with this burdensome feeling that I wanted to be a mother sooner. As exciting as the prospect of being a mother was, I was a bit annoyed that my mind and my heart didn’t get the memo that I needed another year of blissful married life before I started thinking about children. I tried to push the feeling aside, but pregnant bellies popped up everywhere and babies had these cute, googly eyes that caused my heart to palpitate uncontrollably. The baby aisles suddenly had this alarming power to pull me towards them and then it happened… the mirror whispered to me to look down at my hand cupping my belly and picture that oyster pearl finally cradled within my grasp in the form of tiny hands and toes. I told my husband about how I was feeling. He was kind hesitant because he didn’t want the pressure of trying yet. But, he was willing to let me stop my birth control pills and with an, “if it happens it happens” attitude, he began toying with the idea of a surprise pregnancy that would whisk him into fatherhood. So, Christmas 2013 was an exciting time because we had it in our minds that within the next few months we would make the exciting announcement that Baby Lincoln was on the way!

Oh… but its 6 months later and we haven’t even seen a shadow of a line on any of those little pesky tests that we had stocked up on. What was going on?? Well, duh! I wasn’t following the recipe. I was expecting it to just happen without any hard work. No worries – challenge accepted!!! I began rigorous research – I found articles, books, Facebook support groups. I downloaded more apps for tracking my cycles to compare against the My Calendar app I had already been using. I started my Rainbow Lite Prenatal Vitamins. I purchased Wondfo OPKs. I booked a pre-conception check-up appointment for myself and my husband. By this time my husband also felt we should be more pro-active and start actively trying to conceive so we just knew that the pre-conception check-up would give us the ammo we needed to make this baby. Much to my surprise, because we were only 24 years old at the time and too young to be worried about fertility issues, the pre-conception visit consisted of a standard physical and a metaphorical pat on the head with a, “have fun!” on the way out the door.

Christmas 2014 had now come and gone. Still no baby. How could this be?? I clearly wasn’t working hard enough… I wasn’t praying hard enough. Time to add in monitoring my Basal Body Temperature and get down on those knees a bit more so my Heavenly Father could hear me better. But despite my hard work, my heart was still in shambles as with each month Aunt Flo showed up like clockwork. By early 2015 I was tired of waiting around. Friends and family had been telling me to stop stressing and just let it happen. Our doctors had told us it just takes time and that we are young so there was nothing to worry about. Yet, each month, someone else was making a pregnancy announcement or posting photos of their new baby and here I was with an empty womb. My oyster shell was closing… and fast. I was in despair. The emotional toll began to affect me physically as well in many ways. My husband didn’t know how to console me. Aside from dealing with what I presumed to be an undiagnosed fertility issue, I was also trying to cope with grief and loss of several family members. By June 2015 I had a more positive outlook on life and decided to go in for fertility testing. Once again, we were told that we were too young to be worried about fertility issue, but I was persistent.

After fertility testing with our local doctor, we were diagnosed with severe Male Factor Infertility and were hesitantly advised that we had a 1% chance of ever being able to conceive naturally. So, a referral was made to a local fertility clinic and urologist who would help us going forward. After a few months, my husband was prescribed Clomid to start his treatment, but before we could get the prescription filled, we found out that we were miraculously pregnant!! At 8 weeks, my OB had trouble believing we were pregnant and asked that she be able to check via ultrasound before my dad and my husband came back into the room to prevent any harsh surprises. But, sure enough our little pearl was there - strong and healthy.

I went on to have a perfect pregnancy filled with awe and a blissful unmedicated home water birth where we met our precious baby girl. However, I never lost sight of the fact that we were one of the few lucky ones. Most go on to do years of treatment and endure IVF before they ever get to meet their long-awaited miracle(s).

Being a spiritual person, I believe that everything happens for a reason and at the perfect time. But, I also can’t help but feel as though we may have had our miracle that much sooner had our medical professionals not been so blinded by our age. Infertility doesn’t just happen to those in their mid-30’s and 40’s. We were a stable, otherwise healthy married African American couple in our mid-20s who had an explainable fertility issue that could have been addressed early on during our pre-conception checkup and could have saved us a lot of heartache, time, and money.

Although our infertility journey was admittedly long and painful (longer than some, shorter than others), it did make me more appreciative of the privilege it is to be a mother. My husband and I spend every day extremely thankful for our daughter and we cherish every small moment with her. But, what I didn’t anticipate was that the feelings of infertility don’t just go away after you “beat it”. You look around at the other women who are still standing in the mirror cupping an empty womb. Their pain continues. You watch women complain about how easy it is for them to get pregnant with children they don’t want. You get angry. In my case, you change your life plans and decide that you don’t need two children – one is good enough – because you don’t want to experience the pain and longing all over again. So, then what DOES come after infertility?

In our case, I realized that our burden could be used as someone else’s blessing. I wasn’t ready to give up the fight against infertility just yet. From this, I made the decision that I was going to become a surrogate to help other couples complete their forever family. My husband was completely supportive, and we went through the laborious process of screening, testing, matching, fertility medications, and embryo transfer. It gave me the chance to understand all we could have gone through, so I could appreciate my blessing that much more. It also gave me the chance to meet a beautiful couple in their mid-40s who is now eagerly awaiting their fraternal boy/girl twins from our first successful FET in December 2017 after years of their own infertility struggle which included failed transfers, pregnancy loss, and financial sacrifice. This journey has presented its own set of challenges but is equally rewarding and fulfilling for me knowing that I did my part to help eliminate the fertility struggles of another couple.

I honestly can’t say how I go here – how I became this 28-year-old mama discussing and spreading awareness about infertility. But, I am so honored to be a part of this movement and to have been given a platform to tell my story. I hope as you’ve read through some of these stories this week, you gain a better understanding of the struggles about infertility and how it can affect just about anyone around you. I hope you choose to speak out and do your part to bring more awareness to this topic so that people don’t have to continue suffering alone… It really can happen to anyone.

Lyneda is a 28-year-old aspiring entrepreneur and mama of one. Several years ago, in the midst of her pain, she took to Instagram as a way to express her frustrations of eagerly awaiting a child and to find other women who might be experiencing the same thing. Since then, she has continued the unfiltered documentation her life on her Instagram profile @WeAreTheLincolns in the hope to spread awareness about infertility, motherhood, and surrogacy. In between Instagram blog posts, Lyneda enjoys reading, working her new endeavor as a home-based travel agent, and spending time with her family.

Our Story of Infertility

By Owen Davis

My name is Owen and I am so excited to share my story with you guys today. I am a part time orthopedic Physician Assistant and a full-time mommy. I still get butterflies when I call myself a mom… I will never get used to hearing that and I will never take it for granted. Unless you have personally struggled with infertility, you probably have no idea that this week is National Infertility Awareness Week. A week dedicated to bringing awareness to a topic that is under discussed and over prevalent. I'm sharing our story in hopes of removing the stigma surrounding infertility and to help at least one person feel less alone.

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Our infertility story began when we were just dating when a doctor delivered the heartbreaking news that it would be hard for us to get pregnant naturally in the future. At that point we knew we would one day get married and want babies so we decided to proceed with surgery, knowing that it may or may not help our chances. These are some scary decisions to make for your future when you are just dating. After surgery it was just a waiting game... we wouldn't know whether it was successful until we started trying to conceive. Fast forward about 4 years. We were married and it was (finally!) time to start trying to get pregnant.

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This is where God stepped in, as He always does. I was in PA school and I chose to do one of my elective clinical rotations in infertility medicine. Ever since our infertility journey began it had become so intriguing to me both medically and personally. I told the reproductive endocrinologist I worked with all about our story and asked his personal opinion. He told me that we should go back to our previous doctor for more testing since we had not successfully gotten pregnant yet. So back to the doctor we went where more tests were done which showed that 1) the surgery had not worked and 2) they were concerned my husband may have a benign brain tumor that could also be affecting fertility. An MRI was done which did, in fact, show that he has a benign brain tumor also affecting fertility. With all of these factors, they told us our only option was IVF.

We were referred to UNC Fertility where we met our absolutely amazing doctor for a consultation and more testing and he agreed that IVF was our only option. That was a really low point in my life. I was overwhelmed, ashamed, heartbroken, scared and lonely. I decided that I could either keep it a secret from everyone or I could bravely share our story with the world which is what we decided to do. I am not a sharer by nature so this was a huge leap of faith for me! But I knew that if I stepped out of my comfort zone I could bring awareness to infertility and break the stigma behind it. I prayed that I could help at least one woman not feel so alone by sharing our journey.

Now it was go time! From there we began shots in preparation for egg retrieval. Egg retrieval went amazing and we got 44 eggs, 28 of which became healthy, day 5 embryos! This was such amazing news and a huge relief. I then suffered from ovarian hyperstimulation syndrome (OHSS) so our fresh embryo transfer was canceled while my body recovered. Six weeks later I was feeling great and ready to proceed with a frozen embryo transfer! We started medications again and on June 24, 2016 we transferred one grade 4AA embryo. It was the most amazing experience watching it on the screen and I will never forget my doctor saying, "You should be cautiously optimistic!"

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Five days later I did what any Type-A person would and peed on a stick... there was no way I could wait 4 more days for my blood test. A faint line appeared immediately and I was in shock! The rest of my pregnancy flew by and at 37 weeks I delivered our perfect baby girl via urgent C-section after 50 hours of labor.

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Struggling with infertility was a huge blessing in disguise. While I would never wish it on my worst enemy, it taught me so much about myself and about life in general. The three things that infertility has taught me are:

1) Never ask someone when they are going to have kids. You don't know what they may be going through. They could be going through IVF, IUI, just had a miscarriage, been trying for years unsuccessfully, you name it. Everyone's story is different and 1 in 8 people are struggling to get pregnant. Words can hurt so badly when you are in the midst of infertility heartbreak. Think before asking someone such personal information.

2) Ask how she is doing. If someone you know has shared that they are going through infertility, always say something. I was so hurt by the things that people didn't say when we were struggling. Some of the people I am closest to never said a word to me about it. I know that they felt uncomfortable and at a loss for what to say, but I will never forget feeling so alone and forgotten by some of my closest friends. Even if you don't know what to say, a simple "I'm thinking about you and praying for you" goes such a long way.

3) Never take a single moment for granted. I am one of the lucky ones who got my miracle baby on this side of Heaven. Not everyone is that lucky and I will never take that for granted. Even the most boring, mundane days with her are the best days ever. At least once a day I think to myself, "I still remember the days I prayed for the things I have now". Infertility has made me so much more patient and grateful. Our battle with infertility wasn't easy but the fact that it resulted in our baby girl made it so worth it. I would take every injection, procedure, tears and heartache all over again to be her mommy.

Owen lives with her husband and their 14-month-old baby girl in eastern North Carolina. She is a beach bum at heart and loves a good cup of coffee and cold glass of prosecco. She began blogging in 2014 to document their lives as she navigated PA school, marriage, and traveling. She quickly realized that she would be doing the world a disservice if she wasn’t transparent about their struggles with infertility and their journey through IVF which led to their miracle baby. 

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Flip the Script - Tia Gendusa

By Tia Gendusa

Hello and welcome lovely readers! I am so, so happy you took a few minutes out of your busy day to connect with me here at Fertility Bridge! My name is Tia and I am a former IVF warrior that writes over at ForeverOrchard.

My path to motherhood closed in late 2017, after unsuccessfully going through four egg retrievals, three transfers, and suffering two miscarriages. We fought and failed for five years, and I spoke frankly about our lives and our decision moving forward in THISPOST

I wouldn’t wish infertility on my worst enemy, but I am here, standing and thriving, even though life is shaping up a bit differently than I had planned.

These days I speak to spread awareness about the ups and downs of infertility, not only in the thick of treatments an uncertainty, but for everything that comes afterward, whether you find success or not.

I hope by cultivating happiness through my Blog, YouTube Channel, and Instagram, we all learn to give ourselves more grace and practice positive thinking no matter what life throws at us.

One of the top issues about fertility treatments for our family included our finances and insurance coverage. Did you know that only 15 states currently offer some formof infertility coverage? I live in IL, one of the covered states, but even I work for a company that was exempt from this type of coverage, forcing me to branch out and buy my own individual insurance. I thank my lucky stars every day that we had the coverage we had. Even so, we spent roughly $30,000 out of pocket, and while that number may be shocking to see, it fell somewhere in the middle of the (very wide) spectrum of financial woes associated with these types of treatments.

This year, Resolve’s theme is Flip the Script, and it’s offering a chance for people like me to level the playing field when it comes to breaking down barriers with family-building.  This week in particular is NIAW, or National Infertility Awareness Week. It’s our week to band together and fight for the justice we deserve. We deserve better insurance coverage, more affordable treatment options, less discrimination, more empathy and more education for the masses.

Infertility doesn’t just affect the person or people trying to grow their family. All facets of their lives take a hit. Our friends and family may not know about our struggles, and if they do, they don’t know what to say when faced with such a heavy topic. Our careers are constantly taking a back seat to appointments and procedures. Financial woes hit heavy on our emotions and our wallets. To think that it takes the equivalent of the child’s college fund just to have a child in the first place, is daunting. A complete lack of infertility insurance coverage or state-to-state exemptions leave us scraping money together via loans or fundraisers for something that comes so easily to others.

There are MILLIONS of us. Don’t believe me? Start a conversation with your friends and I could bet good money (maybe enough for another round of IVF?) that you know at least one other person who has, or is, struggling to conceive and resorted to fertility treatments.

Our goal is simple. To fulfill our lives in the best way we know how. We want to nurture and raise little miracles of our own that will eventually be thriving adults. The love we have for these babies that don’t exist yet is paramount. And yet, so many of us are bashed for our way of thinking or forced to close this chapter of our lives because we simply cannot afford it.

I urge you to use your voice. I urge you to use your social media platforms. Write the letters. Send the emails. Speak up and help lift up this community. It’s time to Flip the Script.

Thank you for reading. Please feel free to email me with any questions or comments that are on your mind. Let’s do better together.

Tia is a Vlogger and Writer at Forever Orchard. She lives in the suburbs of Chicago with her husband and English Bulldog. She started her journey to parenthood in 2012 and quickly realized it wasn’t as easy as her Health teacher once told her. She and her husband are both autosomal recessive carriers of a genetic condition called MCAD, therefore, IVF was the only option to eliminate this disease from their future children. After four egg retrievals, three transfers, and suffering through two miscarriages, she closed the door to motherhood in late 2017. These days she speaks openly about her struggles with grief and cultivating happiness no matter what life has to offer.  

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Why Would Anyone Else Care About Infertility? How I Became an Ally to a Community I Had Nothing to Do With

By Griffin Jones

"Don't worry, you can always adopt"

I don't know if I ever had a conversation with anyone struggling with infertility (about the topic) before a few years ago. If I had, I probably would have said something silly like the above. I would have said it with the best of intentions, and hopefully, I would have kept an open mind. I knew nothing about infertility.  I had barely heard of IVF. I had no idea what a reproductive endocrinologist (RE) was. I am a young male with zero medical background and no personal connection to infertility. On paper, I was the least likely person to become an ally of the infertility community. And that's the very reason it seemed so important to become one.

caring about infertility

expanding the community

Whatever the issue at hand, progress will be limited if the consequences only apply to the people directly affected. This is true if we're talking about small issues at the local school board or large ones like repealing laws that ban same-sex marriage. Every community needs allies who are not "native" to their background for credibility and traction. I found infertility awareness to be an important concern that needed attention from more people than only couples struggling to conceive. It looked like they needed reinforcements, might be one way to put it. Still, there are infinite communities that I don't belong to that need support from the broader public. Why this one?

acknowledging the right to feel

There is a particular nuance in the way the infertility community is treated that piqued my curiosity. I still can't totally articulate it, but it has to do with we, as a society, not letting people feel what they need to feel. Responses like "at least you have one child already", or "stop worrying about it and it will happen" are pretty consistent with how we react to a lot of feelings that we don't totally understand. We jump to the "solution" because we want the feelings of hurt to end immediately. Sometimes out of compassion, sometimes out of laziness, and probably anywhere in between.

"You'll find someone else."
"You'll land a new job."  
"It's not so bad."

I wanted to shut up for a minute and allow people their right to feel.

ThAT blurry area between Sympathy and Empathy

Judging how other people should feel seems to stem from trying to equate someone's reality to our own. We often compare experiences as though they could possibly be the same, instead of drawing from them to imagine how someone feels. Dictionary.com describes sympathy as "feeling compassion, sorrow, or pity for the hardships that another person encounters, while empathy is putting yourself in the shoes of another".  The only way to know the pain of infertility (or cancer, or the loss of a spouse, or absolutely anything you could imagine) is to experience it personally.

 Relating to imagine what people feel, not knowing exactly what they feel.

Relating to imagine what people feel, not knowing exactly what they feel.

We might not be able to fully understand someone's experience that we don't share, but we can usually empathize when we try.  I've never had to go through the "two week wait", but I know how anxious and frustrated I become when someone tells me to "just relax". People might not pester you about when you're going to have kids when that's what you want more than anything in the world. You may, however, know the soul-wrenching feeling you get when people ask you about a life goal that you're trying your best to achieve, and you have no idea when it will happen. Interacting with people with infertility has made me more aware of imagining what people might feel, in all kinds of scenarios, instead of judging what they should feel.

Playing for the team that drafted me

I noticed the community that emerges from this longing to be understood when I first started doing social media for fertility centers in 2014. Some people who had children because of assisted reproductive technology (ART) were so overjoyed that they wanted to tell the world about it. The emotional attachments they had to their doctors and care team was palpable. They exuded a sense of triumph that comes only from a prolonged period of hard times. I had worked with several other business categories in the past and never seen anything like it. Then I wondered about the people that haven't had success or are still on their journey. What do they need help with? So I took it upon myself to e-mail the group leader of every RESOLVE support group in America. You'll be able to read more about that in my memoir, The Unlikely Tale of How I Became Besties with the National Infertility Association. Turns out, you're not supposed to do that. Before the nice people at RESOLVE could contact me to say "hey knock that off, guy", I had already talked with dozens of people dealing with infertility over the phone and via e-mail conversations. Their reception of me sealed the deal that these were people I could get behind.

 If you don't get this analogy, you're going to have to re-watch Jerry Maguire

If you don't get this analogy, you're going to have to re-watch Jerry Maguire

I was completely upfront about who I was. "Hi, I'm a marketer and I'm thinking about starting a business for fertility practices. I would love to know what information you really wanted from your clinic(s) that you just couldn't get". I'll translate this for you:

"Hey, I'm some dude that knows nothing about you, nothing about your problem, nothing about medicine, and I would maybe like to possibly make some money some day".

"Go f yourself" would have been a perfectly reasonable response. But I didn't get that at all (maybe once). Instead, people were generally very eager to talk to me. They told me a lot. They told me about a whole bunch of stuff I had never heard of before...stuff that most people would consider very private that I didn't even ask about. They even thanked me for doing my research. Thank me? A marketer? Didn't they know that marketer is just one or two rungs better on the scum ladder than investment banker? I had never been acknowledged like this before--why them? I realized right away it was because they were yearning to be listened to. I learned first hand how little they felt understood, even by their clinics. I felt armed.

I jumped on Instagram to engage with the #ttc (trying to conceive) community there. Same thing. "Hey everyone. I'm a marketer. I don't know your journey, but I promise I will out-listen anyone who tries to compete with me in the business I'm building". Once again, I've been totally humbled by the welcome I've received, both online and in person. I get occasional shout-outs, words of encouragement, and people keeping tabs on me. I've been a marketer for ten years now and I've never received that from any other segment I've worked with. That is a very rewarding thing about working with a population with whom the stakes are so high. Shit matters. People don't feel that way when they buy a Hyundai Sonata. Even though I work with clinics, and not directly with patients, it's the patients that get me excited about what I do.

Stay classy, #infertilitycommunity

My guardedly optimistic prediction for the future is that public awareness around infertility will grow significantly. When it does, I hope the discipline of listening to and trying to imagine the feelings of others wins over the comparison of struggles. Affording people their right to feel and the humility of using experiences to empathize instead of drawing contrast are amazing lessons in humanity. I realize that I am totally idealizing the values of a very diverse and massive population of people. But that's what they are--ideals. And those are what made me want to be an ally to a community I originally had nothing to do with. 

 

What 22 Infertility Bloggers Hated About Choosing Their Fertility Clinic

By Griffin Jones

"a prudent question is one half of wisdom"--francis bacon

Recently, someone who is very involved in the field of infertility reinforced what hundreds of patients have told me for two years; there's an astounding gap between the way many fertility practices deliver their services and what patients want and expect. That's exactly why our company has the word "Bridge" in its name. According to a study conducted in 2012 by Forrester, 80% of companies say they deliver superior service to their customers. Meanwhile, only 8% of those companies received a superior customer rating. If you're seeking treatment for infertility, the delivery of the services you receive should be nothing less than superior. No clinic is entitled to your selection. Even in states and countries where some rounds of IVF are covered, there are still many circumstances in which you could pay tens of thousands of dollars of your own money. If you live in a large enough area, or are able to travel, you have a choice. Your choice isn't an easy one to make, given how much is at stake. I don't own any fertility centers (...yet), but because we direct their marketing based on what you tell us, I'll speak about them in the first person voice.

Getting out of our own way

infertility blogger round up

As fertility practice groups, we sometimes spend a lot of money in an attempt to help you make that decision. Or at least we think we do. Sometimes we try to grow our practices without any strong understanding of what you need to feel comfortable (and eventually very satisfied) to move forward with treatment at our center or someone else's. We frequently forget that there is a simpler way of earning your choice. We could remove the unnecessary challenges, annoyances, uncertainties, and causes for anxiety that you face when you are searching for a fertility specialist. How do we build not just a proven marketing system, but an entire practice culture, around what goes through your mind when you debate coming to our clinic, another practice group, or seeking no treatment at all? This is a laborious and continuing process, but I had a crazy idea of where to start when I entered this field, and I decided to do it again.

I asked you.

In early 2015, I wrote a report from interviews with several infertility peer support group leaders. This time, I decided to ask over twenty prominent infertility bloggers to candidly answer the same short question. One question isn't enough to understand everything involved in how you decide which practice will play this instrumental role in your life, and what we need to do to make you feel very good about that decision. We need as much feedback as we can possibly get. We need to ask follow up questions, issue patient satisfaction surveys, read what you say anonymously about us online, take action on your collective input and repeat that process forever. Still, in their own right, the candid answers of several different people to the same question is very insightful. I chose bloggers because they have not only a wealth of personal experience, but also because they are each in contact with hundreds of other people who deal with infertility. They are on the pulse of the infertility community. As you'll read, there are several reasons why people choose clinics, and they're not mutually exclusive. 

 20 infertility bloggers all answered one question

20 infertility bloggers all answered one question

What was the most annoying part about choosing your fertility clinic?"

OVERWHELMING OPTIONS

In Due Time , @caroline_induetime 
"There are too many clinics to choose from. It's so hard to choose one".

No Bun in the Oven @nobunintheoven 
"Choosing a fertility clinic is an overwhelming experience because it's an expensive process! The most annoying part of finding my clinic was finding reliable experiences about the doctors. Where is the Rate My Fertility Doctor website? Where can a couple go to find real life experiences on these professionals who are getting paid tens of thousands of dollars for treatment? It was hard to find and we were ultimately left shopping at several clinics before finding the 'right one' for us".

Hoping for a Best@hopingforbabybest
"Wondering if you made the right choice".

Anonymous 

"Just scared of making the wrong choice".

UNCLEAR COSTS/BILLING

Smart Fertility Choices, @SmartFertilityChoices
"It was difficult to understand the entire cost involved in doing a cycle".

Rad Kitten@RadKitten
"Cost first and foremost. Second is beside manner. I'm not just a paycheck, I'm a person".

TTC a Taxson Baby@ttcataxsonbaby
"The most annoying part about choosing my fertility clinic was finding out that they don't take either of our insurances! Annoying and frustrating"!

Happiness Glass@happinessglass_
"That insurance dictates where you can or cannot go. Also I chose based on location/convenience to me rather than quality of service".

Amateur Nester, @amateurnester
"I found it frustrating that most clinics didn't have their costs listed on their websites. It would have made planning much easier if we'd had this information up front".

Its Positive Living, @its_positive
"Insurance (not having many options to chose from in my network/being tied to my network ... I have an HMO)".

THE RIGHT FIT WITH THE RIGHT PERSONNEL

The 2 Week Wait, @the2weekwait
"It was finding both a doctor and suggested protocol I truly felt enthusiastic about. To me, success rates can be manipulated, other patient opinions can vary and ultimately - nothing is more reliable than your own gut. If a doctor clicks with you, if the treatment suggested makes sense and you feel good about, that's all you need".

PCOS Diva, @PCOSDiva
It is disappointing when doctors do not have a solid understanding of how to treat PCOS using lifestyle modification as first line therapy.

Expecting Anything, @expectinganything
The most annoying part for me was the "marketing" behind this process by doctors/clinics. I mean, I get that it's a business for them, but some doctors forget that we are human, and this is real life shit for us! They all have different "sell tactics". They either beat you down and make you feel really bad or depressed about your situation, or they try to be overly sincere and emotional. We just want some facts and compassion people! Is it that hard!? I don't need to see all of the trophies "ie, baby pictures" plastered on the walls or some premeditated sob story. Show me your success rates and that you give a shit. It's that easy!

Our Misconception@ourmisconception
"The gatekeepers. You know the receptionists. These are the first faces you will see and the first you speak to when scheduling a consult or an appointment. They will be the ones that set the tone for the rest of the patient/user experience. Having navigated a cacophony of medical offices, this is an area/industry where empathy, education of the patient and social etiquette need to be greatly invested in as it lacks in most cases. My husband once had to spell out craniotomy to the appointment scheduler of his brain surgeons office. True story".

Triumphs and Trials@triumphsandtrials
"The most annoying part was going in to it blindly. Not knowing what the doctors were like and if they would be a good fit".

Anonymous 
"I needed an individualized approach on my treatment and a specialist who is willing to spare time to answer my questions and stay on top of all the details about my case. Not every clinic can do that due to patient volume. I was glad I was able to find the clinic I dreamed for after trying a big center in bay area, CA".

A LACK OF ALTERNATIVES

Infertile Soil, @infertilesoil
"In Canada you need to be referred to a fertility clinic (sometimes clinics will charge you if you don't have a referral) and many times doctors will refer you to just one particular clinic.

SIFTING THROUGH COMPLICATED INFORMATION

Trials Bring Joy@chels819
"Navigating outdated SART data".

AN EASY CHOICE FROM A TRUSTED SOURCE

Secret Infertility@FranMeadows
"I had a transition with ease since my OB/GYN referred me over to a fertility doctor that they personally used. This helped me feel more confident from the moment I walked through their doors. There was nothing annoying about me choosing a doctor".

 Life Abundant@lifeabundant_jw
"Nothing. My OB is able to do everything except IVF and is very knowledgeable in infertility treatment practice after doing her residency in a fertility clinic, so I have gotten lucky and have the best of both worlds. If we need IVF, I'll have to go elsewhere, and I will connect with her residency clinic and the doctor she trained under".

LET'S NOT MAKE THIS ANY HARDER THAN IT HAS TO BE

Hilariously Infertile, @hilariously_infertile
Uhhh. Being freakin' infertile is the most annoying part about choosing a fertility clinic.

Waiting In Hope, @waiting_in_hope
Honestly the most annoying part about choosing a fertility clinic is having to choose one AT ALL. Having to acknowledge the need for a fertility clinic/reproductive endocrinologist is heart breaking. It’s an acceptance that something is wrong. You have to grieve the loss of having a baby the “normal OB/GYN” route. And that it just might not be "easy".

Give the people what they want

As much as it's a service to you to equip you with clear information to make your decision, really, it's in our own best interest. The most effective way to grow our practices is through the detailed execution of a very simple premise: give you what you want. You can't decide on a clinic because you have no idea how SART success rates are being presented? Guess we need to make a video explaining SART data in plain English. You can't compare IVF costs between our competitors because no one will give you a straight answer? Sounds like we need to make an IVF cost checklist that you can download to compare potential additional costs. You felt isolated during your time at our practice because we never told you about support groups in our area? Apparently we need to make sure all of our patients go home knowing about the online, professional, and peer support resources that are available to them. In the age of ubiquitous communication, there is no shortage of ways to be able to collect and validate your input. Some clinics will ignore you and tell themselves they do a great job of getting you the information you want. Others will heed your suggestions and grow because of it. These are the clinics that deserve your choice, because you deserve nothing less.

Do you have something you want to say about your experience with your practice? Good, bad, or neutral? Please leave a comment or send me an e-mail! I would love to hear what you have to say.

24 Things You Would Never Know About Infertility Until You #StartAsking

By Griffin Jones

Last night I had one of the coolest conversations that I've had in a little while. The best part, is, we recorded the whole thing. This week is National Infertility Awareness Week and I wanted to participate in the #startasking dialogue, not just with sound bytes or with a scripted narrative, but a candid, meaningful conversation between people who really want to see the infertility community receive the recognition they deserve. So I invited a few cool people to chat on Blab.

  • Chris and Candace Wohl, are a married couple who have been on their infertility journey for nine years. They have a daughter through surrogacy and they write the blog, Our Misconception
  • Angela Bergmann and her husband have unexplained infertility. Angie writes the blog, Rad Kitten, and she leads an infertility peer support group in Ohio.
  • Fran Meadows struggled with infertility for seven years. After she had her son she decided to break the silence about her experience and author the book, The Truth Behind the Secret "Infertility".

Watch our conversation about infertility and how much you can take control by promoting awareness.

Despite no shortage of technical difficulties, Mid-Atlantic thunderstorms, and Blab still being in beta (Watch this at 2:38 if you don't mind the f bomb), we farmed some really valuable ideas from our talk. Here's what you missed

On speaking out about infertility

"#startasking doesn't have to be about your personal infertility. We need people to start asking their employers, and doctors, and healthcare providers and anyone who will listen to give us access to the family building options that we just don't have access to right now". --Angie

"It's up to you to set the boundary of what you're willing to share and what you're not willing to share. Maybe you don't want to share anything at all and that's totally fine. You set those boundaries at the beginning".--Angie

" For the first two to three years of our journey we didn't tell anyone. We didn't have any support. We weren't seeking counseling." We didn't know about organizations like RESOLVE. I just felt alone."--Candace 

"Before we had our son, I felt like it was easier for my husband and I to deal with it as a couple than to open it up to the world to know every step we were going through."--Fran

"It is very common, that people keep silent [about infertility]. There are so many people that are afraid to open up and they relate to someone who felt their pain".--Fran

"Being able to talk to me, since I've always been open about infertility has helped people figure out that maybe they were being silent not necessarily because they wanted to, but because they didn't know how to broach the topic with their family members."--Angie

"We decided to take our struggle and make something positive out of it."--Candace 

"Even though we have our daughter, we still are infertile. Somehow getting all these voices together and talking about what we go through makes it that much easier" --Chris

"You can set boundaries with your family members: this is what I need from you, this is what I don't need from you."--Angie

"We realized that we needed to debunk the stigma. We need to help other couples who may be on the fence. We need to help couples who may not know there are options like counseling and organizations like RESOLVE that can help".--Candace

On the misunderstanding of infertility as a disease

"There's just a lot of misunderstanding as to what the options really are."--Chris

"I don't have to have had a child to have beaten infertility. I beat infertility every day because I own it. It's a disease. I could have five kids I'm still going to be infertile."--Angie

"The number one thing I get from people is 'well if you're having trouble having kids, that means you just get all kinds of sex, right?'. There's going to be a whole series of bedroom antics that have nothing to do with having fun".--Chris

"It's a disease. Would you be afraid to tell your family that you had diabetes?" --Angie

"Adoption solves the need for children. It doesn't solve infertility."--Angie

On being your own advocate

"Millennials are hungry for information. The key is to provide them with the right information. They need to look at SART data, at ASRM, at the CDC, and they need to look at RESOLVE. It's all about being your own advocate and taking this information to your RE".--Candace
,
"Being your own advocate gives you more confidence knowing what you're doing getting into whatever treatment you choose. The doctor is the doctor, but sometimes you have to question certain things to know that you are making the right decision."--Fran

"If REs have that bedside manor where they appreciate you asking questions it helps you move forward in the journey with trust". --Fran

On taking action to make a change

"We need to get more people to advocacy day. We're never going to make a change until they see 1,000 of us walking to our appointments. We need to get laws passed to get the national recognition we need".--Angie

"There's so many people who are angry and who want change. You can do it. You have a choice. You have the right as a U.S. citizen to make a change. Join us and change the world so that family building is no longer a financial barrier. So that people can get treatment for their disease. This isn't an elective. This is a disease. RESOLVE's Advocacy Day is May 11, and we're so close to 200 advocates".--Candace

"Millennials want to make a change. That's what they do. They get loud and they make change".-Angie

"Use your voice on the phone, with your e-mail, with your letters. Even if you can't make it [to advocacy day], you can still be really involved".--Fran

"[Advocacy Day]" is truly the most overwhelming and empowering day of your infertility journey to be able to take that moment of control".--Angie

"If you can't make it to DC, you can still support us. Take a look at resolve.org/advocacyday or follow us on social media and we'll lead you in the right direction".--Candace