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Advocacy Day is a Family Affair

I told my mother about my infertility diagnosis the day my grandmother died. It was only out of necessity when there was talk of scheduling the funeral during one of my doctor appointments. As anyone who has undergone treatment for infertility knows, these appointments happen according to your body’s schedule and not your own. We were on the phone and I was huddled in a quiet corner at work. I explained that I had an appointment on the morning in question that I absolutely could not cancel. My mother immediately thought of the worst and panicked. She asked what was wrong and I attempted to calm her, explaining that my husband and I had been trying to have a baby and it wasn’t working. It wasn’t like I was dying or anything. The truth? I felt like I was. 


Elizabeth Walker and her Mom at AD 2015Relationships with family can be some of the hardest while dealing with infertility. Your parents are living the role you long for and siblings give your parents the grandchildren you always imagined you would. They announce pregnancies with images of family trees that don’t include your children and therefore don’t include you. During holidays, they gift photo calendars and books with scenes of togetherness that you are excluded from. It’s not intentional and not meant to hurt, but it does. You’re caught between being thrilled for them, so in love with your nieces and nephews, and feeling like you’ve been stabbed in the heart every time you hear them call your sisters mom.


It’s not that my family hasn’t been supportive of me during my journey, they absolutely have. It’s just that it’s often hard for them to know HOW to help. My mother wanted to know what she could do for me but it was difficult to give her suggestions when I wasn’t always sure myself. So, I was grateful when I discovered a possible way for my family to show me extra support by joining me in infertility advocacy.


Two years ago, I attended my first Advocacy Day in Washington, D.C. After feeling so out of control due to my infertility diagnosis for so many years, I felt strong, empowered. Walking the halls of the Capitol, armed with information on bills that would improve the lives of those like me, felt incredible. Not only that, I was surrounded by people who get it, who get me. I immediately started thinking of family members I might convince to join me the next year. To take part in that experience and get a glimpse into my world. A glimpse of the infertility family that I am now a part of.


Our families are looking for ways to help us through our experience with infertility. They want to be supportive. By inviting them to Advocacy Day, you’re giving them an opportunity to show their support and an opportunity to be a part of your world. Just as you feel excluded from theirs, it’s likely they are feeling excluded from yours when you aren’t as chatty as you once were, miss family vacations due to procedure conflicts, and decline baby shower invitations when it’s emotionally just too hard. Advocacy Day is an opportunity to join together.


My mother attended Advocacy Day with me last year. We had an amazing time chatting in hotel rooms, dining out with infertility family old and new, exploring the city, and asking our legislators to support bills that will help those, like me, with infertility. She’s joining me again this year and one of my sisters might join as well. Seven years into my infertility journey, my family and I are still learning how to navigate our lives and my diagnosis. However, each spring we have Advocacy Day and an opportunity to spend time together, working for change and for greater understanding.


Elizabeth Walker is the founder and curator of The ART of infertility. After her own infertility diagnosis, the focus of her personal photographic work shifted to documenting the lives of those with infertility through portraits and interviews, in order to allow them healing through sharing their stories, and, to share those stories with medical practitioners and legislators, advocating for improvements to the care of those with the disease. In the past, Elizabeth served as a RESOLVE Ambassador and peer-led infertility support group leader. Shas has also served as a volunteer photographer for the Michigan Adoption Resource Exchange.

Learn more about Advocacy Day here.

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