So you are heading to Advocacy Day, and there are lots of emotions swirling around in your stomach, especially for first timers! What is it going to be like? What will I say to representatives and their aides? How will they respond?
For many of us, especially those who are new to Advocacy Day, the idea of talking about our infertility to people who we have never met before can be overwhelming at first. After all, opening up to our closest friends and families sometimes poses a challenge, how can we discuss this with political figures? While the buildings and hallways leading to the representatives’ offices are as grand as the shiny plaques on their doors, keep in mind that they are ELECTED officials and that THEY are working for YOU.
Here are some tips to calm your nerves and stay the course during your meetings, especially with reps who may not “get” infertility at the start:
It is hard not to have anxiety going into Advocacy Day. The more anxious you are before your meetings, the harder they can feel. Preparation can be a great foil to anxiety! RESOLVE does a great job preparing advocates for the tasks at hand. Make sure to be a part of the private Advocacy Facebook group.
Make sure to attend the trainings and read up on and become intimately familiar with all of the key issues to hit in your meetings. While RESOLVE will also have a refresher of the information the morning of Advocacy Day and actual notes to take with you to meetings, it is ideal to have this information fully memorized, this way you can speak from your heart in the meetings and focus on your personal story without feeling flustered.
Do Be Authentic
Your personal story changes hearts and minds. You have the ability to bring the key issues to life and make the seemingly political, personal. Before Advocacy Day, think about your story and try to frame it and condense it in a way that is clear, emotional and relatable. You may want to research ahead of time if the representative has a family of his or her own. How would that representative feel if she were still struggling to build her family? How would she feel if she or her partner had a disease that prevented her from having a family and there were very little resources to help them? If you were able to build a family through treatments or adoption, bring a picture of your family and say how you want the same opportunities for other families. If you have resolved your family building and do not have children, share how you overcame your grief and how the key issues you are fighting for today could help patients in the future.
Don’t Go To Extremes
So you are in your meeting, and it is clear that the representative or aide is not receptive to the key issues or your experience with infertility. You have been calm, authentic, emotional and clear. You have respectfully tried reaching them from different angles. While talking about something so personal and so emotional, you may be tempted to start participating in “extreme advocating.”
Extreme advocating may involve ugly crying, shaming, smiting or personally attacking the representative. It also may include throwing things, threatening the representative or having security remove you from the building. Don’t be that advocate. Keep your head up, emit strength and grace and keep your venting, smiting and verbal attacks for when you are out of earshot, safely with your fellow state advocates.
Do Stay on Task and Remind Them What’s at the Heart of The Matter
Advocacy Day is to talk about infertility and the key issues that RESOLVE has carefully pointed to that need attention this year. While we are currently in a politically charged climate where constituents are more aware of many issues that may be extremely important to them, this is not the time or place to talk about climate change, gun control or how you feel about a new tax impacting business in your state. Stay on task as advocating for infertility is incredibly important. You are important. Your story is important. These meetings are our time to change the landscape of infertility legislation.
Keep in mind that infertility is a disease and is not your fault, although we sometimes try and blame ourselves for something that is completely out of our control. Infertility can make us feel powerless. Infertility is still a taboo topic for many and we can sometimes feel silenced and shamed.
On Advocacy Day leave all of those feelings and societal perspectives behind. Be brave and be bold. Be clear. You have a disease and it is not your fault. While some may try and politicize our health issues and treatments for our disease, remember that is not the reality in which we live in every day. It is not the reality for 1 in 8 couples. You are representing your reality and the reality of those who cannot be there to advocate.
Do Thank Them
No matter how the meetings goes, make sure to look your representative or the aide in the eye, shake their hand and thank them for their time and listening to your story. Most likely you will leave with a card of the representative or her aide. RESOLVE will encourage advocates to reach out and thank those you met via email. Advocates for many different causes flock to Washington daily to have these same meetings. These emails are a further way to impart your story and RESOLVE’s key issues. Make sure to follow up, especially if your representative had some hesitations.
Throughout the history of Advocacy Day, while there have been some meetings with representatives that have not gone ideally, most meetings are received positively and politely, even if the representative is not yet ready to support RESOLVE’s legislation efforts. Your presence at Advocacy Day and your willingness to be brave and bold and share your story makes a huge difference, even if your representative is hesitant to support the infertility community. Over the years, many representatives who may not have known about infertility legislation or may not have agreed with it at first, have ultimately supported RESOLVE’s efforts due to hearing the powerful stories of their constituents.
– Casey Berna, LCSWA is a licensed social worker with years of experience as a counselor, advocate, and community organizer. Casey provides counseling to patients suffering from endometriosis and infertility in North Carolina. She runs patient-support groups through her affiliations with RESOLVE and EndoWarriors, and also supports, coaches, and educates patients worldwide through her participation in the online community. Inspired by her own struggle with endometriosis, infertility, and recurrent pregnancy loss, Casey has contributed to these communities for years as a writer and activist. Endotruths: The Impact of Endometriosis and Infertility on Mental Health, debuted at The Unmentionables Film Festival in New York City. She also has been a guest speaker at universities and conferences across the nation. In her spare time, Casey supports and volunteers for non-profits working to improve the lives of patients in these communities.