Yesterday was a life changing day for me. I met amazing people, some of whom have Resolved their infertility, while others are still struggling. I was surprised by the number of professionals (doctors, pharmaceutical reps, etc) that participated. I woke early and headed to DC for 7:30am breakfast and training. I sat at a table of others from Maryland (there ended up being about 13 of us!) we had time to chit chat before the training started, and I was (not) surprised that most of the women were also patients at Shady Grove Fertility, and 3 others at the table were actually doctors from SGFC!
Once the training started you could feel the passion and dedication the Resolve staff have for advocating. Barb is amazing, her joyful, fun and powerful presence is addicting! Whitney and Jen are dedicated and experienced yet totally approachable. All gave priceless information that we would need for the rest of the day. The speaker, Rick Larsen, US House Representative (2nd District, Washington State) who was the sponsor of the Women’s Veterans Act was pleasant, genuine and informative. The panelists for the Q&A session were imperative, anyone could go up and ask questions and they have amazing insight. Time flew by, they spewed out so much information it was easy to get overwhelmed but…..
The most important part of the training were the handouts! They were spectacular, we couldn’t have done anything without them. The Resolve staff thought of everything. There was a handout of where to eat, social media flyers to hold up when taking pictures, maps, do’s & don’ts in your meetings and so much more than just your schedule. The training ended at 10:00am, and our first meeting wasn’t until 12:00pm, so I had assumed we would take 30 minutes as a group to go over our plan for the day after the meeting…. unfortunately that didn’t happen. Half of our group immediately scattered and left to do their own thing (take pictures they said). So the other half of our group decided to go ahead and head over to the Hart Senate building and go around handing out the materials to the senators that did not have constitutes participating.
We were lucky to have Karrie, a 14 year Resolve advocate veteran was in our small group, along with a pharmaceutical rep (never thought I would be lobbying with a pharmaceutical rep! ugh, but god bless them!), a graduate student writing her thesis on infertility (and just generally an advocate for fertility options) and 3 other “infertiles.” We walked around to 6 different offices, walked in with our “materials” and talked to the “20 something” receptionists. Said our schpeal and left onto the next. We weren’t able to get any “pick up” meetings (meaning actually meeting with the aide not just talking to the receptionist) but that’s ok! This helped us warm up before our first big meeting. In Hawaii's office they had amazing Macadamia nut cookies, in New York’s they had Big League chew gum! It was great to see all the different cultures our country represents! We actually saw Senator Mikulski walking in the hallway and told her we were getting ready to meet with her aide, she thanked us and went on her way.
Luckily at 11:50am our entire group met up outside the Senator’s office and all of the other group members were there in time as well, so it all worked out! We were joined by a few other people, including an adoption attorney from VA, and two more SGFC doctors. We met with Pooja, a 24 year old graduate student planning to go onto medical school. She was attentive, respectful and educated on the matters we presented her. The“real” lobbyists (Karrie, the doctors and the attorney) took the lead in the meeting giving all the facts and statistics, while the rest of us paid close attention. Then came my chance to tell my own personal story. I kept it clinical, factual and brought up the fact that while Maryland has a fertility health insurance coverage mandate, my company is exempt so the Family Act would be greatly helpful for my situation. We spent 30 minutes with Pooja going over the 3 bills. She said while these issues were definitely something the senator feels is close to her heart, she couldn’t guarantee the senator would co-sponsor the bills since she is the lead on the appropriations committee and is really focusing her time on that this year and not really sponsoring any bills at the moment.
After that meeting, the group split up for their various Representative meetings throughout the day (everyone has their own schedules depending on where you live, which district you’re in dictates who you meet with). At this point it had started raining so I went with Karrie and 2 other ladies to the basement of the Hart building to the tunnels and tram to get to the Capitol, and over to the House building without getting wet in the rain. It was an experience for sure!! Most tourists don’t get to do that. We had lunch at the cafeteria of the Longworth building. And 2 ladies from NY sat at our table with us, including Jen one of the Co-Chairs. It was great speaking with her, she has amazing experience and insight.
The next Senator meeting was at 4:00pm where a majority of our group would be, but I had a meeting with Rep John Delany at 3:30pm, and the grad student, Rachel had her next meeting at 4:45pm, so we would both miss the Senator Benjamin Cardin meeting, which was fine, they had enough people for that one. So we set off to the Longworth Building to pass out more materials to other Representatives. After handing out several we still had about an hour to kill, which was not enough time to go outside to sight see or take pictures and get back through security, so we just sat in a hallway and chatted. It was great!
Then at 3:15pm, Erin Kramer (one of the panelists from the morning Q&A) found us in the hallway and said she was going to go to the Delaney meeting with us! Yay I wouldn’t be alone!! Rachel decided to tag along, and two SGFC doctors showed up too! Rep Delany actually came out into the hallway on his way to a vote so we got to say hi and shake his hand and Dr. Stillman gave him the “elevator speech” version, he was in a hurry to get to “the vote” so we didn’t get any feedback from him. We then went in and met with his aide Erin. She was also very attentive, seemed interested in what we had to say, and really seemed to light up when she found that I lived in Rep Delany’s district and was and advocate for these issues. She told us that the “easiest” one for the Rep to back was the adoption tax credit refundability since he was already sponsoring a similar bill for the child care credit. It was 3:52pm and there was no way I could make it all the way back to the Senate building, through security and get to the 4:00pm Cardin meeting. Thinking back I wish I had gone with Rachel to her next meeting, which Erin was also going to, I could have learned even more…but I decided to go ahead to the debriefing room set up at the Capitol Hill club, I think my brain was just done.
At the Capitol Hill club I filled out my evaluation form, ate an orange and some juice and sat down for a few minutes. Then at 4:30pm everyone there headed over to Tortilla Coast, a Mexican bar next door, for drinks and dinner. I met back up with 2 other ladies from Maryland we sat down and talked about our day for about 45 minutes. I truly hope we all stay in touch, it was amazing to meet other women who have experienced exactly what you have and have survived. Unfortunately my phone died at some point…so I took the metro all the way to Shady Grove sans phone (scary! I'm def bringing my charger with me next year!) and I’m sure my husband was freaking out. When I finally got my car at 7:00pm, I just collapsed in my seat for a few minutes before heading home.
As chaotic as the day seemed to be, it all worked out and everything just seemed to fall into place when it needed to the planning behind the scenes is amazing.
While I’m not sure exactly what level of impact we had during our meetings and while handing out materials, I do know I made lifelong connections and friendships. And I do know the “real lobbyists” did make some headway and
got confirmation of sponsorship from many more senators and representatives, so that’s amazing! Hopefully I can consider myself a "real" lobbyist or activist one day!
And I will certainly be back next year!
Tips for next year:
-take off of work the day after!!!
-take more pictures!
-start gathering letters early!
Bram's Birth Story
Ways to Save Money
Things not to say to IPs
Tips for newly diagnosed
Mothers with MRKH
Our Gender Reveal
2000- Chrissy dx w/ MRKH
2002- Chrissy & Lee meet
2007- Chrissy & Lee Marry
2009- Chrissy 'hysterectomy'
2013- Awarded Cade Grant
7/3/14- IVF egg retrieval (5)
1/18/15- Embryo Transfer (1)
9/29/15 - Bram born!