Control YOUR Fate: WTFP?!


There has been a lot of talk about birth control in the news here in the US lately. From the recent Supreme Court decision over Hobby Lobby and the Affordable Care Act, to activist-turned-candidate Sandra Fluke’s testimony in front of Democratic members of Congress. Birth control is a hot button issue. However, when you hear about birth control in the US, you rarely hear of those who have no access at all to birth control, or those who have never even been given the option to plan their families. Of course, you may know that some types of contraception are nearly impossible to afford if you don’t have insurance, or you may hear how some are so prevalent you can get them at any walk-in clinic or convenience store. What you don’t usually hear is how millions of women don’t even know they have a choice as to when they have children, let along the many ways available to prevent pregnancy. Imagine not even knowing you can control your own reproductive fate, thus your future.

I’m working with EngenderHealth, a leading global women’s health organization, to raise awareness of issues related to family planning around the world. More than 220 million women in developing countries who want to decide for themselves whether and when to have children do NOT HAVE ACCESS TO CONTRACEPTION, according to the Guttmacher Institute, a reproductive health think tank. They simply do not have access. While you or I may have to ask our doctor, pay a co-pay, or at the very least go to the corner drug store…these MILLIONS of women do not have the information they need or the ability to get contraception. So what’s the big deal you might think? Something we may take for granted. When women can PLAN whether or when to have children they are more likely to survive childbirth and have healthy newborns. They are also able to stay in school longer and earn more…thus helping their families. That’s right, many of these women are not surviving childbirth- and those that do are sometimes struggling with a newborn who may or may not survive. Unacceptable in 2014. EngenderHealth says “We are passionate about putting the power of family planning into women’s hands worldwide, because we know that when a woman can have the number of children she wants, not what her circumstances dictate, the possibilities for her future are infinite. We are transforming that passion into action so that every pregnancy is planned, every child is wanted, and every mother has the best chance at survival.” Kids My two children. I was able to further my education and my career because I could plan when I became pregnant.

Dr. Yetnayet Demi Asfaw, Vice President of Programs for EngenderHealth, explained to me on a conference call just how important it can be for entire regions to be convinced this is a must for the women of their community. Not an easy task when you are dealing with decades upon decades of culture differences and distrust of what can be perceived as “Western” medicine. While you and I may be lobbying our lawmakers to demand certain contraception be covered by health insurance, Dr. Yet, as she is known,  is convincing males in developing countries that women even deserve these options. It’s not just convincing men that women deserve these options, either…it’s about engaging men in actively promoting gender equity with regard to reproductive health, increasing men’s support for women’s reproductive health and children’s well-being, and advancing the reproductive health of both men and women. But she says, once they learn it’s good for EVERYONE, and they tend to come around.

What is good for the women of the area is good for ALL in the area. A universal truth no matter where you may find yourself.

EngenderHealth is asking “WTFP?!” or Where’s the Family Planning?! in its Fall 2014 campaign, which will engage American women in the global movement to expand access to contraceptives and family planning in developing countries. In the United States, widespread access to contraception revolutionized women’s roles in the workplace and society. Today, 89% of U.S. adults believe that women everywhere should have access to contraception.

 

Find out more by clicking here and be sure to follow EngenderHealth on FacebookTwitterLinkedIn and YouTube.

 

What does easy access to contraception mean to you? Leave your answer in the comments section below for a chance to win a Social Good Goodies bag.

 

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Moving Forward…When All You Want is to Move AWAY

Sometimes you don’t realize you are in the thick of it, until you come out the other side. That’s pretty much how I feel about the very worst parts of my life with lupus, thus far. In fact, I should capitalize that and call it as though it’s a book title or a very important chapter in my (almost) 40 years on this earth: My Life With Lupus, by Erin Kotecki Vest. Heh.

It’s also why I agreed to be part of what turned out to be an amazing conversation sponsored by Stayfree® pads during BlogHer ’14 in San Jose.  

I was asked to participate in a ’roundtable’ (and the table actually was round, as you will see below) discussion with Zakary from Raising Colorado, Natalia from Ma Nouvelle Mode, and BlogHer editor-in-chief Stacy Morrison.

As it turns out the four of us know a little something about moving forward, or what I like to call the ‘just keep swimming’ effect. All of us have had to power through some tough times, or at least some rather uncomfortable times, in which we are coming out the other end changed, yet still ourselves, battered but not bruised, and oddly grateful for some of life’s more mundane moments.

I hope you will watch and walk away knowing first and foremost you are not alone, sometimes powering through is your only option, and that everyone handles life’s more difficult times in their own way.

And because I really am a true believer in the power of community to foster true friendships and to give that ‘I am not alone’ feeling, it bears repeating your blogging (or microblogging) tribe will always contain exactly the people you need to help you though, from those who pick you up with a good kitty meme or send you a giant, stuffed unicorn (no really, I have one that came to my front door) or holding fundraisers to help save your home, pay your medical bills or simply make sure you are fed. Because that is just how we do…enjoy.

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Leave a comment below letting me how you pamper yourself for a chance to win a $100 Drugstore.com gift card! Sweepstakes Condensed Rules:
No duplicate comments. Your household may receive (2) total entries by selecting from the following entry methods: 1. Leave a comment in response to the sweepstakes prompt on this post 2. Tweet (public message) about this promotion; including exactly the following unique term in your tweet message: #SweepstakesEntry; and leave the URL to that tweet in a comment on this post 3. Blog about this promotion, including a disclosure that you are receiving a sweepstakes entry in exchange for writing the blog post, and leave the URL to that post in a comment on this post 4. For those with no Twitter or blog, read the official rules to learn about an alternate form of entry. No Purchase Necessary. This Sweepstakes is open to legal residents of the 50 U.S./D.C. age 18 or older (19+ in AL & NE). Void elsewhere & where prohibited. Winners will be selected via random drawing, and will be notified by e-mail. The notification email will come directly from BlogHer via the sweeps@blogher email address. You will have 72 hours to respond; otherwise a new winner will be selected.

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Merck for Mothers Will Help Me KEEP HUGGING YOU at Every BlogHer

One of my favorite things about the annual BlogHer conference is being able to physically wrap my arms around women I love. The rooms are filled with blogger after blogger, all of whom I want to just tackle and hold tight when I see them. What can I say? This is what happens when you grow close in a community of women.
Now imagine if in the next 10 years, nearly 3 MILLION of those wonderful women we love- mothers- will lose their lives if we don’t do something about preventing maternal mortality.
That is exactly what the Merck for Mothers campaign set out to do at BlogHer ’14 by bringing a rock star line-up of speakers to discuss just how dangerous it can be to simply give birth in this day and age. Jennifer Albert told her story and it sounded a lot like MANY of our stories… including the one I told you all about before we even left for San Jose. Except hers was even more like the story of one of my best friends and a blogger I LOVE hugging every BlogHer Con… Sarah, from Sarah and the Goon Squad. Many of you may not know that Sarah, like Albert, lost a ridiculous amount of blood after giving birth to our favorite internet twins and we nearly lost her. She could have been a statistic. She could have been one of the many deaths Merck for Mothers is working to prevent.
Imagine not hugging Sarah at BlogHer.
And as we learned, even our wonderful United States is not immune to maternal mortality. You might want to be sitting when you hear what they told us but… the US ranks #64 in the world for maternal mortality. “We’re #64!!!!” doesn’t exactly have a nice ring to it, does it?
In fact, every 10 minutes a woman in the United States nearly dies from complications from pregnancy and childbirth. The three leading causes? Preeclampsia, embolism, or, like Sarah and Albert, Post-Partum hemorrhage. Put them all together and you get Merck’s PEP talk. At the event women in the room told their stories and honestly, I’d love to hear YOURS.
A virtual roundtable for those who couldn’t make it to San Jose.
One of the things that seems to stand out most is we women feel totally off-guard with pregnancy and delivery complications. Many of us agreeing we just don’t have enough info. I also think WE think it’s something that just happens in 3rd world countries. Places far, far away that can’t possibly be as industrial as we are.
Let’s change that.
If you have a birth story to share or not, you DO have information to share that can help save women’s lives.
Take the pledge just like I did and tell me who you will now have a PEP talk with… it might be your sister or your co-worker or your niece. I chose my daughter, because the more she knows now and the earlier she knows it, the better.
I look forward to your stories and who you would choose to “have the PEP talk with” because I want to hug all of you for many, many more BlogHer conferences to come.
My huggin girls
Learn more about Merck for Mothers and follow them on Twitter and Facebook!

BlogHer 2014: San Jose

It’s the first year for my daughter, a brand new blogger. It’s also a first for my Goddaughter, visiting for the summer.

I’d say we started off our first BlogHer with the right attitudes, don’t you think?

first BlogHer with the girls

The Beauty of Survival: Merck for Mothers, BlogHer, My Daughter & Me

HalaMerck

It’s funny how life works out, and I mean the word life in every way possible… in every breathing, heart-filled sense. About a decade ago I was bedridden and pregnant with my daughter. We weren’t sure she, or I, would make it through. She was my second baby. I also had complications with my son, who came two years before. Neither pregnancy was easy, and back then we didn’t know why. We know now many of my issues were caused by Lupus. Regardless, bed-rest was the best we could do. I would bemoan to my husband that despite advances in modern technology every time something was going wrong while pregnant, the best my OBGYN could do for me was to tell me to rest and put my feet up. With my daughter it was no different. It was on and off rest and putting my feet up. Again getting to the point of only being allowed to get up to shower and use the bathroom. This second pregnancy was a bit more difficult though, as my little girl decided to scare us all a few days before her scheduled arrival. After heading to the hospital with consistent labor pains, the doctor ordered an emergency C-section as her heart rate dangerously dipped and I frantically panicked. Our story, however, had a happy ending. With a crying baby and a safe, if not shaken, mother. And instead of what could have been the anniversary of a tragedy, we’ll be celebrating a decade of BlogHer in San Jose with thousands of other women. Mother and daughter, together. HalaMerck A decade of blogging, a decade of strong women, a decade of survival for my daughter and I despite the reality that women around the world die from complications related to pregnancy every day.  So while in San Jose, Hala and I will be honored to attend the Merck for Mothers event at BlogHer ’14. We know we are the lucky ones, because no woman should die giving life, not when it’s preventable. Yet, as Merck for Mothers tells us, every day some 800 women around the world die from complications related to pregnancy and childbirth. Some 800 women die every. single. day. Think about that for a minute. And we’re not just talking about third world countries that don’t have state of the art medical care. According to Merck for Mothers, the number of deaths from complications of pregnancy and childbirth has more than doubled in the past 20 years in the United States. Hala and I could have easily been statistics. Instead, my spunky 9-year-old will be learning about the amazing things women can accomplish when we join forces. She will be empowered by the many amazing speakers, encouraging her to become the best version of herself and she will have the opportunity to learn more about how she, along with many other babies that had a hard time getting into this world, can help make sure all women have proper prenatal care and healthy pregnancies. Merck for Mothers is a 10-year, $500 million initiative – to help tackle this tragic issue. If you are headed to BlogHer ’14 in San Jose check out the Merck booth (411) in the Expo Hall.

Motherhood, in a word, to me… means survival. Every day I celebrate the survival of both of my children and myself. And the survival of having simply made it through another day of this amazing journey… teaching them about life, cleaning up after their spills, making sure they eat right and behave properly and learn all of the things necessary so they can eventually leave our home and become productive members of society. Of course my kids leaving will mean another type of survival for this Mom ;). In one word, what does motherhood mean to you? Now that you know not everyone has the easiest of times even safely carrying and giving birth to a child, does motherhood mean the same as it did? I’d love to hear your thoughts. Tell me your story in the comments below and explain to me what word you would choose to express what motherhood means to you. You can also learn more about Merck for Mothers on their website and follow them via Facebook and Twitter.

A New Generation: From Breastfeeding at BlogHer to Blogging at BlogHer ’14

I’m always proud of our kids. Always. But I think that is typical of most parents.

I mean, we’re the type of people who jump up and down clapping when they pee in a toilet.

So imagine my pride when my son thought he might start a blog. I immediately began to give him ideas for posts, got him started on wordpress, asked him if he wanted to make a custom design… you know, the usual.

Flash forward about 24 hours and he was already bored with his blog.

It was then I heard ‘Hey Mom, can I start a blog?’

It was my daughter. The one who would rather not sit and read the hilarious blog post I had found just for her. The one who would rather get a shot at the pediatrician than write.

But flash forward another 24 hours and not only was she blogging, but she was loving every second of it.

Begging me to check and see if she had any new comments to approve while she was at school-  you know that darn school, always getting in the way of her blogging ‘No Mom, I don’t need any ideas for a post, I have like….a million’ she would say, typing furiously. ‘And can you make sure to tweet this to everyone, oh and show Facebook?’

I did my best to show her the basics, but she is a bit like her mother and rather determined to learn all on her very own.

During one of her lectures to me about how important it was she learn how to blog without my help, I remembered her on my hip at the BlogHer conference in 2006 in San Jose.

It seems like yesterday, but not.

Now she has her own blog. Now she has her ow ideas about what a nine-year old should talk about. And now she has her own pass to BlogHer.

Yes, Princess Peanut has a student pass for BlogHer ’14 in San Jose and her and I are going to have a girls weekend writing, learning about all the wonderful things and issues that come with being part of a community, and with me re-introducing her to all the women who met her so many years ago.

#AllHailHala indeed. See you all in San Jose.

BlogHer ’13: Why You Will Make the Most of it…for ME

It’s no secret I’m proud of BlogHer.

It is my community. It is my employer.

It is that safe space I retreat to online when I need my virtual fix of inspiration and motivation.

This will be only the second time I’ve had to miss the annual conference (in person…my virtual self WILL BE THERE VIA SKYPE!) and I’m doing my best to not be seething with jealousy or pangs in my belly whenever I see the tweets or posts or photos of what a great time everyone is having and the rock stars they are running into in the hallways.

But to be brutally honest after last year’s triumphant return to the annual conference I really thought by this time THIS year I’d be working again. I thought you would barely see me at BlogHer ’13 because I’d be knee-deep in some amazing project, wrangling politicians as they came to address our community, executive producing an on-the-spot campaign for one of our clients and somewhere in the midst of it all finding time to say hello and network.

Instead I found myself faced with a choice: speak, in person, at my HealthMinder panel on Thursday and stay to enjoy the majority of the conference and then (after having flown from LA to Chicago) fly from Chicago to North Carolina to meet up with family.

You see, back over the holidays we had to cancel our family trip to North Carolina because I was too ill to get on a plane. It was too dangerous.

But back to the choice(s). The other choice was to stay home, rest up, and fly with my family to North Carolina. And a third choice was to fly to Chicago and back and then let my husband take the kids to North Carolina while I stayed home.

I knew the third choice wasn’t an option. So really, what it came down to, was if my body could handle jet-setting like it used to. Hopping on a flight from LA to Chicago and making the rounds at BlogHer ’13, then hopping a flight to North Carolina to meet up with family and making the rounds there. Then, making it back to LA.

And who are we kidding. A stomach bug hospitalized me for the 4th of July. I really did not want to give up BlogHer ’13. I really wanted another hot dog in Chicago.

I really hate that I’m not yet well enough to be capable of doing ALL THE THINGS that make me happy.

Part of this journey I am on…this path lined with tacks that seem to all stick straight up into my feet…is learning I now have limits. I might not later. They may get worse before they get better (again) and they may even get better and possibly GO THE HELL AWAY. But for better or worse my body has limits.

If you could hear me say ‘limits’ in my head as I type it you’d laugh. It’s this high-pitched whine really. LiMiTs. I have LIMITS!!!!!!!.

Travel takes very careful planning. In order to go to DC we left several days early so I could rest and rest and rest before we had to be at the White House.

In fact, we visited the White House the day before we LEFT FOR HOME. So I knew I couldn’t just jump on a plane and jet my way over to the Windy City for BlogHer ’13 and then hop another to Fort Bragg and then hop another back home to LA…all in the span of less than a week. It was a recipe for another stay at hotel hospital. Or worse, I’d get stuck in a hospital in Chicago. Or North Carolina. Or even worse, I’d have to cancel on family for a second time and once again let down people I love.

It’s true what they say about BlogHer’s annual conference, by the way; it’s totally what you make of it. It can be all parties and hugs and squees or it can be hardcore networking for that big gig you’ve been hoping for, or it can be your coming out party, of sorts. Where you decide to take that leap of faith and go meet those people you talk to daily through that screen on your lap. You know…the ones who make you laugh and cry and think.

The ones who’ve been there for you each and every time you mouthed off about breastfeeding or Pampered Chef parties or politics. They’ve been there from the moment you started to feel unwell, and were there for the first surgery. The second. The third. They sent cards and flowers and unicorn poop cookies. They sent hats and spoons. Some sent gnomes. Books. Silly postcards. Amazing jewelry. Inspirational works of art. Simple notes that made you cry like a child.

And last year they made you feel like a goddess when you were at your most vulnerable.

photo by @craftyb

You even listen to a certain voicemail on your phone, a full year later, when you are once again feeling down and stuck in treatment or a hospital bed or you simply can’t fit into a pair of pants that fit last week before they upped your steroids again.

They wrapped you in so much love that you can’t imagine life without the wonderful women and men on the other side of the screen.

I have come a long way in this battle. I still have a long way to go. Know that each of you have helped me in your own quirky way and I can’t thank you enough. I thought thanking you meant I HAD TO BE IN CHICAGO personally. But practicing what I preach, family must come first. Instead my family will be flying to North Carolina to make up for that trip Lupus canceled over the holidays.

Here is hoping during BlogHer ’14 I will wrap each of you in so much love that you can feel in the hug I give you just how important you are to me. That you can’t imagine life without the wonderful women and men on the other side of the screen. Or better yet, that I’m just a blur during the conference because I’m so busy working we barely had time to chat…but we did have that amazing but brief moment where we embraced and looked at each other knowingly, because we had made it.

Because dammit, I WILL make it.

NYC’s Toll

I’ve been home from New York for nearly a week now…and I’m still recovering. Emotionally. Physically.

It was a much needed trip to add some normalcy to our otherwise ‘school, work, doctor’ routine. It was a much needed trip to remind me that I am more than my illness and I am capable of greatness even with this illness.

But most importantly, it reminded me of how far we’ve come.

This carefree couple that haphazardly ended up together in the oddest of ways, never fully believing what we were doing until we were so far in we couldn’t imagine life any other way. From the highest of highs to the lowest of lows and everything in between. I was content to just have some time in a quiet hotel room with my best friend, spending more than a few minutes without being interrupted by the need for more chocolate milk or help with a video game.

And then returning home with a thud, as most vacations do, to absent chauffeurs and delayed flights and kids in need of extra attention and cars breaking down and doctors delivering treatment and news of what a simple flight across the country does to my body.

But we did it. And we had fun. And I managed to remind myself OF myself while there. The self he fell in love with that I am fighting to bring back through all this bullshit piled on us. Just being capable of doing it helped me reach an arm out and break through- grabbing him and holding tight.

He’s still here. I’m still here.

NYC, I thank you, even if you battered me a bit. As my doctor said…’these numbers are nothing compared to the smile I see on your face. Next time I’ll send you for longer!’

My man of steel @aaronvest is taking me to the natural history museum via wheelchair 'cause he's badass with potholes in NYC