As the senior moderator of Surrogate Mothers Online, I've also recently taken on another role as the Public Relations Representative. In the past, the owners/moderators of SMO have taken a "hands-off" approach to talking to the media. Mostly this was due to the general mistrust of media outlets and how our words might be slanted or misconstrued. However, because surrogacy has taken a fair beating, SMO's current owner Shannon has decided that if any positive media is going to get out there, then we're the ones who have to do it. As SMO is one of the larger go-to online surrogacy/third-party reproduction communities, we get a relatively steady flow of requests for information, peaking at times when there is some hot-ticket surrogacy story in the headlines. As I have no qualms about speaking candidly about surrogacy, I'm the main PR rep and I'm usually the one to field questions from various interviewers.
I talk with a range of people, from magazine and newspaper journalists, television producers to students working on theses and reports. A couple of months ago, we received an email from a young high school junior who was writing a major research report on surrogacy. While I've received many requests for information from college students, this was my first encounter with a high schooler. I admit that I was equal parts impressed and skeptical – impressed because this was a loaded topic for a student of her age to take on, and skeptical because on most occasions when students initiate contact, they rarely seem to follow through to the point of actually interviewing me. I sent her an email back to arrange a time when we could speak on the phone (for convenience, since most surrogacy-related questions have lengthy answers), and we planned to talk a week later. Due to an unexpected schedule change on her end, it was actually closer to two weeks before we spoke. I was pleasantly pleased that the interview was worth the wait.
Lauren proved herself to be quite the interviewer. I could tell from her questioning that she'd already researched enough on her own to ask questions that were smartly based on dispelling some of the common misconceptions and stereotypes. Her questions considered surrogacy from the perspectives of both surrogates and intended parents (she tackled the infamous "Why don't they just adopt" with grace and the honest desire to get an answer to a question which she seemed to intuitively know was offensive). It was apparent that she had a planned list of questions to ask, and she modified future questions or developed new ones in smooth adaptation to the answers I gave. After an hour we were finished, and after letting her know how full of the awesome she was, I promised to dig through my blog, gather the links to my informational surrogacy posts, and send them to her. Through the next week or so I responded to a couple of emails she sent with further questions that she had. I continued to be impressed with her work ethic.
When she was finished with her report, she emailed to say that it was a huge success. There was an oral component, and she received mad props from her teacher and classmates for having made the effort to seek out an interview a primary resource.
My experience with Lauren got me thinking about today's youth and how with this younger generation, society as a whole might gain a better understanding of infertility and those affected by it. Lauren has developed a depth of understanding about infertility in general and surrogacy specifically that exceeds that of most average adults. She shared the information with her class, so at least some of her understanding has been transferred to her peers. Who knows how far the extent of this ripple effect will reach? It reinforces the idea that we are all advocates for understanding infertility, whether we contain our discussions about it to our own blogs, are outspoken crusaders like the staunch Keiko Zoll, or dedicate time to actively participate with RESOLVE. We never know when sharing our experiences will trigger a ripple of greater knowledge and understanding. It might be only a seed's worth, but once planted, the potential for growth is there. That's all any of us can really ask – for people to stop and listen long enough to at least understand and accept why it is important to us, even if it's an importance that they can't apply to their own lives.
Lauren sent me her report and has allowed me to link it here for you to read. She self-admittedly wishes that she had devoted a bit more time to proofreading and organization, but despite that, I think that she's offered a phenomenal overview of surrogacy and what leads people to it. I wouldn't hesitate to use her report as a reference for potential surrogates and intended parents to read at the start of their information gathering. If you have the time, please read Lauren's report and leave some words for her in the comments. Download Lauren's surrogacy report
Here in the infertility community, we often vent about situations in which people have not understood our struggles. Have you had an experience in which talking about your infertility (or infertility in general) has clearly made a positive impact on someone?