by Angie Best-Boss
An open letter to the American Fertility Association:
For the record, I have a teenager. And God bless her, even though her heart is in the right place, there are times her youthful enthusiasm overrides good judgment. At such time, her father or I will gently step in and provide guidance as appropriate. We also stand back when appropriate, allowing her to accept the consequences for her behavior. When to step in is always the million dollar question. Usually, it boils down to this: when her actions have the potential to cause harm to others, we step in.
AFA folks – you should have stepped in.
You were obviously thrilled to pick John Taylor, high schooler and IVF "baby", as the new youth spokesperson. You gave him free reign over his blog and he has just posted quite a little frenzy about his infertility musings. For the record, I hoped it would be interesting. And it has been, just not in the way I expected.
Here's my beef: I am sure his intentions are good, but like most teens, he may lack the life experience to adequately discern what is and isn't appropriate for internet posting in this sensitive, intimate realm of baby-making. As such, he needs a little more guidance than he's been given. For example, he cites as inspiration an English teacher going through her own infertility struggle. After introducing her by name in a recent post, he then wrote:
"One person comes to mind now that I think about it. One of my teachers who has been a big influence in my life. It's Christmas season, but I can tell that a child is really all she wants when I see her everyday in the hallway at school - but even the jolly guy in a red suit can't bring that. It's going to take a lot more than some Christmas wishes to make this one come true. I honestly am at a loss of what to do in order to help, but if I could see her in the Christmas spirit, I'd be more than happy. The closer we get to Christmas, the faster the biological clock ticks."
In other words, "quit whining, you're killing my buzz." And I won't even acknowledge the Christmas/biological clock link. A tiny bit of gentle editing may have been appropriate here, guys.
It took less than five minutes to find his teacher given that he provided her name, department and high school info on his blog. I was curious as to her feelings about having her name and story featured on the AFA website.
Her response? She had no idea her name and story were being used online.
No one asked for permission to share her infertility struggle. Her decision to share her personal story with one of her students is an unusual decision and she might well have agreed to have Mr. Taylor broadcast it on his blog – had she been asked.
But he didn't give her the opportunity to decide. Deciding who and what to share about your family-building journey ought not be ripped out of your hands.
John proudly boasts of having "seen it all." In his naivete, he might not have known better. But AFA, you should have.
Here's to a more careful 2009.