The Theresa Erickson scandal is everywhere, and - quite frankly - I'm still a little speechless about it. (Case in point: it took me three days to write this post. That rarely happens with something I'm so passionate about.) It's hard for me to wrap my brain around the fact that someone in this community, a community that is so close and secure, could violate us at such an unbelievable level.
In case you've been out of touch, Theresa Erickson - well known reproductive lawyer, an infertility "friend" and advocate - plead guilty last week for her role in a baby-selling scheme that made her $70,000 richer.
I could go on for days about why I'm angry. It's natural to feel betrayed by this - especially for those who knew and worked with these women personally. When you trust someone with a part of your life that is as important as a child, and that trust is broken, how else can you cope? Mel and Keiko both wrote excellent posts in the hours after the story broke, and I think both touched on all of the emotions we (as a community) feel because of this story.
Theresa's website is now down. Her radio show is no longer in existence. Many members of the community have been surprisingly silent on their former advocate turned criminal. But the media? The media has been anything but silent. And in a world where the media is already so turned against the infertile community, I worry.
I worry that people who don't know any better will view this story and see nothing but baby-hungry infertiles - as is (unfortunately) often the case in stories of people who so desperately want to become parents. I worry that this will set us back in the progress we've made in surrogacy and adoption laws and the public acceptance of both as ways to become parents after infertility. I worry about how we will rise above such a hurtful "black eye" to this community, from someone many of us trusted so dearly.
While Theresa and others will likely pay for their actions with prison time, there are millions of others who will also be forced to pay the price. The parents, children, and surrogates directly involved, of course. I cannot begin to imagine that coping process. How do you begin to tell a child how he or she came to be? How do you accept deceit as a parent? How do accept the use and abuse of your body as a surrogate? How do you sort through all of these feelings and move past them? Or can you?
We will pay, too. In a world that is already leery of "alternative" family-building options, we will experience the increased scrutiny that inevitably follows such a large scandal. We already have experienced this. The question is, how does our community rise above it? How do we move forward? Our obstacles may not be as great as those who directly suffered in this scandal, but they do exist. And we can't simply ignore them.
I'm not sure where or how we begin with this, or who it should come from. I just know that now, more than ever, we need to remain solid as a community. This hurts many of us - some more than others - and we need to be there to help one another and to help our community heal. It's easy to stay angry and hurt. It's harder to move forward, to let everyone know that we will not back down. It's harder to defend than it is to give up. If anyone knows that best, it's us. If anyone knows how to move past defeat and disappointment, it's us.
Rising above is our specialty. Let's show the world how we do it.