As any parent knows, kids have lots of questions as they grow up – and some are easier to answer than others.
One of the questions that often frazzles some parents is “where did I come from?”
For most parents, this is a simple matter of sitting down and explaining about the birds and the bees. But for parents who have used a surrogate or a donor to carry or conceive their children, that’s not quite the case.
If your child was carried by a surrogate or conceived using a donor, you’ll one day need to tell them the story of their conception. After all, your children are just as much a part of the story as you are, and they will have questions about their entry into the world.
How should I prepare for telling my child they were carried by a surrogate?
The best way to prepare for the “where did I come from?” question is to start early: right after conception, if you can. The trick to talking to kids about surrogacy is to find a way to tell the story in an age-appropriate way.
The surrogacy process will be fascinating to your child. Try to gather as much information as you can about how you chose your surrogate and how the journey unfolded. Record your surrogacy journey by taking photos and videos of yourself and your surrogate, write a blog, or create a scrapbook of mementos. Be sure to include a contribution from your surrogate, too. Some parents choose to maintain a close relationship with their surrogate throughout their child’s life, so they may already be known as a family friend!
If a donor was involved, the donor used to conceive your child may be anonymous. But you can still document the journey of your pregnancy just as any parent would. Take photos and videos where possible, and include all the people involved in the process and helped to bring your baby into the world.
Why tell your children they were carried by a surrogate?
Many psychologists and reproductive experts firmly believe that children have a right to know their origins. This contributes to their sense of identity, self-esteem, and how they view their place in the world. It’s also important to point out that children may notice certain differences between you and them – whether in terms of looks, size, characteristics, or talents.
You’ll also have to disclose your child’s familial history every time he or she visits the doctor, which can get tricky if you’re trying to keep it a secret from your child.
While LGBTQ families are much more common these days, if you’re a same-sex parent household, your children will likely have to face questions from other people about their family. There may be situations in which your child begins to wonder why their family isn’t like their friends’. They may also be questioned or even challenged about having two moms, two dads, or only one parent.
From school age, children will also start getting questions about their family from their friends. Questions or statements about how you can have two fathers or that the child doesn’t have a mother will pop up. It’s natural for children this age to be curious about each other and wonder about things that are different from themselves.
Most importantly, telling your child the truth about their conception sets a standard for honesty in your family.
When should you tell your child?
Children mature at different rates, so there is no definite age at which a child may be old enough to fully grasp the concept of how they came to be. However, the longer you leave it, the harder it can be to explain.
It’s often better for children to learn about their history at an early age when they are still learning about other new things.
Those who work in third-party reproduction recommend that children learn about their surrogacy or donor ‘parent’ as soon as possible. In fact, it’s much easier to tell a very young child about their conception than it is to tell a more mature child. The earlier you make the surrogacy and/or donor process a part of your child’s life, the more natural it will seem to them. You’ll also feel comfortable discussing your child’s background with him or her and other family members.
This way, your child will always know that they are special, and their story will just be a part of their daily life.
Explaining your child’s origin story
A good place to start is by telling your little one about where babies come from. You can talk about the “natural” way, and then explain that sometimes, a little more help is needed for a baby to be created. Be sure to emphasize that families can be made in many different ways and that it can take more than just a mom or dad to create life. Sometimes, doctors and other people are required, too.
Follow up with lots of small anecdotes about how they grew in their surrogate’s tummy and the day of their birth. There are many children’s books about surrogacy that can be very helpful with this. Even if it seems your child is too young to understand fully, they will be able to retain the basic concepts. This will contribute to their sense of identity as they grow.
Keep the dialogue throughout your child’s life. You may even be able to meet with your surrogate or donor on occasions, which will help with their understanding. Make an effort to include your child in conversations about third-party reproduction, so that they know the lengths that went into bringing them into the world. This will help them feel proud of their origins and have a more open view of how families are made.