Many parents are somewhat uncomfortable discussing conception and birth with their children — and when a child’s birth story involves the social, emotional, medical and legal complexities of surrogacy, the conversation can seem especially overwhelming.
However, surrogacy is an important part of your child’s story, and experts agree that it is important to be honest with your children about their surrogacy story from the beginning. In this article, learn about the importance of telling your child’s story, and find tips for introducing the topic of surrogacy to your child naturally and early on.
Why You Should Talk to Your Child about Surrogacy
There are many reasons to talk to your child openly and honestly about surrogacy. The American Society of Reproductive Medicine (ASRM) Ethics Committee advocates that parents disclose their children’s conception story, and research has suggested that secrecy about a child’s origins may have a negative impact both on the child and his or her parents.
Many psychologists feel strongly that children have the right to know their stories and have learned from adoption research and experience that a child’s knowledge of his or her origins is important to developing a healthy sense of identity, trust and self-esteem.
Here are some additional reasons to talk with your child about his or her birth through surrogacy:
- A heavy burden is placed on intended parents, as well as friends and family members, to conceal the surrogacy story indefinitely
- Lying or failing to tell the truth about your child’s story can create issues of shame, guilt and distrust, as well as a negative view of surrogacy and/or donor conception
- There are others, including extended family, friends and the surrogate’s family, who know your child’s story, and it can be damaging if your child hears the truth from someone other than you
- Donor-conceived children risk receiving inaccurate medical information if they do not have access to their donor’s family medical history
When and How to Tell Your Child’s Surrogacy Story
Many intended parents recognize the importance of explaining surrogacy to their children but struggle with how to broach the topic. Some put off the surrogacy conversation until their child is “old enough to understand.” However, waiting to tell your child’s surrogacy story can have negative consequences.
Surrogacy experts recommend that you begin talking about your surrogacy experience with your child immediately. Very young children are often the most open-minded and resilient and are best able to process this information — but intended parents sometimes need help to tell the story in an age-appropriate way. Here are some suggestions for how you can lay the foundation for a positive conversation about surrogacy throughout the process:
Preparing to Talk About Surrogacy
Start preparing to tell your child’s story even before they are born. Gather information about the surrogacy process and your journey to be included in a baby book: take pictures of yourselves, the nursery, the surrogate and her family to include in the book as well. Document the progress of the pregnancy and begin writing your child’s story so that he or she will have a clear visual and written account of all of the people who came together to make his or her life possible.
This is also a great time to practice talking about surrogacy. Think about the language you will want to use with your child, and try explaining the process to other friends and family members.
When your baby is born, begin telling them their story as an infant, even though they may not understand what you are saying. The more you practice telling your story, the more comfortable and confident you will be when your child gets old enough to understand. This approach also ensures that your child hears his or her story regularly — they will not remember a time when they did not know about the surrogacy.
Laying an Educational Foundation
Continue to tell your child’s story in a simple and straightforward way as he or she grows. Even if your child does not fully understand the topics of conception, birth and surrogacy, this will help lead to a natural understanding of the surrogacy process as your child gets older and becomes more aware. You may want to talk with them about how babies come into the world and how some people need extra help to make that happen. Explain that families are built in many ways, including through adoption, with the help of doctors and medicine, and through surrogacy.
This is a great time to introduce the baby book that you created prior to your child’s birth. Young children love reading stories about themselves, and your baby book is a great way to visually explain each person’s role in building your family.
Other books can also be a great tool to help you talk about surrogacy with your child. As surrogacy and donor reproduction become increasingly common, more children’s books are emerging that help explain these topics. Here are a few that you might start incorporating into your bedtime story routine:
- Hope & Will Have a Baby: The Gift of Surrogacy by Irene Celcer
- Why I’m So Special: A Book About Surrogacy by Carla Lewis-Long
- Sophia’s Broken Crayons: A Story of Surrogacy from a Young Child’s Perspective by Crystal A. Falk
- The Very Kind Koala: A Surrogacy Story for Children by Kimberly Kluger-Bell
As children enter their school years, they will begin to develop a more concrete understanding of topics like genetics and conception. If you wait to talk to your child about surrogacy until this stage in their life, the information will likely come as a shock to them, and they may struggle with the implications of surrogacy and donor conception.
However, if you’ve already laid an educational foundation and talked openly with your child about his or her surrogacy story, it will be a very natural progression as they begin to understand exactly how the process works and what their story means. It is important throughout this phase to be open and honest with your child and to answer any questions he or she may have.
As intended parents, you should view your discussion of surrogacy as an ongoing conversation rather than a one-time talk. The more information you can give to your child, the stronger their understanding of surrogacy (and in turn, their sense of identity) is going to be. If you are struggling or need additional suggestions for talking with your child about this topic, consider speaking to a surrogacy social worker or family therapist.
Your child’s surrogacy story is a positive one — it is a story of people coming together out of love to help create a life. Be proud of the way your family was built, and your child will likely model your attitudes and behaviors.
Are you interested in learning more about surrogacy or starting the process? Complete our form to request free surrogacy information now.