Like any child brought to a family in a non-traditional method, children born via surrogacy have a unique background story. If you are their parent, it is your duty to ensure they understand their surrogacy story — and are just as proud of it as you are.
But, how exactly do you explain your child’s story to them as they grow up? The complexities of surrogacy can be difficult for even adults to understand; how do you describe them to a child who doesn’t yet grasp the details of human reproduction?
You’ll be surprised to know that children understand more than you give them credit for. To aid you in this conversation, we’ve provided a few tips below. You can also contact your surrogacy specialist for more guidance in raising a child born via surrogacy.
1. Make it a constant topic of conversation.
The rule of thumb when explaining a child’s non-traditional birth story to them is to make it an available topic of conversation throughout their life. Children grasp different details at different times, and they will have different questions about the process as they grow up. Therefore, talking to your child about their surrogacy story should not be a one-time conversation; it should be a natural, normal topic that they can ask you about whenever it suits their curiosity.
You may think, “But infants won’t understand what I’m saying. Can’t I wait until they are old enough to understand?”
This is about more than your child being able to understand what you are saying. It’s about normalizing the topic of surrogacy from the day you bring them home. That way, when the idea of being born via surrogate “clicks,” it’s not weird or uncomfortable. Instead, it will just be normal to them.
2. Children are more open-minded than you think.
Many parents put off telling children about their surrogacy, adoption or other non-traditional birth until they are older — but this choice can shock children later in life and have negative consequences. Children comprehend more than adults sometime give them credit for. Young children have curious minds and often accept facts at face-value. While they may not seem to “understand” the way you think they should, they will readily accept the information you give them. It will shape their identity in a positive way, rather than coming as a shock later in life that disrupts their personal identity.
3. It’s important to be age-appropriate.
As you explain your child’s surrogacy story to them, remember that what you tell them will typically be relayed back to their peers. What you may be comfortable telling your child may make others uncomfortable. That being said, it’s important to use proper terminology. Make it clear that the woman who carried them is not their mother, and they were not related to them. Younger children may not ask questions when you explain the basics to them, but don’t feel like you have to give them more information than they ask for. Judge the situation to prevent over-explaining and confusing your child.
4. Use available tools.
In order to normalize surrogacy from an early age, you can use books and other media designed specifically to introduce and explain surrogacy to children. These books can be an easier method of introducing the topic than a formal conversation, and they can allow for a more natural question-and-answer format than putting a child on the spot. You can find a list of surrogacy books here.
5. Create a surrogacy memory book.
Some children are visual learners. Therefore, it may be best to create a scrapbook commemorating your surrogacy journey and their birth story. That way, they can visually see the process you are explaining. They can put a face to a name when it comes to their surrogate (if they don’t have a personal relationship with her), and they can see the photos of themselves in a woman’s belly. As a child grows up, they will grow to treasure this book. It can be a great way for your child to visually explain their own birth story to friends and family as part of the celebration of their identity.
6. Consider how you will address any donors involved in their story.
If your child was born via a gamete donation, there is another complex aspect of their surrogacy story — their biological mother or father. While your child will not view their donor parent as a “real” parent, they will naturally be curious about their biological family and medical history. Don’t try to hide this information from them; it will only cause a feeling of betrayal later in life. A child’s donor parent is crucial to their identity as a child born via surrogacy. Before you even utilize a donor gamete, it’s important that you consider the benefits of anonymous vs. identified donors and how you will explain this relationship to your child as they grow up. Remember, your surrogacy specialist can offer guidance and advice for this conversation with your child.
7. Be open, excited and celebratory in your conversations.
Finally, remember that children are intuitive; they pick up on their parents’ emotions. Therefore, when you’re speaking with your child about surrogacy, make sure you express your excitement and pride in their unique birth story. Your child will no doubt feel a little different because of the way they were brought into the world, so make sure they understand that differences are what make the world an exciting place. Emphasize that surrogacy is something to be celebrated, and that you are always there for your child if they have any questions. When you are proud of your surrogacy journey, they will be, too.
Have more questions about how to explain surrogacy to your child born through this method? Don’t hesitate to reach out to your surrogacy specialist at 1-800-875-BABY(2229).