When your child’s peers hear his or her surrogacy story for the first time, there are bound to be some questions. This may be the first time many of them have ever heard of surrogacy or even of families being created in a different way from what they’re used to.
The best thing you can do for your child is to talk about surrogacy often enough at home that he or she will have plenty to draw from when asked questions. Giving them the tools and terms they need to answer questions honestly and simply will satisfy curious kids and keep your own kid from feeling the heat of the spotlight.
Here are eight commonly asked questions from kids and some responses you can use to help your child prepare:
1. “What’s a surrogate?”
Explaining surrogacy to children for the first time always seems tough, but it can be done! The answer can be adjusted to suit your family dynamic, but keeping the answer short and simple is usually best. Suggest something along the lines of:
“When two people aren’t able to have a baby together, a surrogate carries the parents’ baby for them in her tummy until the baby is born.”
2. “Do you know who your surrogate is? Do you know your egg/sperm donor?”
If you used donors, other kids may be curious if your child knows their identity as well as the surrogate’s. Answer honestly for your family’s situation.
“Yes, I know my surrogate. Her name is (First Name). I don’t know my sperm donor, but that’s okay.”
3. “Is your surrogate your ‘real mom’?”
Like adoptees, kids born via surrogate will likely get the “real parents” questions, and they’ll be preoccupied with biological connections. So, teach kids the correct terminology:
“My mom is a ‘real mom.’ I have an egg donor that I’m biologically related to. Ellen, my surrogate, isn’t related to me — she just carried me until I was born because my mom wasn’t able to. I know that’s a lot of people, but my mom is my only mom.”
4. “Are you related to your brother/sister?”
Again, kids will be hung up on “blood” connections, because it’s what they’re familiar with and they’re trying to put it in a context they understand. However, it’s important that they understand that biological ties are less important than family ties.
“My brother and I are both biologically related to our mom and dad, but even if one of us wasn’t, he’d still be my brother.”
5. “How did your parents make a baby with your surrogate, then?”
Sometimes, even younger kids will have a very basic understanding of how babies are made. When a surrogate is added to the mix, it’s understandably confusing, because they don’t know anything about IVF or embryo transfers. So keep it simple, and adjust it for your family:
“Doctors took a little bit of my mom and a little bit of my dad, and it became a baby. Then they put the tiny baby inside of a surrogate, so she could carry the baby until it was ready to be born.”
6.“Why did your surrogate give you away?”
It’s hard for kids to wrap their heads around the idea that the person who gave birth to your child was not your child’s mom, in any way. Reassure them:
“She gave me back to my dads — she was just helping them for a little while by carrying me because they couldn’t do it themselves. Like a babysitter. After I was born, she went home to take care of her own kids, and my dads took me back home to take care of me.”
7. “Isn’t that just like adoption?”
If children have an understanding of adoption, you can see where they’d notice similarities. Talking about adoption with your child is important, so they can explain other types of “alternative” family-building in a positive way to their peers. It’s tricky, but help them explain the similarities and differences in a simple way:
“It’s a little different. Kind of like in adoption, my parents didn’t give birth to me. But I’m not biologically related to the surrogate who gave birth to me. In adoption, kids are biologically related to their birth mothers, who gave birth to them.”
8. “Can you go live with your surrogate?”
Most kids likely have some experience with blended families or kinship arrangements. Or maybe they think your child has some fantasy about running away from home and living with their surrogate. But they probably don’t realize that your child’s surrogate isn’t as active in your family as a birth family would be in an adoption triad. Clear that up:
“No, my surrogate has her own kids, husband and house. She lives in another state. She’s nice, but she’s not my mom.”
Some Other Tips
Your child will likely find that when kids ask questions, they’re worried for him or her. It’s hard for kids to imagine something so different from how their own family was created. It helps to reassure the questioner that everything is okay! Surrogacy is a normal, happy thing — not a source of sadness.
The answers you help your child provide can be adjusted to suit age and level of understanding, but in general, keeping it simple is always best. It’s also good to practice answering some of those common questions together at home, so your child never feels put on the spot when they’re inevitably met with curiosity regarding their surrogacy story. Your child may already have good ideas for how to respond! This is another reason why it’s so important to keep surrogacy as an ongoing topic of conversation in your home rather than a one-time discussion.
It’s natural for other kids to be curious about your child’s surrogacy story — this is likely the first time they’ve heard of this family-building path. As long as normal curiosity and questions don’t turn into teasing, let your child handle it themselves as much as possible. You’ll likely be proud of how well they respond.
What questions has your child received about their surrogacy story? How did he or she respond? Let us know in the comments!