The birds and the bees – it’s a complicated conversation that can be difficult to have with kids on its own. Trying to incorporate surrogacy into “the talk” can be an entirely separate challenge.
Explaining to your child that they were born through surrogacy might seem like a daunting task (because, let’s be real, there are even plenty of adults who don’t quite comprehend what surrogacy is!) Nevertheless, with the right level of thoughtful planning, telling your child about their surrogate birth is a great opportunity to connect with them and develop a closer bond.
Laying the groundwork: preparing for the talk
Before you even begin the conversation, take some time to consider some of the factors that may impact how you approach the talk with your child. Start by thinking about your child’s age and where your child is developmentally, for instance. Think about their ability to comprehend complex concepts. Most younger kids aren’t able to think abstractly, for example, which is why it’s often best to explain things in a more literal sense.
Preparing for the talk is just as important as having the talk itself, if not more. Being prepared will help make sure that your conversation with your child will shape your child’s perspective of their unique journey into this world in a positive and more meaningful way.
Choosing the right time and setting
When you choose to talk to your child about their surrogacy journey is up to you. You may decide to start the conversation very early on, or you might want to wait until you feel your child is ready and able to understand some of the more complicated aspects of surrogacy. The choice is yours, but know that there is no “wrong” age to tell your child their surrogacy story. There is also no age that is too young, so long as you tell the story in a way your child will understand it (more on that below).
When you’re ready to tell your child their surrogacy story, wait for a moment when you can have their full attention without any distractions. Choose a comfortable and private setting, one where your child can feel secure and at ease. This will allow both you and your child to feel more comfortable and open during the conversation.
Using age-appropriate language and explanations
Explaining the intricacies of a surrogate birth to a child requires tailoring your language to their age and comprehension level. A five-year-old probably won’t understand if you say, “We used IVF to transfer our embryo into our surrogate!” However, they might understand you better if you say, “You started out as something teeny-tiny called an embryo, and a special doctor helped put you into our surrogate’s uterus, which is the place where babies grow until they are born.”
If they are very young, creative analogies work, too! For example, “You know how kangaroos have a pouch for their joey to grow? Well, sometimes mommies have pouches that are broken (or sometimes daddies need a pouch for a joey). We had the help of a doctor who helped us put a joey in a special kangaroo’s pouch — your belly buddy!”
Be sure to use simple, clear, concrete language that corresponds to their understanding. Younger children might respond better to stories that use visual aids, while older kids might appreciate a more detailed explanation that respects their growing cognitive abilities. Always give your child the opportunity to ask questions and to ask for clarification if they are confused.
Addressing common questions and concerns
Kids ask a lot of questions. Like, a lot. Don’t be surprised if you have to answer 10,000 questions each time you finish your sentence when telling your child their birth story. Anticipate potential questions and concerns your child might have, and be prepared to address them with patience and empathy. They might wonder how they were carried by another person or why surrogacy was chosen in the first place. Things might even get a little existential — don’t worry if you stumble on answering a question like “Why do I exist?” (Aren’t kids wonderful?)
Here are some additional questions you might encounter that you can prepare yourself for:
- “What is a [blank]?”
- Especially if a child is young, make sure you have in your arsenal a definition of every single possible term you might use in telling your child’s birth story. Uterus, womb, embryo, fertility, egg, sperm — these are all words you might need to define in a simple way to help your child understand their birth story better!
- “How was I made?”
- “Does the surrogate miss me?”
- “Why couldn’t I be in mommy’s tummy?”
Be ready to answer these questions honestly, and always validate your child’s feelings and concerns. Never shame them for any questions they ask or make them feel bad for any confusion they might have.
Reinforcing love and family bonds
Throughout your conversation with your child, emphasize the love you have for them and your family. Embrace the opportunity to talk about your child’s birth story to share details about how you eagerly awaited your child’s arrival and how the surrogate played a special role in bringing your child into your life. Allow your child to know that how they were born doesn’t affect how much you love them and that you are grateful to have your child in your life.
Seeking support: when to consult professionals
It’s normal to feel worried about approaching such a unique and possibly sensitive topic with your child. It’s okay if you don’t feel confident telling your child’s birth story alone. If you feel nervous about how to navigate this kind of conversation or have concerns about your child’s emotional response to their surrogacy story, you can seek professional guidance. Child psychologists or family therapists can offer valuable support for facilitating this conversation between you and your child in a healthy and reassuring way.
Our support is with you
As you prepare yourself to open up to your child about their surrogate birth, remember that this conversation represents an opportunity to fortify the trust between you and your child. We know that it can be a tough and complex conversation to have, but it’s one that will be very meaningful to your child. We support you in however you choose to have the conversation, knowing that you will do so in a positive and loving way.
If you need guidance, resources, or simply someone to talk to about this journey, don’t hesitate to reach out to us at Fairfax Surrogacy. We’re here to assist and support you every step of the way!