There are tens of thousands, if not hundreds of thousands of kids and young adults in the world who are either donor conceived or carried by surrogates. And that number grows larger everyday.
Although some parents are reluctant to tell their children about the unique circumstances of their conception and birth, most are talking to their kids, and begin the discussion at a very young age—like 3 or 4 years old.
This may seem counter-intuitive since children this young aren’t able to grasp the details or significance or these issues. However, studies have shown that children who can’t remember a time they didn’t know a donor or surrogate was involved in bringing them into the world adjust more easily to this information than those who are told when they are teenagers or young adults.
There are a number of books available to help parents start the conversation. You can even make up your own book for your child to help explain their unique birth story.
Here are a few basic themes to highlight when you talk with your pre-school or kindergarten age child:
- How much you wanted them
- How fortunate you were to have the help of a good doctor and a very generous donor and/or surrogate
- How happy you are that they are here
Some parents leave it at that, while others may choose to go a little further in explaining the fact that sometimes it takes three people to make a baby: an egg from a woman, a sperm (or seed) from a man and a tummy to grow in. Then parents can talk about how they needed one or more of these things and how it took lots of love and care from many different people in order to make them.
Young children are very accepting of this kind of information and donor conceived adults often say that learning about this made them feel special.
Pre-schoolers are usually not phased by the information that a donor helped their parents, and rarely have any specific questions about it. They are often more interested in the next book you are going to read to them than anything else.
Of course as your child gets older, understands more about sex and reproduction, knows about genetics and transmission of traits from one generation to another, they will have more questions. But these questions are easier to answer if they already know about their donor and/or surrogate.
Also, you can’t just introduce this information and then fail to discuss it for years, because if you do, they will forget about it. Many parents look for opportunities to point out other situations in which very nice people have given things to others that they really need and want. One example might be donations of toys to kids who are hospitalized at the holidays. They may also mention that another child they know had a “donor helper” too. Parents might want to talk about how there are all kinds of ways to make families – including adoption and blended families.
As long as you stay open to answering whatever questions your child has about donors or surrogates, and look for chances to bring the topic up time and again, your child will gain a level of comfort and acceptance about it from a young age. This will serve them well as they get older and are better able to understand more about what it means to be donor conceived or born via a surrogate. The bottom line is: if you feel good about the way your child came into the world, they will too.