When I decided to become a surrogate several years ago, by far the most common question I got from well-meaning family and friends was about my own kids and how they were handling the situation. I admit that I was initially concerned about how they would understand and deal with what was happening, but it actually wasn’t a big deal at all.
Here are 10 tips for explaining surrogacy to your own kids.
Let them “get to know” the Intended Parents.
This is important! In most cases, the Intended Parents may not live near your family, but you can still “introduce” your children to them. Tell your kids about the Intended Parents and their story (age appropriate terms of course, but a simple “they need help to have a baby” usually works). Explain that you want to help them and let your kids get to know them. If it’s not possible for them to meet in person, maybe let them be a part of a pre-arranged Skype or FaceTime session.
Let them follow your lead.
Kids will mirror your reaction, so if you aren’t making a big deal about it, they won’t either. If you present it as normal and a positive thing to do for someone else, they will feel that way too. Let them see you be excited and positive, and they will be too!
Young kids in particular may have questions about how the process works, where babies come from and why you aren’t “keeping” this baby. Be prepared to answer lots of questions about human reproduction. With my youngest, we talked about how the doctors took a seed from the dad and a seed from another woman, combined them, and put them in my tummy to grow. Give them enough (accurate!) information to answer their questions without being overwhelming.
Read books about surrogacy.
There are lots of books available about surrogacy. Try reading one to start the conversation. It’s also a great way to keep the discussion on track, especially if you’re nervous.
Expect to have multiple conversations.
I carried a pregnancy for a gay male couple, so we needed to have several conversations about the surrogacy, why some men like other men, and many, many other topics. Sometimes we had to discuss something multiple times, especially with my then almost 3-year-old.
Use age appropriate language:
My 7-year-old had a completely different understanding of the situation than my 3-year-old. Keep the language appropriate for the age of your child. Use simple terms for young kids, while older kids may be able to understand more about the scientific process. It’s best to keep it simple and give more details as they are needed or requested.
Let them meet the baby.
It’s important for children to get some closure with the process as well. If it is age (and kid!) appropriate and okay with the intended parents, have your kids come visit you in the hospital after the baby is born. Let them meet the baby and see him or her with the parents. This will help them to link everything together that you’ve been talking about over the last several months. My boys still get to hang out with my surro-baby every year when they come to visit, and they love chatting with her on the phone.
This seems like common sense, but there will be lots of questions that come, usually at inopportune times, like the school drop off line, but make sure to answer all of their questions. Even the silly, or crazy, or the repeated ones. It’s important that they recognize that they can come to you if they have questions or concerns.
Teach them how to talk about the surrogacy.
This one I was completely unprepared for and am kind of kicking myself for not being proactive enough with my kids. There are lots of times where friends or strangers asked questions or brought up the surrogacy. Teaching them how to respond to or answer those questions is important and can help them feel more confident when discussing it.
Let them be involved.
Let them pick out a special gift for the baby, or find a special way for their family to remember your family! Maybe they could help take pictures or write a story for the baby. This all helps them be excited and prepare for the baby to go home with another family.
It may seem easier to not discuss your surrogacy with your kids, especially because it is a relatively short and temporary process. However, kids are extremely perceptive and can sense when changes are happening. Most experts agree that it is important to speak with your kids about surrogacy early and often to help them adjust to the surrogacy process.
If you have any questions, speak to your surrogacy representative who can help address your concerns. They can also direct you to an experienced mental health professional who can also answer your questions.
Surrogacy is a wonderful gift to give another family. And while you may be concerned about talking about with your kids, be assured that kids are resilient and will be much better adjusted to everything that’s going on.