3 Tips On How To Talk To Your Kids About Surrogacy
I’ve never had to talk to my kids specifically about surrogacy, but I do have a 7, 5, and 2 year old and have some experience discussing difficult topics or adult topics with them. So based on this, and some of my amazing co-workers’ advice (who have been surrogates), Here are 3 tips on how to talk to your kids about surrogacy.
Tip 1: Keep It Super Simple
In general, I tend to overcomplicate responses to my kids because if they ask tough questions, I panic. I think, “What answer is the ‘politically correct’ answer” or “If I tell them this, will they later be telling their therapist that I told them that.” You get the picture. I overthink it. But kids…they don’t care. Now, don’t get me wrong…every kid is different in terms of their personality, and it really does depend on their age as well. But in general, most kids are pretty satisfied with simple, to-the-point responses.
For example…when my son was born, my two girls (3 and 5 at the time) screamed in dismay as I changed his diaper for the first time. “Mommy, WHAT is THAT?” (speaking of his penis, of course). Now…I’m not one of those cool, calm moms who is perfectly fine talking casually about penises. I’m just not. I think it’s awesome when moms can, but I have trouble even saying the word. So…I collected myself and simply said… “Oh, that! Boys have different pee parts than girls.” “Ew! Okay,” they said. And off they went to play. That was it. They were perfectly fine with that answer and moved on. They didn’t need to know the name. They didn’t need to examine it further. Done. Now one day, I realize I’ll need to explain more about the anatomy of it all (and probably actually call it a penis - ew), but at that moment, and — up to this point — that answer was sufficient.
In the case of surrogacy, Montana Surrogacy Case Manager, Amber Campanelli, who is an experienced gestational carrier herself had the following conversation with her kids, and I think it’s just such a brilliant example of a simple, age-appropriate conversation about surrogacy with her kids.
Amber: Mommy really enjoys being pregnant but our family is complete. I’d like to help another family have a baby who can’t do it on their own. What do you think of that?
Her Adorable Kids: Ok, that’s nice of you.
That’s it! Bottom Line — Don’t overthink it. Don’t overcomplicate it. Keep it simple.
Tip 2: Don’t Offer More Information Than Necessary
Going with the above example of keeping it simple — don’t offer more information than necessary. I tend to have a case of, what I like to call, “diarrhea of the mouth.” This means, once I start talking, I get nervous and keep adding more details and information as I talk. And. I. Can’t. Stop. I just keep talking and spewing details that no one is asking for and, quite frankly, no one cares about. When you are talking to kids about surrogacy or any adult topic, you may get nervous and get a case of “diarrhea of the mouth.” Stop yourself. This is where you can get into trouble.
When I had to tell my kids that their father and I were getting a divorce, it was VERY difficult. Because, in my head, I had LOTS to say; however, I had to focus only on what they needed to know. “Daddy and I decided that it’s best if we are not together anymore. We both still love you very much, and you will still get to see both of us, but we just won’t be married or living together anymore.” Period. This doesn’t mean that this is the end of the story. This just was what I chose to tell them to start the conversation, and then I let them take it from there. I didn’t want to bring things up for them to worry about that weren’t even in the realm of their little minds. So from there, I let THEM ask questions. Keep it simple, stick to the basics, and then let them ask the questions they have and answer them honestly and simply. Note: I also didn’t use the word divorce at first because they didn’t even know what that word meant. We eventually got to that, but it was something that came with time.
With surrogacy, as with Amber’s example above, try, “Mommy is having a baby for another couple.” or “Mommy is having a baby for someone else.” Perhaps explain that it’s like you are babysitting someone else’s baby. Depending on the ages of your kids, using the words “surrogacy” or “gestational carrier” — probably is not a great idea to start. Most adults don’t even know what those words mean! But as in my divorce example…you can add bigger words and concepts down the road of your journey. No need to explain the details of medication mommy will have to take to get pregnant with little surro baby, the IVF procedure, or that mommy may be able to pump milk to give to the baby (unless of course your kids are inquisitive and they ask, and you are comfortable telling them).
Tip 3: Include Your Kids In Your Journey
Kids want to be included, always. Once you explain the process of surrogacy, let them know that even though your family is just “babysitting” the baby, they can still talk to the baby, go to appointments with you (if your doctor allows it), and even buy the baby a present. You can use this as a great teaching opportunity to show them the changes that are happening to your body and explain what’s happening. In addition, if you and the intended parents are comfortable, it may be great for your kids to meet them so they can hear how much the intended parents want a baby and how you are helping them have one. This conversation can then lead to teaching your kids to be thankful for their blessings and the importance giving back or paying it forward when possible. In this case, explain that mommy was given the gift of being able to get pregnant with healthy babies and now she is giving back by helping someone else grow their family who can’t have a baby.
There are so many wonderful resources out there for kids of all ages to learn about surrogacy. Here is a blog written by Montana Surrogacy Case Manager, Amber Campanelli and a video done by Jennifer White, our New Mexico Surrogacy Director. In addition, Colorado Surrogacy has compiled this list of children’s books about surrogacy that we’d recommend.