One of the first things I thought about when the idea of becoming a surrogate came to mind was how it would affect my oldest daughter, M. My youngest two aren’t even 2 yet, so I was never as worried about explaining it to them, but M is a very curious, bright little girl, and I knew that I would have to put some thought into how and when I would open up to her about our plans for me to become a surrogate.
We ended up having a great experience telling our daughter, so here are some of my tips about talking to kids about surrogacy:
- Set the stage: The Birds & The Bees. My husband and I have quite liberal views when it comes to being open and honest with our kids on topics like types of families, how babies are made, and body parts. When I was pregnant with our twins, M (still only 3 at the time) started asking questions about how babies were made and how babies get out of mommies’ tummies. I bought a book for us to read together called It’s Not The Stork, which explains these topics at an age-appropriate level. It also happened to include how families come in all different shapes and sizes, and that some families need help getting started with things like fertility treatments or adoption. It didn’t specifically talk about surrogacy, but it definitely opened up the doors to that conversation nicely. I think it’s important to answer any question that kids have honestly, without giving more detail than they need or want, so I did just that whenever the book elicited a question.
- Set the stage: What is Surrogacy? Once I figured she had the science down (as much as a 5-year-old could) I started adding in the surrogacy piece. Around the time that I matched with C&J I showed her this video from a blog called Our Misconception. It’s obviously not meant to be educational, at least not for a 5-year-old, but I knew it would open the door to more conversation (and it’s amazing, not to mention). Sure enough, the questions started coming. “Why doesn’t the mommy have the baby in her tummy?” Again, I answered her questions honestly. “The mommy’s body can’t carry a baby, so another lady offered to carry it for her. It’s still the mommy and daddy’s baby.” If she had started asking about how the baby got there, I was prepared to answer those questions. But she didn’t, so I left that part for another day. I knew that soon enough she would ask, and that I didn’t want to give her more than she was wanting to hear quite yet. At Christmas we also received the book The Kangaroo Pouch from C&J, which is an amazing story about surrogacy told from the surrogate’s child’s point-of-view.
Once we were done reading it the very first time, M looked at me and said, “I think you should do that for a family.” My screening appointment was a week away and I knew that we would have no problems explaining to our amazing, empathic, loving little girl what would be happening.
- Be smart about timing. We decided that aside from setting the stage with some books, videos, and conversations, we wouldn’t specifically tell M about what was going on until several weeks later. We did not want to confuse her if the first transfer didn’t work or if we suffered an early loss. We also knew that whenever we told her, it wouldn’t be long before the rest of the world would find out. We finally broke the news to her when I was 9 weeks pregnant. I was feeling awful that week, and guilty that I had been so tired and useless at home. My H and I had already told most of our close family and friends, so we were comfortable with the news being more “public”, as M loves sharing happy news with everyone she sees.
- Keep it simple. We very simply told her that we had met a couple named C&J who needed help starting their family because C wasn’t able to carry a baby in her tummy. So, just like the kangaroo family, I was going to keep their baby in my belly until he or she was ready to go home with them, probably sometime between Halloween and Christmas. Even though I knew that we had prepared her as best as we could for the conversation, I was suddenly nervous about her reaction. But, as I had originally expected, she was nothing but excited. She asked how the baby got in my belly, and we explained that we had to go to a special doctor in Toronto who put C&J’s itty bitty baby in my tummy through a tiny tube, then we waited to see if it was going to grow, and it did! It was bedtime when we had the talk, so as I tucked her in that night, she asked if she could sing to the baby. It was the sweetest.
- Stress that it is not your baby. Since the twins were born I have been very clear about the fact that there will be no more babies in our house. M is well aware of this and agrees that one little brother and sister are enough for her. Still, we continue to stress that the baby in my belly is not ours and will not be staying with us once he or she is born. This is C&J’s baby that they have hoped for and love, and more than anything we are excited for them because now they get to experience what it is like to have a new little family like we did when we brought M home. She has never questioned this or expressed disappointment that the baby won’t come home with us.
People have asked what M thinks of the situation and are surprised to hear that her reaction has been so positive. I always knew deep down that she would be the easier person to explain surrogacy to. M is at an amazing age, where her heart is still innocent, full of love and acceptance. Her heart, along with her beautiful, curious little brain that’s ready to soak up new information, have made this process so easy. It’s the adults that complicate things with their questions and concerns about bonding, health, finances, work, etc. They’re the ones who ask “Why??” M has never asked why we would do this because she knows why. It’s nice to help people. While I can (and have) given a more in-depth answer to the question, that’s really all it comes down to.
Kids are simple. For most big topics I have found that being brief but honest works the best, and it seemed to be the key here. We’ll continue to answer her questions as they come, and I am anticipating more as my belly grows and eventually I give birth. C&J have agreed that M will be able to come meet Squishy once he or she is born, and I think that seeing C&J with their new little baby will be a very important part of the process for her. I keep my kids in mind with every. single. decision that I make, and I am confident that only good can come from this very big journey our family is on.