Congratulations, you’re going to have a baby! If you’re following a different set of steps from most people, before you get to the ‘baby’ part of the program, you may end up having a few conversations with your friends, family members, and the other people in your life about exactly where your little one is coming from.
Remember that the things you talk about with your family now may eventually make their way back to your little one – which is why this is a great time to practice talking to them about it in the same way you’ll talk to your child, when he is a little older.
Experts recommend talking to children born through surrogacy about their origins from an early age, so they can grow up with the information, rather than have it come as a surprise, or be revealed as a family secret, later. This is largely because it’s considered healthier for children to have an awareness of where they come from, and partially because it’s likely that children will hear something about their origins from a family member (including other children, who may not be as careful as you might hope in how they talk about it), or eventually notice a lack of family stories or photos around pregnancy. Knowing that they were born through surrogacy from an early age, explained in a comforting and age-appropriate way can help young children grow up feeling comfortable and secure in their knowledge of their own identities, and their relationships with their parents.
- With adults: When you’re talking with friends and family about the fact that you have a little one on the way – and that he is being carried by someone else – you should feel prepared to be asked questions about your reproductive health and family set-up that may feel intrusive, or that you may not feel comfortable answering. This doesn’t mean you are under any obligation to answer these questions. And if you don’t, the replies you give can range from vague (“for health reasons”) to direct (“I’d rather not discuss that”). In fact, when you’re faced with questions about how your family is growing, it’s important to remember that the health and medical information of several different people is being discussed; yours or yours and your partner’s, your baby’s, and your gestational carrier or surrogate’s. Each of the people in that equation has a right to privacy that deserves to be respected. This means that it can be helpful to have a discussion with as many of the people involved possible (Baby probably won’t have an opinion for a little while) about how you feel comfortable answering questions, and to who.
- With other children: While it’s important to keep discussions of surrogacy and reproductive health age-appropriate (a two-year-old might not get a lot out of a too-detailed lecture on biology, for example), discussions of how and from where your baby is coming to you can be relatively similar whether you’re talking to an adult or a younger child. If you’re talking to a child of your own, it’s going to make sense to go into a little more detail than you might with a niece, nephew, or friend’s child, but the concepts you use will be the same. With your own child, you might talk a little more about your surrogate or gestational carrier specifically, since she’s probably going to be a significant part of your family’s lives, at least until your baby is born, and maybe after that, too. If you’re looking for inspiration about how to approach this, there are a number of great children’s books and other resources that can help to explain these ideas at a child’s level.
If you’re planning or hoping to take time off work for parental leave once your baby is born, you’ll need to have a conversation with your employer about their leave policy. Since parental leave is not standardized in the U.S. and surrogacy is still relatively uncommon, your employer may not have a policy in place specifically for leave for parents through surrogacy.
Depending on your company’s size, you may have a certain amount of guaranteed unpaid leave under the Family and Medical Leave Act, but paid leave may be up to the discretion or policy of your employer. This means that it may end up taking some time to work out exactly what your leave will look like, so opening up the conversation ahead of time – maybe around the end of the first trimester or early in the second trimester – can leave you plenty of space to work out a plan.