Preparing for your child’s questions about their surrogate, gestational carrier, or donor

Baby’s growing every day – and not just their height, vocabulary, and ability to make it from one side of the park to right by the parking lot in the time it takes for you to find the snack they were just asking for. You’ve certainly already noticed that their curiosity has grown right along with her body and the other parts of their mind, and one of the things they may eventually be curious about, if they haven't been already, is what their surrogate, and, if they were conceived with donor sperm or a donor egg, what their donor is like.

General curiosity about a surrogate or donor

Experts agree that it’s healthy for children born through surrogacy or with the help of a sperm or egg donor to know the truth about their origins from an early age. This can be – and should be – a conversation that evolves as your child’s feelings and view of the world does, but there are a few general rules of thumb that can be helpful in this process.

As a general, cultural background for your child’s understanding of your family’s story, picture books about all different types of families, including but not limited to families like yours, can be a great way to help a young child feel comfortable with the way their unique family fits into the vast kaleidoscope of family structure.

As for the specifics of your family’s story, it can be helpful to work of framing the narrative so you focus on positives – sentiments like “this is what our family looks like,” and “this is what our family needed,” rather than “I couldn’t carry a pregnancy” (as a way of introducing surrogacy, for example). While this way of framing the story are innocent and accurate, it also sets up the idea of a lack – a pregnancy that couldn’t happen, rather than the very special one that did.

While it’s natural to hope that your child will always grow up comfortable and happy in the unique way they came to be, it’s important to make sure they know it’s okay to sometimes have negative or conflicted feelings about how they came into the world. It’s not a betrayal of you, and doesn’t mean they don't appreciate your family for all of the beautiful things about it. Instead, the range of emotions that can come from knowing there are things that are different about their family, and the way those emotions may change as they grow.

Answering personality questions about a surrogate or known donor

Over the course of your family’s relationship with a surrogate or gestational carrier, you probably got to know enough about your surrogate or gestational carrier to answer most questions your little one could ask, and if you approached someone who was already in your life to be a donor for your child, the same is also true. If you’re still in touch with your surrogate, gestational carrier, or your child’s donor, however, this can be a great time to reach out and get some first-hand answers to Baby’s questions. Letting them know how much time and energy this many people put into making sure they came into the world can be a great way to frame their surrogacy (and donation) story as the special event that it was. This contact might take the form of a special phone call or taking your little one and their surrogate, gestational carrier, or donor out to lunch, or, if they’d like more limited contact, asking them to respond to a letter your little one can dictate to you.

Answering questions about an unknown donor

Answering questions about an unknown donor is difficult because it’s so much of a blank space in a child’s history, but by working together, you can help your little one find healthy ways to navigate this blank space. This can take the form of letting them know how grateful you are that their anonymous donor made the choice that they did, and the lack of detail can give you both the space to speculate about what Baby’s donor might be like, or might be up to.

If you have a profile, or another form of limited information about your child’s donor, don’t be surprised or upset if they go through a phase or phases of putting a lot of emphasis on whatever that limited amount of information is. It’s natural for children to be curious about their genetic backgrounds, and it doesn’t mean they’re unhappy or having trouble processing their origins – it just means that they are processing them.

One of the biggest parts of growing up for anyone is coming to terms with who you are and where you came from – and Baby is growing every day.

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