All children want to know their ‘story’ – stories about their time in the womb, their birth story and other anecdotal stories from their earliest days. It is an integral part of their identity development. But for gay parents, the answers to those questions can feel somewhat complicated.
Children conceived by any configuration of third-party reproduction – donor sperm, donor egg, or donor embryo – deserve to know their story, too, especially since theirs is no less amazing and miraculous.
That’s why we’re sharing some tips on how to approach and handle talking to your children about their ‘story.’
- The conversation is ongoing. Answer what is asked of you and nothing more. While it may be tempting to put it all out there, start off with the basics and add detail in subsequent conversations as more questions arise.
- Don’t wait. Most child psychologists agree that it’s never too early to tell the truth because the longer you wait, the harder the conversation will be. Ultimately, remember that if it’s not a big deal to you, it won’t be to your child.
- Keep it simple. Focus on the types of phrases that make a child feel wanted, special and important: “We wanted you very much.” “We got help from a doctor.” “We’re so happy you’re finally here.”
- Watch your words. Remember to use the word ‘donor’ – rather than ‘mother’ or ‘father’ – to describe the gamete or embryo contributor unless, of course, the donor has a parental/familial role.
- Check back in. After you’ve told your child, make sure your child knows your door is always open for follow-up questions and make sure you proactively check back in and ask for questions.
- It’s their story. Even if you’d prefer the world not know the details, recognize that there is a delicate line between privacy and secrecy, especially since a secret implies that something is wrong or shameful.
- Prepare for ‘Can we meet?’ Many kids will ask this so answer honestly. Whether you have identifying information or not, let them know that if it is important to them when they’re older, you’ll help in any way you can.
- Talk, Talk, and then Talk some more. When your child is old enough to learn about reproduction, make sure they understand that intercourse is not the only way babies are made so they know their conception is valid, too.
- Validate Their Feelings. These are understandably tough conversations for parents but experts insist that children are clear about who their parents are so while it may elicit complex emotions, encourage your child to talk to you whenever the need arises.
- Focus On The ‘Haves.’ Instead of ‘You don’t have a mommy’, focus on what they do have: ‘Some families have _______ (two daddies or one daddy). But what all families have is love.’
No matter how your family was created, it should be celebrated and joyous. And if you start the conversation early and keep reaffirming that all families are bound by love rather than simply genetics, the details of your child’s story will be a natural – and normal – part of their narrative.
If you’re a gay male or couple ready to pursue parenting, Dr. Melvin Thornton at CT Fertility can help. As one of the nation’s leading infertility treatment practices, our team of experts will walk you through the complexities of the donor and surrogacy treatment process from start to finish to ensure every detail is managed.
If you are ready to take the next step, call us at 203.373.1200 to schedule a no-cost consultation.