Telling your children their real story- how they were conceived by egg donation or embryo donation
In all the literature we have read, we have never found a psychologist that recommends not telling your child that he or she was conceived through Assisted Reproductive Technologies; ie. Donor egg, embryo donation, surrogacy or a combination of those techniques. So the question is How?
You can start telling the story when your children are very young; even while your child is growing in the womb. This will allow you as a parent to start getting used to telling this story that still hurts you somehow. As a parent of a fertility child, you have traveled a long journey of disappointments, extreme expense and pain. You want to make sure the story you share with your child is positive. So you can start at a very young and allow yourself to heal and to fine tune your story; thus leaving behind the negative feelings and the technical aspects of it to turn it into a story of love and triumph.
Obviously your child will not understand the words at that point but he/she will remember the love with which you told them their story. How you held them in a quiet moment and opened up your heart and the connection they felt at that moment.
As your child becomes older, there is room for charge in your story.
Since children do not develop abstract thinking until pre-adolescence, your story has to become simple and concrete. Something like “There was nothing that we wanted in our lives more than to have a baby. But in order to make a baby a part from the mommy and a part from the daddy are needed. We were missing the mommy part so we went and asked for help from a doctor and an egg donor who put together their efforts and thanks to them we are today a family- and we love you so much!!!
This tory tells your child that it is OK to ask for help when needed and that people are good and help us when we ask them to. And most importantly, that we love him/her and that we started loving her even before he/she was conceived.
When you talk about your donor, it is important to present her as a person with thoughts and dreams.
To present her like somebody who we have respect and affection for; even admiration. Maybe by the time she donated for you she already had a family of her own. She gave a very important of herself for us to be able to conceive. We are eternally thankful to her. If you know her name you can use it or maybe even make up a name. The point is to make her as human as possible. Some people prefer to call her a “helper” than a “donor” . The only connection your child might have to the word donor is how we collected your old toy and gave them to a needy person. While helping is more of a horizontal activity between two people.
What is important I to tell the truth in the terms that a child can understand. We do not have to tell ALL the truth every time. For example, a young boy was told by his father that “it is like a car that was missing the engine.” So we needed to get an engne from a different car and then we could travel in our car.” Make sure not to over-talk or overshare. And always at the level of the listener.
Reproductive technology is not the point of the story.
An important distinction to make is the difference between secrets and something that is private. Something secret about your family might be something that you are embarrassed of. Something that if people find out could affect your future. This is different from an idea that you choose to tell only to your innermost circle, what ever that circle is for you.
Never allow your child to feel like tsomething is wrong or tabu. Leave opened doors like : will I ever be able to meet my donor? Your answer should be in the terms of “maybe in the future.” At any time when you need to talk about this I will be there to help you. This puts you in the position of your child’s best advocate. Yu are leaving the door open. Even if at the time it was a closed donation, maybe in the future with DNA testing it will be possible to connect with your donor. SO the best is to leave an open door.
It is OK to share as much as you know about the donor and to share picture when both of you are ready.
The conversation will happen many times. Maybe your child’s friend will bring up an issue. Like my daughter’s friend asked her while in the back of my car why she does not look like me. She responded “But I look like my dad.” Thbis was a great opportunity for me to start a conversation and see if there is anything that was bothering her about it. Very soon in school she will have “sex education.” Once she knows more about body parts and how babies are conceived, the conversation at home will be retaken and will have a different tone.
One way to start the conversation is by mentioning that there are many different types of families; two fathers, and two mothers, and different race, etc. There are families from adoption and families who
Conceive using Assited Reproductive Technology. Tis is how our family came together: ……….
Today there are many books you can use as a reference. From serious educational books that describe the procedures, reproductive etechnology doctors, lawyers, contracts and so forth. All the way to hard cover books designed to tell the story to children before they know how to read. You can use these books as a templeta and fill in the story with your own personal blanks.
The more normal is your story and the more normal you feel about it, the more normal your child will feel about how your family came about. I remember as a child there was only one or two children in my class whose parents were divorced. They were viewed as “poor Johnny” his mom left his dad….. Today that has been normalized.
A young woman describes not knowing when was the first time that it was introduced to her that she was the resukt of an egg donation. It was part of the everyday conversation. Always very open and very normal anad therefore she does not remember any time when she was distressed about it.
“I DO NOT HAVE TO LISTEN TO YOU BECAUSE YOU ARE NOT MY REAL MOTHER”
All parents dread the teenage years when their child gets angry and says something lie: “you know nothing because you are too old.” And in this case: “you are not my real mom.” This is not uncommon. When adolescents get angry they will say anything to get what they want. It happens in all families just using different words. It is their version of “I do not have to listen to you because I am 14 and I know better than you.” Or “you do not understand me because you are too old.”
Please do not get flustered and get hurt by it. You can just say: “If you have any questions about how our family was built we will be happy to seat down and talk about it but now I had just asked you to clean up your room….. blah blah blah.”
So the kid will learn that it just does not work to lash out at mom and he still has to clean his room.
From the words of a teenager conceived by egg donation:
As long as you do not make a big deal of it, your kid does not care either. Just do it as early and openly as possible. What ever you tell them, make sure to be truthful and honest. Do not withhold information. If you are not ready to talk about something, tell them we will talk about it later but never say this is none of his business. Above all, speak the truth so your child will learn to trust you.