Once a child is old enough to begin asking questions generally, parents quickly adapt to a daily barrage of inquiries covering all kinds of topics. Children are curious by nature, and typically it’s only a matter of time before your child will (in some way) inquire where he or she came from. This question gives many parents pause – how much should I share? What should I say? How do I broach this?
For parents who have used fertility services and/or third-party reproduction to have a baby, this question can feel like an even deeper conversational minefield. After all, how does one begin to explain something like in vitro fertilization (IVF) to a child, or gestational surrogacy? Fortunately, for parents who feel these questions are on the horizon, or for those who simply wish to be prepared, there are ways to make these conversations with your child easier – for both of you.
Step one – It’s 100% okay to “pause” the conversation for later.
If your child asks a question that you are unsure how to answer, it is okay to defer the question until later. This does not mean that you are ignoring the question or delaying out of a sense of dread; it just means you’d like some time to think over your reply. Saying something like, “I’m not sure how to explain this right now in a way you will understand. Can Mommy or Daddy think it over and let you know tonight?” is a perfectly acceptable response.
Step two – Be clear, but adjust language for your child’s age.
Parents are used to adjusting language for the age of their child across the variety of questions they can face from one day to the next, but it’s easy to fall into a pattern of using unclear language when facing questions that aren’t straightforward. Your terminology should be clear, of course always emphasizing that your child was deeply wanted and loved. Many former infertility patients and LGBTQ couples and individuals choose to focus on how much they wanted to grow their families by having a baby and how fertility treatments and third-party reproduction made it possible.
Step three – Conversations can happen in stages.
Ultimately, it is up to every parent or parents to share however much or little they desire about their child’s origin when their child is young. Perhaps you prefer to be entirely upfront as early as possible about using IVF, an egg donor or a gestational surrogate, or perhaps it’s better for your family to reveal this information in stages as your child grows up. There are many online resources available for parents who are unsure how they would like to approach these conversations with their child, including the following:
• RESOLVE, The National Infertility Association
• Creating a Family, The National Infertility & Adoption Nonprofit