If you’ve decided to use a third party to conceive your baby, you’ve probably wondered whether to share with your loved ones your family’s unconventional start—and if and when to tell your child.
Here’s how to tackle this delicate subject.
Once upon a time, not so long ago, there was only one place that babies came from, and the road to get there was pretty narrow. Thankfully, there are now more options for becoming a parent than ever before. Using a “third party”—meaning a sperm donor, an egg donor, or a gestational carrier (a.k.a. surrogate)—to create a family or add to one is becoming more and more common. Figures from the Centers for Disease Control show 9,600 embryo transfers from donor eggs in 2005, over half of which resulted in a baby.
Once you’ve made the decision to use a gestational carrier, or an egg or sperm donor, to help make your dreams of a family come true, most parents-to-be are left wrestling with other big questions. Namely, do we tell our friends and family, and if so, how and when? And the really big one: Do we tell our child, and if so, what’s the best way to let him know how he came into the world?
What's Right for You?
You’ve reached one big decision already: to use a third party. And you’ve decided what kind to use. So as you consider whether and how to tell your loved ones and your child, think back to how you’ve made your choices so far. It’s essential that you and your spouse put aside time to gather your thoughts and new information to help you move toward a resolution. Some people in your life may want to hear every detail about your gestational carrier and how you found her, or how you chose your sperm donor; others won’t be ready to hear more than the basics, and maybe even nothing at all. If you choose a surrogate or donor that you know, and it’s someone who’s in your life regularly, that may influence how much you tell, too. If you want the third party to be part of your and your child’s life once your baby is born, it’s probably easier for you and your partner to decide to share more early on, and to prepare for questions and comments.
Telling Family and Friends
After you’ve made the decision that you do want to tell some or all of the important people in your life, the next step is deciding how to share your news. It’s natural to hope that everyone will be supportive, but the truth is that some people are likely to have an easier time accepting your choice than others. “I just knew that Bill’s parents were going to have a tough time with our decision to use a sperm donor,” Lynn told me during one of our sessions. “He’s an only son, and carrying on his family’s genetics is really important to them. Bill and I thought long and hard about how to tell them.”
If you’ve decided to share this information openly with family and friends (and maybe coworkers, neighbors, and others), here are guidelines to help ease the way.
Start easy. Begin by sharing with those you know will be excited for you and supportive. This will shore up your confidence and reinforce the rightness of your choice.
Know yourself. If there are family members you know will have a harder time with your decision, think about whether you want to talk to them alone or if you need someone supportive there.
Educate your audience. Everyone is prone to forming an opinion without all the information. Telling your story and relating what brought you and your partner to this point can help put your decision in perspective.
Be creative. Don’t be afraid to think outside the box: One couple who used both a sperm donor and a gestational carrier chose to share their story with their extended family by creating a cartoon slideshow depicting their fertility journey, from their first office visit through all the ups and downs that brought them to their final decision. The beauty of this approach was that the humor cut the tension, but their family could still see their struggle and appreciate the miracle of how all the pieces finally came together.
Give them time. After you have shared, let it go. Allow time for the information to settle, and let people know that you are available if they want to talk more about it.