Telling Your Child
When it comes to sharing with your child the story of how he or she came to be born, there’s more that we know about the best ways to do this, and why it’s important to share this information with your son or daughter. That’s because a lot of research has looked at this question with adoptees. Those studies have found that keeping this secret from your child can have damaging effects on the whole family, and that children often sense something is wrong or missing. If part of your hesitation in sharing your child’s beginning with her is tied to your own grief at not being able to start your family in the conventional way, that’s natural. But it’s important that you examine that loss and pain and not ignore it. Doing so should make it easier to share more openly how your child came into the world and help you reconnect with the joyful parts of that process.
Once you’re ready to talk to your child, don’t be surprised if it feels strange. But it really does get easier once you start the conversation! Experts agree that the simple telling and retelling of your child’s story from as early as preschool age is a wonderful way for her to grow up with accurate information about her conception. If you could use a little help in what to say to a young child, try these two children’s books, both recommended by the American Society of Reproductive Medicine: Butterflies and Magical Wings by Amy Margolis (Thompson Press, 2006) and Mommy, Was Your Tummy Big? A Picture Book That Explains Donor Eggs to Children by Carolina Nadel (Mookind Press, 2007).
If you choose to wait until your child is a bit older, be aware that if others know about the origins of his birth, there is a chance that he could find out accidentally—and maybe not in the way you would like. Waiting until adolescence is not advisable; these are the years when a young person is coming to grips with his identity, and hearing this life-changing information for the first time during his teenage years is likely to be particularly challenging.
A version of this story originally appeared in the Fall 2007 issue of Conceive Magazine.