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How to Talk to Children about In Vitro Fertilization/Egg Donation/Gestational Surrogacy

The decision as to when and how to speak to your child about how they came to be can be daunting for any parent. But for those whose children were brought into the world using fertility treatments or third-party reproductive services such as egg donation or gestational surrogacy, this task may come with different and unique challenges. Explaining basic reproduction to your child may seem like a minefield, but such terms as “In Vitro Fertilization reproduction (IVF)” or “surrogate mother” add yet another layer of “grown-up” language that can be tough for a child to understand.

Although having honest conversations with your child as they grow is important, it’s up to you to decide what will be covered in each conversation and what topics your child is ready to consider.  We encourage parents to seek resources on how to talk to children about their birth story, and we’ve outlined a few helpful tips below.

You may not have an answer to every question, and that’s okay.

Every parent knows that children tend to ask a lot of questions, and when a conversation involves how they came to be, the questions can suddenly multiply. It’s important to know it’s okay if you don’t have an answer to every question your child asks. Letting them know you’ll think their question over and get back to them is perfectly fine – as long as you do eventually provide an answer when you’re ready.

If it’s easier to take baby steps and address one area of your child’s creation story at a time, then you should feel free to take this route. Many parents employ the simple approach of starting with how babies are made, with no mention of fertility or third-party reproduction services (taking care to keep the story age appropriate), and then going on to talk about their child’s individual story – whether they are here because of IVF, an egg donor or a surrogate carrier.

Know the overall message, and stick to it.

Even with one in eight couples seeking fertility treatment in the U.S., there’s still a chance that your child will be the only one in his or her friend group whose birth story includes an egg donor or surrogate carrier. Because of this, it’s understandable if your child is confused when you first broach these topics – they may even feel a bit upset or concerned about “being different.”

As your child grows, these topics will become more familiar and easier to digest, but when the child is young, a common practice is for parents to emphasize the child was deeply wanted – that you and your partner wanted a baby very much, and you needed some help to make your dream possible. Knowing that they are loved and wanted is an important takeaway for your child to hold onto as she begins to understand how she came to be.

Related Topics: Egg Donation, Gestational surrogacy, IVF, Third-party Reproduction