When I decided to become a surrogate mother for the first time, my young daughter, Chelsea, became convinced that “Mommy” was going to give away her new baby brother or sister. The decision to become a surrogate affects your whole family, including your children. I’ve now been a surrogate three times, starting when my children were toddlers, to my latest surrogacy when Chelsea had already graduated college. So, I’ve had a lot of practice explaining the process to them. I support being open and honest with your children about surrogacy, while shaping your explanation to suit their age and understanding.
How to Explain the Surrogacy Process to Young Children
If you have young children in your home during your first surrogacy, you may be tempted not to explain what is happening at all. I think this would be a mistake. Your children are more observant than you might realize, though they don’t always have the context to understand what is happening. If they realize that you are pregnant, they will naturally assume that a brother or sister is on the way. Imagine the heartbreak when that new sibling never comes home!
You can be honest with your children about the surrogacy without confusing them with complicated details. The excellent book, The Kangaroo Pouch by Sarah Phillips Pellet does a wonderful job of explaining the surrogacy process to young children in a way that they will understand. I highly recommend buying a copy and reading it together with your children.
You don’t need to give young children a thorough explanation of surrogacy or explain the IVF process. Instead, it’s enough to tell them that, “Mommy is growing a baby inside her belly for a couple who can’t grow their own baby. This is their baby, and Mommy will give it back to them when it is ready.” Focus on the idea that you are “borrowing” the baby and need to give it back to its true parents. Your young children should be learning how to share and borrow their toys and will grasp this concept.
Young children are endlessly curious. They’ll probably have lots and lots of questions for you about the baby you are “borrowing.” Answer as many as you can in simple ways your children will understand.
Making the Surrogacy Decision with Older Children
It is important to remember that even though you will be the one taking hormones before your IVF, dealing with morning sickness, and tottering around on swollen ankles, your pregnancy will impact your whole family. You won’t be able to horse around with your children as much and may need their help doing extra chores around the house.
Personally, I suggest bringing older children into the surrogacy discussion before you even make your decision. Children ten years and older are smart enough to understand what surrogacy is when you explain it to them. Lay out all of the steps and what it may mean to your normal family routine. Explain why you want to be a surrogate and then ask for their opinion and feedback.
Of course, you don’t have to get approval from your children to be a surrogate, but if they have strong objections, that is a big red flag. You don’t want to hurt the harmony of your family over this decision. When I started seriously considering becoming a surrogate for the last time a couple years ago, I first sat down and discussed it with my husband. Once he came on board, we talked it out with our children. My nine-year-old son, Lucian, gave me his stamp of approval, “as long as you don’t bring it home!” he said. He didn’t want to share his toys with a new sibling!
Of course, every family is unique, and you may believe a different strategy of communicating with your children is a better fit for your situation. All I can say is that openness and honesty from the very beginning has always worked best for me and my children!
Interested in becoming a surrogate? Circle of Life Surrogacy is currently recruiting surrogates throughout Oregon and Northern California. Take a look at our surrogate requirements and then fill out a surrogate application on our website.