Explaining Surrogacy to Children
Gestation surrogacy is a complicated process for even many adults to comprehend. So of course it is expected to be a tricky topic to share with your children. Most children are incredibly observant and may have a lot of questions. It is important to be mentally prepared for how to address the topic, and how to answer questions simply and effectively. How you talk about surrogacy with your children depends on their age. Young children will probably require few details and take your answers at face value rather easily. Older children may have more questions about the specifics: the science of it all, how its possible, and what it means. They may also be uncomfortable talking about reproductive topics, so it’s best to keep the explanation specific to their questions. Basically, answer honestly, and don’t over-share.
Some common questions from children may be:
Am I getting a new brother or sister?
Keep this explanation simple. This baby is for a different family. He/she is not ours. To an older sibling, you could explain, “We already have our baby”, referring to their younger sibling. If the intended parents already have a child, try explaining that “Tommy is getting a little sister, just like you!” It’s a good idea to prepare your child with a simple answer to other people. They will undoubtedly hear “I see you are getting a new brother or sister” from strangers, people at school, etc. Teaching them to explain, “My mom is carrying someone else’s baby in her belly for them.”
Will we ever see the baby again?
This can vary widely, and depends on the relationship between intended parents and surrogate. If you have agreed to keep close contact, you could share that they will have play dates or visits. You could explain that the baby will be far away, but we will get to see pictures and hear about how the baby is doing and how they are growing up. If there is not to be any relationship or contact, reassure the child that the baby will be safe and happy with their new mommy/daddy, and you will get to keep being a happy family too!
Why can’t the mommy have her own baby?
In an old enough child, you can of course explain that it IS their own baby. But in general, this is another topic to keep as simple as possible. To a toddler or very young child, simply saying something like, “That mommy’s belly is broken, so I am helping her by letting the baby stay and grow in my belly.” Use language that children understand. They also might enjoy being engaged. Suggesting, “will you help mommy to take care of baby? Would you like to say hello? Read him/her a story? Tell the baby about how fun having a mommy/daddy will be?”
Why can’t the baby stay with us?
This is again an area to keep simple. Use language and terms that a small child can understand. “We are helping this baby grow, and when he is born, we will give him to his family like a present.” Or, “we are just babysitting until the baby is ready to be with his family.”
This can be a daunting discussion to have with your child, but in general, young children will take what you say for what it is, and accept it rather easily. Many people wonder when a good time is to explain what is happening to children. A young child will better understand what you are saying if they have something tangible or visible to associate it with. When a small child starts noticing a change in your body, or seeing a “baby bump”, its time to explain what is going on. A great resource is a book called, The Kangaroo Pouch: a story about surrogacy for young children by Sarah Phillips Pellet (available on Amazon).
Also, as part of being a surrogate, you will have a psychological counseling session. This is a great time to seek professional advice on this topic!