Talking with Your Child about Embryo Adoption

Part 1: Hard Conversations Made Easy

By: Kris Probasco and Megan Fabian

“Look at your beautiful, curly hair!” the shopkeeper said to Gillian’s six-year-old daughter, Molly. “It’s so pretty, just like your mommy’s!”

“Thank you,” she said. “Before I was a baby, mommy and daddy had a helper, another mommy, called a donor, and the doctor put me in my mommy’s uterus to grow. And then I came out!”
A look of astonishment flashed across Gillian’s face, and she managed to say, “And Mommy was the happiest mommy in the world! Isn’t that right?” Her daughter nodded and smiled, then buried her face in her mom’s side as sudden shyness took over.

Gillian was pleased to see that her daughter was confident about her donor conception story. She sometimes wondered whether she really got it, but this moment proved that she did.

Like Gillian, you should tell your child everything you know about her story. As in traditional adoption, the goal is for the child not to remember being told, because she has always known how she came into your family. Details of sperm, egg, in vitro fertilization, embryos, and cryopreservation can be a lot for young children (and parents, too) to handle. Here’s how to begin talking:

Start early. The first conversations should begin during infancy, and can be as detailed or as basic as you’d like, because they’re really just practice. Use this time, before your baby can comprehend the meaning of the words, to develop the story that celebrates his beginnings. Explain, in simple terms, how he was created, how the doctor put him inside your uterus to grow. Let him know that you decided to have donor help before he was born: “Daddy or Mommy’s body was not able to make a baby,” “You came to us already made by your genetic parents.” Tell him how thrilled you are at the way things turned out: “We were meant to be your parents. We are so happy that we got help. We have so much to tell you, and we want you to understand your story.”

Follow your child’s lead. If your daughter asks about Miss Kim, her preschool teacher, who is about to have a baby, answer her questions honestly, and then ask if she wants to hear her own story. Most preschoolers can understand a simple version of their story, such as, “When Mommy and Daddy wanted to have a baby, we couldn’t make one together, so we asked for help. Another person or family gave their genetics (‘baby-making parts’) to the doctor. The doctor put the embryo or sperm into Mommy’s uterus. One of them started to grow, and it was you! We were very happy when you were born!”

Stay tuned for Part 2 next week.

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