“You cannot start a relationship on a lie, and expect a high level of openness in return.” ~ An Embryo Adoption Mother
It is natural to be curious about our genetic origins; and with programs such as Ancestry DNA and 23andMe, it has never been easier to get our hands on this information. This can be a great tool in discovering distant relatives, or learning about how our family made it to America. For adoptees, it can open up a completely new world by answering questions, and filling in the gaps. Unless, the adopted person does not know that they are adopted…
Embryo adoption is a wonderful choice of family building. From pregnancy to bringing a newborn baby home, you get to experience all of the joys and trials that any parent goes through. It can be easy to slide the fact that you adopted your child as an embryo under the rug. After all, you carried the child for nine months, gave birth, and have all of the photo evidence to prove it. While you can keep this private information from the cashier at Walmart, the soccer coach, and from Gladys down the street, the most important person who needs to know that your child was adopted as an embryo, is your child.
It can feel very intimidating, and maybe you are just not sure where to begin. We recommend starting the moment you bring your little one home from the hospital.
There are two reasons behind this: 1) Your child can never remember a moment you sat them down to tell them they were adopted, and 2) you can get a feel for the words you want to use to explain the story as your child grows. You might find it easier to use language young children may grasp more easily, or find yourself using the actual terms; whichever one works best for you is great!
You might also find making a Lifebook for your adopted child to be helpful. Explain that you needed help having a baby, so a generous family whose family was complete bestowed their baby seed upon your family. Include photos of the donor family, the day of the transfer, your child as an embryo, ultrasounds, pregnancy, and the baby. This is a great tool adoptees can carry with them throughout life and refer back.
Children’s book are also great! What is better than normalizing their story by reading a book before bed? Made with Love, The Pea That Was Me, Hope & Will Have A Baby and many others are wonderful stories that explain embryo donation and adoption in ways that children can easily understand.
It is incredibly important to let embryo-adopted children know their origins. Secrets do not stay secrets, and that is especially true today with access to genetic testing at the tip of our fingers. When secrets do come out, relationships may become damaged as a result. Children may be left wondering, “My story is so taboo that we don’t talk about it? Are my parents that ashamed of me?”
It can also be difficult as a parent of an embryo-adopted child, with thoughts of what will happen once the floodgate opens that they are biologically related to someone else. How will they react? Will they wish to go live with their genetic parents rather than us?
While these are normal fears to have, DNA does not make a family—love does. You will always be your child’s parents, not the man and woman who share DNA with them.
The most encouraging story we found on the subject is the story of Ingrid von Oelhafen, an infant abducted from Yugoslavia during World War II in the attempt to create the ‘Aryan Race’. When Ingrid was older, she began searching for her biological parents. After a lot of searching, Ingrid finally located her parents, but she said it made little difference. Her memoir ‘Hitler’s Forgotten Children’ ends with this quote:
“It is enlightening to find our roots, but we are what we become through the lives we’re given.”
Talk to your children about the hard things, and they in turn will talk to you about the hard things. Stay open and honest with your children, and respect them enough to tell them the truth—especially when it comes to their genetic origins. While it will be enlightening, it will not change whom they identify as their true family—you.
To learn more about embryo donation and adoption, visit EmbryoAdoption.org.