Telling Him How He Came to Be

I’m not shy when it comes to talking about surrogacy and our experience, the ins and outs, etc. as two of my coworkers could attest after a recent trip.  It’s not like I have “We used a surrogate” tattooed across my forehead or anything, but I don’t see any reason not to talk about it if asked or it comes up.  It’s a part of my family’s history.

We’ve been asked a few times if we will tell Daniel and what we will tell him about how he came to be.  Earlier this week, Amy Blumenfeld wrote about this very thing in the New York Times’ Motherlode blog: Whose Belly Did I Come From.

I really liked her analogy of baking and faulty ovens.  I haven’t given much thought to what we will tell Daniel when he’s old enough, but we will tell him.  He doesn’t know yet, and at 2, I don’t think he’s ready to know.  We don’t show him pictures of F and tell him who she is and that he didn’t grow in my tummy.  But at what age should we tell him?  I don’t want it to be some After School Special or Very Special Episode experience.  I want our explanation of it to be natural and not a big deal.

But maybe we should be talking about it now so that it is something he has always known before he even realizes what it means. How old is too old to prevent shock and possibly fear on his part? 5?

While I would never keep this information from him, I don’t have the option of not telling him.  There are no pictures of me pregnant.  I didn’t fake pregnancy.  Too many people know we used surrogacy for it not to be a risk that he would hear it from someone else.

For those of you who used fertility drugs, IUI or IVF to have children, will you tell your children how they came to be?  We talk a lot in the IF community about speaking up; does that include our children?


  1. Every child wants to know where they came from, and it starts early. I was told, and passed on to my own children, that a child comes from the love between their mother and father. That answer works for a long time. The details of how that happens comes later, usually when someone on the playground tells them what the f-word really means.

  2. I think about this pretty often. I don’t know when and how I’ll begin the discussion with them, but I definitely want them to know that they were uniquely conceived. I don’t want to hide it from them, but like you say, at what point is it age-appropriate to share such a thing? Considering that it will (hopefully) be a very long time before they even understand sex and it’s connection to baby-making, how relevant would it be to pipe up with, “Oh, you were created in a petri dish!” in a year or two?

    As for now, it just so happens that there are a couple of restaurants that we frequent that are across the street from our clinic, so almost every time we go to one of them, either H or I bring up the fact that they started their lives in that building right there, and we sometimes mention that they have “siblings” hanging out over there, waiting for us to decide what to do. For now, since they don’t understand the nuances of language, it’s no big deal to say anything about it. Once they are a little older, we probably won’t keep talking about the frozen embryos (at least not jokingly referring to them as “siblings”…), because I think that’s a little confusing and touches on ethical issues that I’m not even sure most adults could rightfully dissect (if *they* started out as embryos in the same lab culture as those other embryos, why were they chosen instead of those other embryos? If they became humans, what happens to those embryos stuck in the freezer if Mama never goes back for them? Questions I can’t even begin to answer myself…). However, it may work nicely as an intro to them to say, “that’s where you were made”, because that *is* something I think they can grasp.

    I don’t know. I look forward to reading her book, because while we do have pictures of me pregnant, tucked in with those pictures are photos of them as hundred-celled beings and the ultrasound shot of them being transferred to my uterus, and it would be great to have someone with advice on how to discuss those things!

  3. In my opinion as the parent of a Kindergartener, 5 may be a little late, especially if you want it to be no-big-deal, instead of a Very Special Episode 🙂 With M., questions about pregnancy, where she came from, etc. started at about 3 – 3.5… A lot of her classmates’ mothers were pregnant during that year (in our area 3 yrs seems to be really common between siblings), and that prompted a lot of human reproduction questions. We just answered factually and succinctly the questions she actually asked, letting the conversation go at her own pace and revisiting it as she had questions. Since we are in the process of pursuing open adoption, a lot of this has come up again, with discussion about how her birth story (and my pregnancy) and her sibling’s birth story will be different.

  4. I appreciated that article as well. At the clinic, we were told it is helpful to give little hints when questions are asked, but no real detail (just like the woman said, “my belly was broken”), and then going into more in-depth explanation between 5-7 years old. I know some women decide not to tell the story of GS since the child is biologically theirs anyhow. It’s a tough question. I guess the answer is unique to each family and child.

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