Discussing Being A
Surrogate with Your Children
By: Wen Murphy
When contemplating being a surrogate,
one of the first things we wonder about is how to tell our children. Surrogates
are concerned about issues that might come up for their children: feelings of
abandonment, jealously, wanting to be a big brother or sister, or other emotions
and reactions that children have.
The other issue parents worry about is how to announce the surrogacy. How do you
manage the exuberance of a child's excitement about mommy's pregnancy with the
reaction of their audience?
Hopefully, this article will offer some insights and guidelines to use when
telling children about your surrogate pregnancy and how to prepare them to deal
with the reaction of others. Since children range in ages from toddlers to
adolescents, the methods for communicating a surrogate pregnancy are based on
1) awareness of the reproductive cycle, i.e. how babies are made,
2) stages of social development
3) family communication dynamics
The most important thing to communicate to your children is your own comfort
with the surrogacy, and your own joyous desire to help the intended parents have
a child. By using a matter-of-fact tone of voice and explaining your motivations
in clear, concise terms, the child will perceive that surrogacy is special and
good. Your actions will guide the actions and reactions of your children.
Therefore, if you lead the way through example, your children will follow.
For toddlers, you should tell them about the surrogacy and then have a tea party
with stuffed toys, or play "construction" and bring up your surrogacy using
conversation that you want your child to use. Since children mimic what they
hear, you can help promote the kind of message you want to be heard. For
example, as you are pouring the tea, you can turn to one of the stuffed toys and
say, "Mr. Rabbit, did you know I am going to have baby? "No, I didn't." "Yes,
and because Mr. and Mrs. M can't have a baby, I am having one for them!"
"Really? That's wonderful!"
For small children (ages 2 - 5), pregnancy is a wondrous, magical event.
Children this age are typically socialized to expect that if Mom is having a
baby, then it will be a little brother or sister for them. Since your surrogate
child will be living with another family, it is important that you introduce
them first to the concept that families are created many ways. If you have
friends who have adopted children, this is a good place to start. Those who have
adopted are already halfway there. The next phase is to introduce them to the
prospective parents. If you have decided to have a closed arrangement (meaning
there will be little or no contact between you and the intended parents), you
will have to carefully manage any relationship expectations that children of
this age tend to have. Once your child has been introduce to the intended
parents, as friends of Mommy (and Daddy), you can then discuss the fact that
your intended parents cannot have babies of their own. You can then suggest that
Mommy is going to try to help them have a baby they can take home. That they
(the intended parents) want to be able to love and care for a baby just like
Mommy (and Daddy). The next phase is to invite your child to ask questions, and
to keep that opportunity open throughout the months of your surrogacy
You should introduce these concepts and ideas over a period of time, rather than
all at once. For example, as you arrange a meeting with the intended parents,
you can take the opportunity to bring up these ideas with your children. You can
begin talking about families and what makes a family between television shows,
or after social gatherings with other children. For young children (ages 6 -10),
a pregnancy can bring uncertainty. Children this age like consistency and you
are introducing a new variable in their constant world. This may result in some
resistance to the idea of surrogacy, especially when they begin to realize that
the baby will not be staying within your home. You will also have to reassure
children this age that you love them, want them, and will always want them. Fear
of abandonment and loss can be a big worry for them. If you encounter any
resistance from your child, it is usually coming from fear. Some children may
think that if you can give up this child, then what is preventing you from
giving away them? You should be aware of any behavioral and emotional swings.
You may even wish to consult a child psychologist or family therapist for help
in preparing your family and children in accepting the surrogacy situation.
At this age, you can take this opportunity to talk about the reproductive cycle.
When introducing the biological facts about a woman's body, you should stress
the biological miracle that a baby is even born, since so many obstacles have to
be overcome for the egg even to be fertilized. This is a good time to mention
that not every woman or man can make babies. This begins a dialogue on other
ways to have babies, i.e. adoption and surrogacy. Keep your explanations simple
and factual. After you have introduced the concepts, you can begin a
conversation about how the child would feel if you were to have a child for
another couple. Often their first reaction may be a negative one. Explore the
reason with your child. Express how unhappy you would have been if you were not
able to have him. This will get the child to look beyond himself and consider
how others feel. Children are very empathetic and can easily understand other
people's sadness. I did this with my son when he was eight years old. At first,
he didn't like the idea of sharing his mother with another child and then he
wasn't sure he liked the idea of me getting fat. After I listened to his
thoughts on the subject, we let it rest for a few months. Later on, I opened the
discussion again and he was more receptive. Children at this age may need time
to sort out their feelings and get comfortable that Mommy is going to be a
surrogate. If, despite your efforts, your child still is not open to the idea, I
would recommend that you reconsider your decision and perhaps explore with a
family therapist other ways of talking with your children and family about being
In all cases, you can expect that your children will tell their friends and
friend's families that you are pregnant, and that you aren't keeping the baby.
If this is a big concern for you, then you should coach your children on how
best to talk to others about your pregnancy, based on what you want other people
to know. Other people may not be open to the idea of surrogacy and may not want
their child to associate with yours because of it. If possible, talk to the
parents of your child's best friends before he shares the information with their
children. If you or your child gets a negative reaction, seek the advice of a
family therapist before proceeding with surrogacy. I am a Unitarian Universalist,
and I teach religious education for 5th and 6th graders. I mentioned my
surrogacy and explained my reasons for wanting to do this to their parents, and
then to the children, who were peers of my son. I received mostly positive
responses, and this began conversations with parents and children, my son and
myself, and our church community.
Surrogacy can be a very educational and socially expanding experience, not only
for yourself and your family, but also your community.
Wen Murphy is a surrogate mother and has a 13 year-old son. She has considered
surrogacy for over 6 years, beginning her conversations about surrogacy when her
son was eight years old. In addition to being a surrogate, Wen is a computer
programmer/analyst and a student of life.