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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 several factors:


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 experience.

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 a surrogate.

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.
 

2007 OPTS - The Organization of Parents Through Surrogacy