Talking to Your Children About Surrogacy

For many parents of children born through surrogacy or donor genetics, the choice to tell the story of their child or children’s conception is a tricky subject to navigate.

Most parents of adopted or third party conceived children tend to ask themselves the same questions, including:

  • How do I talk to people about my family?
  • How will I talk to my child about their origins?
  • Will my child be OK without a mom/dad?
  • Am I doing my child a disservice through my choices?
  • Will they consider me their “real” parent if they know the truth?
  • Will my child be OK if we’re not biologically related?

These concerns are often often born from a place of personal discomfort about how you chose to create your family, the need to use a third party to create a family, a non-biological link to the child, or even perceived discrimination from the public for being a single, same sex, or otherwise nontraditional parent. These concerns often cause parents to feel uneasy or unsure about how or if they should share the story of their child’s creation. There is often a fear that a child may react poorly, distancing themselves from their parents or acting out. The good news is that, with rare exceptions, this is an unfounded fear.

Research and experience have shown time and time again that children need one stable and loving adult in their lives to thrive. A child will bond with the adult or adults who are most actively involved in their raising as their parent, often without regard for genetic link. Gender, biological relationship, or number of parents in the household are not important factors to a child’s success.

It is far more often the case that children who are not told the origins of their birth until later in life will act out than those who are raised with the knowledge of their unique birth story. All children love to hear their birth story. Sharing their unique creation with your child is a special bonding experience and can be an intimate time to remember just how wanted and loved this child has always been.

As you decide how best to proceed with sharing your child’s birth story with him or her, know that there are no wrong answers. It has to be what feels comfortable to you and for your family. However, it is essential to avoid lying, both directly and by omission.

There are a few things you can do to help make their story one they’re comfortable with and proud to tell. Presenting the story in small, age appropriate doses from a young age often offers a great level of comfort and success. Children are curious. Allowing your children to openly ask questions is another key element to ensuring their comfort. Focus on the language you choose so that your child knows that their creation is a story you’re proud of, and they should be as well.

Dr. Kim Bergman

Kim Bergman, PhD, a licensed psychologist of 22 years, has specialized in the area of gay and lesbian parenting, parenting by choice and third party assisted reproduction for the last two decades. Dr. Bergman has created a comprehensive psychological screening, support and monitoring process for Intended Parents, Surrogates and Donors. She is the co-owner of Fertility Counseling Services and Growing Generations and is a member of the American Society of Reproductive Medicine, the American Fertility Association, the American Psychological Association, the Los Angeles County Psychological Association, the Lesbian and Gay Psychotherapy Association, and the Gay and Lesbian Medical Association. She is on the national board of the Family Equality Council. Dr. Bergman writes, teaches and speaks extensively on parenting by choice. Along with co-authors, she published “Gay Men Who Become Fathers via Surrogacy: The Transition to Parenthood” (Journal of GLBT Family Studies, April 2010). Dr. Bergman created her own family using third party assisted reproduction and she lives with her wife of 28 years and their two teenage daughters.