How Does Surrogacy Affect the Child?
Fears of perceived discrimination from the public. Embarrassment about needing to use a third party to have children. Worries about having a non-biological link to a child. All are all common concerns some parents who have children born through surrogacy have. These anxieties are often born from a place of personal discomfort and cause parents to feel uneasy or unsure about how or if they should share the story of their child’s creation with family, friends, social circles − and even the children themselves.
Questions that often arise include:
- Will my child be OK without a mom and/or dad?
- Am I doing my child a disservice with 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?
- Will my child distance himself/herself from me after I tell them the truth?
Kim Bergman, a licensed psychologist and Senior Partner at Growing Generations, has specialized in the area of third-party assisted reproduction for more than two decades. Her research overwhelmingly supports the idea that kids born through assisted reproductively technologies tend to do just fine and do not react poorly to the news of their origin. In a recent study of gay fathers who have children ages 3 to 10, she found that these kids conceived via surrogacy are functioning quite well overall.
Talking to Your Children About Surrogacy
If you are a parent who has a child either born through surrogacy or the use of a donor egg or sperm, Dr. Bergman recommends being upfront with him/her when talking about how he or she came into the world. The earlier you have this conversation, the better you will be, she notes. That way, there is no shame surrounding the topic, and you weave your family’s truth into the fabric of your child’s life, making it an integral and beautiful part of who he or she is.
The key is to be honest and keep it simple. It’s suggested that you tell the story as often as you can. Do it the same way you talk to your infant all the time, even though the baby can’t understand what you’re saying. All they hear at that point is, “I love you and I’m doting on you.” When they do begin to understand language, one of the first things they’ll hear is how much you wanted them.
You can tell your child that he or she began as a wish – that you wanted him/her so much that you got help from other people to bring them to life. Explain that it takes a part from a man, a part from a woman, and a place to grow in for a baby to be born and that sometimes intended parents need to get some of those things from other people.
Remind your child that a whole bunch of love and planning went into building your family. As your child gets older, you can add age-appropriate language and more specific and accurate biological information. The key is to tell the story proudly, repeatedly and consistently as you add more detail as your child gets older.
If you tell your kids from the beginning who they are and where they came from, you build a foundation of confidence and trust. You let them know that there is nothing wrong with the way they came to be, and that it actually took more love than normal to make them. When this is their story, they know, in their hearts and souls, that there is nothing wrong with the way they and their family came to be.
A child will bond with the adult or adults who are most actively involved in their raising, often without regard for genetic links. Gender, biological relationships and the number of parents in the household do not factor into a child’s success. Love, however, does play a factor. Children who are NOT told of their origins until later in life often will act out.
All children love to hear their birth story, and it’s a special bonding experience that only you and they will share. As you decide how best to proceed with sharing your child’s birth story with him/her, decide what feels comfortable to you and for your family. Avoid lying, both directly and by omission, and allow your children to ask questions throughout your explanation.
Going Through an Agency
When you choose to find a surrogate through Growing Generations, we have a highly personalized matching process. This gives intended parents comfort in knowing the surrogate and giving them the ability to create an engaging birth story for their child or children. When working with an agency, everyone involved has access to a wealth of resources and people who have gone through the surrogacy journey previously – providing a solid support base.
Source: Bergman, Kim. Your Future Family: An Essential Guide to Assisted Reproduction/Everything You Need to Know About Surrogacy, Egg Donation and Sperm Donation, RedWheel Press, May 2019.