Written by Amanda Harden, experienced gestational carrier with Circle Surrogacy. Amanda talks about educating kids about surrogacy!
If you’ve ever been pregnant with a young kiddo in tow, you have surely run into a stranger at the store asking your child if the baby will be a brother or sister. One concern my husband and I had when I decided to become a surrogate was how we would educate our kiddos – which is quite helpful in such situations. Ella had just turned 4, and Eli was 18 months old when I sent in my application. Some people said they were too young to understand. Others said they wouldn’t bother no matter what age the kiddos were. Decision time came quickly; my surrogate application was accepted and before I knew it, it was time to match with IPs!
Oh, but the kiddos. Do we find a sitter for them so my husband and I could have an actual conversation with the potential intended parents (IPs)? Do we let our children say ‘hi’, but keep them off the rest of the video call? Do we even tell them about it? We decided we wanted our kiddos on that initial video call, as it wouldn’t be feasible to keep them away weekly. We also felt it was important for the potential IPs to know our whole family.
Our kiddos were so wild on that first video call that I thought for sure that the IPs wouldn’t want to deal with the kiddos’ high energy. Or, more accurately, toes and noses smashed up against the camera. However, the IPs agreed to match! I knew right then that not only did I want to make sure our kiddos were informed, but that they were involved in the journey from the very beginning.
The first thing we did was to normalize surrogacy in our house. It wasn’t a taboo topic; we welcomed the kiddos and any guests in our home to ask anything about the process. Educating kids on surrogacy is important. Questions can be answered in an age-appropriate – but honest and accurate – manner. We knew that even if the kiddos didn’t understand everything that was happening, they would know that something was happening, and we didn’t want to hide that from them. Discussing surrogacy with others in the presence of our kiddos would help them gain an understanding as well.
We bought books featuring surrogates to read as an introduction for our kiddos. The Kangaroo Pouch and Sophia’s Broken Crayons were the two suggested on Circle Surrogacy’s group for surrogates. The market is slowly expanding, but several children’s books do include diverse family dynamics that fosters open communication about how families are made. These books are often used when educating kids about surrogacy and how it works. We even shared our books with the kiddos’ daycare so the class could discuss why Eli wouldn’t be getting a baby brother. At the time of my journeys, we weren’t able to find any shows or movies appropriate for our children, but it’s certainly worth a look especially for older kiddos.
We also updated our kiddos on the timeline. Of course, in surrogacy, it can change often and without notice so keep in mind how your kiddos react to change before you tell them too many details. Our kiddos loved following the weekly updates of a pregnancy app to learn about the baby’s growth. They also really enjoyed looking at ultrasounds or listening to the heartbeat I recorded during my appointments. (Attending appointments wasn’t an option for us, but that would be great first-hand experience.)
Secondly, we wanted our kiddos to be actively involved – to know that they were an important part of the journey as well. In doing so, we gave them “jobs.” Ella really loved to be my nurse. She would hand me my medicine, apply bandages, and bring water when morning sickness got the best of me. She really wanted to give me my shots as well, but I wasn’t ready for that! Eli delighted in getting to snuggle and share story time with the baby; he didn’t even mind being kicked by the baby.
Both sets of IPs whom I carried for were first-time parents. Our kiddos enjoyed “teaching” the IPs everything they knew about babies and what babies need. We told our kiddos by talking with IPs on the video calls that they were giving the IPs an insight to their future lives. (And to be honest, it was a relief to have the kiddos on the calls after we received tough news.)
Other “jobs” that our kiddos had included making sure I drank plenty of water and rested, buying/making gifts for the IPs and the baby, educating other kiddos, and being gentle around my belly. Our kiddos feel important when they have a task to do, even if it’s simple to adults.
We did also work some geography and culture into our talks which is important for educating kids. Of course, this could be much more multifaceted with older kiddos. How fun would it be to celebrate the culture of your IPs?
While some may disagree, we kept our kiddos emotionally connected throughout the journeys. I didn’t hide it from them when the medications didn’t work as intended, causing me to fail a cycle. I didn’t try to cover up how sick I got either. I allowed myself – and them – to express their sadness and frustrations. I was honest that I didn’t enjoy giving myself shots, but also clear that the shots were well worth the end result. To me, the emotional aspect is just as important as anything else is. It teaches our kiddos that negative emotions are ok and normal, but also how to react in such situations. It models resilience as well, as surrogacy is rarely a textbook experience.
Throughout the journeys, we reminded our kiddos that the babies weren’t ours to keep or related to us. This is what I thought we would struggle with – or even fail at – explaining to the kiddos. However, because we normalized surrogacy, involved the kiddos in the journey, and shared our emotions, our kiddos understood. They knew I chose to be a surrogate to help others make their family. They were able to tell the strangers in the store “It’s not our baby.”
We are so grateful to have such amazing surrogates like Amanda. While everyone has a different approach to educating kids on surrogacy, we love Amanda’s perspective and tips! If you’re interested in becoming a surrogate with Circle Surrogacy, you can learn more about the process or apply today!