Talking to Kids about IVF and Donors
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Talking to Kids about IVF and Donors
Questions about Egg Donation
Hi moms and dads--I am mom to a wonderful 3.5 y.o. boy conceived
using an egg donor. My husband and I have been open with family
and friends about how our son was conceived. So far, we have not
spoken to our son about this. He has not shown any curiosity
about babies and where they come from. Although he's seen many
babies (and pregnant women), he doesn't seem particularly
interested in them. I was wondering if now is a good time to
bring up the subject of egg donation or if I should wait til he's
''interested.'' We want to be as open as possible with him so that
it just becomes a natural part of ''his'' story. Wondering what
other parents' experiences are. Also, I see a lot of books about
adoption but none about egg donation. Do you have any
My 10 y.o. son was conceived with an egg donor. At the time the
only people we told were my parents, his named guardians and the
pediatrician. We did not even tell my in-laws. I can't exactly
remember his age, but probably about 3 or 4, he was curious about
where babies came from. At that time I told him age appropriate
descriptions and told him about this special lady. I've mentioned
her on and off ever since also telling him that when he gets
older he could meet her if he wished. This was agreed to at the
time of the donation. We also told him it was up to him to tell
others including his brother when and if he wants.
Lucky and Blessed
Hi there... I am about to give birth to my first baby, conceived
through egg donation. There are quite a few books out there, some
of them really good. I would suggest browsing on Amazon, or just
googling 'egg donation books children' or something like that.
Wanted to point out this resource to you (free) as well:
And a quick search I did on Amazon found lots of books for
As I am crossing this rubicon, I'm finding that telling is not a
black and white decision. At first I thought I'd tell everyone,
but now I feel that being selective is the way to go for our
family. When we met with the counselors at our clinic, they
recommended books as a great way to introduce the subject. What
they said at the time was that you should let the child express
interest in how they came to be first, saying that almost all
children will do this at some point. Your son may not be that
interested for now. Personally, I would give him some more time.
It's not something that needs to be pushed on him. If he doesn't
express interest within the next few years, maybe then you could
try sitting down with him, or bringing the subject of babies up
casually and see if that sparks any interest in him.
You might also consider discussing this with your pediatrician,
or even go back to the clinic where you did your transfer and ask
to speak with the counselors there. I'm sure they'd be more than
willing to help.
-- very happy DE mom-to-be
My son, age 5, was conceived through egg donation (not a known
donor). A few people know about it, but we haven't told our son
or his older sister (age 9, not egg donor baby). I have several
concerns: I don't want to wait much longer, but I also don't
think my son will really understand yet, and it doesn't seem fair
that he may tell his sister, or anybody else, information that
they will understand (and might be unkind about), while he
doesn't really get it. I don't want to tell my daughter first,
because it seems like it's information that should really
''belong'' to our son, to share or not as he feels comfortable.
(Tell them together?) Also, once the kids know, the information
is out. I'm a pretty private person and worried about dealng
with people's questions/opinions. I know there are books out
there, but I would like to hear from people who actually dealt
with this and what worked/didn't. How did your child(ren) react
to the news? When/how did you explain? etc. Thanks.
Kindergartners very familiar with the concept of ''helpers.''
You know, firefighters, nurses, etc. We casually mention,
whenever it can come up, that we had ''helpers'' in having our
babies. At age 5 (my twins are 6), they ''get'' that we went to
a special doctor and another woman helped us by letting us have
her eggs (the part of mommy's body that wasn't working right).
We just answer any questions that come up after that. If you
mention it every once in a while, it doesn't seem like such a
big deal. For example, I use a trip to the doctor as a topic-
starter (''this reminds me of when I went to a special doctor so
daddy and I could have babies''). It can also be a good way to
start talking about all the different kinds of families in the
world. Good luck, and try not to worry. I really believe that
the kids will be able to deal with this much more easily than
There are a lot of good resources about this online. I would
recommend the Telling and Talking Series. This series gives
advice for talking to kids at a variety of different ages. You
may want to read one age group for your son and another to get
ideas for your daughter. You can down load them for free from
the donor conception network.
from someone pregnant with a donor sperm conceived child
The time to tell your kids about nontraditional conception is
NOW. The fact that he doesn't understand is a huge help to you,
not a burden. My daughter was conceived via surrogacy and we've
just always talked about it. Think about it--when you know
nothing about how conception works, the thought of being borne
in another woman's belly is no weirder than being carried
inside your mom. Kids don't know what normal is, so they don't
know what weird is either. If I told my daughter from day one
that she had sprung full grown from my forehead, then that
would just be her reality and it wouldn't seem strange to her.
I urge you to MINIMIZE the hugeness of this. If you tell your
kids ''we need to have a big talk'' and then you build it up and
build it up, and take a huge sigh and clasp your husband's hand
nervously and then say ''kids, we're going to have chicken pot
pie for dinner on wednesday'' then they'll think that this is
some horrific event and react accordingly. So, you know, just
put the chicken pot pie on the table like it's dinner instead
of disaster. You love your kids, they love you; life is weird
so often that weird is normal; alternative reproduction is a
good and wonderful thing, and the fewer secrets the better.
If I were you, I would tell your son first, and then I bet he will tell his sister, and then
you can explain it to her. Tell him after his sister was born, you really wanted
another baby, but you waited and waited, and it didn't happen, so you went to a
special office where they keep eggs that can make a baby. You chose the egg, and
the people at the special office put it inside you so it could grow, just like all babies
grow in their mommies' tummies. Then, after waiting a long time, he was born.
Make it sound like a special, wonderful thing, and you wanted to wait til he was 5,
so he'd be smart enough to understand, when you told him. My guess is that he'll
be excited that you ''chose'' him (his egg), and he'll run and tell his sister. Then
she'll want to hear the story too.
A Berkeley mom of 3
PLEASE do not tell any child that he/she was conceived with egg
donation. There's plenty of time when these wonderful gifts
(your much-loved children) have grown to adulthood and are
beginning their own adult lives.
I saw both your question and responses today and I want to
concur with everyone but the last poster. Start talking to your
child about their conception before it means anything at all and
it will feel totally natural as a discussion by the time they
understand any of what you're saying. I have a son conceived by
both egg and sperm donation and it is all part of his birth
story. I even wrote a little book for him with pictures, and
ultrasound photos which we read now and again. I talked about
our helpers the first time when he was about a year and I throw
it in whenever it seems appropriate now, like when he saw his
ultrasound photos again the other day (he's 3 now). The poster
who said to keep it a secret should do a little reading on the
subject. I also would recommend the ''Telling and Talking''
inforamtion on the Donor Conception Network site online. I
found it very helpful. Good Luck and don't worry.
My husband & I have a beautiful little girl conceived with an
egg donor. We found our donor thru Diane Michaelson, and she
indicated on her ''resume'' to have little contact with the donor
family. Which my husband & I were fine with. We did email and
sent notes thru our doctor until the day our daughter was born.
Her decision was to not have any pictures or any more
correspondence after her birth. Our daughter does not look like
me or my family,so we know she'll start asking why she doesn't
look like me. We do want to tell her about how she was
conceived, but do we tell her the donors name, the children the
donor has, etc. Since we know this information and even have a
picture of the donor and her family, I feel this would be a big
secret and lie, if we did not tell her everything.Unfortunately,
we didn't discuss this with our donor and I want to respect her
feelings too. Should we try and get in contact with the donor
thru our doctor? What are other parents going to tell their
I feel very strongly that honesty is best. Your child has a
right to know her conception story. I would definately tell
her, as a nice bedtime story maybe to begin with, about your
wanting to have a baby and a doctor helped you. As she gets
older, she'll ask more specific questions, and you can answer
those with the minimum info. If she wants more, she'll rephrase
or ask a different way. I would also talk to the doctor and get
as much info as possible about the donor, even if just to store
it away for future use.
In my opinion, keeping secrets will not be worth the possible
pain and feeling of betrayal your child may feel once the truth
comes out. Also, if you keep it a secret, or act secretive
about it, rather than discuss it openly, she may feel t! hat it is
something to be ashamed of. How sad would that be. She is a
gift, and should be made to understand how wonderful today's
technology is, so that you could realize your dream of becoming
I have two kids (preteens now) conceived through donor
insemination. Would be happy to answer any more questions.
We used an egg donor; our twins are now eight. I talking about the nice
helped us get pregnant as soon as they started asking. I've explained
that we don't
actually know her, nor will we ever. I found it helpful to be matter of
fact, to answer
questions as they come up, and to be clear how deeply and profoundly
grateful I am
for the gift that this stranger gave us. At first, I felt somewhat
people told me that my gorgeous daughter ''looks just like you,'' but
I've come to
accept it and just feel flattered.
We have struggled with this question, too, although our child looks
enough like me not to attract any attention from outsiders in that
regard. Our child is kindergarten-age now. We have always wanted the
info of how we conceived to be something he/she has always known about,
but it's not a concept any child could grasp clearly even at this
despite loving the birth story. We have a book, ''Mommy Did I Grow in
Your Tummy?,'' and when we get to the part about ovum donation, we say,
''that's what mommy and daddy did'', but it's simply not an issue yet.
doubt that your child will have any question about why she doesn't look
like you until much later in her life, by which time she will know why
and most likely won't care (although when the teen-age years hit, all
bets are off). Our only concern with telling the chi! ld so openly at
an early age is that it will lead to others knowing, and we know from
experience that such ''news'' can lead to negative, hurtful react!
ions (leading to us being much less open about it with outsiders
ourselves), but it's too important to keep a secret; the child
absolutely has the right to know, even if by some accident he/she looks
just like Mom. We deal with the discretion issue separately (''some
things are private'') and of course will be honest if we are ever asked
to explain any offhand comments by the child to someone else. The best
advice I ever got about sharing the info with the child is, ''Tell the
story with a twinkle in your eye.'' The joy and love you have for your
child should not be marred by how you got her: it was just part of the
excitement. I'm not going to saddle my child with the angst I had to go
through in making the decision to go with a donor and dealing with
people's reacations. ! I have absolutely no regrets and couldn't have had
a child more ''mine'' if we shared DNA. We struggled with the
of the donor'' thing, too, and were advised by a therapist before our
child was born NOT to have pictures around or include the donor in a family
that sort of thing. At least at the early ages, children need to be
crystal clear on who Mommy is, and you are Mommy, period. Genetic
heritage is a separate question and should be dealt with as it comes up
later in life. We have no relationship with the donor, at her request,
and were bothered by that before the birth. Now we think it's exactly
right. We have enough info to help the child find her if that's
something he/she wants to do as an adult. At that point it will be
his/her story, not ours.
Signed: Yessir, that's my baby
Questions about Sperm Donation
i am having a baby in August whose father was a donor and
i am wondering how early i begin to explain this to her??
it is not something i plan to hide from her however i'm
just not certain about how early to tell her. my first
instance is the baby book, which i'm beginning to fill out
now - there is a space for info about mom and info about
dad and i'm not sure whether or not to include donor info
and a photo in the book... any suggestions would be
greatly appreciated! thanks!
We talked to our daughter about her donor father starting from the time she was
pre-verbal. We also had contact with her donor siblings (children conceived from
the same donor) beginning when she was an infant. It was very important to me
to normalize the process and the conversation so that it was part of her
awareness as early as possible and didn't feel like a secret. Her interest in him
and in her siblings has ebbed and flowed over time, but the story of her
conception is something she feels comfortable discussing with us and has only
ever been a more difficult issue when she went through a stage of wanting to
meet him, which she can't do until she's 18. I've always felt strongly that this was
the way we should handle this information and we've never regretted it. Feel free
to contact the moderator for my email address if you want to ask any other
Grateful to our donor!
As a mother of a donor child, here's my advice: No need to
explain it to her until she asks. Some day, around age 3,
she'll look around and see families that don't look like
hers, and she'll ask ,''Do I have a dad?'' And you'll say,
''No you don't, there are lots of different kinds of
families, some with a mom and dad, some with two moms, some
with two dads, some with one mom. We're a family with one
mom.'' No more need be said, all she asked was whether she
had a dad, so all you have to say is no.
Later on, maybe age 4 or 5, she'll ask, ''if I don't have a
dad, where'd I come from?'' And you'll say, ''I went to a
place that has seeds to make babies, it's called a sperm
bank, and got some seeds and put them inside me so I could
have a baby.'' Or something like that.
Her classmates or friends may say, that'a impossible, you
can't not have a dad, and you can tell her to tell them that
yes, you don't have to have a dad, and she doesn't.
The point is, there is no need to tell her more than she
needs to know or can handle, and no need to make a big deal
of it. It's a fact, not a condition.
We are a two-mom family with a donor child. We started
telling our son before he could speak. This enabled us to
get comfortable with the words we wanted to use and because
we wanted it to be something he has always known, part of
our family story. I don't want others to know more about him
than he knows about himself.
Here are some great resources:
truth is power
I'm a single mother by choice and had my son using artificial
insemination with an anonymous donor. My son is 15 months old
and I've been thinking a lot about how to refer to the donor and
how to explain how to my son how he got here, who his daddy is
(do I even call the donor his daddy?) etc. I am planning to be
open--I want him to have as much information as possible in a
developmentally appropriate way, as he needs and wants it. He
also has older cousins who will be ready for some information
before he is. I have ideas about what I'll do, but would welcome
other people's stories.
1. When did you first start talking about it with your children?
2. What did you say? At what ages did your children seem to be
ready for more info?
3. How do you refer to the donor to your child?
4. What other issues have come up for you in talking about this
with your child or with other kids or adults in your child's life?
Thanks--I'm sure there are many good ways to do this and that
it's different for each family. I appreciate your ideas.
Looking for other ideas
There is a great book by Anne Bernstein all about the daddy
question. She is a local Psychologist and family therapist. I
just saw her speak about this at a Choice Mom conference.
Another Choice Mom
First off, there is a great book called ''Mommies, Daddies, Donors and
by Diane Ehrensaft.
I, too, am a single mom by choice of a 14 month old. Here is what I have been told
and am planning on doing:
Tell your child your story NOW. Make a book or something explaining where they
came from. If you are comfortable with how you concieved, then your child will be
Never refer to the donor as a Daddy... What I have been told is that this can set
scenario that your child was unwanted by their biological father, which is untrue.
That book refers to donors as ''Birth Others'' or you can pick a similar
But pick something that is favorable and doesn't reduce men down to just DNA. You
can say something like ''Your Birth Other wanted to help Mommies like me.''
Tell your child what your family consists of: You, your child and your cat/dog''
explain that there are all types of families: Ones with two mommies, two daddies,
one grandparent, and one mommy - this is suppose to show that your family unit is
'normal'... and it is!
I also wanted you to know that you are not alone here. There are SMC groups that
meet in the bay area. You can find them on yahoo groups - SMC_SF and one in
Silicon Valley. There is a Single Mom group in the East Bay too.
I hope that helps.
This American Life had a segment about this in the last few weeks, author
women who were using sperm donors, what they would tell there child was covered.
Here is the link, you can listen on line or pay for a download. I think it is the
best of luck
I heard a great radio program on a Washington DC area NPR station
on this subject a week or two ago. If you poke around online you
should be able to download it I think...
I too am a single mom by anonymous sperm. I waited for my son
to bring it up, I didn't sit him down one day and explain about
sperm banks. The first time it came up he was about 2 and a
half, we had been to a train museum where there were lots of
dads, when we got home he said, ''Do I have a dad?'' My heart
skipped a beat, I gathered my wits (I had not prepared ahead of
time) and I said, ''No, honey. There are lots of different
kinds of families, some with moms and dads, some with two moms,
some with one mom. We're the kind with one mom.'' I am a
member of BASMC, Bay Area Single Moms by Choice, it helped a
lot that we had friends with families that looked like ours.
As time went on, I explained more and more about sperm, that
they are the seeds that make babies, that a nice man gave some
of his seeds to a bank and I went there to get them. My son is
completely comfortable with this, and we are good friends with
the family of one of his nine half-siblings. In fact, we are
just about to meet another half-sibling's family who found us
on the Donor Sibling Registry on Yahoo Groups -
My situation is this: I am a Birth Mom in a two Mom family of a
daughter conceived using donor sperm from the Sperm Bank of
California. My daughter has a donor with a different ethnic
background from me and who is willing to be known to her when
she is 18.
So this is how we did it. When my daughter was about 2 she began
asking why her Dad didn't live with us. I explained that he was
a man who was not ready to be a Dad (his profile stated so), but
that he wanted to help people who were ready to be parents. I
explained that we read his profile and he seemed kind, generous
and smart and we selected him because of those traits and we
knew that he would want to meet her some day (also in his
When our daughter was 5 the donor thing was REALLY big. Where
was he born? (Brazil) Why did he want to help people make
babies? Why wasn't he ready to be a father? We answered the best
we could and dragged out the ''long profile'' and read what he
wrote to perspective families about how important it was to love
your child and give them wings to learn, grow and fly. (We read
it over and over and over.)
We refer to the donor as a donor.
We have also taken the time to answer all sorts of questions
about our daughter's conception, how we chose the donor, why we
chose someone who was willing to be known to her, how she looks
similar to me, but has features that are not similar, and how it
feels to know there are 14 other children out there with the
same donor to my daughter as well as family, friends,
acquaintances, classmates, parents of classmates. If they asked;
Our daughter is 8 and has not asked about the donor in a year or
so. When she recently worked on a geography lesson about her
ancestry she chose the countries from both Moms, not the donor.
Openness and honesty - answer questions from those who ask -
explain matter of factly or with enthusiasm; hearing you speak
in a positive manner about the donor and how you chose him will
help your child fee good about your choices and himself.
Thanking the Donor Daily
As someone who worked at a sperm bank, please let me urge you to NOT refer to the
sperm donor as your child's father. The donors are simply providing their
nothing more. Sure, they may general well wishes for any family who uses their
specimens, but that is where it ends. Please do not set your child up to imagine
relationship that does not exist.
Our son too was conceived using an anonymous donor, and, when the time comes, we
will explain to him that there are these wonderful men that help people like us
children. And that we should be thankful for their gift. Period.
You received a lot of good advice already. I will just add a
couple of things. 1st it is never too early to start talking
to your child about this topic. Talking to you child early
(even if just practicing while speaking to your sleeping child)
will help you become comfotable with the story as you want to
tell it and decide what language you want to use. (For example,
if you hear it out loud ''You don't have a daddy'' or ''Your daddy
isn't around'' sound smuch different from ''Mommy really wanted a
baby and a donor helped me'' or ''Yes, your friend Jane's family
has a mommy and a daddy. Our family has a mommmy and
grandparents.'' And it will prevent your kid from hearing it
from someone else in a way you might not like.
This link from The Sperm Bank of California has a lot of
excellent resources on this topic including books for kids and
books for adults.
choice mom with known donor
My husband had already had a vasectomy when I met him. A reversal
was too expensive and impractical, so when we decided to have a child,
we opted for a sperm donor. We now have a 3-year-old son. We want
to be upfront about his origins, without making him feel insecure or
So far, he hasn't asked many questions of the ''how did I get here''
variety, but we want to be prepared for it when he does.
Any ideas from parents in a similar situation on what to tell kids?
My five year old son was conceived via alternative insemmination
using donor semen. I started talking to him about conception last
year and this year am starting to tell him about the difference
between daddies who make you and daddies who raise you. That was
the easiest way for me to explain it to him.
I can't tell how much he understands but at least I have sketched
out the basic concept for him.
I would suggest that you offer little tidbits of information
initially and give more details in each subsequent conversation.
Be prepared to repeat yourself (your child may not understand it
the first time) and let him know you really want him to come to
your with questions.
He will appreciate hearing from you first before he learns about
conception in a sex ed class or, God forbid, from a TV show or
one of his friends. Many of the sex ed curriculums are
out-of-date and don't cover conception via IVF or AA using sperm
or egg donation.
--East Bay Mom
you are not alone, there are many lesbian couples who have
unknown sperm donors for their children. we are about to have
our first that way. I would call Maia Midwifery in Berkeley and
ask them for books or support groups that are dealing with this
issue. We know lots of people who have dealt with this issue in
wonderful and loving ways.
I am a single parent of a 9 month old son who was conceived by
anonymous sperm donation. My son is obviously fairly far away
from having conversations about this, but I've been thinking on
and off about how I will explain to him why there's not a daddy
in our house. I plan to answer his questions as they come up, in
as truthful and simple way as possible. I don't want to
overwhelm him with info at any point, but also as he's ready for
it, I want him to understand the special way that I got him, and
to talk about his family which consists of me, our pets, his
grandparents, his aunt and uncle, cousin, etc... I'm comfortable
with the idea that there are all types of families and that ours
looks different than some others, but is special and important.
I'm curious to hear about the experiences of other people in the
same situation. My hope is that if my son feels well loved and
has a rich and involved extended family and friends that he won't
preceive the absence of a father as something to be sad about.
But I also know that he'll see other children with fathers and
will see fathers in stories and other places, so he could feel
sad about not having one too. If you are in a similar
life-situation, I'd love to hear what kinds of questions your
children had and how they processed and accepted your answers and
your family constellation.
Happy single mother
I am the single parent of a seven-year-old child who was conceived by known donor
insemination. Although my situation is somewhat different than yours, since there
is a known and involved father, there are of course parallels in our situation. I
always been very straightforward about our situation, answering my son's questions
fully as they came up. My son has always been a very verbally astute person, so
questions - the very direct and specific questions- have been asked and answered
in as straightforward a manner as possible. This seemed to work very well for us.
One of the surpirising - and difficult - things about our situation is that my son
definitely experienced his share of grieving over the fact that his father and I
a traditional family. I thought, naively, that because my son would never
us all living together and would never feel any lasting ''break up tension''
his father and I, that my son would simply accept our family situation as his
But in fact from about the age of three - or earlier - he began to express some of
his sadness that he could not have both of his parents all the time. In
this seems obvious, and perhaps you should expect some such grieving and just
support your child through it.
Congratulations on your very wanted and hard worked for family. I hope you remain
as happy and contented as I and my other single parent by choice friends are
My child was conceived the same way. I handled it the way you
are planning to. I told her she was a sperm bank baby, and that
there was a nice man out there some where who had decided to help
people get their babies. It worked fine. It sounds like you will
take your cues from your son, which is what I did. BUT your child
may still be sad that he has no dad. I felt sad about it too and
didn't feel like pretending that wasn't the case to my daughter.
I always acknowledged it when she brought it up. But our
situation is an opportunity to teach my child that ''you get what
you get'' and and that she and I got a lot. I always make a point
of of appreciating everything we do have and how lucky we are and
how much we have. Not to talk her out of missing a dad, but to
make her see the glass nearly full as opposed to partially empty.
There will alos be embarassing moments. The hairdresser asked my
daughter if her hair was like her daddy's. Innocent question.
My daughter said '' I don't have a dad.'' Also the neighbor child
who had an excellent understanding of biology and insisted that
it wasn't biologically possible to not have a father. One more
thing--I was very private about my daughter's conception becasue
I wanted her to be able to be private about it if that is what
suited her. She is nearly a teen now and it is not an
embarassing issue for her--she is matter of fact about it. I
would be ahppy to talk to you more about it, but I am going to be
anonymous on this posting. Perhaps you can leave an email
address if you want to link up.
Our situation is not exactly yours (two lesbian moms), but I
highly recommend a book called Flight of the Stork: What
Children Think (And When) About Sex and Family Building by Anne
C. Bernstein. Very clear information about developmental stages
and understandings; lots of examples related to all kinds of
Best of luck.
While my situation is different in that I do have a partner, our
son was conceived via insemination with sperm from a donor. We
chose a donor willing to be looked up by our son when he is 18.
We have been upfront with our son since he was very little,
noting that there are MANY different kinds of families: some have
a mom and no dad,or vice versa, some have both, some have two
moms or two dads - and some even have more than 2 parents! It is
important to us that he knows and sees lots of different kinds of
families and doesn't get the message that only a family with a
mom and dad is the right kind of family.
We also have been up front with him about how babies are made.
We told him that it takes and egg from a woman and sperm from a
man to make a baby. There are many different ways that the sperm
and egg can meet, including insemination (and turkey baster
method!), IVF and sex. He knows he has a donor because his two
moms couldn't make a baby without some sperm. He knows his donor
donated sperm so that women who don't have a man in their lives
(or whose partner doesn't have sperm)can have a baby.
A couple of years ago, he is now almost 10, he asked when he
would get sperm! I had to check on this, and when I told him
when he was a pre-teen/teenager, he said that he wanted to give
his sperm to a woman who didn't have a man in her life so that
she could have a baby. He listed the ways he could do that:
donate to a sperm bank, put it in a jar and give it to her, or
have sex with her. He is more keen on the first two ways!
He is very comfortable with all of this, and has many friends
with various family configurations. He has expressed interest in
finding his donor when he is 18, but it isn't really a big thing.
He knows he is loved and he knows that families are different.
On the other hand, my partner had no father to speak of (her mom
was unwed and the ''donor'' was in the navy. He bailed.) She kept
asking her mom who her daddy was, and her mom felt pressure to
find her a daddy instead of letting her know that their family
was whole without one. Her mom ended up marrying a guy who
molested my partner..and who wants a dad like that?
Be as truthful as you can in age appropriate ways.
Hi - I just want to say that everything you are doing and thinking sounds great to
me. Your son is lucky to have such a loving family. My experience is that I grew
with a single mom and my ''1/2 sister'' (who was always just my sister to all of
All three of us even had different last names! This was unusual at the time, but
mom never talked about it a lot or made a big deal about it. It was just the way
things were. We were also lucky enough to have the two best grandparents in the
world living a few blocks away - they helped raise my sister and I. I never once
missed having a father around. In fact, my father did come around from time to
time and I was totally uncomfortable with him because he wasn't my 'family'. My
sister felt sorry for me because she was happy she never had to deal with
visits from her dad. Our mom was not the most loving or supportive mom around,
but we were still a close family and having our grandparents around was an amazing
gift. I think your son is very lucky and if you explain things to him as you've
described and you have good relationship with your current family, he'll feel
surrounded with love and have nothing to worry about
- still love my family and never once have missed dad
I am a single mom also. I adopted my now 6 year old daughter.
The question about a father comes up regularly for my daughter.
Like you, I have been commited to talking with her openly about
the ''no father'' dimension of our family. She has always had her
own take on the matter. When she was three or so she would tell
me that a family friend was her father and wouldn't accept any
other discussion. Now at six she wants more information and
explanation about why she doesn't have one and others do but she
seems to accept the normalcy of our family. She has friends
with different kinds of parental configurations and we often
compare and sort through these configurations: these friends
have moms and dads, those have moms, others have two moms, some
have moms and special friends, another has an attentive uncle.
She doesn't seem sad about the arrangement but she is not
typically a ''sad'' kid. Another child who deals with more
sadness temperamentally might respond differently to this issue
over the years. It just is what our family looks like and
families are just great in the eyes of their children. I have
more trouble answering when her school friends want to
know ''why'' she doesn't have a dad...because she just doesn't. I
don't have the same shared foundation for the conversation with
them so their reactions require more candor or creativity on my
part. You will be talking about it through the years so you
will get to know all the issues on this topic as you go along.
Congratulations and good luck. Get extra sleep.
another single mom
I adopted my son on my own, so no father in our family either.
He is almost 4 years old now, and I tell him that our family
doesn't have a daddy, and then we talk about the other families
we know with two mommies, two daddies, one mommy, a mom and dad,
etc. We have had these talks from time to time since he was
probably around 1 year old. I didn't want to wait until he
asked specifically about it because I wanted to normalize it.
He hasn't expressed sadness (yet) about not having a father in
our family, but he went through a period where he said that his
daddy went to work every day. I figured that since the other
kid's dads in his day care all went to work, it made sense to
him that his did too. I usually went along with it, and
sometimes would again mention that there are all different kinds
of families. Again, to say the words and not focus on it too
much. I know that the time will come when he is sad about it,
but I try to take it as it comes. On another note, he
absolutely loves to play with the dads we know and sometimes
even calls them ''daddy''. There are lots of good children's
books about different families. Two we like right now
are ''Tango'' (a true story about two male penguins at the NYC zoo
who adopt and raise a baby penguin)and ''The Greatest Single Mom
in the World''.
a no-daddy family
I'm sure you'll get lots of wonderful advice from all the
incredible single moms in our community. I just wanted to point
out one phrase that caught my eye in your post: ''My hope is that
if my son feels well loved and has a rich and involved extended
family and friends that he won't preceive the absence of a father
as something to be sad about.'' I just hope you leave him some
space to feel sad about this if he wants/needs to. As a boy,
particularly, he may feel some sadness at not having a father,
which won't mean at all that he isn't happy in his life with you.
I think it is important gift you can give to him to ''give him
permission'' to feel and express some sadness about his father's
absence (as opposed to subtly communicating the message that such
expressions would hurt your feelings or be perceived as
ingratitude). This is a way you can help him grow to be an
emotionally mature and articulate adult.
There was a recent review in Parents Press about a book called: Mommies, Daddies,
Donors, Surrogates: Answering Tough Questions and Building Strong Families by
Diane Ehrensaft, PhD.
Questions about IVF
While I am still in the very, very cautious stage here at 19 weeks of pregnancy from
a frozen embryo transfer (I think; more on that in a second), today I thought I'd start
a journal about this journey. I had designed a page with the month of the transfer
and the day pinpointed with an arrow - the actual day had a bullseye (this goes back
to the doctor saying ''bullseye!'' when he put the embryos in me). I went to show my
husband what I'd done and he said something like, ''Do we tell the child about this?
How much do we tell? I mean, we're not even sure that it was the IVF that 'worked.'''
Well, fair enough. There is a CHANCE that this pregnancy happened naturally since
the doctors encourage you to try nature's way right around the same time as the
transfer to boost your chances. But my thoughts are, it's likely that it happened
through IVF. We didn't have success for 4 years before IVF (''diagnosed'' with the very
non-diagnostic ''unspecified infertility,'' for both of us).
In general, I don't think we should keep secrets. We as a couple have had enough
questions about the fertility on his side of the family this whole time (why did his
great aunt not have kids? why did his aunt not have kids? why were the children in
his family spaced so far apart -5 years each kid -when the parents weren't trying to
space them apart that far? only because i'm in communication with his brother's
wife do I know that THEY had fertility troubles and IVF didn't work when trying for a
Anyway, I feel it's certainly healthy to (eventually) tell a child some of this, and not
obfuscate the truth, if only so he/she knows a bit of our medical history for his/her
knowledge down the road.
So I guess the question is twofold: Is starting a journal with the ''bullseye'' a bad
idea, since we're not 100 percent SURE that that was the date? Should I just ''start
the story'' with the first 7 week ultrasound we have? This is, by the way, more a
journal for me, or me and my husband, at this point, and only for the child much
later. All I know is that for ME, my journey started on that bullseye date. All the
doctrors appts started then, all the worry, all the scheduling of tests...that was dday
as far as I'm concerned. I had also planned to specify in the journal that it was
PROBABLY a frozen embryo transfer that did the trick...and allude to the other
possibility - as I do when I tell close friends about ''what finally worked.''
And secondly: How much do you tell a child about IVF, when should you, or should
you at all? I looked in the archives and all I could find was advice on telling a child
about egg donation.
Sign me as,
--Cautious, yet wanting to put things down now, in writing, so I don't forget
For adoption ''lifebooks'' I read a recommendation that you start with
child or arriving in the country, and not focus that much on previous
parents' adoption journey. (I am hopefully nearing the end of an adoption
that has been quite long). So, I guess you have to decide if it's a sort
of diary for
you, or a lifebook for your child. As oral stories, my bio son has been
with just going back to ultrasounds and how wiggly he was in utero. It's
are keeping a record.
I think it's wonderful that you are keeping an online journal
about your experience whether it came directly from the IVF
transfer or not. Why stress about it? A lot of times people
feel peculiar telling their children about their IVF experience
because of egg donation or sperm donation (or in my case both of
those) but you have the easy route. Your child is all yours
genetically and just had a little help getting where he/she
needed to be to grow. I talk to my son about how the doctor's
helped me to become a mommy whenever he expresses interest.
Until much later children are usually more interested in just
having been in your belly than how they got there. Enjoy it
either way, it's all worth it in the end.
Happy IVF mom
I'm confused that you think you may have become
pregnant 'naturally' while undergoing IVF treatment. With IVF,
your ovulation is completely controlled and eggs are retrieved
from your ovaries, embryos develop, and then one/some/many are
placed back in your uterus. When I had IVF, we were never told
to 'try' since there were no eggs sitting around waiting to be
fertilized. I could misunderstand the process, but if you
became pregnant shortly after an IVF treatment, you got
pregnant through IVF.
That said, IVF has been around for a generation now, so I think
you can tell your child as much as s/he is ready for when s/he
is ready. It's not unusual to have gotten pregnant through IVF,
Been there too
OK, now, I don't mean to be unsupportive here but ... this is not
a joke, do I have it right?
IVF is no longer a big deal. Nobody talks about it, nobody
cares. People are doing the WIERDEST things to get children
nowadays that IVF is practically up there with the missionary
position - honest.
Besides, as you say, you don't know.
It's going to be a really long time before you are telling your
kid-to-be about the birds and bees. Don't sweat it.
Did you hear the one about the celebrity woman who used a donor
egg that she inseminated with her brother's sperm so that her
daughter would be a blood relative?
barnacled vet of the infertility wars
Oh come on.... There is no single right answer in parenting.
And thank goodness... The choices we make as parents should
reflect our individual values... and therefore pass on those
values to our children. So, really, only you can answer your
And clearly this is an important issue to you. However, for
perspective... if I were you... I don't think I would want to
make the method of conception such an important defining
element of my child's life.
Congratulations! Go with your instinct that your child was
conceived on your 'bullseye' date - I think you would know
better than anyone since it is your body! Plus after 4 years of
trying with no success (sorry, I know how that feels - I went
through it, too) I think it would be highly coincidental that
you just happened to conceive 'naturally' right around the time
you had IVF. Right now those details are so important to you,
but once your baby is born, you'll probably find it doesn't
matter so much. But since you are journalling now, which is a
beautiful ides, I say start with the bullseye date! You are the
one making the journal. It is when the journey started for you
so I think that is what is most important. Your husband is not
the one taking the time and thought to put together such a
I never was able to get pregnant, even with IVF but am SO proud
and happy to say that I am a mom via surrogacy - so that means,
we had a traditional surrogate - her egg and my husband's
sperm. Our beautiful son is already 3 years old and ever since
before he was born I have wondered about what to tell him and
when. We feel the way that you do - that we want him to know
the truth, whenever it is appropriate and he is able to
understand. His story is a little more complicated than yours
(I assume your child is biologically related to you and your
husband). I found a good book called Mommys, Daddies, Donors
and Surrogates that talks about the issues of raising a child
conceived via egg/sperm donation, IVF, and surrogacy. I've read
every article I can find online and so far it seems there is
just no hard and fast rule to tell or not, and when or what to
tell. When you get to that point you will feel when the time is
right and what to say. I found a great website for some
children's books that tell the story of the how the baby came
to be (those conceived through assisted reproduction). It's
called X, Y and Me. I bought the one about surrogacy and it is
so cute yet I have still hesitated to read it with my son yet.
There are a lot of opinions, options, resources, but
unfortunately no one right way to approach this.
It has to be what feels right for you and your child when the
What I would encourage you to do for now, is focus on the fact
that you are about to have a baby, regardless of when the
conception date was or the fact that the baby was conceived via
IVF. The fact is, it's a joyous time and such a blessing
however and whenever it worked. You will have plenty of time
later to think about what to tell the child and when. Just
focus on the fact that - hurray! after all these years of
trying, you are finally pregnant! Enjoy every precious moment!
Our children were conceived through IVF after we discovered that
my husband was infertile. At the time, he was very distressed
about it and did not want to announce it to the world, although
he agreed that the children needed to know as they got older.
(It didn't seem to make much sense to tell a 2 year old who
couldn't grasp the concept.) Now our oldest is 10 and youngest
is 4 and we feel like we need to talk to at least our oldest.
One issue I have is the prospect of telling the oldest, who
clearly can understand more about the issue, and not telling the
middle and younger. We don't intend to present this as some
family secret we've been hiding, but rather an issue that that
our oldest can understand now that he is at a certain age. But
do we tell our other children at an age we didn't think it was
timely to tell our oldest? Or do we just choose 10 as a the
magic age and tell them in a stair-stepped fashion?
One benefit of the situation is that my husband was raised by a
man who was not his biological father and has a very close
relationship with his father, the man who raised him (he never
knew his biological father who died when he was a baby).
Has anyone else had this experience? I'd love to have some
feedback and advice on how to approach this with our children.
Sign me: Need some guidance
I''m curious to read the advise you get. One thing we have done
(my children are 6 &4)so far is just to let the kids know we had
helpers. They were at different times very interested and they
know the doctor and the office staff who did the IVF. Our
conversations aren't that deep, we just wanted to start the
dialog early so it wouldn't be shocking later. Best of luck to
you and the rest of us!
just my thoughts
Hi! Of what benefit is it for your child to know now? I think
you're opening yourself up for all sorts of problems if you
discuss this now. Your husband is the father and talking about
IVF is just not necessary and undermines his relationship with
the child(ren). And, because you have younger children, don't
kid yourself into thinking that the older one won't eventually
distort the information and use it against the younger ones and
tell them that they are adopted or not wanted or a scientific
freaky creation, etc. Kids do that all the time when they're
mad at their siblings. It will happen to you too!
But, the really important question to answer before you do
anything is ''what is the benefit to my kid to know?''
I say wait until they are all adults.
Evaluate the point
I know your story is a bit different, but here's ours, for what it's worth.
We have two
IVF kids (ages 8 and 5) because of my husband's spinal cord injury. There
discomfort in our family about their status, perhaps because it was the
only way to
have them in the first place. The pictures of them as 4 and 8 celled
embryos are in
the photo album along with the rest of the baby pictures. Although
knows the whole story of how ''regular'' people have babies, we have told
you need a sperm from a man and an egg from a woman and because of their
father's injury, we needed help from doctors to make that happen.
In your situation, I could imagine telling all of your kids, but tailoring
the extent of
the explanation to what's appropriate for their ages. I think if you tell
oldest child, he might feel burdened by the knowledge and feel like it's
secret. Your younger children might end up hurt that they didn't find out
My two kids (7 and 5) are IVF kids (twins, in fact). We started telling
them about it
when they were really small - two-ish. Not so much of a ''sit down, there's
something you need to know,'' but as soon as the where-do-babies-come-from
questions began (yes - they were asking at 2). We explained about the
the egg and how for most people they meet inside the mom's body, but for
people, like us, they were mixed in a little dish in a laboratory and the
put back in. They don't seem to have any problem with these explanations.
also don't have any problems with their sort-of-brother - the son of
friends who we
gave extra embryos to, and who looks just like our kids.)
I think any opportunity presented by their own questions is a good time to
Good luck. (And congratulations on having family!)
I think you should tell the 10 year old but don't make any attempt to hide
the younger ones. That way it will be out their vaguely in their
you might not have to really explain it all in one day to the 2 younger
obviously goes well with the regular birds and bees talk...the sperm meets
in many ways, these days!
I don't know why you feel the need to tell a young child
everything about the pregnancy. If the egg and sperm are that
of the parenting parents, then why bother? Will you tell them
about your epidural? Sit them down about the amount of time in
labor? Having said that, when they are teenagers or older I DO
think you might need to tell them, because the infertility may
I was unsure from your post if you did IVF with your husband's
sperm or with donor sperm. If it was with your husbands sperm,
it is no big deal - so many women around here get pregnant with
assistance from medications, IUI, IVF. If your kids ever ask,
tell them, but I don't see any reason to bring it up. If it was
with donor sperm, I do believe you should tell your kids.
There's no time like the present! Again, there are lots of kids
in this area who were created via donor sperm or donor eggs.
But I think your kids have the right to know about that -- the
earlier the better. There are some children's books that might
be a good way to bring up the subject. There is a list of books
on the Sperm Bank of California's website
http://www.thespermbankofca.org/resources/recoreading.html#children, or you can do a Google search.
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