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Talking to Kids about IVF and Donors

Berkeley Parents Network > Advice > Parenting, Families, & the Community > Talking to Kids about IVF and Donors


Questions about Egg Donation Questions about Sperm Donation Questions about IVF Related Pages

Questions about Egg Donation


Is now a good time to tell son about egg donor?

Nov 2009

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 recommendations? Thanks! Anon


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. Good luck. 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: http://www.donor-conception-network.org/telltalkpubs.htm

And a quick search I did on Amazon found lots of books for kids.

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. Good luck! -- very happy DE mom-to-be


When/how to tell 5-year-old about egg donation

March 2007

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. Anonymous


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 we fear. Debbie
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. http://www.donor-conception-network.org/tellandtalk.htm 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. anonymous
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. Leslie

How much should we tell her about donor who wants no contact?

Feb 2004

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 children? anon


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 parents.

I have two kids (preteens now) conceived through donor insemination. Would be happy to answer any more questions. mjc


We used an egg donor; our twins are now eight. I talking about the nice woman who 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 fradulent when people told me that my gorgeous daughter ''looks just like you,'' but I've come to accept it and just feel flattered. anon
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 point, 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. I 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 such 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 ''pictures 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 tree, 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


When to tell child she has donor dad

April 2012

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 questions. 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. Jane


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:
http://www.thespermbankofca.org/content/discussing-donor-conception-your-child-0
http://www.madelinefeingoldphd.com/
http://www.donor-conception-network.org/
http://www.choicemoms.org
http://www.colage.org/resources/for-lgbtq-parents/donor-insemination-guide/
truth is power

When did you tell your child about anonymous donor?

May 2007

Hello, 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 Surrogates'' 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 comfortable. Never refer to the donor as a Daddy... What I have been told is that this can set up a 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 description. 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'' and 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. anon


This American Life had a segment about this in the last few weeks, author interviewing 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 third story... http://www.thisamericanlife.com/Radio_Episode.aspx?sched=1184 best of luck beadgirl
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... jb
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 - www.DonorSiblingRegistry.com. Single Mom
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 profile).

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; we answered.

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 specimens - 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 some 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 have children. And that we should be thankful for their gift. Period. Anon
Hello, 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.

http://www.thespermbankofca.org/resources/recoreading.html

Good luck! choice mom with known donor


What to tell 3-year-old about sperm donor

Nov 2002

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 incomplete. 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? Anon


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. Good luck. ruthy

Talking to child about no father (sperm donor)

Nov 2006

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.

Thank you! 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 have 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 the 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 has definitely experienced his share of grieving over the fact that his father and I are not a traditional family. I thought, naively, that because my son would never exprience us all living together and would never feel any lasting ''break up tension'' between his father and I, that my son would simply accept our family situation as his norm. 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 retrospect, 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 Anonymous
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. anon.
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 family situations. 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. anonymous


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 up with a single mom and my ''1/2 sister'' (who was always just my sister to all of us). All three of us even had different last names! This was unusual at the time, but my 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 obligatory 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 already 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. jen

Questions about IVF


How much do you tell your child about IVF?

May 2007

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 2nd child). 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 meeting the child or arriving in the country, and not focus that much on previous infertility or parents' adoption journey. (I am hopefully nearing the end of an adoption process 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 pretty happy with just going back to ultrasounds and how wiggly he was in utero. It's nice you are keeping a record. anonymous
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, especially here. 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 own question.

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. CKCCKC


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 journal.

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 time comes.

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! Best wishes!


Tell 10-y-o about IVF? What about younger sibs?

April 2006

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.

Good luck! 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 is no 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 neither child knows the whole story of how ''regular'' people have babies, we have told them that 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 only your oldest child, he might feel burdened by the knowledge and feel like it's keeping a secret. Your younger children might end up hurt that they didn't find out until later. Lucy


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 sperms and the egg and how for most people they meet inside the mom's body, but for some people, like us, they were mixed in a little dish in a laboratory and the embryos were put back in. They don't seem to have any problem with these explanations. (They 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 tell them. Good luck. (And congratulations on having family!) science-project mom


I think you should tell the 10 year old but don't make any attempt to hide it from the younger ones. That way it will be out their vaguely in their consciousness and you might not have to really explain it all in one day to the 2 younger ones. It obviously goes well with the regular birds and bees talk...the sperm meets the eggs in many ways, these days! Good luck!
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 be hereditary. Anon
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. anonymous
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