by Julie Marie, a parent through egg donation who is passionate about helping you in sharing your family building story
Families are built many different ways. 1 in 8 families are like mine and deal with infertility. Infertility affects men and women equally; in fact, 25% of infertile couples have more than one factor that contributes to their infertility. Many families rely on assisted reproductive technologies such as IUI (intrauterine insemination) or IVF (in vitro fertilization). For some individuals or couples, the path to parenthood may include third-party reproduction. Third-party reproduction may include surrogacy and/or the use of eggs, sperm, or embryos donated by a third person (donor). This enables an individual or couple (intended recipient) to become parents.
Other families are built through adoption, foster-care, or kinship care. Still others are blended families, with children coming from previous relationships.
Sharing your family building story
No matter how you built your family, many parents want to share elements of the journey with their child(ren). Sharing your family building story lets your child know just how much you love them, and how much you wished for and wanted them.
For example, when speaking with a young child conceived with the help of IUI or IVF, parents may share something along these lines, “We have a lot of love in our hearts and wanted a baby very much to share our love with. We tried and tried, but it wasn’t easy for your parents to have a baby. Finally, with the help of special medicine and a doctor, our wish came true and we were able to have you. We are so grateful and we love you so much.”
My book Happy Together, an IVF Story specifically helps you share about IVF with your little one(s).
Sharing your third-party family building story
It’s important that you and your partner are in total agreement on what you plan to share with your child about your family building story. My husband and I are parents through egg donation. We both agreed to share our family building story with our child early and often. The American Society for Reproductive Medicine also strongly encourages disclosure to donor conceived individuals.
Many parents have fear and uncertainty around how to share their third-party family building story with their child. In particular, feelings of unresolved infertility grief of the non-genetic parent may need additional healing related work. A reproductive therapist can be instrumental here. They can support you through processing the loss of your genetics and learning to overcome your fears. Then you can confidently talk with your child about their conception.
If you can, begin talking with your child about how you built your family as early as possible. When doing so, your child will always remember knowing their special story. This means there will never be a big moment when they “found out” about their conception. If possible, begin to share information with your child as an infant. This gives you the opportunity to practice becoming more comfortable and confident sharing. This will help you when the time comes that your child can understand the meaning of what you’re sharing.
Using children’s storybooks to share your story
Children’s storybooks with age appropriate language are a wonderful way for parents to begin sharing the special family building story with their child.
For example, at a young age, you may tell your child, “To make a baby, it takes an egg from a female and a seed from a male. Mommy’s eggs weren’t working so we needed the help of a special lady called a donor who gave us the egg that was needed to have you. We are so grateful and love you so much.”
In order to help parents share their third party family building story, I wrote Happy Together, a two-mom sperm donation story, an egg donation story, and a sperm donation story. You certainly don’t need these books to be able to tell your story. It can be helpful, however, to give you language for talking about and normalizing your child’s conception. There are so many other great books available that can help you to open the conversation, no matter how your family came to be!
More books to help you share
- You Were Made for Me: Board book that is general enough to address all forms of zygote donation.
- Wish: A general book focusing on the long wait that families often have to endure until a baby joins their family.
- Families Come in Many Forms: Virtually every family is represented including single parent, multicultural, divorced, adopted, foster children, same-sex, IVF, and surrogate pregnancies. The focus is on the love that each family has.
- Familes Change: A Book for Children Experiencing Termination of Parental Rights: A book that helps kids understand that they can remember and value their birth family and love their new family, too.
- That’s Why She’s My Mama: This book can work well for interracial families, blended families, single mothers, grandmothers parenting children, or adoptive/foster families.
- Frankie and Friends Talk Adoption: Frankie warmly validates what an adopted child may be feeling and that they are all okay!
- Love Makes a Family: A board book including all kinds of different families.
- Growing Grace: This book shares about adoption from the often-forgotten perspective of a birth mother.
As time goes on, the conversation and age appropriate language will evolve. You can choose to include more detailed information so that your child continues to understand their story. As parents, we all want what’s best for our child. Our journeys to build our family take many different paths. Every family is special with an abundance of love to celebrate and cherish.
After being diagnosed with diminished ovarian reserve and going through her own infertility journey, Julie Marie became a mother through the gift of donor assisted reproduction. You can read more of her story on Infertility Out Loud. She has since become an infertility advocate and written Happy Together. This collection of family building stories helps parents share their love and how much they wished for their child.