Probably the number one thing that has been on my mind since I embarked on my surrogacy journey has been how to tell my kids about it. My kids are at an age where they understand more than people give them credit for, but may not have the emotional maturity to fully comprehend the nuances of such a delicate situation.
The last time I was pregnant, my son was very young. He was only 19 months old when his sister was born. At the time, I don't think he even noticed that my belly was getting bigger. He just knew that one day he didn't have a sister and the next day, he did. Still, we talk about now how he and his sister used to live inside my belly. We look at pictures. He asks questions. I do my best to answer his questions. My daughter is only two now and although I have told her she used to live inside my belly, she doesn't really get it.
Now my belly will be growing once again, except this time we aren't adding to our family. This baby will go to live with her parents once she is born. My kids absolutely adore babies and I worry sometimes that they'll be sad that they won't get to keep her.
I decided a long time ago that I was going to be completely honest and upfront about everything regarding this surrogacy. I don't want to confuse my kids with cutesy stories or comparisons. I want them to know exactly what is going on so that they can set their expectations accordingly. I believe that being honest with kids is the best way, it's just about making sure that the way you explain everything is age-appropriate and contextualized for their understanding.
Children tend to follow the lead of their parents. I know that if I'm positive and upbeat about the whole experience, then they will be too.
I started the conversation before I became pregnant. My son and I started talking about where babies come from and I explained to him that some women want to be mommies but their tummies don't work. I told him that other mommies help by carrying the baby in their tummies and after the baby is born, the mommy whose tummy wasn't working gets to keep the baby. I asked him what he thought about it and he said it was nice. He didn't seem weirded out or put off by the idea.
A few days later I downloaded a book on the iPad called "The Kangaroo Pouch." This is a children's book that explains the concept of surrogacy. The whole process is told through the eyes of a cute little kangaroo whose mother is using her pouch to carry a baby for another kangaroo. Liam seemed to enjoy the story and again, found the whole idea of surrogacy to be very nice.
Finally, the day came when I plainly told him that mommy has a baby in her belly. I explained who the baby belongs to and that I am simply helping this family. I showed him a picture of the ultrasound and he seemed in awe. He ran up to his little sister showing him the baby in mommy's belly. Her response was, "Wowww, so cool."
Children tend to follow the lead of their parents. I know that if I'm positive and upbeat about the whole experience, then they will be too. If I'm nervous and unsure (which I'm not in any way) they'll be nervous and unsure. The best thing to do is tell them exactly what's going on and talk about what a wonderful journey we will have. I also want to reassure them that nothing will change for them. I'm still their mom and I'm not going anywhere. I may be a little tired or worn out on some days, but that's OK. Thankfully they have a great dad that steps up to the plate and does more than his fair share to pick up any slack.
And who knows? Maybe at the end of this journey we'll bring home a new little puppy for them.