When you reach a certain point in your life, usually your mid-twenties through mid-thirties, it can seem like there isn’t a single person in your social circle who isn’t either pregnant or raising a young family. If you want more children but are struggling with secondary infertility, you probably face well-meaning but unwanted questions from family members and friends who are curious about your plans to add another member to your family. While you may be able to redirect that conversation with your coworkers or hairdresser, your own child needs an answer.
Remember Your Child’s Point of View
Children are incredibly perceptive, even if they can’t communicate what they observe. If your child is old enough, she can most likely sense that you and your partner are feeling sad and anxious about something, but she may not know that the “something” is the inability to get pregnant. Without having the problem explained to her, your child risks internalizing those emotions or blaming herself.
Of course, it’s also possible that your child wants a baby brother or sister, especially if many of her friends now have little siblings. She may ask you when she can have a little brother or sister, and she needs a truthful answer.
The Best Answer is a Simple Answer
Though you are sure to have facts, statistics, medical terms, and unanswered concerns spinning through your mind at the thought of infertility, your young child only needs to know the basics. If spirituality and religion plays an important role in your life, you might explain to your child that God will give her a baby brother or sister when He feels it is time. You might also take the approach of explaining, “We want to give you a baby brother or sister, but sometimes it takes a while. I’m sorry we can’t right now, but everything will be okay.”
Talking about fertility problems with your child is also an opportunity to remind her of how lucky you are to have her, and how wonderful life will still be, with or without another child. There are many popular TV, movie, and book characters who thrive as only children, and you can pull from one your child knows to remind her of how much fun she can have with you, your partner, and all of her friends and family members.
It’s also possible to have this conversation without getting into human anatomy and “The Birds and the Bees.” If your child is older and has a general understanding of reproduction, you might explain that having a baby isn’t automatic or guaranteed, and some bodies can grow a baby easier than others. You don’t need to go into the details of infertility and cause undue worries and fears for your child.
Drawing the Connection Between Infertility and Surrogacy
Once you’ve chosen the path of surrogacy for your second child, your first child will definitely need to understand that she will be getting a baby brother or sister in a different way than some of her friends. Or, in an ever-more-diverse world, perhaps in the same way! Every family makes the decision of how to talk about surrogacy in their own manner, but many experts recommend simple, open transparency.
You can try explaining to your child that instead of having a baby yourself, another kind woman is going to help have the baby for you. Reassure your child that the woman will take very good care of the baby when he or she is inside her stomach, and as soon as the baby is born, he or she will come home with you. Some parents explain surrogacy like long-term babysitting; another person will watch the baby to keep him or her safe for nine months, and then the baby will come home.
As surrogacy becomes a more common experience for families, many books are being published to help young children grasp the concept. What Makes a Baby by Cory Silverberg, The Kangaroo Pouch by Sarah Phillips Pellet, and the cartoon series “All Our Wishes” by Charles Danziger are great examples. The books are also LGBT-friendly, making them perfect for every family style.
At the end of the day, all parents take a different approach to explaining infertility and surrogacy based on their own belief systems and experiences. With kindness, honesty, and perhaps some advice from a counselor or other professional, you’ll know exactly how to approach these topics with your own child.