How to Tell Your Child they are a Product of In Vitro Fertilization
While the exact numbers are hard to attain, over the last ten years more and more women are seeking out the services of fertility clinics and egg donation banks across the United States. Since the first documented case of in vitro fertilization (IVF) back in 1983 the rate of successful pregnancies has been steadily increasing. As the children of these pregnancies grow older, parents are faced with the option of revealing the nature of their births. As the parent of such a birth, it is up to you to decide when to begin this conversation.
Tackling this discussion is potentially one of the most important conversations you could ever have and making sure it is done in the best possible way is extremely important for both the parent and the child. Almost all psychologist and specialist who operate in the field of IVF agree that the child of an IVF conception should know of their origins in order to have a strong and trusting relationship with their parents. Perhaps you or someone you know is directly affected by this, below are a few ideas and tips on how to get the ball rolling in a healthy direction.
Any parent can attest that at the core of any great relationship with a child is a foundation of honesty. For the parents of a child conceived through IVF, this aspect of parenting has the potential to be a bit more sensitive. How young is too young to begin to share the truths about where the child came from? Many studies have shown that the sooner the better. Waiting until the child is too old can lead to a sense of alienation. While the parent may not have technically told a lie, the omission of these truths can be just as detrimental.
So where to begin? At an early age, the best route a parent can take is to begin to introduce little bits of information, spread out over time. They key hear is repetition. While the conversation may be awkward or uncomfortable for the parent, a continued dialogue on the issue will introduce the concept as normal and “okay” to the child. A great supplemental material for the beginning stages of this conversation are children’s books. There are a wide range of titles available for parents choosing to go this route but the two that have emerged as the best in their field are Claudia Santorelli-Bates, “I Can’t Wait to Meet You” and Carolina Nadel’s, “Mommy, Was Your Tummy Big?” Both the illustrations and the simple words of these stories provide and excellent starting point to opening up a conversation.
If a story book is not something that will provide the best starting point for conversation do some nosing about on the internet. The web is alive with forums and articles of parents and even children who have tackled this topic with success and have shared their stories for the benefits of others. Reading a few accounts of their experiences can often be beneficial to a parent who finds themselves in the same boat.
Another concern of parents is the tone and the themes that this sort of conversation operates within. I have seen many parents express concerns that it’s, “too heavy of a subject” to broach at a young age. While this has possible truths associated with it, waiting until the child is in their teen years or even older can lead to a host of adverse effects both relational and mental. In Dr. Vasanti Jadva’s comprehensive study of parents and children of IVF, research showed that parents who waited to tell their children at an older age experienced a higher percentage of fallout and adverse consequences versus those who started when they were younger
Whichever avenue is chosen, be it one suggested here or another, the overall nature of the conversation must always emphasize love and acceptance. As cliché as it may sound, these tones are absolutely integral when opening up this dialogue with a child. Also, don’t get too technical in the terminology department. At such a young age even using the word, “egg” doesn’t have to be necessary. Other vocabulary such as, “piece”, “part” or even, “special ingredient” work well. Place the emphasis on the tone and the delivery and not on the vernacular.
As the child grows so will the nature of their questions about the procedure and why their parents elected for it. Anticipating these questions is another important part of continuing this conversation though all of their developmental phases. This includes the nitty-gritty of the, “how come it didn’t work”. Structure a mock conversation in your head where you answer these questions, that way you will never be caught off guard when the time arises.
Another situation that has come up frequently is the child telling friends or peers. Children love to talk about themselves and a sign of a child involved in a healthy dialogue with their history will be in them sharing this information with their friends. As a parent, you need to also be prepared for the backlash that has potential to arise here. Children can often be cruel to others that they perceive as different. Equip your child with the right tools to deal with these sorts of situations. Reinforce statements such as, “We love you just as much as any other mommy or daddy in the world”. Really drive home how their situation makes them special and different in a good way. A child with great support at home is less likely to be affected by the negative statements of others.
The information presented here is just the tip of the iceberg. IVF can still be a hot topic among many social groups and there is a wide spectrum of opinions on the matter. What I have stated here is by no means the definitive route to take when choosing how to deal with opening up a dialogue with your child.
What about you? Perhaps you know someone who has navigated these waters and has some additional insights to share. I’d love to hear what you have to share.
About our Mom at Last Contributor
Cynthia Dorsch loves writing about health and wellness. In her free time she can often be found researching and catching up on trending techniques and new innovations in the medical field.