The “where did I come from” question is one most parents sweat about. Explaining their origins to your children is one of those major “don’t screw this up” parenting moments, because if you get it wrong at worst you damage their self-esteem and at best? You’re getting mocked every time they reminisce about their childhoods with their friends as an adult.
It’s even more fraught for parents who have had some sort of help to bring their children into the world. This NYT article talks about how parents whose children were carried by surrogates address that issue with their kids. These people have some mean kids, it seems – one yelled at her mom in a screening of Marley and Me “Why are you the only mommy who can’t get pregnant?” and another told her mom that her dad and surrogate made a cute couple and she was glad she wasn’t actually her mom’s kid. Yikes.
At least they have sufficiently trusting relationships that the kids know they can say that kind of stuff, and that likely wouldn’t be true if the parents hadn’t been open about their child’s origins from the beginning. It seems like in the 1980s when things like surrogacy and donor gametes became more common, parent had more of an urge toward secrecy; now it’s the norm to be open, which I think is the best way to be. There’s no shame in needing some help to build your family, after all.
When my daughter started her preschool, I met a really cool mom of one of her classmates. A short time later I ran into the dad and this little boy at the farmer’s market, along with their very cute new baby daughter. “Huh,” I thought. “I guess I haven’t seen her for awhile, but I didn’t realize she was pregnant.” Well, she wasn’t. Both kids were carried by a surrogate who was a friend of the family, as she told me later that year on a field trip. I loved their open, matter of fact attitude about it – not confrontational but not apologetic or embarrassed, either. Too many people are threatened by any way of family building that isn’t the “a few months of unprotected sex” method. When you hear perfectly nice normal people talking about their experiences, it helps open minds – and that’s always to the good.