Our son Charlie was 18 months old when I began to seriously consider becoming a Gestational Surrogate. My husband and I agreed that we would begin including him in the process even before the pregnancy. Utilizing two wonderful surrogacy stories for children, The Very Kind Koala* and The Kangaroo Pouch*, we began to passively introduce the concept of some mommies and their families helping other grownups become mommies and daddies.
As Charlie’s language skills developed, we also began to talk to him about all the people who had helped us to become his mommy and daddy. My miracle, IVF, rainbow baby asked about whether he had lived in my belly, and I assured him that indeed he had. We spoke of the doctors and nurses who had helped get mommy’s belly ready to hold him.
After completing the “dating” process with our perfectly selected intended parent couple* we began to relate the stories to our own life. Toddlers understand more than adults give them credit for. By the time I was showing, Charlie could already state very articulately that his mommy was not the mommy of the baby taking up residence in my belly.
For the complex things he didn’t comprehend yet, we encouraged questions and the expressing of both positive and negative feelings and emotions. Two instances, in particular, come to mind.
First, on several occasions Charlie questioned in a rather assertive way, that “the baby is not coming home to our house, right?” This concept was complicated in Charlie’s brain by our well-meaning nephew. Our nephew is only two years older than our son, and was constantly telling him that he was going to have a baby brother also. As fortune would have it, my sister had been struggling with her own fertility, and became pregnant around the same time as our embryo transfer. Our due dates were only days apart. Charlie would argue with Ryan that he was not having a baby brother and then proudly confirm that with us. Their pontifications were epic.
Second, a situation that could have easily been a negative experience turned positive after a wonderfully open conversation with my son. Once I hit the third trimester, the sheer size of my belly became an intense fascination for him. He threw himself into a full on toddler rage at the end of story time one evening, after being told he could not jump on or bounce his feet on my belly. My husband had to remove him from the room, he was so upset. After the rage had subsided and only sadness and tears remained, I sat down to talk to him about what had happened. “I have to jump on your belly mommy, he stated insistently. I pressed him, “Why, Charlie? Why do you need to jump on my belly?”
After a long conversation, I was finally able to pry from him, that since my belly was “like the bed for the baby”, that the baby “wasn’t having any fun,” because no one was bouncing the bed. Following story time with our son, we hold his hands and let him bounce on the bed, or we bounce the mattress a bit while he is laying down. He simply wanted the baby to have this fun experience that he enjoyed so much.
Maintaining open lines of communication with children is so important! What might have been misconstrued as resentment of the baby or misplaced aggression, was actually just Charlie’s way of being involved. Our attempts at open communication throughout the surrogacy process have led to an amazingly unrestrained verbal relationship with our son. Let’s hope that continues through high school. I’m cautiously optimistic.
Wishing you all PEACE, LOVE, & BABY DUST.
*Thank you to Meryl and Julie with ARTparenting for being the perfect matchmakers on my surrogacy journey
* The Very Kind Koala by Kimberly Kluger-Bell and The Kangaroo Pouch by Sarah Phillips Pellet
*Photo Credit: Photos by Julie Michelle