When I began my surrogacy journey, I only briefly considered how it would affect my parenting as it related to my oldest son (6 years at the time) and his recent challenges with anxiety. I knew I would have to handle the anxiety as it came, but I never imagined how the journey would alter my way of parenting both my kids.
It was recommended early on in the journey to get a book called What Makes a Baby by Cory Silverberg because of its ability to explain birth or surrogacy or adoption in a way that children can understand, without going into too much detail. I purchased the book, read it with my husband and then to my children before putting it on the shelf with all the other books. As the weeks and months went on, every time What Makes a Baby was chosen by one or the other as their bedtime story I knew there was some uneasiness going on. I always took the time to answer any questions and entertain any comments they had during this time.
One morning, to my surprise, my youngest son (4 years old at the time) came to me quite upset stating that he didn’t want me “helping that other family anymore.” After talking to him for a minute or two I began to see the fear he had if the baby had to be cut out – he was scared I would be really hurt. Once I took the time to put myself in his frame of mind I was then easily able to explain the process in a way he could understand and after only five minutes of talking he was reassured and happy about me helping the other family.
Introducing surrogacy to my children was a concept that I knew I had to help them navigate and I found myself with more patience, a better listening ear, and available resources I could provide for them when they were uneasy. I set my children up for success, knowing this was all new territory. In daily life, it’s very easy as a parent to get busy with schedules and routines and not always take the time to really listen to our children and the concerns they have – and not just the words they are saying, but also their nonverbal cues, including their behavior.
It’s easy to assume children know what to expect from daily routines and that a very benign situation for us is equally benign for them. It’s actually amazing, all the adjustments that need to be made when something as simple as the season changing from summer to autumn occur. First off, the weather gets colder, but not every day at first and not always cold enough for a jacket or mitts or a hat, and not always cold all day. As an adult we can pretty confidently predict how to dress based on our activities for the day, often preparing for the worst and making it through our day quite successfully.
As a child that doesn’t have the memories of last fall as a reference, or more likely doesn’t have the problem solving ability developed enough to refer back to those memories for reference, they are approaching each day as an experiment. Something as simple as how to dress to go outside has so many variables that weren’t there a week ago and now the act of getting ready for school has become a lot more challenging. How often did I myself saying “get ready for school” only to be met with noncompliance or silliness instead? I would wonder why just a week ago that same instruction was easy to follow and successful with those same exact words, but now seems too complicated for my children? What has changed? A lot!
Taking my approach to navigating surrogacy with them on a broader scale, I have accepted that my boys only know what they know, and it’s most likely not what I know. With that in mind, I explain more, I clarify more and I take a wall of questions or out of character behavior as a sign that I need to slow down to investigate and listen more instead of seeing both as straight out defiance. I am more patient, I listen more and I provide resources for them to access when needed including books that talk about behaviors or feelings or social stories. My family is now a happier place and a place where my children feel more listened to. No, it’s not perfect all the time but it’s much closer than before and along with helping to create another family, I improved my family in the process.
I am a certified Life Coach specializing in goal setting and achievement as well as communication and relationship improvements. I just recently completed my first surrogacy journey and really enjoyed the experience as well as the lessons my two sons (ages 5 and 7) have learned along the way. I am also a skating coach and have been for 12 years, enjoying watching children and adults of all ages learn how to skate and perfect their skills as figure skaters. Our family loves being outdoors exploring new forests and playing at parks wherever we can find them.