I was so afraid of sharing with my daughter how she was conceived and how our family was formed. It hurt me to think how this information could hurt her when she was old enough to understand. Just the thought of how I would say it and how it might affect her caused me a lot of anxiety.
I started reading a lot about disclosure and non-disclosure to children and the first conclusion I came to was that if I was emotionally confident in sharing, so would she be confident in knowing. So firstly, I had to work on myself.
Children’s story – the beginning
I found a children’s story for sharing how she was conceived. I started reading it to her when she was a baby. I would read it and then go and cry a bit. I read the story so many times that there came a point when I overcame my fears. So the storytelling itself first helped me, it helped me feel confident and then I came the point when I enjoyed reading it. I would start changing my tone of voice and smile, do funny faces to make her smile and I would start to convey my enthusiasm of how happy and proud I was to have her in my life. At the end of the story, I would add, by referring to the character in the book, …”and she is the most beautiful girl ever because she is you.” I remember looking at her in the eyes and feeling so much love that it just overflowed.
Since I started telling her ever since she was a baby… the story would always be around, wherever we went. It was normal to see the book with us. As she grew and I continued reading the story, I had her focus on the drawings and point out the things that I thought would amuse her, things that would make her smile. With this, my intention was for her to enjoy the book not only because of its content on sharing how she was conceived but because of the illustrations. She would enjoy the pictures in the book as well. She would quite often just turn the pages in the book to enjoy the illustrations.
As she grew, I continued reading the book. Then she started reading a few words herself. I taught her to read the simple words like “a”, “I” “to”, “in” “and”, “the”, etc. I would teach her a word at a time. When the word appeared in the book I would pause, she would read it, and I would continue but she felt as if she was already reading. When she could read that letter in the story, I would teach her another word and so on.
My daughter enjoyed the story because of the illustrations, she enjoyed the book because she could “read it” or felt as if she was starting to read it. Time went by and we enjoyed reading the book so often, we even had to tape the cover back together.
Finally – understanding
Eventually, there came a time that it was as if she always knew, and when she was old enough to understand, she understood. It was not a special day in sharing but gradually the knowing grew as she grew. I also grew in confidence and the sharing became very natural and flowed easily.
I remember, once when I was reading the story and she was 5 and she asked me if I knew the lady in the story. It totally caught me by surprise. I had read it so many times and she had never asked anything. I remember stuttering and trying to say very naturally and loving, “No, love, I don’t know her” and finishing the book as quickly as I could and smiling at the end as if everything was under control without her noticing how nervous I was. She seemed quite pleased and satisfied with my reply so that relaxed me. I realised she was already starting to consciously understand and she seemed very calm in knowing.
I remember once seeing a joke in a video of a boy who asks his Dad “What does sex mean?” So the Dad explains to his son everything in detail. You can see how they are talking and the clock turns and hours go by. At the end the Dad said “Son, does this answer your question? And the son says “Not really Dad”… shows him a questionnaire that says Sex: Female or Male. “What do I write?”
With this joke I just want to say how as an adult we have so much information and when a child asks a question, he/she doesn’t need all the information that exists. Just simple responses are necessary. As they ask more, you can give more simple responses. If their questions are more specific, then reply to them that way but always keep your replies simple and loving.
When driving, my daughter would commonly ask me… “Mummy how long until we get home?” and I would reply “we are nearly home love”. And that was enough for her. I didn’t have to say how many miles or km or which areas we were going to pass because that is not the information she really want. It is more the confidence she got with my reply more than the information.
The magic of storytelling
I believe in storytelling to share with your child how he or she was conceived. I believe in storytelling so much that I’ve written many stories to help parents. I have helped many people in overcoming fears of sharing. 13 years ago I was asked to give a lecture in India on sharing egg donation with your kids. This lecture led me to write the story “A tiny itsy bitsy gift of life“, an egg donation story. Using rabbits as the main characters and beautiful illustrations done by my sister Rosemary, your child can enjoy all the small details in the illustrations. The story is available for boys and girls and in many languages. Storytelling is such a wonderful tool that makes sharing easier.
It is important to share with your child how he or she was conceived at a young age, the younger the better. There are many studies on this theme and when a child finds out in their teens, it can be a shock for them and they may feel they have been lied to or do not understand what was so bad about it that you hid it from them. In general, when children reach their teens, they go through an identity crisis so finding out at that age can be devastating. Also suddenly finding out from someone else call also be an awful experience.
Someone who has had their child through egg donation has normally had a long journey to become parents. Most have gone through many complicated fertility treatments and have wanted so much to have a family that they are normally very committed and involved parents. So getting information on sharing becomes an important issue. If you have the information of the donor, or the donor is anonymous, storytelling also helps you in sharing the information whether you have it or not.
Carmen – my story
I had my daughter through adoption. The story I started reading to her 18 years ago was an adoption story. It helped me so much that for the past 13 years I have been writing children’s stories to help parents share with their child how their family was formed. “An tiny itsy bitsy gift of life, an egg donor story” was my first story.
I struggled a lot trying to get pregnant. Each time the treatments got more complicated. I had many failed IVFs and became so depressed that I even lost the energy of life. I could only see happiness as being a mother. During those years, I started painting my emotions through chairs and without realising at the moment, painting became a therapy for me. Why did I paint chairs? Because I wanted another chair at my table. I wanted a family. In 2004, I wrote my autobiography “I want to have a child, whatever it takes!”, where through my paintings I share my infertility journey. I share what I learnt and how I grew internally in many ways to be the Mum I am now. I did not have information on egg donation then this is why I am very pleased to see all the support and information available nowadays through EggDonationFriends or similar websites.
When my daughter Nicole arrived, I was so happy, it was like a dream come true! I just wanted to help people experience less of the painful struggle. For over 25 years now, I have been painting, writing books, done audio meditations, give online support and finding ways to help people on this journey. I’ve given lectures around the world; my paintings are found in many clinics worldwide and in many homes. My new project is personalising the stories so they have your kid’s name.
I feel very pleased knowing that my stories are helping families around the world in sharing, in a simple and loving way, how their family was formed. I continue to be motivated to write more books for all the types of new families that are being created. I believe every child has the right to understand and storytelling just makes is so much easier for all.