Just because I wrote the Telling and Talking booklets six years ago and thousands have been downloaded or sold via DCN, I sometimes delude myself into thinking that no-one now fears sharing information with their children about donor conception. I live in La, La land. And it is good to be reminded of the reality of people’s lives. There is another WordPress blog called GENdMOM. The woman who writes it is a Canadian mother of three donor conceived children age 3 and twins of 20 months. She and her husband believe in openness but yesterday she posted about her husband wanting to enjoy the years before the children have to be told as he feels sick to the stomach at the thought of having to tell them that he is not their biological father. I wonder when they are thinking of telling?
I may be completely wrong but it sounds as if they see the moment of ‘telling’ as being an event. A sit-down occasion when the children will be told solomnly that their dad is not their real dad. Oh, I so hope not.
It cannot be said too often that the earlier ‘telling’ is started the easier it is. It is also a process, never an event with under-fives or even under-sevens. Little children do not understand the first language that is used with them…something about Daddy not have enough seeds to help make them, so a nice man had to give some of his seeds to help, but it doesn’t matter because it is beginning a story that will grow and be elaborated over time…and, most importantly, parents are getting the opportunity to practice. Once the story is started there is always something to build on…You remember when we talked about the nice man who helped make you, well… ” Parents get to see that the world does not crash in on itself when the ‘nice man’ is mentioned and that most small children’s response is to ask what is for tea or if you are going swimming tomorrow. What matters to small children are parents who are comfortable in themselves and able to surround them with the love, security and consistency that they need to grow and feel safe. Age two or three is an ideal time to start reading one of the My Story or Our Story books to them.
As children get older they come to realise very slowly that donor conception must mean that they are not linked ‘by blood’ to one or other parent (or both). This usually happens around the ages of 8 to 10. Sometimes there is sadness when this truth sinks in. But, as always, what is important is not these feelings in themselves but how they are responded to by parents. Children whose parents are able to listen, understand and respond with warmth and empathy will be able to manage the feelings and move on without any harm being done. Parents who find it difficult to hear a child’s sadness, or who reject the notion of pain, may find themselves with a child who feels they have to protect their parents from ever knowing how they feel. This can result in someone who is afraid to express him or herself and has low self-esteem as they believe that their existence causes difficulties for their parents.
Instead of feeling sick I would encourage GENdMOM’s partner to join his wife in the cyber world and talk with other guys. Share how you feel and then decide to feel the fear and do it anyway. Start ‘telling’ your children, find out for yourselves how unremarkable they find the information and stop your anxiety from getting in the way of your relationships. You have only your children to gain.
The four Telling and Talking booklets for parents of donor conceived children aged 0-7, 8-11, 12-16 and 17+ can be downloaded from the DC Network website for a small fee or printed copies can be bought on-line. The My Story and Our Story books for young children can also be bought on-line. http://www.donor-conception-network.org/telltalkpubs.htm