1.) Let Go of Your Genetic Dream Family. You must first let go of any dreams you have had or may still be holding onto about conceiving a child with yours and your partners' genes combined. This is heartbreaking for most couples, and it's normal to experience this grief. (read "First Step to Disclosure" for more about this) Ideally, before a couple decides to move forward with making any decisions about having a child with an egg donor or sperm donor, they must grieve the loss of the child they were not able to conceive on their own. If you have already brought your child into your family, and have not told them yet, this subtle, yet necessary step may be part of what might be holding you back from comfortably telling.
2.) Evaluate Your Beliefs About Family. People have different beliefs about what it means to be a family. What does it mean to be a mother? What does it mean to be a father? Evaluating or re-evaluating your beliefs of what family means to you can be an evolving, insightful and meaningful way to come to understand yourself and your decisions. Although you may have experienced a loss of having a genetic link to your child, doesn't mean that you define parenthood or family based on the genetic makeup of your child. Maybe you discover a belief that you had taken on earlier in your life that wasn't really yours, but was someone else's or a belief you once held that doesn't serve you now. Perhaps you discover that love, commitment and shared values are the foundation of a family.
3.) Affirm The Donor. Regardless of whether you chose to have an open relationship with the donor or have an anonymous relationship with the donor, they will forever remain a presence in yours and your child's life. Something that intended parents know about the donor for sure, and something that will play a part in your child's development, are your feelings about the donor. Your donor will not disappear from your thoughts or feelings. How could they not? Their DNA is part of the physiology of your child, and In the course of parenting, thinking about them is unavoidable. Because the donor will remain in your awareness, and because how you think and feel about the donor will affect your child, it would be a good idea to embrace them wholly. Based on their profile when you selected them, there must have been traits that you liked in them and some that you can personally identify with. Think about this person, and imagine how you would be able to answer questions such as "mommy, why did you choose her?" or "Daddy why did you choose him?" The donor is part of your child's make up and having positive feelings about them will support healthy identity development.
4.) Tell Your Child. Parents who choose to disclosure want to avoid secrets and to be sure their children find out accurate information from them and not others. Generally, it is not conception the parents are communicating about as much as the unique path by which their child has entered their lives. Thus, the intent is for parents to begin to practice talking about the presence of the other people in that child’s life to whom they may be genetically related, normalize it as it is, a basic fact about their life, before the child is old enough to ask questions. Infancy to age seven is a huge developmental stage for children. According to experts, the ideal time to start the process is before the age of five. However, if because of circumstances or by choice, that have led parents to tell their child later in life, can still be done well with the right guidance.
5.) Embrace Your Child's Curiosity. When your child learns about their donor origins, they may be curious about the donor and wonder and ask questions such as "What are they like?" What do they look like?" As your child grows, they may ask more mature questions regarding things like "Why did they donate?" "Do they have children?" Research shows that donor conceived people are inquisitive about their donor origins even when they experience positive parent-child relationships. Curiosity will continue and evolve and they will look to you to help them make sense of it all.
Many families use children's picture books to begin this journey. One of our favorite children's books about how all families are different is "The Family Book" by Todd Parr. When we first looked for a children's book about third party donor conception we didn't find any existing that had what we were looking for, so we decided to write and illustrate our own. All the existing books available did not include the science and the possibility of a multiple birth. Which is why we highly recommend "How We Became a Family" written and illustrated by us. Please join us on this journey. We are all in this world together to learn how to communicate better with ourselves and with our children. Sharing our experiences and learning from others helps to bring more understanding, acceptance, and empathy toward each other, and builds on a vision for a more compassionate world for us and for our children.