Q & A With the Authors
Q and A With The Authors Teresa Villegas and Bernard Villegas MD
1.) Why did you write the books "How We Became a Family"? We wrote these books because we want to help parents like us. We rode the infertility roller coaster for two years, and discovered that we needed IVF and the help of an egg donor to build the family we've always wanted. Once we started the whole process of selecting a donor, we soon realized the significance of it all, and that we'd have to tell our future children about this – but when and how? Being avid readers, and passionate about books, we first searched to find any children's books with this topic. There were only a few available at the time in 2004, when our first child was born, and then in 2005 when our twins were born. We didn't find any that suited our needs. Many of them were too vague in their language, and too religiously biased for our family, and none of them mentioned the possibility of a multiple birth.
2.) What surprised you the most while you researched and wrote the book? We were surprised that there are more people like us experiencing infertility, and more children born through donor assistance than we first thought. More than 10% of all couples in the U.S. suffer from infertility and one in eight couples need medical help to create their families. We were surprised that for the high numbers of families conceived with donor assistance, there were even fewer parents actually talking about it, and sharing it with their children. It's a bigger stumbling block for those of us parenting after infertility than we thought. It's much better now than it was 7 years ago and there is more awareness. However, it's still a topic that can be hard to broach. It is our hope that family building with donor assistance will become as common to talk about and accepted in our society as adoption has become.
3.) What do you think will surprise readers the most? What will surprise readers most is how simple it is to present this complex information in an easy way that kids beginning as young as age 2 can understand. Our book is a tool. The visual language of the images are just as critical as the writing in this book. By reading a book out loud, you begin to practice telling and hearing the words, and visually connecting with the illustrations. Using a book as a teaching tool feels comfortable for both the parent and the child. Whatever may appear beyond the child's grasp of the information, will be understood as your child grows and matures from one year to the next. Just like anything new we are presented with, we will filter and take in what we need at the moment. Reading together creates deep bonding on both emotional and intellectual levels between you and your child. You will realize that by practicing with them while they are so young, you can't get it wrong. Infants are very forgiving. You can say it one way one day, and differently another day, getting used to hearing yourself tell the story and feeling more confident and capable every time. The more comfortable a parent feels about it, their child will mirror this too and respond to it simply as a part of the family culture. Another surprise is that the conversation of their birth story will be one that comes up again and again. Sometimes often, and yet most times not at all. Once their story has been introduced and openly discussed from an early age, their birth story becomes normalized, and viewed as just a fact of their life, not a big deal, well-known and accepted.
4.) What is the most important lesson or message readers will get from it? The import message readers will get from the book are that families are built upon a strong, supportive and loving relationship –a family of two. Then to build a family to include children –to make a baby –to make them, their family needed the help of science (IVF) and the help of others (donors). Now their family is no longer just a family of two, but one that has grown to include children –them! (The single parent family version is not available at this time, however we have a manuscript in progress with more forthcoming versions.)
5.) Did writing this book change your life in any way? Yes, it changed our lives in several ways. First, it met a need that we were looking for: a simple and easy way to help parents like us, to introduce this topic with their children, in a children's book format. It took 8 years in the making. Both parents and children have responded positively to the books. We changed by practicing with our own children, before they could talk. This may sound a little silly to some, but by talking to them while they were infants gave us the confidence to practice our approach. We were able to focus softly on the process in a loving, cheerful matter-of-fact way. We continue to feel comfortable re-visiting the conversation with them as they grow, explaining more, adding more levels of complexity and clarity the older they become. We've found that there are opportunities to relate their birth story in an ongoing basis over the years. We created new birthday rituals that include the telling of their birth story. Telling their story will be one that you will repeat again and again. You'll refine it, embellish it, and have fun with it. Kids love to hear stories about themselves, and offers opportunities for them to ask questions if need be. It will become just another fact of their family history, accepted and celebrated with increased feelings of joy and appreciation year after year. We've also changed with our blog HowWeBecameaFamily.com. We are able to communicate with other parents, and learn from each other as we go through this parenting after infertility journey together. The blog is for everyone. We hope to be able to facilitate a peer-to-peer support group. As our children get older, we can see that it would be helpful for them to meet other children born through donor assistance, so they won't feel like they are the only ones they know.
6.) What do you hope will come from others reading it? We want parents will feel good, and have complete calm confidence and quiet certainty about the way they built their family. This way they can feel completely honest about discussing it with their child. This book offers an opportunity to express these feelings that will transfer to their children, creating a solid foundation of trust and bonding experience for the whole family. We also hope for understanding, that parenting is both a privilege and a responsibility to be honest and open with our children. If our children can't come to us for the truth, who will they go to? Happy, healthy, nurtured, wanted and loved children, contribute to the betterment of our global world.
7.) What are you working on now? How We Became a Family is our first published children's book series that we've authored together. So we also created an independent publishing company called "Heart and Mind Press" and have many other books waiting to be published. Heart and Mind Press is dedicated to helping parents and educators inspire and cultivate conscious, empathetic, responsible children, with an understanding of the natural world and how it impacts us on a deeper, personal level. www.HeartandMindPress.com.