Archive for the ‘For Family and Friends’ Category

How should we explain ART to our kids?

Sunday, December 6th, 2009

So, you’ve been through the infertility rollercoaster and it finally worked. How on earth do you explain to a child that they were born from IUI, IVF, donor sperm, donor eggs, surrogacy, or some other form of ART (assisted reproductive technology)?

I started thinking about this after reading a friend’s blog post, which I’ll just paste here because I thought it was right on the money (hope you don’t mind, PJ!):

“The impetus for this post was this article – The Stork Didn’t Bring You, But We Had Help from the New York Times. It’s a very nice article discussing the realities of helping children to understand where they’ve come from when any sort of assisted reproductive techniques are utilized. The article is specifically about surrogacy, but is relevant to all forms of assisted reproduction.

I was adopted and my parents did an excellent job of explaining how I came to be their daughter. Here are some important guiding principles:

* Answer questions honestly. Children have questions about where they came from and parents need to answer their questions honestly (as honestly as possible considering the age and understanding of the child). Children will eventually recognize if they have been misled and the hurt feelings can be profound.

* Start when the child is young. Start discussing it when the child is very young – perhaps the age of two or three. This allows the child to always be aware of their story even if they don’t completely understand it. Details can be filled in later. The difficulty in waiting until a child is old enough to understand is that it will come as a surprise and there may be hurt feelings as a result.

* Use a storybook. Using a storybook is a wonderful approach because it is something tangible that a child can treasure. My parents had a sweet storybook that they read to me frequently – it was one of my favorites – about a family who wanted children and couldn’t have one of their own. Well, you know the rest of the story. It made me feel very special because my parents chose me out of all the other babies.

* Emphasize the positive. Any child coming to a family via either adoption or some sort of ART will at times feel a bit strange or different. By emphasizing the positive, parents ensure that their children will always feel special and loved. In my case, my parents emphasized that they chose me out of all the other babies. Any child born via any form of ART is special because of all the difficulties that their parents went through in order to have them.”

We have one child conceived via IUI and twins from IVF. I ordered an Aussie book called The Baby Doctor (about IVF) and have read it to our eldest. She’s 5. The poppets are not even 2 yet, so I am going to leave it until they have the ability to take at least some of this in, maybe by about 2 1/2 or 3. There are some great books out there for the donor sperm and donor egg scenarios, also surrogacy, adoption, etc.

From all I’ve read, and based on the reaction of my own 5-year-old, little kids can get their heads around pretty much anything and there is NO question that they still love their parents to bits. The ONLY serious danger is withholding the information because at some stage later in life they are going to need something like a biological history maybe to look at the risk of something inherited or whatever, it IS going to come out at some stage. And at any age older than little kid stage, it is going to be a “news”, a shock perhaps, maybe even like a betrayal. OMG, I just shudder to think of them finding out in the teenage years and it turning into a major issue. afraid

With our eldest, I told her about our struggle with infertility. I told her it was like we knew she was out there somewhere, we already loved her, but we couldn’t find her, so kept looking and looking and we still couldn’t find her anywhere, so we asked a dr to help, and finally we found out we were having a baby – we had found her! We were so happy. And the same kind of thing with her little sisters, just more high-tech.

Her reaction wasn’t “OMG how unnatural” or anything a closed-minded adult might think. It was more like wow, you wanted me THAT much that you kept searching and searching until you found me? It made her feel even more loved, if anything. The one negative reaction from her was this huge realisation of Oh no, what if you hadn’t come searching for me? I just reassured her that we were NEVER going to give up because we knew she was out there somewhere; we loved her so much; we would have had to try other ways to find her, but we eventually would have.

Kids at age 3 or 4 can easily comprehend the idea that their parents wanted a baby soooooo much, but it didn’t happen easily and then they found out that something wasn’t working properly, so they had to get some help from the doctor and/or get some spare parts from someone else. But emphasising that what they did have was the MOST important bit, which was an unwavering love and an important place reserved for the child who did arrive in the family.

For me, the counsellor in the NY Times article summed it up perfectly:

“What kids want to know is that they’re in the family they were meant to be in — that they belong to their mom and dad.” love2

IMPORTANT UPDATE (24/6/10): I’ve recently stumbled across this fantastic website for kiwi “IVF-lings”, kids conceived via IVF. It provides them a resource to find out about how they came into the world, and even to ask questions of doctors and embryologists. How cool is that?

Any particular books you’d recommend for explaining ART to kids? Please post a comment below! Here are some that I (and others) have found:

How to be good friends with an infertile

Monday, September 28th, 2009

This one is especially for family and friends wanting to be helpful and not another source of stress for a woman or couple dealing with infertility.

No point reinventing the wheel – someone pointed me to a brilliant blog post on this, so here’s the link: http://tertia.typepad.com/so_close/2004/05/how_to_be_good_.html

And a short snippet:

Infertiles come in different flavors. True, one can categorize these flavors to some extent, but variations will always exist. Your eternal optimist / newbie / completely uninvolved infertile doesn’t need too much in the way of special friendship; they believe the problem is temporary and will get resolved soon. They don’t feel broken, different or an outcast. Your longer term / highly involved infertile is a very tricky beast, and is one to be handled with great caution and protective gloves (for you, not her). This person feels alienated from society and carries great pain and angst in their souls. They might not show it all the time, but there is a very sensitive, raw spot in their souls that is easily bruised. Then you get the older timers, who’ve been doing this so long it just becomes part of who they are. These infertiles have gone through the great angst and intense pain of the ‘dark years’ and have come out realizing that while infertility is shit, it is not all consuming. And instead of crying, they laugh. Because infertility is actually a comedy of errors, sometimes.

Infertility Humour: What would people say to you if you were paraplegic instead of infertile?

Sunday, September 27th, 2009

Heaven knows who the original author of this is because it appears all over the web. It is one of the all-time classics!

Given the kiwi tradition of not confronting insensitive people directly like they do in American soap operas, if you are being subjected to FUCAs (family/friend unhelpful comment attacks), why not paste this into an email and get the message across with a bit of humour? 😉

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So, what do you think people would say to you if you were paraplegic instead of infertile?

1. As soon as you buy a wheelchair, I bet you’ll be able to walk again!

2. You can’t use your legs? Boy, I wish I was paralysed. I get so tired of walking, and if I were paralysed I wouldn’t have to walk anywhere!

3. My cousin was paralysed but she started shaving her legs in the other direction and she could walk again. You should try that.

4. I guess God just didn’t mean for you to be able to walk.

5. Oh, I know exactly how you feel, because I have an ingrown toenail.

6. Sorry, we don’t cover treatment for paraplegia, because it’s not a life-threatening illness.

7. So… when are *you* going to start walking?

8. Oh, I have just the opposite problem. I have to walk walk walk – everywhere I go!

9. But don’t you *want* to walk?

10. You’re just trying too hard. Relax and you’ll be able to walk.

11. You’re so lucky… think of the money you save on shoes.

12. I don’t know why you’re being so selfish. You should at least be happy that *I* can walk.

13. I hope you don’t try those anti-paralysis drugs. They sometimes make people run too fast and they get hurt.

14. Look at those people hiking… doesn’t that make you want to hike?

15. Just relax, you’ll be walking in no time.

16. Oh do my legs hurt, I was walking and walking and going up and down the stairs all day.

17. I broke my leg skiing, and was on crutches for weeks, and was worried I’d have a permanent limp, but I’m 100% healed.

18. I’d ask you to be in my wedding party but the wheelchair will look out of place at the altar.

19. You’re being selfish, not coming on the hike with us, and looking at all of my track & field trophies.

20. Don’t complain, you get all the good parking places.

21. If you just lose weight your legs will work again.

22. If you would just have more sex, you could walk!

23. You don’t know how to walk? What’s wrong with you? Here let a real man show you how to walk!

24. You are just trying too hard to walk. Give up, and then you’ll walk.

25. Here, touch my legs, then you’ll walk!

26. Just take a vacation, and the stress-break will be sure to get you walking!

27. When *we* were young we only had to worry about having to walk too much.

28. And I bet a paraplegic going to a bookstore doesn’t find books about paralysis stacked next to all the books on running…

So here’s a little hint. If someone you know tells you that she’s trying to get pregnant and it’s taking longer than expected, DON’T tell her to just relax. Don’t tell her to adopt and then surely she’ll get pregnant with her own child. Don’t tell her that God has a plan for her. Don’t say, “At least it’s fun trying!”

Scheduling sex with the person you love isn’t fun. Getting vaginal ultrasounds every other day and intramuscular injections in your ass twice a day isn’t fun. Finding out every single month that – yet again – it didn’t work this month either is Just. Not. Fun.

DO tell her that you’re sorry she’s going through such pain/grief/frustration. Do tell her that you’re glad she told you. Do tell her that, even if you don’t bring it up (because you want to respect her privacy and understand that she might not feel like talking about it sometimes), that you’re there for her if she ever wants to talk or vent.

And DON’T feel that because she told you that it’s okay for you to tell your other friends, children, co-workers, neighbors, cousins, mailman, whomever – unless she tells you that it’s okay to do so. Your need to share news pales in comparison to her need to maintain a shred of privacy and dignity. The last thing your friend needs is to be at someone’s garage sale and get unsolicited advice from said secretary’s sister’s cousin’s dogwalker’s barista about how she and her husband just need to get really drunk one night and jump in the back seat of the car. Because she’s probably already tried that, too.