Normalizing all families—and a little sex education, too
Research has shown that it’s best to start the discussion about donor origins with your child at an early age. Basically, you want to avoid there ever being a time when your child remembers being told about his or her origins. Instead, you want to aim for it to be a story that has been part of your child’s knowledge before they could even understand it.
If you feel uncertain about how to introduce the topic, there are numerous picture books you can read to your child. They help lay a foundation at a very young age and prevent your child from being surprised later in life. They also have the added bonus of teaching you the language and concepts of your child’s narrative, too.
Different family structures
It might be best to begin with a few books that explain the many different kinds of families, including families headed by single moms. The most basic for this purpose is The Family Book by Todd Parr (Little, Brown Books for Young Readers, 2010). It’s straightforward and to the point, with very few words and simple pictures, making it suitable for very young children.
As your child grows to be a toddler, the topic of various family structures can be covered in a more detailed book, such as The Great Big Book of Families by Mary Hoffman (Frances Lincoln Children’s Books, 2015). It has great pictures and covers different types of families, but it also illustrates that there are many differences among people, such as the homes they live in, the jobs they have, the schools they go to, the clothes they wear, their feelings, and the hobbies they pursue. It feels great to begin teaching my son to be inclusive and accepting of all differences among people.
Now that my son is a toddler and is already asking questions about why he doesn’t have a daddy, I am so grateful to have previously laid a foundation about all the different types of family structures around us. We cross-reference the families we know that are different from us but match the various family structures discussed in these books.
When introducing donor conception to your child, it’s very important to separate the idea of Mom and Dad from sperm and egg. By that I mean that it’s useful for your donor-conceived child to understand that a sperm and an egg are required to create a baby; however, sometimes the person who provides the sperm or egg is the mother or father, and sometimes that person is not. There is a growing number of books that discuss these concepts, many of which are customizable for various scenarios and should be useful for single moms, in particular.
Just the Baby for Me by Barbara Levin (Lulu Press, 2008) explains how a mother always wanted to be a mommy but couldn’t find a man to be her husband. It explains how she went to the sperm bank and had the doctor put the sperm in her belly to meet the egg. The book ends with a lovely expression of how much the baby was wanted and loved.
For those who want to avoid the terms sperm and egg, Before You Were Born: My Wish for a Baby by Janice Grimes is a great book. The book uses a bear to tell the story. It’s appropriate for children aged three to five, though I started reading this book to my son as soon as he was born. The greatest part about this book is that you can order it in several different versions: single mom sperm donation, single mom in vitro fertilization, or single mom sperm/egg or embryo adoption versions. It does not use the terms sperm and egg but does use the term donor. It’s available for electronic download, or you can purchase a printed version.
The Donor Conception Network is a UK-based organization that has endless resources for donor-conceived children of any kind, including books for children of any age and videos and books for adults. Our Story, the Donor Conception Network’s publication from 2002, is “for children conceived through sperm donation in solo mum families.” It is aimed at a toddler audience and is fully customizable for just about any scenario. It must be ordered from the UK, but if you need a specific story—such as Solo Mom double donor or sperm donor with twins—it is a great book to have. Some versions allow you to insert pictures of the donors, if you have them. And they have variations for known donors and anonymous donors, whether you will be able to meet donor siblings, etc. The variations that are available are quite amazing.
Inclusive sex education
What Makes a Baby by Cory Silverberg (Triangle Square, 2013) is a quirky and fun sex-education book for kids aged four to eight. It’s intended to be “a book for every kind of FAMILY and every kind of KID.” It emphasizes that not everyone goes about having a baby the same way and cleverly illuminates the basic biology of reproduction while honoring today’s diversity of families, genders, and gender identities, in addition to the different ways kids can come into a family.
It’s inevitable that at some point your child will face activities that are geared toward dads, such as Father’s Day or father-daughter dances. Nan’s Donut Dilemma by Mary E. Ryan (Keen Editions, 2011) is a lovely book in which a mother explains to her child that she got help from a man and a doctor to have a baby. When Nan’s teacher plans Dad Donut Day, the children in Nan’s class tease her about not having a dad and argue that everyone must have a dad. The book spends time talking about the child’s extended family and how many people love her. It’s an upbeat, sweet story about how Nan deals with this scenario by inviting her uncle to Donut Day. It can also serve as a reminder to teachers about creating events that are inclusive to all family structures. This book is best for slightly older kids in preschool or even kindergarten.
Have fun reading these great books to your children. They definitely will help address and normalize donor conception and also give you ideas on how to have your own conversation with your child.
Sarah Kowalski, ESME’s Solo Mom by Choice Resource Guide, is an attorney, somatic coach, Feldenkrais practitioner, and qigong teacher, specializing in the mind/body connection. As the founder of Motherhood Reimagined, she coaches women through their emotions and fears so that solo motherhood, egg donation, adoption, or other means can become an option to consider. She helps women redefine what it means to be a mother so they can cultivate the love, courage, and tenacity it takes to conceive and raise a child by unconventional means. Join her private Facebook group for juicy discussions and support, or follow her on Facebook or Twitter.
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