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How to Tell Your Kids They Were Made Using Someone Else’s DNA

Working Mother Logo By Bailey Gaddis of Working Mother | Slide 1 of 8: Happy mother and children sitting on couch in living room.

With IVF, surrogacy and egg and embryo donation on the rise, more moms are navigating this tricky conversation.

Terry's hand was shaking as she asked, "What if they hate me after I tell them? What if they want to move in with their father? He's the only parent genetically related to them." Then she started crying. I held her. We were about to tell her 4-year-old son and 12-year-old daughter that they were conceived using donor eggs.

We walked into her living room where her son was draping blankets across a web of chairs and her daughter was scrolling through her phone. As she told her children the truth about their genetics, her daughter looked bored and her son stood up half way through the talk and continued with his fort.

After she finished her delicately prepared speech we asked if they had any questions. Her daughter said, "So, was my donor famous? Can I tell my friends she's famous? This is cool." And her son interjected with, "Can we go get ice cream?" They seemed unfazed.

I stayed with her as we presented answers to questions that weren't asked and when I reached for her hand I noticed she had stopped shaking—she was smiling.

I checked in two weeks later and she reported her children had asked a few more questions but seemed more interested in the egg donation than confused or upset.

Terry is a member of a growing group of moms: Today, as more and more women are focusing on advancing their careers before stepping into motherhood, the average age of conception continues to rise. Data released by the CDC shows that the number of women waiting to have children until their mid-thirties to early-forties is increasing, meaning that more women will likely require IVF (in vitro fertilization), often coupled with egg or sperm donation, as egg and sperm count and quality decrease with age.

With the increasing use of donated genetic material through IVF comes a fresh parenting dilemma—how to tell your children that they do not share DNA with one, or both, of their parents.

The following is a guide for making this often difficult conversation easier on parent and child, a concept elaborated on in my upcoming book, Feng Shui Mommy. Good luck—you’ve got this.

© Eric Audras/Onoky/Getty Images

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