• Children and IVF: To Tell, or Not to Tell

      To tell or not to tell? That is the first question that IVF parents ask themselves and each other. How much to tell? When to tell?

      Parents who have conceived their child(ren) through fertility treatments have mixed feelings about telling their children about their conception. Those who choose not to tell their children may fear that their child will somehow feel different than other children, or that their child might be ostracized by other children. Other parents who choose not to tell do so out of a lingering sense of shame or embarrassment about their infertility issues. Some parents feel that children don't need to know -- that it is private information between parents and it doesn't make a difference to the child.

      Even for parents who do choose to tell their children about their conception through fertility treatments can find it difficult. Finding the right time, the right age, and even the right words can stump even the most forthcoming parents. Mary Schmitt*, an Ohio mother of a preschooler conceived via IVF articulates the difficulty. "From the very beginning we knew we wanted to tell our baby where he came from. We want him to know just how much we struggled to bring him into the world. But we also don't want him to think he is somehow to blame for our difficulties, or that he is somehow different from anyone else because of where the egg and sperm met. How do you balance all of that information and package it appropriately for a five year old?"

      The American Infertility Association publishes a fact sheet titled, "Out of the Dish: Talking to Children About Their IVF Origins." The paper emphasizes the importance of talking with children about their conception. Although there is scant research available on the impact of such information on children, Patricia Mendell, a New York City psychotherapist believes in the importance of telling children about their medical and family histories, "regardless of how they were conceived."

      Claudia Santorelli-Bates, another mother who used IVF, struggled with the same concepts. After looking for guidance or recommendations on how to tell her own child, she came up empty-handed. Taking matters into her own hands, she wrote a book about it. I Canít Wait To Meet You is a newly published book that parents can share with their children. The book is meant to be shared with children, both as a means for starting the conversation and for reassuring children how much they are loved and wanted.

      * Not her real name.
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