by Sofia Prezani
Becoming a parent through a surrogacy arrangement involves jumping through many hoops both physical and psychological and it does not end at the long awaited arrival of your child for there arises the issue of disclosure; that is when and how to tell one’s child about their conception and how to broach such a potentially overwhelming subject that could undermine all the effort that we as parents make to build a loving and nurturing environment to ensure that our child grows up confident and happy.
Research shows that it is better for a child to know his or her birth story as early as four. It is a time when mummy’s and daddy’s every word is taken at face value and accepted without question. To leave it too long one runs the risk of the story being revealed in an inappropriate manner, which can serve to destabilise both the child and the parents. Accidental or belated disclosure can cause a tremendous sense of hurt, anger, and betrayal. Leaving it longer still, to tell the story or not to tell at all, you run the risk of a disaffected teenager finding out through a third party with dire consequences.
We decided it would be easier to tell our own son’s birth story with the aid of a book. I searched for something that would tell the story sensitively, artistically and in an age appropriate way but all I found were books that were too anatomical and cold. This is how our picture book Sacha, the Little Bright Shooting Star was born which I wrote, illustrated and published myself. Sacha, the Little Bright Shooting Star strives to add a sense of tenderness and magic that brings the story to life through a story of bears. The story hinges around baby bear Sacha who one night appears as an apparition above his intended parents as they lay sleeping together in their cave and whispers in their ear “Soon, very soon we will be together”.
When Nanook bear hands his seed and precious honey to Otsana, the surrogate bear, the delicate issue of conception is dealt with. While recounting the story to your child instead of ‘seed’ for a traditional surrogacy simply replace with ‘egg’ for a gestational surrogacy. The bears have been drawn lifelike and with quite neutral names and neutral appearance and therefore again, same sex adaptation of the story is possible. However, for us, the most important issue to get across to our child was that he was most wanted and that a third party (the surrogate) helped mummy and daddy achieve their dream.
Our son loved the story and we read it to him many times. We did not probe him whether he understood or not, choosing to wait for when he was ready to discuss it. It was about a year later when he began to ask more precise questions about his birth and made the link between himself and Sacha bear. The book is just the beginning of the journey our child will make in understanding how he was created and we hope it will give him the tools to be proud of who he is.
The following is a guest post by Sofia Prezani. She is a mother through surrogacy and the author and illustrator of Sacha, the Little Bright Shooting Star, a story which helps children understand that families are made in many different ways.