Discussing Conception with Children Born of IVF: What's a good age?
Our son is a typical 10-year-old, fourth grader in many ways, curious and active, happier outside than in, and full of questions, none of which are yet too embarrassing to ask. Given the current state of the COVID-19 pandemic, we have many more conversations at home now, about many different topics given the four of us and our dog are home every day all day long, living, learning and working remotely.
But the other night our boy asked what the word “rape” meant, and it obviously took me by surprise. He said he had heard it on the news one night and wondered if would we tell him? Of course, we explained, and this led to a discussion about consent, another powerful word. We felt it was important to include our almost 9-year-old daughter in the discussion. She generally gets her information at school from her more informed friends. We later joked that it was a good thing they weren’t going to school or any play dates for a while. Some kids might get an earful, even though they never asked for this information. Anyway, the conversation led from rape to consent to sex and back to puberty, which we’ve already discussed in part because of family, friends, and cousins whose bodies and voices are changing. But at some point, our son decided he had heard enough. “That’s good, Mom and Dad. I think I’m good now. You can stop now.” But our daughter had not heard enough.
“So, Mom, does Dad’s penis do that? You know what I mean. Because of his spinal cord injury?” And she is looking at me with this earnest expression, and I look at her dad who is also in the same room, and he is trying not to laugh. I’m wondering why she has directed this question to me and not her dad. Before I find the right words, she has moved onto, “So how long does “The Sex” actually take?” I’m dying laughing inside because she has called it “The Sex”, and if she sees me laugh, she will be embarrassed and that is the last thing I want. But sweet Mary, I’ve handled the last half hour of parenting discussion like a champion and can’t screw it up now.
But I’m wondering if this is the age, we tell them that they weren’t made like other babies were made. I’m wondering if this is the age when we tell them that for the same reason Daddy uses a catheter to pee, his body doesn’t always cooperate the way it did before his injury, and it couldn’t when we were trying to have children. I’m wondering if almost 9 and newly 10 are old enough to understand how eggs and sperm met in a petri dish, in a fertility clinic a long, long time ago, and then returned to Mom’s uterus where they grew for nine plus months, and then delivered into our world.
But in one look across our couch with our children settled between us, we decided without saying anything that no, not now; that information could and should probably wait. While there is nothing embarrassing about how our children were conceived, the fact they are just learning about the bodily equipment, mechanics and process of puberty is enough. All things in good time. However, if anyone else has been through this, we welcome your thoughts and experiences. We are glad our kids ask us about anything; however, as they get older that may not always be the case. One day they may read these articles and wonder why we shared so much of our personal story with the world; if we are still alive at that point and remember. We will remind them that is how we learn from one another and different experiences. When we finished our chat, I shared with them that their grandmother, trying to be ahead of the curve, made me read a pop-up book when I was 8 about how babies are made, and it scarred me for life. Oh, Gram, they giggled...and so did we.
Heather Ehrman Krill is a writer- wife- teacher-mom who lives in the White Mountains of NH with her husband, Geoff, a paraplegic and professional skier, and their two children, Carver and Greta who are 10 and 8. Please check out her novel True North, website www.heatherkrill.com, author FB page Heather Krill, and @heatherkrill1 on Twitter.