Last night I was catching up with a friend and fellow embryo adoptive mom when we started discussing our adoptions and how to have the conversations with our children about their beginnings. My friend’s triplets are 4 ½ years old and one recently asked about his “other mommy”. Understandably the question was a bit unnerving; not because of the fact that he does have a different genetic mother, but because of the unanswered questions. She said that she wants to try a different term than “mommy” to describe his genetic mother, but is still working on the “right” term. They, like us, went through anonymous adoption and have limited information on the genetic family. Also, like us, embryo adoption is a part of their normal family conversations and we both understand that our adoptions are still not a “normal” part of the adoption landscape. We didn’t rescue a child from an orphanage or out of poverty or from an unwed teen mom. We rescued children from a freezer that were loved enough to be given a shot at life, but were also a consequence of the brave new world of fertility treatments. Why did their genetic parents decide they were finished having children? Where there medical reasons? Financial reasons? Just no desire to have more children?

Here are some of my questions and thoughts on raising the children that I both gave birth to and adopted:

When and how do you start the conversations about their origin? Our adoption home study taught us that adoption should not be a bad word or a secret; it should be celebrated and openly discussed. I agree. My children are special, but I also don’t want them to feel weird or out of place. I’m trying to find the right balance of talking about their start and letting them be the children born to Jeremy and me.

How do you refer to the donor family? Right now we call them the genetic mother and father. I try to steer away from the term biological, because I feel as though I’m their biological mother. Not biological in terms of DNA, but biological in terms of my body sustaining them through pregnancy and after through breastfeeding. I guess the way in which we talk about them will evolve throughout the years and as Grant and Maria mature. I just wonder what the right term is for when Grant and Maria are able to verbalize and understand that they were adopted.

Have your thoughts on open vs. anonymous adoption changed? I wouldn’t change our decision to go anonymous. I respect their genetic family’s choice to give them up without knowing or wanting to know the birth family. At the time of our adoption, having involvement with a genetic family felt extremely threatening and scary to me. Now, however, as Grant and Maria are older and clearly know Jeremy and me as their dad and mom, the thought of some sort of contact is much less threatening. I know they are both going to come to us for comfort. I’m the one Grant is calling for when I drop him off for childcare at church. His “MUMMY!” is sad, and precious, and comforting to me all at once. I know they will have questions that we can’t answer. I also feel that the fact that Jeremy doesn’t know his biological father and was raised by an adoptive father might be helpful as he might be able to relate to them and some of their questions.

What questions do you have and how do you/think you will respond?


  1. Hi Jessica. I have a little boy who turned 4 in January from EA. I have talked to him about it on a very basic level. We know actuall know his genetic family, and we have all met them. They have an 8 year old boy, themselves, and the boys played very well together. At this point, my son hasn’t really asked any questions, though I’m sure someday he will. I expected questions from his (genetic) brother, but he didn’t really ask any either. When his mother and I talked about things, she said he didn’t really ask her questions right now, either. We both think it’s due to the fact that we have been very open about discussing it with them, like you said in your post. W e refer to them as Ethan’s “genetic family”, and individually just by their names. We have just told Ethan that they helped us have him, and I guess we’ll build on that as he gets older. I know it can seem very confusing, because like you said, it’s not so black and white. I often wonder if there will ever be specific titles and language that everyone accepts, but I guess for now, it’s up to each individual family. Your kids are adorable, and I wish your family all the best!

  2. I completely agree, and I also use the term genetic mother for the exact same reason! I gave my daughters a book describing our journey when they turned one (,) and have read it ever since, adding more details as they arise. They have not yet asked about there genetic parents (they’ll be six in a few weeks!), but they know God meant for them to come to us. In general I tell them their genetic parents weren’t able to care for them at the time and knew God had plans for them!

  3. I have many of the same questions and concerns that you conveyed. I wonder when it’s appropriate to develop a conversations about his special birth circumstances. Right now our son is 3.5 and very intelligent. Like you I consider myself the biological mom due to sustaining him through the pregnancy and breastfeeding. My husband and I know that one day we will have to tell them about his origin but have yet to figure the best way to describe it. As for knowing or not knowing the genetic family, I’m glad that they chose to be anonymous because I had fears of the family wanting the child after it was born. I’m glad that is not a concern right now. I do wonder though where in the states they live and if by chance when our son is old enough to date if he may encounter a bio sibling. As for now we are enjoying our little man and his precious imagination and zest for life. We know that when the time comes to approach the subject of his origin God will provide the answers we are searching for.

  4. I have a ‘just turned’ 4 year old daughter and a ‘just turned’ one year old, adopted as embryos. One adoption was open, the other anonymous (long story there). We are very open about talking about the origins of our girls to folks who are interested in knowing, but have been gently laying the foundation for that conversation with our children. We’ve always told them that God ‘brought’ them to us. We’ve talked to them about how mommy and daddy couldn’t have children on our own, and how God ‘made a special way’ for us to have babies. When my oldest has asked, “How did I get inside your tummy?” I’ve told her that a wonderful dr. in Tennessee placed her in my womb when she was so tiny, we had to use a microscope to see her, and then shown her the picture of our first glimpse of her as an embryo. We’ve always referred to our donor family as her genetic family. We’ve never said genetic mommy or genetic daddy. I’ve thought about explaining the process in terms of a puzzle~ that someone was missing from our family, and this incredible family had the missing piece that we needed.
    I’ve always referred to my girls as ‘miracle babies’, but I am totally aware that every baby is a miracle. However, embryo adoption is complicated, unique, scientific, brilliant, amazing, and miraculous~all wrapped up into one. We acknowledge the absolute neccessity of modern medicine and ‘man’s hand’ in bringing about the opportunity for us to become parents, and yet marvel at the unexpected and undeniable fingerprints of God in our particular situation.

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