Any parent to an IVF or surrogate child knows only too well how confronting the conversation about conception can be.
Unlike other parents who are able to succinctly explain the birds and the bees, it’s a bit more challenging when scientists and doctors are involved.
However, a couple of newly released books may well lend a helping hand.
An IVF Story and 21st Century Guide to the Birds & the Bees offer stories incorporating a modern day twist on conception.
The books have been co-authored and published by Rosie Luik, who is a mum of four and an altruistic surrogate to twin girls.
There should be no shame or embarrassment when it comes to IVF, egg donation and surrogacy.
Inspired by her own surrogacy experience, Luik wanted to create books to help children understand modern alternatives to baby-making.
“I wanted to improve the communication and the conversations surrounding the different ways a family can be made,” says Luik.
“It seemed like a good idea to start with the new generation, which resulted in children's books based on my own experiences with IVF, egg donation, surrogacy and IUI and the experiences of my co-author with IVF.”
And these are conversations that need to happen.
According to the Fertility Society of Australia, one in six couples in Australia and New Zealand suffer from infertility.
Subsequently, the number of couples using IVF or exploring surrogacy options is rising.
However, there’s still a stigma and taboo surrounding the topic, and this needs to be addressed.
“I believe educating our children and starting the conversations early is so important to help remove the taboo,” says Luik.
“There should be no shame or embarrassment when it comes to IVF, egg donation and surrogacy. It is the love within that family that’s essential and I think it’s valuable our children learn this.”
Luik believes that educating children about different ways of conception will help it become accepted as a normal part of life.
She also believes that it should be incorporated as part of sex education within schools.
“Every single child deserves to know how they were made and there should be total social inclusion when it comes to this,” she says.
The first book in the series, An IVF Story, explains the process of IVF through engaging illustrations and simple text.
It enables children to learn about the special way in which they were made and understand how amazing medical science can be.
In a similar vein, the second book, 21st Century Guide to the Birds & the Bees, provides insightful and factual accounts of all kinds of conception.
These include natural conception, IVF, IUI, surrogacy and donor use.
“I believe educating our children and starting the conversations early is so important to help remove the taboo.”
Both books document the entire journey of all the different types of conception from pregnancy right through to the birth
“I believe that children learn best through storytelling and, by creating visually engaging books, I’m helping parents to start this important but often tricky conversation,” says Luik.
“I want children to grow up with the knowledge that not everyone can conceive naturally and there are other options, should they ever be in this situation themselves.”
Luik says that the book is relevant to children across all cultures, although notes that it’s up to the individual family and their beliefs in whether they share it or not with their children.
“The book isn't made to exclude anyone. In fact it was created to encourage inclusion and created to inform and educate today's children, whatever culture they come from or however they were made,” says Luik.
Luik says that when it comes to conversations around conception you need to be open and honest and answer questions in the most factual way you feel comfortable with.
She also suggests keeping the terminology and the concept simple.
“For the surrogacy we explained to our children that our friend’s tummy wasn't working properly to carry a baby, so I would carry her baby in my tummy instead,” she says.
“For IVF, it's a case of explaining to children that you wanted to have a baby and needed a little help from the doctor.”
In terms of timing, Luik believes that communication should start early, although notes that the level of detail will vary depending on the child’s age.
“Try to have conversations at the dinner table, in the car and in the shower,” she says. “Just be relaxed and don't try to make it a big event.”
21st Century Guide to the Birds and the Bees is available through Rosie Luik's website.