Mom, where do babies come from?
There’s a part of me that thought the day I would have to cross this conversational bridge was years down the road, like thinking about your child going off to college. Boy was I wrong. The inquiries started a few years after their own births; they were met with tales of whimsy (the stork, the basket on the doorstep,) and tales of medical marvels, (through a mommy’s belly button, from out of thin air.) I’ve even told the seldom used, “We found you in a trashcan” tale -- which was told to me by my doting dad, who would threaten to put me back in the trashcan where he found me, when I wasn’t listening.
The other day, my son asked the dreaded question again, but with a more specific amendment, "How do they get out?" I thought, This can't be right. Just yesterday Toy Story 3 spurred a discussion about whether toys have feelings and now I'm about to share the reality of how one enters the world?
While I looked around the crowded breakfast diner for signs of eavesdropping, my son continued, "Well, do they come out of your belly?"
"Sometimes." I said, hedging.
"So they have to cut your belly open and take the baby out?"
"They can." Still hedging.
"So that means my sister will have to have surgery and stitches if she wants a baby?" he asked. "Well, there is another way," I whispered, bracing myself for the response. "Babies can also come out of a Mommy's vagina." No amount of bracing could have prepared me for the grossed-out, confused, gape-mouthed face and unblinking eyes that now stared at me.
"NO WAY." He said in denial, as if I was just saying that to be funny. Like telling him if he eats too many watermelon seeds, he'll grow a watermelon vine in his belly.
"WHAAAT, babies come out your VAGINA?"
The families that hadn't been paying attention to us before quickly turned, as "vagina" is not the usual morning conversation fare.
"Shhh, we can't scream "vagina" in public," I whispered thinking, this wouldn't be the first time.
"Well, I think it's better to cut open your belly." He said thoughtfully.
"If it comes out of your vagina, the baby would just drop in the toilet. Yuck!"
Not where I thought this conversation would go, but before I knew it, I was explaining stirrups and spreading your legs for the doctor. He took this in with unwavering interest. I felt like I could actually see the mechanics of his mind, like watching the inner workings of a clock. Just when I thought he had digested it all he said, "How do they start to grow inside of you in the first place?"
"Okay, here comes our meal. Let's just enjoy our eggs," which by the way, is an ironic thing to be eating while conversing about how babies grow.
OK, so what should you say?
I had reached my limit of explanation for one day and would have been delighted to revert to the whole, "Do you think my Yankee's teddy bear has feelings?" talk. The truth is, every parent has to engage in the "baby chat" at some time or other. The question is, what do you say and when?
Clinical Psychologist, Dr. Katia Moritz PhD believes that this particular question is answered over time, "Each version should be tailored to address your child's developmental stage." She says to let your child's questions lead the discussion and most importantly, don't lie. "Lying is confusing and can lead to distrust." Well, there goes the baby in the trashcan tale.
Dr. Moritz explained that it's best to tell a version your child can understand. The first time you broach the subject you may use phrases like: "Babies come from a Mommy's belly." and "A baby starts as an egg and grows like a seed that grows into a flower."
Eventually your child will become more inquisitive and when he or she is ready, you can be more specific about the finer details. And finally, when your sweet innocent child is like, twenty-one, you can explain how the baby is actually made. Okay, she didn't say the last part, but I may just go with it.
Clearly, I got off on the wrong foot, weaving my wild yarns. Like any daunting hurdle in parenthood, we jump it to the best of our abilities and hopefully we don't set our children up for therapy in later life while doing so.
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