We are trying to keep open dialogues in our house, and to answer questions as they come up from our children. But, this sometimes makes for awkward conversations and lots of talk about private parts and maturing into adults with my kids. Now that I am pregnant with baby number four, we’ve had to have a certain talk with our inquisitive four year olds.
My daughter Lisa, the more observant, thoughtful, twin, asked me twice about “how did baby got into your tummy?” The first time she asked we were in the car, about five minutes from our destination, so I told her we didn’t really have time to talk about it, but that it was a good question and I would tell her later. The second time she asked (I think) shortly before dinner would be served, so I gave her the same answer as before. Clearly though this question was on her mind and not going away. And we really didn’t want to give her some vague answer like “God just put it there.” She actually already knew that, but really wanted to know how.
So, during our date night in January, my husband and I talked about answering this question for our daughters. Obviously, at least one of them, wanted to know how babies get into mom’s tummy, and we wanted to tell her. How grateful I am that we came up with a game plan about what we would say, how we would say it, what we wouldn’t discuss or go into details about, and when we would do it. In fact, we literally rehearsed the whole conversation as we were driving home from our date. And really, it seemed like a pretty good plan and a plan we were in agreement about.
So, when my daughter asked again, I believe at dinner, when my husband was also home, he told her that we would discuss it during our Family Home Evening night. However, that night came and went and just didn’t happen, in large part because of my husband’s new school schedule for the semester and those nights being a bit crammed. But, one night before bed she asked, and we decided to just go for it, right there, in their bedroom, without props or pictures or more preparation.
So, when Lisa asked “How did the baby get into Mommy’s tummy?” we explained it the following way:
It’s all about the Eggs
Mom has eggs inside of her that get fertilized by dad to make a baby, a bit like chicken eggs. When we buy chicken eggs from the store, they are empty inside and don’t have baby chicks in them, and that is because they weren’t fertilized by a male chicken. But, eggs that are fertilized start to create a baby chick. The same is true for mommy. Mom and Dad love each other very much, and are married, and decided to make a baby, so dad fertilized mommy’s egg.
However, these eggs are super, super small! You can’t see them with just your eyes! And that’s part of why it takes so long for baby to come out. The baby starts out teeny-tiny and has to grow big enough to be born, and that takes several months.
*Sidenote: One day our daughter Alison was saying a prayer and prayed that Mommy’s baby would come soon. After her prayer, we told her that we don’t want mom’s baby to come soon, because that would be really bad, and the baby would die. We told her she should pray that mommy’s baby would grow and be healthy and safe instead. Our children have since been fantastic about doing just that each and every prayer.
We told here that the fertilized egg grows inside mom’s uterus, not really her tummy. And that all girls have eggs and uteruses, and all boys have the fertizilizers. It’s why boys and girls are different. It’s why your crotch is different from your dad’s and your brother’s crotch.
When can you have a baby?
My daughter Lisa then asked about when you can have a baby, and we explained that little girls can’t have a baby, because they need to mature first. Girls need to get boobs, and hair, and grow taller. (which they know about per discussions I talked about in this post). Just like boys do. And then you need to love a boy and be married to them.
*Sidenote: Yes. We are telling our children they should be married before having sex and having a baby. Someday we’ll explain out of wedlock sex and babies as well as gay relationships and even explain things like divorce. For now though, it’s about keeping it simple. Plus, we firmly believe that sex and children should only come after marriage, so that is what we will be teaching our children as the proper way to do things. We are teaching the ideal. If you don’t like that, I don’t care.
And that was pretty much the conversation! We asked if that made sense and if they had any other questions.
It was funny to see the difference in attention between Lisa and her twin sister Alison. Lisa was rapt and very involved in the conversation, and Alison listened, but was certainly not as invested. But, it was Lisa who asked the question, and who really wants to know things.
Since this about five minute conversation, neither child has asked us anything about mommy’s baby or how it got there. To which I am partially relieved. But, I know that the information is stored away.
I have to say I am surprised how awesome the conversation went. My husband and I were on point, and didn’t give more than was required, and it went great. Plus, it actually wasn’t that awkward. Personally, it felt like a total parenting win.
So, if your preschooler wants to know how baby got into mom’s tummy, I have the following suggestions:
- Don’t answer immediately. Give yourself time, and them time, but promise to answer the question, that you will answer it, and that it is a good question.
- Plan with your spouse. Go over what you both feel comfortable sharing and not with your child at their age.
- Keep it simple!! Only give as much information as is needed. We didn’t tell my daughter how dad fertilized the egg. At not quite five years old, we don’t really think our daughter is ready to learn about sexual intercourse. It would have been way over her head and way too much information. We kept it to the bare science of egg gets fertilized and it creates a baby. Plus, it kept the conversation short and sweet. It maybe lasted five minutes, perfect for a preschooler’s attention span.
- Rehearse it! Seriously, practice what you’ll say! I feel like this made a tremendous difference in how our conversation went down. My husband and I had already said these things outloud before, and played it out. I think it gave us a big confidence boost, and also helped make it so less awkward.
- Make it natural! Use simple ideas and terms your child already understands. It’s why we stuck with the egg, and used a chicken’s egg as a comparison so they could better understand. We also didn’t make it formal, and like some big lecture or lesson. We smiled, and asked her questions, just as we normally do when explaining something new to our children.
- Pray! If you are still nervous, pray for help and support to be open and honest with your kids and to share just enough to educate and keep those lines of communication open, but also for you to not freak out or get nervous. Pray to know what to share and what to hold back.
I really do think it’s important to answer these questions as they come up. It was clearly something my daughter was thinking about, and not just as a passing thought. Answering their question shows them respect as you take the time to really answer it and not blow them off, or make them feel stupid for asking the question.
I will not lie though and say I look forward to more questions, but I am trying my best to take them in stride as they come. Some day we’ll further discuss male and female anatomy, what a period is, and actually have the sex talk. Whew. Wish me luck on those! I just pray they’ll go as easy and simply as this little conversation went!
How have you explained to preschoolers or young children how a baby is made?