23 February 2009

The stork is dead, long live the stork!

Problem: My oldest daughter wants to know how the baby will escape from prison. I don’t think she needs to know.


I understand that for many (sane) parents this is not an issue. The kid wants to know? Tell her! The end. Experts agree, and good, loving parents the nation over host “Birth: How It Happens” seminars for their wide-eyed, inquisitive children.

When fired from the baby delivery route,
he had to find something to do

While I truly admire parents for being frank and get that experts are paid for their opinions, I just don’t like the way this thing usually goes down. From what I’ve seen, forward conversations about birth leave kids terrified and bewildered. Come to think of it, those conversations usually leave me terrified and bewildered. Let’s just say the doctor brings me the baby in her fancy black bag, OK? I’m happy with that. On the one hand, I want to be direct with my babies and explain things correctly before Someone Else usurps the privilege. But on the other hand . . .

Birth is a technical process, true, and as a technical process not that hard to explain. But it’s ever so much more than a technical process—the horrible suffering, the strange beauty, the awful mortification and the soaring joy of birth cannot be explained in a cursory casting about of medical terminology and charts. What's more, children intuit some, but not enough of what lies behind the technical diagramming—hence their terror. Even when taught Latin words and Grey’s Anatomy, they don’t understand. How could they? So, why not save the sticky stuff ‘til later?

I’d rather my children laugh at my belly until it’s time to wonder at their new sibling, and call it a day. My little people are still pretty little; we’ll slouch toward the in-depth seminars slowly: first crawl, then walk, then run, with information sufficient to each stage. In the meantime, how did those of you with older children handle explaining birth (just birth, really; we can discuss the other side of this coin some other time)? Be warned, everything you say can and will be stolen. ;)


Joy said...

My 8-year-old was sad that she couldn't be there for this last one, who was born early morning after a long induction 9 days post-due. We had rented a video from the library and she'd been reading my pregnancy books, so she was as prepared as I. We'll make sure she can be there for the next one, DV.

The 3-year-old was clueless. She'd inevitably walk in on the videos, say "Yuck" at the crotch shots, then clap her hands and say, "Yaaay! Good job mom!" when the baby was born.

Liz said...

Well, when my mom was pregnant with my youngest sister, I figured that babies that live in tummies must come out of the belly button... and never asked. But I heard a very quick and satisfying answer to that question last year... mommies have a poop hole, a pee hole, and a baby hole... and that's all the toddler wanted to know.

Since I'm only ever going to be able to have C sections, we're going to opt for the belly button explanation.

Karin said...

I personally think that little children are just puzzled how this happens and want to be assured that everything will be alright. I ask them to ask me specific questions and that is what I answer...what THEY want to know. I think many parents think that the kids want to know every detail when they are not really thinking that at all. I have five boys and the older ones have spent enough time on the farm that they seem to know everything. All Creatures Great and Small, the television show helps as well.....

Nitty gritties I save to when they are older and actually want to know. We homeschool though so perhaps my fear of others telling them is not great enough. This is just what I do here and it seems that everyone is different (duh) and every kids level of curiousity is different so there is no pat answer.

Pr. H. R. said...

I recommend the route of Gibbon in his Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire (and subsequently imitated my some of the Loeb Classical Library editors): Si scire malunt, liberi Latinam discant.

"Carissime G----, nunc dico vobis veritatem infantum nascientium. . ."


Beth said...

My girls have always been asleep for our home births in the past, but they were all awake during this last one.
The 9yo cried with joy, the 6yo rubbed my back and said "good job mommy". The almost 3yo climbed in the pool with me and held me till the next contraction. She watched from the arms of our good family friend when Vignette was actually born.
They definitly know how babies come out. But how they get in there is another deal.
I wait till they ask me point blank, then only answer exactly what they are asking, but don't hold back when they ask.(only 9yo has asked so far...) I also work in how sweet and wonderful is this relationship that God designed for his children to enjoy in marriage.

MooreMama said...

We're so not there yet, but... When I was little, we had cats, who had kittens. When "things" were imminent, we got to stay home from school to "help". I never even thought to ask any more questions until I was ready to have babies of my own.

Rebekah said...

For those of us entirely disinclined to give personal demonstrations, I think the kitten approach makes all kinds of sense.

Marie M said...

If and when you ever have the "talk," a book I'd recommend is called The Wonderful Way Babies are Made, by Larry Christiansen. The author is Lutheran, and there is a poem type text for parents to read aloud to (little) children, and some other text that older ones can read on their own.

We've already read it to our girls, and plan to read it on their birthdays, so there's never a "gross-out" moment when they find out how babies are made. Of course, it is a beautiful mystery no one can understand until marriage, but it's also something I'm not ashamed of... and I just desparately don't want my children learning it from someone else!

I'm not sure if I would ever have the children there for birth. I'm moody enough and don't really like to be touched on a typical day... I don't think I'd do very well with them in labor! However, it might be something we'd consider when they are older. Before I had given birth, I sure would have liked to have some idea what to expect. If I can give my girls that "head's up," maybe I would.

I went the "girls have three holes" route when potty-training Grace(almost three). She plays pretend all of the time. One of her favorite things is to bring me a dolly (or sometimes, she stuffs the doll under her own shirt!) and tells me to push the baby out. I give a little grunt (yes, I know, it probably seems strange, but I feel like I'm encouraging her maternal instincts, rather than teaching her how to play lawyer or engineer=), to give an impression of some effort involved in birth, without anything scary.

I guess, we don't have TV, we plan to homeschool, and aren't really in a lot of playgroups, so I feel obligated to teach them and give them information on their own level. I want them to feel comfortable talking about such things with me and asking me their questions, rather than reading magazines or talking to friends in the future.

Melanie said...

Well I completely understand holding off on the "how they got there" discussion (we just told our son that Jesus makes them) but I completely disagree that there is any need to hold of explaining birth. This is the BEST time to explain it! Child, the sky is blue. C: Okay mommy! Child, Jesus died for you. C: Jesus died for me! They just get it!

Child, Jesus made a baby in my tummy and I am going to work really hard to push him/her out so we can have another baby to love! This is how I explained it to my 2 year old at the time and he thought it was the coolest thing ever. Then, because we did not have a single person to him at the time, he ended up staying with us the entire 12 hrs of my birth and had the maturity of a 50 yr old. Every contraction he would smile sympathetically and rub my back and say, "good job mommy, you're working so hard to push our baby out!" (he was 2 and 4 months!) Then, as I got louder he casually left and went to play. We brought him in right after his brother was born and he was thrilled. Now he says, "Mommy, I want you to push another baby out of your legs!" :)
Ive also heard him pray outloud, "Jesus, will you please put another baby in mommy's tummy?"

Anne said...

So far no one has wanted to know how they "got there", but a couple years ago they all really wanted to know where they were before they were in my tummy!

When I was almost to the end with #3 the older two (3 1/2 yr boy and almost 2 girl) came running into the bathroom one day wanting to know how the baby was going to get out. I told them that God gave Mommy's a special opening that would let the baby out when it was time. (gesture vaguely between my legs) Since we were having a homebirth and I figured at least 1 of them would be awake and want to watch, I spent some time telling them how it was hard work to get a baby out and demonstrated noises I might make. Sometime after this discussion my oldest put 2 and 2 together and asked me if the baby came out of the vagina. Yes. OK. (However on the video you can hear him asking why the baby came out of my bottom)
Birth is something we talk about a lot around here. I do a bit of Doula work and my kids love to look at the pictures in all the birth books. They have all watched our birth videos over and over. Birth is just something they accept as normal, although exciting and amazing too.

The Hausvater Project said...

See "Teaching the Mystery of Procreation to Your Children" at http://www.hausvater.org/wondrway.php.

Gauntlets said...

Liz: :D

Karin: Write a book and share everything you know. Pleeeeeease.

H.R.: Once I pry my Latin from the rusty wreck, I'll give that method a go. :D

MooreMama: I so had a hand in cat deliveries, too! This is only part of what makes us such great people. ;D

Marie: Thanks for the book recommendation. I'll check it out. :)

et al.: Well, girls, I really admire your upright sincerity. Thank you. I do live over here on the antipodes, though. Different customs, and all that. :)

Lauriinnc said...

What a interesting discussion! A discussion we have had so many times at our house.

Most recently, the three year old thinks that when I am going to the dr..I am going to bring home the baby! He also thinks the Dr is going to cut open my belly to get it out (I hope he is not prophetic)!Both 5 yo and 3 yo dsons have point blank asked WHERE the baby comes out and like Liz, the three hole description is short, sweet, to the point and exactly what they wanted to know.

I have learned over the years to clarify their answers before answering these..embarrassing to me..questions. They are not embarrassed...they just want facts. If they don't get 'em..they make up an answer based on the little knowledge they have.

Watching animals get pregnant and give birth is a way easier way to impart the knowledge.