I am expecting a baby. For the third time. Yep, as a busy mom of two toddlers, my husband and I decided it would be a great idea to do it all over again. Did I mention I work full time as a community paediatrician and emergency medicine doctor at the Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto? And maintain a demanding blog and website (DrDina.ca). And have two toddlers. And two rambunctious dogs.
Oh and have I mentioned that I HATE being pregnant?
(More on this in future blog posts...)
My life is a little insane right now, but I have to admit I am happier than I’ve ever been, professionally and personally. I thrive on organized chaos, hence my love of the emergency department. So why with a successful career and happy, healthy family life am I doing it again? I love babies. I love having kids around. That’s why I went into paediatrics in the first place. I can’t get enough of the sound of kids laughing and playing and those delicious ‘I love you mommy’ hugs. It’s what I live for.
So what happens when you tell your three year old that you are bringing home yet another baby? You get a lot of questions about how it all happened. I told Dylan we were expecting a few weeks back and after a few seconds of thought he asked, “So mommy, how did it get in there?!"
I was shocked that at his young age he even thought to ask. I expected a reaction along the lines of, "mommy, do we have to bring another baby home?" I wasn’t prepared. My paediatrics training wasn’t allowing me to come up with any reasonable answer for his young mind. So, I, in true mommy fashion, answered, "Daddy put it there."
Dylan, without missing a beat replied, "So you swallowed the baby?"
I giggled, picturing what an adult might visualize compared to what Dylan was picturing. I said yes, and changed the subject.
It would be great if the conversation ended there. But of course it did not. Dylan proceeded to ask me to clarify the ‘swallowing the baby’ concept to him daily since. And of course has asked where the baby comes out. He heard from a friend (really, three year olds talk about this?!) that babies come out of the belly button. I confirmed for him that this is not the case, as the thought seemed to scare him. I put on my ‘doctor hat’ and told him babies come out of the vagina. He seemed satisfied, and followed up,
"Daddies don’t have ‘ginas so they can’t have babies?"
I nodded. He was catching on,
"Mommy, can daddies put babies in mommies ‘gina too?"
I was proud, I have to admit. He was getting it, and wasn’t freaked out by it. It was scientifically accurate and not creepy. I agreed and he was satisfied and went to go play with his brother. He hasn’t asked about it since.
How can you best address these types of questions from toddlers or older siblings?
Here are some suggestions:
This is what I tried to do with Dylan. I allowed him to ask me questions and I answered them plainly and honestly without being too descriptive. No need to explain the process if your child doesn’t want to know.
Ask what your child thinks the answer is. This way you can get a better handle of what they know and want to know. You may need less detail than you think.
Please use the real words like vagina and sperm. This will be less confusing to your child than thinking a seed is growing in your stomach like a tree. I have seen a few kids scared by this thought!
If your child thinks it’s a fast process he or she may be disappointed that the baby isn’t coming out already.
If you are uncomfortable talking about the subject your child may think there is something to be embarrassed about. Be matter-of-fact and cool. Fake it till you make it. Or collect your thoughts and say you’ll discuss more another time, and wait till you’re mentally ready to discuss.
There are several excellent books available that will allow you to discuss pregnancy and delivery with your child in a less confrontational way. Examples include What to Expect When Mommy's Having a Baby, by Heidi Murkoff and Before You Were Born, by Jennifer Davis.
So, moral of the story: I suggest being honest with your kids about pregnancy and delivery, within reason. You can’t expect a two-year-old to get these concepts. Some may find it scary. Dylan was ready and was making the connections himself.
We’ll see what he asks tomorrow…
Want to see more from me? Check out my great checklists: Everything You Need To Get Before Baby Arrives and Everything Moms-To-Be Need To Bring To The Hospital.