I was due to give birth to my son when my daughter Ava was 2 1/2 years old. Since my husband and I were planning a home birth, we felt it was important to discuss with Ava how the baby would be born. Because she would be within earshot if not in the room when Julian was born, I wanted her to know what she may see as well as hear.
One of the ways I prepared Ava for what would happen was by reading “Welcome With Love,” a beautiful children’s book about natural childbirth. We also watched some childbirth videos (natural and water births) together, including “Giving Birth: Challenges and Choices” by Suzanne Arms. I made sure to explain what was going on and reassure her that although the mommy might make some loud or funny noises, even yell, she was OK. In “Welcome With Love,” the older brother speaks of his mother’s noises during labor but he’s not afraid because she had told him beforehand that although she “might make a lot of noise,” he mustn’t worry because “that’s what it’s like when babies are being born” and that she’ll feel better if she yells and screams.
I kept things fairly simple, but because she was likely going to be present, told her what I felt she needed to know to feel safe and secure during Julian’s birth. It worked well for us. Ava was never scared even though mommy made some very loud noises while giving birth to her brother.
I realized the other day that Julian is now older than Ava was at the time he was born, but because I am not pregnant (and have no plans to become so) and the subject hasn’t come up, he has no idea how babies are born. I will probably remedy that soon by reading Welcome With Love to him and another book I recently received to review called We’re Having a Homebirth!
A friend (who is expecting) recently pondered on Facebook how she will explain childbirth to her 5- and 3-year-old daughters, and I began to wonder how others handle the subject.
I came across a discussion on a BabyCenter message board where the original poster posed the question How do you explain childbirth to a child? Here are some of the responses:
- One person admitted that she has been “skirting around this issue” even with her 9-year-old. She said she has told her most of the details, but doesn’t “want to freak her out too much or gross her out for that matter.”
- Another said, “I tried to skirt the question by answering…that the doctor takes the baby out.”
- Another said, “I have a child psychology book called The Magic Years. They say to be truthful, but give as few details as necessary.”
- Yet another said, “I found it was quite easy to explain things using the correct words at a young age. And I’d rather explain it while my kids aren’t embarrassed by it and will ask questions instead of having a 10-year-old blush or roll her eyes and not wanting to ask questions about things she doesn’t understand.”
- From another, “better he hears it from me than his peers at school.”
After I browsed the ‘net, I asked my favorite audience (Twitter) and got some more answers.
Many feel that honesty is the best policy.
@OneFallDay said: If my 7-year-old asks, I answer. I’ve always felt if they are old enough to ask they deserve an honest answer.
Jackie from Belen Echandia said, “[I] don’t have personal experience. But would like to think I’d tell the truth in a beautiful, non-frightening way.”
Penny from Walking Upside Down said, “[I] told mine they came out of a hole between my legs. :) Honesty is the best policy. Did not show them said hole tho’. ;)”
Jessica from Peek a blog said, “I spoke to the doctor about what to say. We told my 3-year-old that mommies have a special place where babies come out when ready. Just enough info with more details on an as-needed basis, but totally truth.”
Cate Nelson said, “I told my then-2.5-year-old that baby was going to come out of Mama’s yoni. (our term for it) I also told him his own birth story, bit of the pain, but how it helped Mama push him out. He loved his (natural) birth story!”
Others think along with being honest, it’s important to use proper terminology with children.
@ColletteAM said, “I always tell the truth about bodily functions and use proper terms. I don’t want my kids to feel ashamed of their bodies.”
Mandie from McMama’s Musings said, “My 4-year-old can tell you about ovaries, eggs, sperm, uteri, birth canals, and c-sections. He calls egg+sperm a ‘seed.’ LOL”
@JenniferCanada said, “I got great advice from @babyREADY to prepare son [for] our home birth. We watched a lot of birthing shows. We talked about what would happen. He can tell you babies come from vaginas and you push them out. He has actions. He is 3 years old.”
Others prefer a more vague approach:
Lee from CoupleDumb said her son was 3 and “I told him that his brother would come out of me when I went to the hospital. That’s it.”
Kristie from Tilvee said she was asked how babies come out last night by her 6- and 3.5-year-old daughters. She “didn’t lie, just told them we would talk about it in 5 yrs?!”
One person thinks explaining a c-section is easier than explaining vaginal birth:
Beth from I Should Be Folding Laundry said, “I’m up for a c-section, so that makes the explanation very easy.”
Another thinks a c-section makes it more complicated:
@Loudmouthedmom said, “I haven’t been pregnant again but have always been honest with son, either vaginally or c-section. He took c-section much harder. Learned the hard way not to tell a 4-year-old a c-section involves mom being ‘cut open.’”
The reactions kids have about childbirth are often amusing:
Kailani from An Island Life said, “My 3-year-old thinks the baby will come out of my mouth. :-)”
Krista from Typical Ramblings, Atypical Nonsense said, “When I was pregnant with E, my older kids were 11 and 8 when he was born. I told them how the baby came out. My daughter asked if it hurt, I said yes but once it’s over the pain is gone. She says she is adopting kids. ;)”
Ann-Marie from This Mama Cooks said, “[I] told Nathan how babies got out when he was 7. He told me he wasn’t having kids. Truth is good birth control.”
Childbirth education props: Dolls and Children’s Books
If you are looking for some props to help you explain childbirth, you might be interested in these dolls. Thanks to Kellie, I learned about this childbirth education doll that can be custom ordered or the experience crocheter can make it herself. There’s also a Waldorf doll that gives birth and nurses. According to Droolicious, instead of just sitting there looking pretty, this doll “gives birth complete with placenta, and she nurses too. This Waldorfian handmade plush doll comes from Brazil where it is used to teach girls about natural childbirth.”
There are also lots of books that tackle the topic of explaining childbirth to kids. From books about home birth like Welcome With Love and We’re Having a Homebirth! to more mainstream childbirth books like What to Expect When Mommy’s Having a Baby, How You Were Born, and How Was I Born?: A Child’s Journey Through the Miracle of Birth, there is likely a book out there for your family. And for parents who are looking for some age-appropriate information about “the birds and the bees” check out It’s Not the Stork: A Book About Girls, Boys, Babies, Bodies, Families and Friends and a review of it over on Punnybop.
There’s more information on how to prepare siblings for the birth of a new baby over on babyReady where they suggest: make a game out of the kinds of strange noises that you may make when you are in labour, try not to make too many changes to your child’s routine close to the delivery, let your older child open the baby’s gifts, and take your older child to your doctor (or midwife) visits, and more.
Ultimately your childbirth explanation to your child has to be one that you feel comfortable with. I think it is important to answer children’s questions – about childbirth, puberty, dating, sex, etc. – as honestly as possible while making sure it is age-appropriate. Mactavish said to me on Twitter, “I can’t imagine not being old enough to know how babies are born” and I have to agree. Candace concurs, “I generally assume that if she’s too young, she won’t ‘get it’ anyway and if she ‘gets it’ then she’s old enough for truth.” Sounds like a good philosophy to me.
Cross-posted on: BlogHer
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