Labour and kids: to sugar-coat or tell the truth?

baby kicks

Before I begin, this is not a post about Ed Miliband, or indeed any member of his party.

I wish. For that explanation would be far, far, easier.

“Mummy, how is your baby going to come out of your tummy”, asked my almost-four year old the other day.

Like all questions of this nature, she threw it in casually when we were doing something totally unrelated. A bit like, “Can I have some chocolate buttons? Oh – and where do you go when you die?”

It was one of those parenting moments that remains etched in my brain. As I stammered and stuttered, trying to buy myself some time, she went on to offer her own suggestions.

“Maybe the baby will come out of your mouth, like a big sick?” and, “Will your head fall off when it comes out? Will you die?”

Deciding that the truth, in all its gory detail, was probably better than her own version of events, I took the plunge.

“No, my head won’t fall off and the baby won’t come out of my mouth. The body is a very amazing thing. Mummy’s body will do something amazing that it was designed to do. It will stretch and I will push the baby out. And we will all be OK. No one will die.”

Feeling rather smug and awarding myself an invisible gold star, I thought that would be the end of the matter. But she persisted, with a new light of interest gleaming in her eye.

“So you will poo it out of your bottom and it will land in the toilet?”

And here is where I fear I made a mistake. I don’t know what the rules are regarding telling four year olds about birth. I assume you’re not to mention stitches, dilation and intense pain, but I don’t want my child walking round thinking I’m going to pass her brother or sister like a large stool.

So I told her. I told her the truth. I told her that the baby will be born out of my “tuppy” (her word for vagina – long story, don’t ask) and that it will be rather incredible.

And that was that. She didn’t ask again. She hasn’t become fixated on the idea. And she hasn’t seemed to make the link between her own “tuppy” and the possibility she may too give birth out of it one day far in the future. Phew.

I didn’t think much of it, until recently when I overheard her telling a friend how her mummy has a “super stretchy tuppy”. This friend, I later found out, thinks babies come out of belly buttons.

We discussed how “mummy’s tuppy” isn’t a subject for conversations with her friends (or any conversations come to think of it), and how maybe she should keep the whole baby being born thing to herself. But I was mindful of not wanting her to think it was a secret, or a bad thing or end up leaving her associating anything negative with the birth at all. I don’t want her to be scared for me and hate the baby before it’s even born, after all.

And that’s the thing. It’s a very different situation having a baby when your eldest is four, not two. You can fob toddlers off with all sorts of half-truths, but a couple of years on kids get wise to the white lies and start asking more probing questions. Or, that’s my experience any way.

And if I’d have told her some nonsense about a stork delivering the baby then what would I say in a few years time, when she comes home from school aged fourteen, devastated at the news storks aren’t physically capable of carrying babies in their beaks – let alone making one of those fancy tied up hammock things they’re meant to carry them in?

So I told her the truth. But now I’m concerned that I shouldn’t have. I don’t know. What are the rules of telling four year olds about labour and birth anyway? Anyone?

Comments

  1. says

    MM asked me again and again and again and I tried to be honest while not scaring him. I told him the basics and then he’d ask “will it break your body coming out” so I had to give a bit more detail. Then he’d ask to see it when it happened, so I had to say it would hurt so he couldn’t be there. We had *many* conversations!

  2. Kate says

    There are no rules…..We explained BOTH methods of delivery to our then not quite 3 and 4.5 yr Olds (even though we already knew their Sister was coming “out the sunroof” just like they had!) – unfortunately, Big was so traumatised by the prospect of a Baby coming out of her Girly bits that she swore blind she was NEVER having a Baby of her own, & still insists this now another 4.5 yrs later!
    Honesty is always the best policy – they will make of it what they will, and chances are they will share information they shouldn’t with the checkout Lady in Sainsburys (just like mine did) but at least you told her the truth!

    • says

      Pleased to hear there are no rules – I think I had a similar reaction to your eldest when my own mum told me about how my sister would be born!

  3. says

    Hahahaha love this post! Kids’ minds are amazing aren’t they?! I would have done exactly the same! Children can handle the truth a lot better than we give them credit for! I remember a little girl at nursery, who was 4 years old, told me she had eggs inside her which is where her babies would come from- because she’d asked her mum where babies had come from and her mum had told the truth- she wasn’t freaked out or anything- very matter a fact.
    Good luck with the birth! Hope your tuppy stretches good for you! ;) X

    • says

      That sounds like my daughter! When I was pregnant again she asked if she had been in my tummy when I was in granny’s tummy. I explained that the egg that made her was, although I’m a little concerned that she now thinks the entire future of the human race exists in her overies like an infinite Russian doll.

      For the birth we tried to explain both methods as I was having a c section but that version seems to have stuck more . Just going to let that go for a while.

  4. says

    IMHO the truth is always the best way – as long as it’s framed in a way they can understand. And their level of interest and age will also dictate how much detail you need to go into. I’m stay-at-home-Dad to three boys and we had interesting conversations when some friends came over who are married lesbians with two children. “So, if you need a mum and a dad to make a baby, how come two mums made a baby?” I explained that they needed to borrow a seed from a man to make a baby, but they’d bring it up as two mums, and that satisfied their curiosity.

    Also, if you lie to them now, you can guarantee they’ll memorise it and use it against you much later when they learn how it really works!

  5. says

    Love this post Molly. 4 year old asked me the same question a while back. I said simply ‘it comes out of your minky.’ She said ‘are you kidding me? Are you KIDDING me?’

    So I think I handled it a lot worse than you. Your explanation was spot on.

    But no. You can’t stop them gossiping with their friends!

  6. says

    Personally, but without being a mother of a 4 year old, I think I’d have done exactly the same thing! Better to find out from Mummy than playground chat isn’t it? Great post, makes me think I’ll appreciate the days before talking starts!!xx

  7. says

    We had middle kid at home when Eldest was 4.5yrs old. I figured that I’d have to talk to her about it before baby made an appearance and when I asked her she wasn’t interested.
    Later on (after middle kid arrived) I found out that it was because she knew that babies exploded out of your belly button and that is why they cried, because belly buttons stink. I explained to her, as full as I could without going to far for her age. I used one of our biology books and she nodded, laugh and asked me if I was sure about this.

    This time she was 7. When I got home from hospital, got settled with a cup of tea and sat down she asked –

    ‘So Mum, does your virginia hurt now? Is it back together?’ LOL.

    I’ve tried to be truthful with any questions they ask, I hope that by being open about things they won’t get any nasty shocks, take on too much misinformation from their friends when they get older and aren’t afraid of birth. ( yes, I dream big!)

  8. Catherine says

    A few days after I told Sarah the truth about her forthcoming sister, I caught her on her bed doing a self delivery of Tiny Tears. She was very matter of fact about it all…”I’m having a baby too, mummy.” If only it were that simple and that painless!!

  9. says

    We’ve had the same question from Kitty (who was about 3.5 at the time) and I told here that bodies were very clever and that the baby had a built in way out that was not my bottom but was quite near and when the time came the baby would know what to do, and that she and her sister were born that way, and she seemed quite happy with that. I’m just relieved we haven’t got to the ‘how did the baby get into your tummy’ question yet to be honest!

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