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?