Here’s a conversation Conlan and I had a few months ago. We had actually had several similar conversations, but it is the following conversation that convinced me I needed to take action.
Conlan (pointing to my belly button): Mommy, is that where the baby comes out?
Me: No, that’s my belly button.
Conlan: Well, how does the baby come out of your belly?
Me: I go to the hospital and the doctor takes the baby out.
Conlan (emphatically/irritated): No, how does the doctor take the baby out? Where does the baby come out from?
Me: Go ask your father.
Now, to be fair, I had no problem with explaining anatomy and answering Conlan’s questions. But in that moment I was not prepared. I wanted to take special care to make sure that however I chose to explain the process to him was 1) age-appropriate, 2) would not confuse/scare/worry him, and 3) would not get him expelled from preschool should he repeat any of the things we discussed.
I consulted with friends, coworkers, Conlan’s pediatrian, and (of course) Google before I decided on a plan of attack. I wanted a story-book format as a way to gently introduce the subject and open the door to further discussion. I checked out two books from the library – “Baby on the Way” and “What to Expect When Mommy’s Having a Baby.”
Then I waited for him to start asking questions again. And of course, now that I was prepared, he didn’t ask.
Eventually he did so we read “Baby on the Way.” This was by far my favorite of the two books. It talked about Conlan’s personal experience – he is becoming a big brother! – and what he can expect of the process. Not only did it address preparing for the baby and how the baby arrives, but it also talked about what happens when the baby comes home to live with us. He will stay with family for a short visit, he will get to hold the baby, the baby will cry sometimes, and mommy will nurse the baby. And above all, it was very reassuring that he is still very important to Mommy & Daddy and that we love him very much.
It didn’t go into great detail about how the baby comes out but the information he got seemed to satisfy him enough that I didn’t end up needing the anatomy lesson I was prepared for.
The other book, “What to Expect When Mommy’s Having a Baby” seemed more appropriate for children who are a bit older, maybe 5/6/7 years old. It was more of a question-and-answer reference type book. I read through the book myself and took tips on how to address certain questions should they arise, but it’s not really a story format, which is what I really loved about the first book. It also didn’t really talk about what happens after the baby is born. Granted I have zero experience with that part, but I expect the new-baby transition to be a pretty big one and helping Conlan to know what to anticipate seems like the most important thing to prepare for.
So, fear not! If your kiddo starts asking questions a little preparation and forethought will go a long way. I highly recommend reading “Baby on the Way” with your little one and then allowing them to ask questions from there. And, let’s be honest, it’s pretty entertaining what questions might come from a preschooler and I’ve actually really enjoyed the conversations that develop. I love watching his understanding grow and his anxieties about the new baby subside. I also recommend skimming through “What to Expect When Mommy’s Having a Baby” for additional preparation. And let’s be honest. Explaining how the baby comes out is a heck of a lot easier than explaining how it got in. Which so far has been surprisingly quelled with “God put the baby in there.” *whew*
We’re now in the phase of pregnancy where Conlan doesn’t believe it will ever end. Without a firm end date, there’s really no way to prepare him for the “waiting” part. He keeps asking “Why is it taking the baby such a long long time?” followed by “Mommy, you need to tell your uterus to start squeezing the baby out.” If only it were that easy. 🙂