“Mama, how do babies come out of their mommies’ bellies?” My three and a half year old asks as I am tucking her in bed. We have already read a story, she will want water in a moment, and will shortly thereafter call me back to get her another book for her to read on her own. The tug of war that is the bedtime routine, the struggle for me to get downstairs and have a glass of wine and her to keep a hold of me for one more minute. I’m used to her delaying tactics, but this is a new question and I am completely unprepared. I didn’t think we had to worry about the birds and the bees until at least elementary school. Isn’t there a story about a stork that brings a baby in the basket? Hmmm… what to say???
“Honey, Daddy is a doctor and he can tell you all about that in the morning.” The tennis ball is now back on her side of the court, will she hit it back, or will she let the ball pass her, so I can leave the room.
“But Mommy, how does a baby come out of someone’s belly?” She repeats persistently.
“Please, can we talk about this with Daddy tomorrow?” I implore desperately. “It’s really late and you know I get very cranky if I don’t get my sleep.” Panic, I don’t want to talk about body parts at all.
“Mom, how do they come out?” She rallies back, accurately placing the ball deep on my side of the court. Hmmm, what is socially appropriate for a three year old? The stork keeps popping in my head.
“Well, sometimes a doctor has to cut a woman’s stomach open to pull out the baby.” The minute the words come out of my mouth I realize how scary this sounds. Issues, is it really that hard to say vagina???
She looks at me with a confused expression and asks, “Food is in our stomach and comes out our bottoms – do babies come out of our bottoms with our poopies too? Do they get poopies on them when they’re born?” She asks a little scared. I smile happy that she is not stuck on the doctor cutting a baby out of a stomach slip up.
“No, a baby comes out of a woman’s vagina,” I say a little more embarrassed than I should be, but at least I’m answering honestly. I can picture her sitting next to her grey haired, Jesus loving, preschool teacher Ms. Alice, discussing vaginas and babies tomorrow. We may be the only non-church goers in the class, Jewish father, and now my daughter is going to bring vagina talk to school. It’s the biology of birth, but is it appropriate to tell a three year old? I make a mental note to ask my teacher friend tomorrow…
Now she is even more wide-eyed than she was before. “HOW do they come out of vaginas?” She asks incredulously, this fact clearly seems crazy to her, the physics of it seems crazy to me too. “Do they have peepees on them?” The ball is flying right back at me, she is consistent and persistent, I need to just put the ball away and run from the room as quickly as possible. However, the put away shot is not my specialty.
“I guess they may have some peepees on them, but they get a bath immediately. Remember that picture of you in a towel from the hospital? Let’s just talk to Daddy in the morning.” I say kissing her forehead. Her head smells like the honey shampoo that only her father splurges to buy.
“Bonzai (her stuffed hyena) has a baby coming out of his vagina, but it’s okay because we’ll just give the baby a bath,” she explains very matter-of-fact. I could just smile and leave, but Bonzai is a boy, so this statement is just factually impossible.
“Sweet heart, Bonzai doesn’t have a baby in his belly because he is a boy. He doesn’t have a vagina either. Only girls have vaginas and only women grow babies in their bellies.” Since she only has a little sister, she knows nothing of penises, and I don’t want to explain that one to her now. She nuzzles her head into the pillow and I pull up the covers and tuck them around her chin. She is losing steam.
“The baby came out of Georgia’s vagina then,” she says, (Georgia is her stuffed dog). I smile picturing the vagina talk with old Ms. Alice on Wednesday. One of the best parts about having children is seeing everything again for the first time through their eyes. Holidays are new again, colors are brighter, and an ice cream cone may really be the answer to all that ails you (we now eat them on a weekly basis).
“I love you so much honey.”
I walk down the stairs and lie down on the couch next to my husband. “Big girl asked me how babies come out of bellies,” I tell him. “I told her that they are cut out by a doctor.”
“Wow, that’s not a scary answer,” he says laughing.
“I guess I was unprepared for the question,” I smile, “don’t worry I eventually told her they come out of vaginas and to talk to you.” I take a sip of red wine and curl my feet under the blanket on the couch, my dog cuddles up in the nook behind my knees. The day is done and all is how it should be.
“MAMA, WATER!” I hear her calling from upstairs.
“Your turn,” I say to my husband.