In a recent blog, I mentioned that talking to kids about birth is one of my favourite topics. That’s because I’m talking about one of my favourite things (birth) to some of my favourite people (kids). But, I know that not everyone loves talking about this sometimes tricky subject with their kids. If you find talking about birth with your kids a bit uncomfortable, here are some tips so that you’re prepared for when your child asks “Where do babies come from?”:
Find Out What Where You’re Starting From
First things first, find out what you’re working with. If the conversation is started with your child asking where babies come from, answer their question with a question like, “where do you think babies come from?” Encourage any parts that were accurate (“That’s right! Some babies do grow inside their mommy”) and gently correct any of their more imaginative responses (“What a creative idea! Great thinking! However, babies don’t grow on trees, they grow in uteruses”). If you’re the one initiating the conversation, ask them to draw a picture of where they think babies come from. Not only will you get a new piece of artwork from your child, you’ll also get an idea of what they know already. It’s good to find out what your child already knows about birth so that you don’t need to repeat the basics if they’re well versed in those and so that you can correct any misconceptions they have so that they aren’t confused.
Use Proper Terms
Let’s say it together, friends: “uterus”, “vagina”, “penis”, “sperm”, “egg”, “ovary”, and (gasp!) “sex”. These are the proper terms for some of the things typically invovled in making a baby (because, inevitably, talking about birth will lead to talking about sex). These words may make you giggle or squirm. And that’s OK. We have been taught that these words are shameful and should be replaced with lighter, sillier words. But they’re not shameful. They are the correct names for body parts and normal human experiences. If we use them casually and calmly when talking to our kids, they will be comfortable using them, too. They will grow up knowing that their body and its functions are not shameful, and it is OK to talk about them. Still a bit nervous? Practice saying them in front of the mirror until you can say them without giggling. Hang out with your friend or partner and challenge each other to casually work these words into the conversation. Make them a normal part of your vocabulary. It might take some time to unlearn the shame you’ve been taught about them (and your inner critic may be screaming, “Just say Pee-Pee!”) but it is worth it!
I mentioned above that talking about birth inevitable leads to talking about sex. The two are, obviously, connected. However, it is also important to note that not all babies are made the same way. Include examples of adoption and surrogacy and fertility treatments when you are talking about birth. Be respectful to all kinds of families and let children know that single parents of any gender can have babies and that two moms and two dads can have babies too. The book What Makes A Baby is a great starting point to have an inclusive conversation about birth, because it talks about the necessary ingredients to make a baby without limiting it to specific genders or family types. The book opens the door to explain how diverse families can be to your child. (It was also this week’s children’s book recommendation in the Best That We Can Book Club!)
Keep It Developmentally Appropriate
You know your child best. You know how much information they will be able to handle and how they might react to certain elements of birth. Follow your own parental instincts and knowledge of your child to decide what you should share with them. Consider what their peers may be learning and passing on as well as what they will be learning at school when deciding what to tell them. Talking about birth and how babies are made isn’t one solitary conversation to have with your child, but an ongoing dialogue, so don’t feel like you need to tell them everything all at once. Take your time and share what you think is best.
There’s No Need For Fear
One thing that we as birthing adults often have to overcome is our fear of birth. Why is this? Because we were taught to fear it. Be honest with your kid, tell them that it hurt (you don’t want them to be surprised about that later!), but also tell them about the positive parts of the experience. I know that it’s common to try and use the pain of childbirth as a scare tactic to discourage teen pregnancy, but I don’t think that it’s necessary to do that and that it does more harm than good. Being honest with your kids about the ups and downs of parenting, impressing upon them the joys of being free of such heavy responsibility in the really unique and exciting teenage years, and teaching them about contraception (how to use it and where to get it) without shame are much more effective and respectful ways to avoid unplanned pregnancy and will help your child grow into an adult that views birth with awe and excitement rather than fear.
Talking about how babies are made with your kids doesn’t have to be awkward! Be confident, be honest, and trust your instincts. You’ll do great!
If you’re interested in having your child attend your birth, check out my Sibling Birth Support Services!