Conversations about a babies in mommies’ bellies are pretty commonplace in our home. After all, my 4-year-old, Isabelle, has had a pregnant mommy most of her life. She already has a younger brother and sister, and we have a fourth baby on the way.
As Isabelle has grown and matured, the nature of our chats has changed, however. When she was expecting her brother at age 1, all the information she needed was that her mommy had a baby in her belly and we'd go to the hospital to get the baby out.
At age 3, Isabelle was a lot more curious about the pregnancy process. That time, we concentrated on talking about how God was forming and growing her new sister inside of Mommy. Isabelle enjoyed seeing the baby when we got our ultrasounds and feeling the baby kick. As delivery time approached, we told Isabelle the doctor was going to help get the baby out. She was satisfied by that answer.
Now that Isabelle's a little older, I felt we were ready to build on the knowledge she already had. It was only a matter of time before she would ask exactly how the doctor helps deliver the baby. Since I wanted to be able to control the when and where of that conversation, I decided on a proactive approach.
I talked to Joann Condie, a registered nurse and licensed professional counselor, to gain insight on how to best carry out this conversation. Joann affirmed that it's a wise choice for parents to have "sex education" talks with their kids starting at an early age. "Lay the groundwork early, teaching them that God's plan is good and pure and wonderful," she says. "This way you're the one giving them their first impression about sex and their bodies. You don't want them to glean a negative message from their friends or TV."
When it came to having the actual talk, Joann suggested reviewing what the child already knows so everyone is on the same page. She also encouraged me to use correct terminology and to keep things light, conversational and in context of God's beautiful plan.
When I had the opportunity to broach the topic with Isabelle, I started our time together by reviewing what she already knew about marriage: God made two types of people, men and women. When a man and woman love each other and get married, they promise to God and each other that they'll be together for as long as they are alive. Sometimes God gives them the gift of a baby, who begins to develop inside of Mommy.
Giving an explanation
Next, I gently introduced the new material using the advice Joann gave me.
"Sweetie, have you ever wondered how babies come out of Mommy?" I asked her. "Do you want me to explain it to you?"
"Sure!" she said.
So I shared with her that God placed a special pocket inside Mommy's belly called a uterus. The uterus is a warm, soft place where the baby develops and grows. Eventually, when the baby is done growing, the uterus pushes the baby into a special tunnel called the birth canal. That tunnel takes the baby to the outside of the mommy through the vagina, which expands to allow the baby's exit.
I explained that's how she and her younger brother entered the world — but the story with her sister was different. That time, the doctor thought it was best to make a special cut on Mommy's belly and uterus to get to the baby. "That's called a C-section," I said. "That's why Mommy had that boo-boo on her belly."
The great thing about having this conversation with Isabelle was how normal it all was. As a preschooler, Isabelle didn't think it was awkward to learn about the delivery process — it was just interesting for her. I know we'll have to review all the information a few more times before Isabelle really understands and internalizes it, but this was as much as she needed to know for now.
These special times together are part of a lifelong process for my daughter, where she'll learn the mechanics of how things work and God's wonderful design for sex. More than that, however, it's a chance for me to help her take in this knowledge through the lens of a Christian worldview. In addition, these early talks help show Isabelle that Mommy and Daddy are the best source of information for these topics, and that we're always ready to talk.Monica Schleicher is a writer living the "happy chaos" of home life with her husband and their children.