Family Life, Health

What to Say When Your Child Asks You: “Where Do Babies Come From?”

As a mom of five kids, I can tell you many funny stories about the most honest and silly things my children have said to Travis and me. Like the time our six-year-old daughter Zhen told me she knew how her baby brother was born.

I was putting clean laundry away and Zhen was helping me. All of a sudden, she proudly exclaimed, “I know how Zephaniah came out of your belly.” 

“Oh really?” I asked.

“Yes,” she said as she was putting away her folded socks. “He ripped through your stomach!” 

My eyes got big and I tried not to laugh because Zhen was dead serious. She honestly believed the baby ripped open my stomach and just hopped out! 

“Oh wow, Zhen! That would be very painful. But that’s not how Zephaniah was born,” I told her.

Zhen started giggling and asked, “It’s not? Then how did he come out of your belly?” 

Zhen holding her baby brother Zephaniah (born August 2017).

EXPLAINING TO MY DAUGHTER HOW BABY WAS BORN

Zhen’s question kind of put me on the spot, you know.

So I started to think of a quick and easy way to explain to my little girl how her baby brother was born. Wow! I thought to myself. She literally wants to know how the baby exited my body.

I thought about saying something like, “He came out of Mommy’s tummy,” but then I think that would have just led back to her theory of Zephaniah ripping my stomach open. Haha! 

I decided to just be honest with her. What could it hurt?

I explained to Zhen what it means “to give birth” to a baby and how Zephaniah was born. She already knew what a vagina was because we had the talk about her body parts when she was about 3 and we have always referred to it as its appropriate title. 

So I just simply said the baby came out of Mommy’s vagina. She gave me this look like, “What?!”

And then she said, “You mean like that hole?” I told her yes that’s what I mean.

I then gave a Zhen an example by using a visual aid. I picked up one of her stuffed animals and used my hand to show her how a baby is born. I explained, “The baby moves through Mommy’s body and then comes out of the vagina.” I didn’t go into great detail because I didn’t want to confuse Zhen. 

And you know what happened next? She simply said “Oh okay!” And then went back to helping me put away the clean laundry.

*Mommy wipes forehead* Whew! I was thankful I thought quickly and explained it in a way for Zhen to understand.

Photo of Zhen and I for my maternity photo shoot when I was pregnant with Zephaniah
(June 2017) Photo credit Jason Walker Photography 

WHY DID I TAKE THE OPEN AND HONEST APPROACH?

When I was in college, I used to work part-time at a child development center. One day while at work, I was having a discussion with one of the center directors and the subject came up about talking to your kids about sex.

Let’s say the director’s name was Kim because I can’t remember her name at the moment.

Kim was about 20 years older than me. She said from her experience raising her children and also teaching children, she had learned when kids ask you the “tough” questions, it is best to just be honest with them. Keep it to simple and to the point.

If they have more questions, then answer the questions. Don’t overdo it. Don’t go into long details. Don’t make it weird because then they’ll pick up on it and feel awkward about it.

Just be honest and keep it simple. More than likely all they wanted was an answer. 

I always felt Kim had an excellent point and her advice has always stayed with me over the years. 

Zhen, age 3 

ASKING AN EXPERT FOR TIPS: DR. MARK WERNER

Children are naturally curious and will always…ALWAYS…ask you questions about any and everything because they are trying to understand the world around them.

When it comes to talking about the “Birds and the Bees”, it’s important to be honest with your children and keep it age appropriate.

I spoke with Dr. Mark Werner, Obstetrician Gynecologist (OBGYN) at Beaumont Hospital in Royal Oak, to get his thoughts on how parents can talk to their kids about their body and sex. He shared some very useful tips with me that I think can help parents. 

Through his medical experience as an OBGYN, Dr. Werner recommends parents be honest with their children while keeping their child’s age in mind. 

“When questions come up, at whatever age it comes up, say it in a nice way– in a simple way that they can answer,” Dr. Werner said.

Dr. Werner also suggests it’s important to teach your children about their body. As I mentioned before, kids are naturally curious. They will have questions about their bodies and that is perfectly normal.

Dr. Werner believes that children learn about their body “just by living” because it is natural. So when your child wants to know the name of a particular body part, be honest and tell them.

“It’s okay to say the exact names of the body,” Dr. Werner explained. “If it’s a penis, say penis. If it’s a vagina, say vagina. Because that’s their body. It’s important just like their nose and their ears and their arms. It’s important for each child to know what their body is. Naming the body parts is a first step and a good start.”

“If you make it embarrassing, they’re going to be embarrassed about their body,” Dr. Werner said.

Photo of Zhen rubbing my back when I was in labor with Zephaniah (August 2017).

I’ll be honest with you: when Zhen asked me how her baby brother was born, it did make me feel a little uncomfortable. I was worried I might say the wrong thing and I didn’t want Zhen to feel weird about it.

But I remembered the advice my former supervisor from the daycare gave me. Be honest and keep it simple. Just answer the question.

Once I did just that, Zhen was satisfied with my answer and then carried on with her task. No weirdness at all.

RESOURCES YOU CAN USE

Dr. Werner recommends parents use age-appropriate books as a resource for talking about the body, sex, and sexual health.

He said just as there are books about potty training and other life skills, you can also find books about the body and other health topics.

HERE ARE A FEW BOOKS THAT MAY BE HELPFUL FOR YOU:

Anatomy for Kids Human Body, Dentistry and Food Quiz Book for Kids, $9.95

My Amazing Bones and Skeleton: A Book About Body Parts & Growing Strong for Kids, $12.95

Atlas of Human Anatomy: Kids Guide Book Body Parts for Kids, $0.99 (NOOK Book eBook)

Your Body is Awesome: Body Respect for Children, $17.65

Waiting for Baby by Rachel Ruller, $4.99

Before You Were Born by Jennifer Davis, $11.65

Babies Come from…Where?!?: Funny Happens When Kids Explain Pregnancy & Birth by Kristi Porter, $9.98

It’s Perfectly Normal: Changing Bodies, Growing Up, Sex, and Sexual Health by Robie H. Harris and Michael Emberley, $9.09

What’s the Big Secret? : Talking About Sex with Girls and Boys, $7

It’s Not the Stork! A Book About Girls, Boys, Babies, Bodies, Families, and Friends by Robie H. Harris

What to Expect When Mommy’s Having a Baby, by Heidi Murkoff, $3.99

When Mommy Has Our Baby by Rachel Armstrong Cedar, $9.99

When the World Was Waiting for You by Gillian Shields, $7.84


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Special thanks to Dr. Mark Werner for taking the time to interview for Good Life Detroit! 


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