Last night, I sat near my seven year old son as he drifted off to sleep. The lights were off, the room was quite, and I was about to leave when he rolled over and suddenly said, “Tell me a telling story, tell me about something funny I did when I was a baby.”
“Okay,” I said. “But only a short story. It’s already past your bedtime. Let me think for a moment.”
But before I could begin to think of which baby story to tell, he interrupted my thoughts with, “How do babies get born anyway? How do they come out? Like how did I get out of YOU?”
My mind reeled. I was frantically searching for answers. For lies. For anything I could use on this curious child to change to the subject and get him to go to sleep. I’d already used “Shhhh! Be quiet and watch the movie!” when he’d asked that question during one of the opening scenes of Narnia: Prince Caspain the previous weekend. Having already been used, that option was out. Besides, we weren’t watching a movie at this particular time.
“Uh, uh, um…” was spiraling through my head. Not very helpful, I might add.
“Look! Monsters!” I could have screamed. Even, “Shhh… I hear something. Did you hear that howling?” I thought to ask. “It sounded like a werewolf, don’t you think?”
I contemplated any number of his fears, something to steer his mind in another direction entirely: fires, burglars, tornados, earthquakes… but he’d gotten SPECIFIC. “How did I get out of YOU?” He’d asked. And then also, I kind of wanted to get some sleep myself. Scaring the shit out of him right before bedtime wasn’t really in my best interest.
In my desperation I considered this reply: “You know, I don’t really remember, that was SEVEN years ago. Now go to sleep.” But even I knew that was lame. In fact, at the exact moment I thought of it, I could hear in my mind his likely response, “Mom! You remember. Tell me!”
And so I went with the only thing I could think of and tried to tell the truth as much as I could to my seven year old son. And as I did so, I related things to a prayer, to squeezing muscles and to water balloons, and my son laughed wide eyed and wondered about poop.
“Well,” I said. “You know, babies don’t really grow inside a mommy’s tummy. At least not in the same place the food goes when the mom eats. The mom has something inside her called a uterus. It’s also called a womb… like in the Hail Mary prayer, the part where you say “…of thy womb, Jesus” The womb is the uterus where the baby grows and it’s small and empty inside the mom’s body at first but as the baby grows inside the uterus, it stretches.”
“Like a water balloon,” I added. “It’s small when it’s empty but when you add water it stretches out.”
“Okay,” my son said. “But how does the baby get OUT?” “Well…” I said, stalling to gather my thoughts. “When the baby has been growing in the mommy for 9 months and is ready to come out, the body’s muscles squeeze really tight and push the baby out.”
“Like a water balloon,” I added again. “If you fill the balloon with water but don’t tie the end of it, the water shoots back out again.”
“Like POOP?!” He giggled wild eyed and nearly manic.
“Well… uh… um… sort of like that, but the baby doesn’t come out in the same place that poop comes out.” He was still giggling and, I could tell, slightly mortified at the thought of a baby coming out covered in poop. I imagined he was thinking about the woman on TV who swallowed her engagement ring whole after her boyfriend hid it inside a milkshake. She had to retrieve the diamond ring days later, after it had made its way thought her digestive system. She had to clean her own poop off the ring before she could wear it.
“What do boys have?” I asked. And he eyed me suspiciously and said with some alarm, probably imagining a baby emerging from one, “A PENIS?!”
“Right,” I said. “BOYS have a penis. But girls don’t. What do girls have?”
“A vagina!” He said.
“Right!” I said. “The mother’s body pushes the baby out of the uterus and it comes down a little tunnel and out the vagina.”
“Babies are small but they are kind of big. So how do they FIT?” He wanted to know next. So I explained again how the tunnel stretches just enough to fit the baby through and then once the baby is out, the uterus and the vagina shrink back to normal. Like an empty water balloon.
(A special thank you to whomever invented water balloons, by the way.)
“Oh, okay.” He said, sounding bored now that he knew the baby didn’t come out the poop hole. “Good night, mom.” And just like that he rolled over and went to sleep. This morning, thankfully, his questions were all about polygons. Not babies.
But just in case, I think I’d better go to the library and look for some age appropriate books. Ones that hopefully will have some better explanations than I was able to come up with. And the liquor store. I think I’d better buy something to make myself a stiff drink. I may need it when his classmates’ parents start calling tonight demanding to know what I told my son and why he’s repeating it to their innocent seven year olds who all know the stork delivers the baby.