By Contributing Editor Jenny Isenman
There are certain phrases that you imagine hearing, years before they may ever be spoken. As an adolescent, you dream of those three little words “I Love You,” being said with something other than a familial connotation. You envision the intoxicating “I do,” and long for the significant, “Congratulations, it’s a (put sex here).”
The phrase I heard today didn’t represent one of these reveries. Instead, I got the ever-dreaded question “Mommy, where do babies come from?” and more specifically, “How do they get out?” This is not the first time I’ve been asked this question, but it’s the first time I considered answering it honestly.
I’ve given quite a few explanations over the years: The stork, the basket on the doorstep, “out of mommy’s bellybutton.” I’ve even given the seldom used, “We found you in a trashcan,” explanation. An excuse used by my own dad, who on too many occasions told the tale of how they first heard my echoing cry, and then debated whether or not to take me out.
How is this happening? Just last week I reiterated, with strong conviction, the existence of the Tooth Fairy, and now I’m about to share the reality of how one enters the world? While I looked around the crowded diner for signs of eavesdropping, Jake said, “Do they come out of your belly?”
“They can.” I said, hedging.
“So they have to cut your belly open and take the baby out?”
“They can.” Still hedging.
“How do they put your belly back together?”
“Stitches,” I replied, knowing this would not be the end.
“RYAN… RYAAAAN!” Jake yelled to his sister, “You’re gonna have surgery, ‘cause you’re a girl and girls grow babies.”
Ryan, who was previously occupied with the jelly packet mountain she was building, looked up in horror.
“Whaaat, Jake??” She cried and looked to me for some explanation.
“No Ryan, go back to your jelly.” I said soothingly, redirecting her. “Jake, there’s another way,” I whispered, bracing myself for the look I was about to see. “Babies can also come out of a Mommy’s vagina.”
No amount of bracing could have prepared me for the grossed-out, confused, gape- mouthed, unblinking eyes that now stared at me.
“NUH-UH!” He said in horrified denial, as if I was saying it to be funny. Like telling him if he eats too many watermelon seeds, he’ll grow a watermelon vine in his belly.
“WHAAAT, babies come out your VAGINA??”
The families that hadn’t been paying attention to us before quickly turned, as “vagina” is not the usual morning conversation fare.
“Shhh, Jake we can’t scream the word vagina in public,” I whispered thinking, this wouldn’t be the first time (see the “Let’s Name Our Dog Butt Munch” article).
“Well, I think it’s better to cut open your belly.”
“If it comes out of your vagina, the baby would just drop in the toilet. Yuck!”
Not where I thought this conversation would go, but before I knew it, I was explaining stirrups and spreading your legs for the Doctor.
Jake took this in with unwavering interest. I felt like I could actually see the mechanics of his mind, like watching the inner workings of a clock. Just when I thought he had digested it all he said, “How do they grow inside you?”
No way am I going there, not until he finds the Tooth Fairy utterly ridiculous.
“Eggs,” I said, “Eat your eggs.”
I am a neurotic mother of two amazing, wonderful, brilliant, perfect children which is saying a lot because I am a harsh critic and an uncompromising disciplinarian. You know, the kids have to sing for their supper kinda stuff… well, they at least have to ask… well, a grunt would be nice. Actually, they just sit and I make multiple meals until one is worthy of their sophisticated taste buds and doesn’t exacerbate their fear of burnt spots, crust, pizza bubbles, or food that touches other food. It is my job to keep them protected from the Florida sun, prehistoric insects, and plasticware with the number 3, 6, or 7 on the bottom. I have to expose them to just enough germs to build their immune system, while using little enough sanitizer to keep them healthy. I also have to remember to feed and water them daily.
A freelance writer for magazines such as InStyle and Mademoiselle, I also have a fabulously funny and relatable blog called suburbanjungle.net
One mom’s take on the dreaded toddler question.