An Inclusive Way to have *THAT* Conversation with your Children
Picture the scene, you’ve just had a long morning of virtual learning. You pop to the toilet for a moment of privacy and then there’s a knock at the bathroom door. Before you can ask the intruder to wait, they come in, pull up a seat and ask you the following question: Inclusive Pregnancy and Reproduction
“How do babies get in your tummy?“
Here’s another one, you’re in a shop, queuing to pay for some items. You’re part of a 4-person strong queue. The shop goes quiet and out of no where a little voice asks:
“How do babies come through your vagina?“
Just like most important conversations, they’re never planned for when you’re ready for them. You’re usually out and about, amongst other people, and your mind is usually elsewhere or looking for your keys, mask and mobile all at the same time. But, you want to answer it, and if you’re anything like us you want to make sure you not only educate your child(ren) but enable them. You want the conversation to be inclusive of different communities and you want them to be aware of all options available to them.
It’s never too early to start talking about Reproduction!
It probably comes as no surprise that I am a strong believer that you should call a foot a foot. There’s no “foof” or “winky” for vagina and penis in this house. Aside from the darker reasons why children need to have a full knowledge of their anatomy, it means that if they’re in pain or want to discuss or understand a certain topic, they’re enabled to do so in a proper and more mature manner.
The same goes for talking about how babies are made. Whilst we don’t claim to be experts, I thought I’d share our experiences. As an LGBTQ family, we also want to try and encourage others to be more inclusive.
It’s completely normal for children to ask about where babies come from at an early age. Whether they’re prompted by your own pregnancy, have seen a pregnant person in the street, or because the thought has simply popped into their heads (like they do!), those questions will inevitably come.
It’s also normal to feel awkward and a little embarrassed, but how you communicate something is just as important as the information. In answer to those questions made in a more public setting, offering pauses such as “That’s a really good question, and I want to answer, but is it okay if we talk about it at home?” or “That’s a great question, but it’s a bit difficult to answer right now, can we talk about it at home?” is a great way to make sure that you address any curiosity.
Remember, their inquisitiveness won’t go away. By addressing the issue straight away will give them the message that they can come to you (and you will answer them).
Honesty is Key
Before T even arrived, both Sharon and I made sure that regardless of what our conversation would look like or how it started that we would include the following two facts: Not all people who give birth are women and You don’t need sex to have children, as well as use phrases like ‘pregnant people‘ instead of pregnant woman. The reason for this was so that we included Fathers who are Trans (and their journeys) as well as prepared the groundwork for his story when the time came.
It’s very rare for children to see reproduction and pregnancy as a “sexual” thing. Therefore, there really is no need to go straight to sex when talking about how babies are made. It also means that you’re being inclusive to people who have fertility issues, or same sex couples who perhaps use IVF or IUI as their journey to conception (and the children conceived through this process!). More recently, my friend Freddie introduced me to the word ‘Perinatal’ (the time before and after birth) instead of using the word ‘Maternity’.
You’re not expected to know every answer to every question (and there will be a lot of them!). Even more so if you yourself are still learning about topics such as Gender Identity. But for every question that goes unanswered it’s important that you go away and find the answer.
When T eventually asked about how babies are made and where he came from, at the age of four, we went down a more “culinary” route. We spoke about “ingredients”, and how you need sperm and an egg to make a baby. Allowing T to take a lead on how the conversation was going based on the questions he asked. We then answered his questions and then waited for the next ones to come. Sometimes more questions were asked, other times he went away to think about what we had just said. Some conversations were stretched over a few weeks, others were momentary requests for information.
When we asked our followers about the conversations they’ve had with their children about reproduction, they not only told us that questions started anywhere between 3 and 7, but that questions actually came few and far between when they were young and only increased the older they became. Taking this into consideration, it’s really useful to take this conversation at a slow pace and to recognise what your children are actually asking you.
- You don’t have to provide every intricate detail about pregnancy and reproduction in one conversation. The younger your child, the less detail they’ll probably need.
- Simplicity is key. Answer their questions honestly, but wait to see if what you’ve said answers their question.
- Adapt your language – not because something is off-limits, but depending on your child’s age and what they understand. You may need to explain what a certain word means – and that’s okay!
Kids Are Awesome
Another question I asked our followers was whether they follow a “when a man and a woman have sex” narrative. I was then surprised to read that a majority of them don’t! This is obviously no shade to those that do. As I said previously, this conversation can be quite awkward, therefore you’re might be more inclined to follow the story you were told when you were young. But it doesn’t have to be that way. I’ll also let you in on a not-so-secret-secret; kids are more accepting that you think.
Don’t get me wrong, you don’t need to get into a detailed discussion (yet!) about gender identity or IVF with your child. But, including these narratives provide a great opportunity to talk about how everyone’s body is different. Going back to the way we approached it, narrowing it down (at first) to biology and “ingredients” will set you off on the right foot for future conversations.
Once you set the foundations for future conversations, other ones will be sure to follow. Subjects such as why people have children, how to know when you’re ready to start a family and why people might not want children are all questions I’ve had from our extended family. Later on, topics such as consent and trust, contraception, and sexual pleasure are also important conversations to have. You don’t even need to include the words “love” or “marriage” in your conversation.
By simply enabling your child(ren) with information, you’re allowing them to make informed decisions. You’re also making sure they’re being inclusive to all.
Books & Further Inclusive Reading on Pregnancy and Reproduction…
As always, with conversations like this, it’s important to educate yourself further or refresh your own knowledge. When was the last time you really talked about reproduction and anatomy? It’s also important to read about other viewpoints and the other conversations!
Here are a few books that have been recommended to us, as well as a few that we have in our own library. These links are amazon affiliate links, which means I earn a few pennies for every purchase made. If you can, however, please shop locally or via an independent seller.
Making a Baby – In this honest, accessible illustrated guide to how babies are made, young readers can find out exactly what is needed to grow a baby, from introducing the basic building blocks of life such as sperm and eggs, to explaining the different ways that these building blocks can be put together to create a family. (Ages 5+)
What Makes a Baby – Geared to readers from preschool to age eight, What Makes a Baby is a book for every kind of family and every kind of kid. It is a twenty-first century children’s picture book about conception, gestation, and birth, which reflects the reality of our modern time by being inclusive of all kinds of kids, adults, and families, regardless of how many people were involved, their orientation, gender and other identity, or family composition. (Ages 3+)
Zak’s Safari – A Story about Donor-Conceived Kids of Two-Mom Families. When the rain spoils Zak’s plan for a safari adventure, he invites the reader on a very special tour of his family instead. Zak shows us how his parents met, fell in love, and wanted more than anything to have a baby—so they decided to make one. (Ages 3+)
It’s Not The Stork! helps answer these endless and perfectly normal questions that preschool, kindergarten, and early elementary school children ask about how they began. Through lively, comfortable language and sensitive, engaging artwork, Robie H. Harris and Michael Emberley address readers in a reassuring way, mindful of a child’s healthy desire for straightforward information. (Ages 4+)
It’s So Amazing! How does a baby begin? What makes a baby male or female? How is a baby born? Children have plenty of questions about reproduction and babies—and about sex and sexuality, too. It’s So Amazing! provides the answers—with fun, accurate, comic-book-style artwork and a clear, lively text that reflects the interests of children age seven and up in how things work, while giving them a healthy understanding of their bodies. (Ages 7+)
Mommy Laid An Egg – In this hilarious twist on one of the most difficult discussions in a child’s development, award winning author Babette Cole illustrates the one question all children are bound to ask: Where do babies come from? Mom explains that you can make babies out of gingerbread, grow them from seeds, or squeeze them out of tubes, while Dad says you can find babies under rocks. Amused by their parents’ silly answers, the children decide to set the adults straight. (Ages 4+)
How have you spoken about inclusive reproduction and pregnancy with your children? Have any funny stories or random questions? Comment below!
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