Since we told him I am pregnant, my 4-year-old son has been asking to see the baby. “You can’t see it now, honey, it’s hiding inside my tummy until it grows big and strong.” This does not satisfy him. Sweet Prince is my explorer, adventurer, experimenter, eager to experience and learn as much as his little self can. He needs to know!
Tonight he asked how the baby would come out.
I have never been one to lie to my children or make up euphemisms to mask the truth. I try to explain big concepts in small terms, and when all else fails, I give scientific answers that are so involved they get confused and give up. Try it; it’s amazingly effective.
But this is not a topic so easily glossed over. Thankfully I have had the pleasure of 3 scheduled, complication-free Cesarean sections, so the honest-to-God truth is that the doctor gives me medicine and then cuts me open to pull the baby out. Then he closes my belly using glue and staples, and I go home happy and healthy with my new baby. This answer satisfied my then-3-year-old daughter when she asked about her youngest brother’s birth. She never seemed bothered by it until last summer when she randomly started BAWLING in the car that she did not want to have a baby because she didn’t want to be cut open. That is a hilarious story I hope to share one day! But my Sweet Prince seemed troubled.
What kind of glue? Do the staples hurt? Does the doctor use a knife or scissors to cut you? Do you hurt? Where is the medicine? Why was Daddy there? Did you cry? These were among the slew of questions he asked over dinner, trying to understand this grown-up procedure in his pre-school mind.
He didn’t say much after dinner, but he was especially lovey at bedtime. I am never one to turn away extra snuggles, so I hugged and kissed and tickled his back. As I walked out of his room after saying goodnight, he held his arms out for one last hug. I leaned in, and he squeezed my neck tight.
“Mommy, are you going to die tomorrow?”
“Oh no, my prince. I’m going to be just fine!” I tried to reassure him. “The doctors will take good care of me, and in a few months you will meet your new baby brother or sister!”
I tried to tell him all the wonderful things about having a baby, and what a great big brother he will be. He was barely a year old when his little brother was born, so he doesn’t remember visiting us in the hospital or seeing my scar heal. He is so driven by his experiences to shape his understanding of the world. He doesn’t want to take your word for anything; he needs to see for himself.
This exploration-driven nature has caused me to feel most challenged in parenting my Sweet Prince. His need to know leads him to get into everything and push every limit. It is clear God’s plans for this child include great adventure and risk that I would not be willing to take. His life is bright and bold and exciting. Nothing will hold him back.
His need to know will also lead to some heartache in life. Understanding consequences will cause him pain, both in his own life and as he observes those he loves. He will witness suffering and be unable to forget it. He will be driven to heal the wounds he sees in the world.
But at 4 years old, he can’t heal the wound he foresees for Mommy. His mind thinks “cut,” and that means “pain,” maybe even “death.” This one is a thinker. I pray that this tender moment with my Sweet Prince will remind me to be careful with my words – both to him and those he can overhear. As an intelligent boy with a heart for adventure, he needs me to be his safe place to help him explore and discover, not cause him to worry.
And I pray he went to sleep dreaming of a wonderful baby, not a hurt Mommy.
Parenting is tough, friends.