The other day, Willow handed me a note in an envelope sealed with a hot air balloon sticker. She instructed me to open it and read it, so I skimmed the colorful zigzags.
“Wow, this is really interesting! What does it say?” I asked.
“It says I am really excited to have a baby brother or sister, and I hope that I can cut the umbilical cord,” she told me.
I have to tell you, I think it is so cool that my four-year-old wants to cut an umbilical cord again, like she did for her little sister Iris.
Willow first learned about the umbilical cord in Hello Baby by Jenni Overend, which we often read to prepare her for her sister’s home birth.
We also read What Makes a Baby by Cory Silverberg which helped us start conversations about conception, pregnancy and birth. It’s a fabulous book that helps generate discussions at any comfort level.
With another baby on the way, watching Kajsa Brimdyr’s Happy Birth Day series with my young daughters allowed us to talk about how babies sometimes enter the world. It was a wonderful opportunity for them to ask questions and for us to discuss how the births in the series might be the same or different from our anticipated home birth.
It’s extremely important to my husband and me to facilitate conversations about pregnancy, birth, infant feeding and beyond with our children. I’m endlessly fascinated by their inquisitiveness and insightfulness. While they work to make sense of their world, their perceptions help us make sense of our world, especially when they ask really tough questions.
For instance, Willow recently asked me if moms die when babies are “cut out of them.” (Silverberg’s book depicts a cartoonish cesarean birth.) I told her, yes, sometimes they do.
Another time, Willow paged through her baby book when she came upon a photo of herself newly born, on a warming table with gloved hands around her.
“Why was I sick?” she asked.
At first perplexed, I soon realized that she associates hospitals with illness, not a place where babies can be born.
Most recently, Willow has told me that she doesn’t want to have kids, because it hurts. She often asks me why I wanted to have her.
She wonders so many other things too! At three-years-old, she asked me, “How do you get the sperm out?”
Another time, she asked me if I was going to birth a boy baby, but before I could answer she replied, “Oh! That’s right, you get what you get and you don’t throw a fit.”
And before bed one night while we discussed age she announced, “A one month old baby in a shell is smaller than a two-year-old…Wait a minute… a baby in a shell… that doesn’t make sense! We’re humans!” We proceeded to chuckle.
My two-year-old is on track to boggle my mind too. Just last night she announced matter-of-factly, “Mommy big vulva. Iris little vulva.”
This week, I’d like to share a compilation of stories about children’s insight shared by friends and colleagues. I’m struck by the hilarity and adorableness, the sagacity and thought-provoking nature of their stories. Thank you to everyone who was willing to share!
Ashlee Wells Jackson of 4th Trimester Bodies shares her recent Facebook post about an exchange she had with her young daughter Nova.
N- “Make me a photo like the boys and girls mama.”
Me – “Honey we have [a] photo. Remember, baby Nova on the book?”
N – “Yeah. Make me a photo like the ladies, then mama. Our friends. I stand on the box. I a strong woman. I beautiful too.”
I often say that I can’t wait to talk to her, years from now, about what she recollects from these early years on the road with me. Around the world, city to city, she has met hundreds of woman, thousands of children and had a front row seat to stories of vulnerability and sorrow, triumph and celebration. She has seen so many humans and their bodies, delivered tissues to tears and caught on to infectious laughter.
It is true that I can’t wait to hear what future Nova has taken away from all of this but I adore what present Nova sees – friends, strength, beauty…inspiration.
Kristin B., mother of Paisley(5), Peyton(4), Paxton (14 months)
Pais had always wanted Pax to be a girl. Once he was born, she said, ‘Well, Mom, now that he is out of your belly, we can get a sister now!’
A recollection from Nikki Lee, RN, BSN, MS, Mother of 2, IBCLC,RLC, CCE, CIMI, CST (cert.appl.), ANLC, CKC.
My youngest daughter had her umbilical cord wrapped twice around her neck. The cord was tight enough to hold her back even as the contractions pushed her forward, causing Clelia to poop. Copious amounts of fresh baby poop came out when my water broke, causing in a transfer from home to the hospital. So much fresh poop also made the midwife rush the birth a little. She cut the cord before my daughter was fully born, as it was too tight to be lifted over the head. She also cut an episiotomy instead of waiting for the natural pushing to stretch me. Clelia was taken immediately after she was born so the pediatrician could put a tube down her throat to see if any poop had gotten into her trachea.
Fortunately, there was no poop below her vocal cords, and after being suctioned anyway (a move that I will always question) I got to have my sweet baby on my chest. We went home six hours after her birth.
Four days later, my sweet baby slept on a sheepskin rug by the fire, while I sat and stared at her, marveling in her tiny perfection. Suddenly she startled in her sleep, uttered a pathetic little cry, and put both hands up to her throat, holding an imaginary cord in an unmistakable grasping motion. She was having a dream about her birth; there is no other explanation.
Noreen O., mother of Lennon almost 3
Lennon and I have been talking a lot about a baby growing inside me and then the conversation always turns into one about mama milk…I do want to tandem nurse, so I am trying to prepare him for that. He has nursed only on my left breast for the last year and he lovingly refers to that breast as ‘big ol’ mama’. When he nursed on both sides, he would always choose big ol’ mama and then he just stopped nursing on the right side. So when we talk about the baby growing inside of me and ask him if he thinks the baby is going to love mama milk as much as him, his whole face lights up and says yes. I then ask him if the baby will like big ol’ mama or little mama (my right breast) and he territoriality replies the baby will have little mama and he will get big ol’ mama.
Poem by writer-poet-performer Christine Rathbun Ernst for her elder daughter
A Poem for Margaret, because she bought me a Milky Way when I was sad. And
because I never took my mother’s breath away.
piles of laundry in our house
also my demanding:
Dishes done! Cat-box cleaned!
I can be a bitchy queen
you are like the Buddha’s smile
a wise and kindly changeling child
possessed of sense, a calm beyond your age
born to teach me joy, undo my rage
I am undeserving and frankly bewildered as your mother
surely I was meant to be parent to some other
more colicky, cranky progeny
(apples of course fall not far from the tree)
despite our ironic role reversal (my dumb luck)
I will keep you safe and cherished, baby duck
my home, my sense
my first and best
sweet bean you are a skein a stream a spool of light a star
and I, your befuddled mother, breathless, blessed.
Rathbun Ernst recites another one of her poems, Peanuts and Bujugu, in this video.
Jenny Spang, CPM, IBCLC, CLC recalls what one of her sons said about remembering before he was born.
I asked him, “Really?! What was it like inside Mommy’s tummy?” He said, “Dark!!!”
And one time when I was at a birth in which the mom was doing a lot of vocalizing during labor, sort of something between a moan and a chant, “Ohmmmmm! Ahhhhhhhh!”
Her husband was rubbing her back and rocking with her and vocalizing along with her to help her keep breathing. Their little daughter who was also around three, said,
“What are you guys doing?”
That was it!
My son who was then four had come to play with little Ella during that labor. There was a friend of Mom’s there to watch the kids and they mostly were playing outside. But when Mom was ready to push, sitting on a birthing stool, the kids just sat right down in front of her because they wanted to see the baby come out. No big deal. I have since asked my son if he remembers it and he does not so I guess it didn’t make a big impression!