A couple of months back, I quickly realized that I had never talked with my daughter about pregnancy options. I taught her consent, that not all pregnancies survive, and how pregnancy happens. But I missed this crucial piece. Luckily, kids are brilliant and she brought it up herself.
“Mom, when are we going to have the next baby?” she asked as I cradled her two week old sibling.
“Not sure we’re going to have any more, big kid,” I replied.
“But I want lots of babies,” she insisted.
I just looked at her, both surprised by her request because it seemed like this baby was already old news, and because she knows that the first step in having a baby is that I decide to have a baby.
She quickly noticed my reaction and said, “but it is your decision.”
Before this baby was created, she insisted on a sibling. Trying to help her learn that it’s her body, her decision, I taught her the steps of pregnancy. First, the person who will grow the baby has to decide they want to. Next, they have to talk to their partner. When both decide yes, they try to make a pregnancy. The details of making the pregnancy we learned together through reading “It’s Not the Stork” by Robie Harris. (Tip: This book is binary when it comes to gender. We replaced the pronouns and re-worded when we read to draw the difference between body parts and gender. It’s fantastically comprehensive otherwise).
When she reminded me about pregnancy as a decision, I jumped in to reinforce this and to share more about other options.
“If Daddy and I do decide to have another baby, we’ll likely choose adoption,” I told her. “Adoption is where someone else grows the baby and different people become the parents or parent.”
“I don’t know what you’re saying,” she told me. This is my cue to share simple yet explicit details with her as she’s asking to not just know but to understand.
I explained that not all people choose to be pregnant. That for some people, it happens not on purpose, for some because others make the choice for them, and even for some they change their mind after the pregnancy starts to grow. I told her that when this happens, people can choose what happens to the pregnancy. That a person can choose to grow the fetus into a baby and become that baby’s parent, or they can choose to grow the fetus into a baby and someone else becomes the parent which is called adoption, or a person can choose to stop the pregnancy and not grow the fetus.
She was stuck on the adoption piece and wanted to know more. She asked why someone wouldn’t be the baby’s parent and I told her it could be alot of reasons like not wanting to be a parent then or ever, not having what they want or need to be a parent, having someone else choose the pregnancy when they didn’t decide, or just because someone wants something different or better for the fetus.
She grabbed on to the first option and replied, “That’s a mean thing to do.”
“What is?,” I asked.
“To not want to be the baby’s parent,” she emphasized.
I knew this was a crucial moment that I wanted to get right so I went into it slowly. “There are all sorts of reasons that people choose not to be a baby’s parent,” I responded. “Yes, some may seem mean and some may seem better to you or others. But remember when I said pregnancy is your decision?”
“At any point, any person can choose to decide what happens to their body and their life. This includes choosing not to be a parent. Yes, it can seem mean or sad, but it’s still a decision. And there are people who can’t grow a baby, or who can and don’t want to that can become these kids parents.” I explained.
“I don’t want to talk anymore about this,” she said.
This is my cue that this is too big for her age. This usually pops up when she’s challenged in exploring values that she’s hasn’t fully developed yet. I stopped, but felt so glad that we started to talk about this. No matter what, I want her to know that she decides for her body and life first, always.
And I feel proud how quickly she remembered that the same is true for me. Besides, she can have “lots of babies” herself one day, if she chooses.