It began innocently enough, as these things often do. I’m trudging back to the car with my then three-year-old reclining in his stroller and the baby jutting from the front pack after hours spent herding them through the Bay Area Discovery Museum.
A day shared apparently with every other mom in Marin since parking is at a premium and we are trekking back to the other side of a large field to get our car.
As can happen after traumatic situations in my delicate state, I can’t recall exactly what led to the event but only the calamitous moment itself: I remarked how “you were in my tummy and now you’re such a big boy!” to my son.
“But how?” he replied.
“But how what honey?”
How did I get out of your tummy?
I pushed EIGHT solid pounds and seven BIG ounces from my womb and OUT, that’s how! And I FELT the pressure of EIGHT solid pounds and seven BIG ounces going through my body, pressing against vital organs, strained muscle and a helpless skeletal structure on the way OUT! I thought to myself.
But I’m responding to a preschooler, so I defer to the paper posted in the pediatrician’s office about tough questions: Be honest. Be simple. Be age appropriate.
Well, that rules out the “through the belly button” response that seems so convenient. And cute.
And then it happened. “Through a hole” I hear myself reply in an out-of-body moment, my conscious mind screaming in disbelief. What? Wait! Even I don’t understand that one!
And a hole?! You couldn’t do better than a hole? Is that what it is to you now, a hole? Not a birthing canal or even a vagina but a hole? And your impressionable little three-year-old is now going to refer to it as the hole. And his future girlfriends will blame you for this. As will his therapist.
But too late. Little rapt ears heard “Through a hole” also and I’m well, screwed.
“Where is it??”
“Where’s what? Oh look, I see a seagull!” I attempt, releasing one hand from the heavy stroller to point about in vain.
“No! Where’s the HOLE?” he bellows back.
Be honest. Be simple. Be age appropriate. It’s now a running mantra—but getting me nowhere. “The hole? It’s a special one and it’s only for getting the baby out.” Real good, real good. You’ve just dug a deeper hole!
“What happened to it?”
“Huh? It uh, goes away. It disappears.” Do you even hear yourself? Stop! Revoke my parenting license!
My mechanically inclined son now sits up straighter in his stroller and is straining to turn around to face me. “HOW does it disappear?” I’m now straining to push the blasted stroller faster to our destination.
I so don’t need this right now. I’m tired! I need coffee! I’ve got a baby strapped to my chest and I’m pushing pounds pounds of solid toddler in front of me. I need to focus. I can’t focus. I don’t want to discuss holes and babies right now. Not now! Where’s a bright red fire engine with lights flashing or an ice cream truck when you need one?
But no such luck.
“It just disappears because you don’t need it anymore,” I reply.
There you have it. Inept and ludicrous. But will he buy it?
My son looks straight ahead for a long moment and then announces loudly, “I’m gonna find my hole!” before peering down and trying to push the elastic of his little shorts around the stroller belt.
“No, no! You don’t have a hole. You’re a boy! Only mommies have holes that disappear.”
Do you even hear yourself? You are a mess! A mess!
Our car ride home is a blessedly uneventful one as both kids drift into a pre-nap-but-gotta-keep-my-eyes-half-cocked state while I drive in stunned disbelief.
Back home I vainly try to explain myself to one of my closest friends over the phone. She cuts me off mid-ramble and offers “when he asked how babies come out you should have said that you go to the hospital and the doctor takes the baby out. “How very honest, simple, and age appropriate of her!
I’m sending my kids to her when they ask how babies get into the stomach in the first place.