explaining tragedy to your kids

by gurumommy on April 11, 2010

in hot topics

Forget “Where Babies Come From”…Where Do They Go?
After a string of tragedies occurred over the last week in our community, we were all questioning how to explain seemingly unexplainable events to our kids.  I read this insightful article by Kristy Campbell on Mommytracked.com which helped with some direction.
She writes that when trying to explain a friends late term miscarriage her 9-year old daughter blurted out the answer to her 5-year old over breakfast:
5-year old: “How do you lose a baby?”
9-year old sister: “You don’t LOSE a baby. It dies, ok?”
5-year old: “Oh.”   There’s nothing like “Poker Face” to get your kids in the rally mode for school. I got a phone call recently during one of our on-the-way-to-school jam sessions. I turned the radio down and listened. A friend’s friend lost her baby at 15 weeks and is devastated, and my girlfriend wondered if her friend could call me.
“Sure. Have her call me.”

My 9-year old daughter asked why I was so quiet since before the call we were all grooving to Lady Gaga. “And, who is supposed to call you,” she said in her matter-of-fact voice.

As a sidebar, 9-year old girls hear everything. I can be on the other side of the house in the closet buried behind the hanging garments and when I emerge, my daughter will ask pointed questions about my conversation indicating that she has some knowledge of what was discussed. I think I’ve been wiretapped by a tween.

“Corie’s friend is going to call me. She lost her baby and wants to talk.”When my twins were 2 years old, I got pregnant. I wasn’t thrilled about having so many kids so close together and spent the first couple weeks in a state of panic combined with happiness and occasional anger. As the weeks progressed, I got my head around the idea and began to prepare for the ensuing insanity. Finally, at 18 weeks, I was excited on the way to the amnio appointment.

I’ll never forget that day and how the technician moved that ultrasound device around on my swollen belly, stared at the screen, moved that thing around, and stared back at the screen all the while saying nothing. “Let me go and get the doctor,” was the last real-time moment I remember. Doctor came in. No heartbeat. So sorry. Can’t do procedure until Monday. Go home and rest. My husband burst into tears. I had no breath to cry, talk, or inhale.

I remember weeping in the shower when I got home thinking about all I had lost and how I had to keep a dead baby inside of me for 2 days. I thought it was my fault because I wasn’t excited about the pregnancy at first. As I wept, I saw two little smiling faces waving at me through the glass shower door. How was I ever going to get through this? I knew I had to rely upon my faith, my family, and my knowledge that my kids needed me more than I needed to go down that drain.

The rest is a blur. I somehow got through it…until the following year when I got pregnant again. This time, though, I was really happy from the start. We talked to the kids about the baby. We picked out names. We took bets on whether it was a boy or girl. Soon I was at 18 weeks and heading to the amnio appointment. When the technician asked me if I had any bleeding or anything unusual had happened, I knew. She left to go get the doctor. Baby dead. Husband cries. I wanted to punch someone.
Going home to explain to my 7-year old that the baby had died was one of the most heart-breaking moments in my life, mostly because of her question to me. I had the “where do babies come from” talk with her during this pregnancy. True to form, she was completely grossed out, but said she always sensed there was no stork involved. This time, though, when I told her the baby had died, she said, “Um…ok, so I know where babies come from, but, mommy, where do they go?” I laughed and cried at the same moment. I told my daughter that without question all babies go to heaven.

A voice brought me back from my memories to the current car ride. “Mom, why do babies die? It seems so mean,” my daughter said “and, what happens to them when they die?”

She had her sex talk when she was 7-years old, and like her big sister, she was grossed out by the whole concept of her mom and dad having sex. But in that moment, trying to explain to her how and why babies die seemed so much more difficult. I wanted to go back to the simple penis-vagina story.

“Honey, it’s so sad for a mommy to have a baby inside of her and then find out the baby has died. It seems wrong, but sometimes it is part of life. God isn’t mean. It just happens. But trust me, all babies go to heaven.”

Her twin brother popped his head up from his book. “Wait, someone’s baby died?” he asked.

My daughter and I looked at each other with that knowing look. The sisterhood of women’s pain starts young.

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