It happened like this: we were on a small boat with friends on the ocean a couple weeks ago and Bean needed to climb over our pregnant friend to get off the bench she was sitting on. We had to warn her to be careful climbing over our friend and she asked why. I said, “Well, because she has a baby in her tummy.” The look on Bean’s face when I said this was priceless in its innocent, light-bulb clicking on sort of way and she said, “There is? Can I see it?” And from then on she’s been talking non-stop about wanting a baby in her belly. A girl more specifically. This child is so pink (I swear it wasn’t my fault) that she only wants a sister and wants nothing to do with boys who would inherently bring blue (yuck) into the house.
There are so many emotions that this little discovery of hers brings up in my head. As with all parents there’s a feeling of “oh boy, here we go” as “those” questions start to appear. But it’s also very cool to see the light bulbs turning on in her little head. It’s magical really, and I’m always so proud of her curiosity. But as an adoptive mom Bean’s discovery that babies start in tummies brings about a hint of sadness, because it means that “THE” inevitable question is soon to come. The one that every toddler asks, “Mommy, did I grow in your tummy?” This makes me a little sad partly because I wish I didn’t have to tell her that she didn’t grow in mine – eventually this fact of her life will make her sad and while I know we’ll do our best to help her through it, she’ll struggle with it at different points in her life. It also makes me a little sad because she didn’t grow in my tummy and I wish she had, it’s a connection that she and I will never have, that she’ll only ever have with her birthmother.
After her little discovery about babies and tummies my husband and I went back and forth a little on whether we should wait for her to ask “THE” question to tell her all about her adoption story, or to tell her before she even asks. We’ve been reading adoption books to her since she was a newborn so she knows the words, but we’ve never really sat down with her and told her the story or shown her the picture of her birth family – not on purpose, who can really have a talk with a toddler? After talking with each other and our agency about it, we decided to tell her before the question even comes up. That way nothing is ever hidden, she knows her full story from the very beginning before she even asks about it, and we can begin to help her build on her story as she grows up. So we got out the one photo we have of her birth family and I very simply explained it to her. She’s an active toddler so she didn’t stick around for much detail, she just wanted to know who the people were and I told her, matter of factly and simply. I had to hold back the tears at the “Mommy couldn’t have a baby in her belly” part. When she asked why I couldn't have a baby in there I just had to tell her I didn’t know why, it was part of God’s plan and I'm happy for it because it brought us to her. We hung the photo up on her wall together and talked a little more about it before she went back to running around and dressing up as a princess. It was about a 5 minute talk. But I think it worked – later that night when my husband got home she called him over to the photo and proudly told him about it. She said exactly what I had said. “Daddy, mommy couldn’t have a baby in her belly. I was in (her birthmom’s) tummy.” And that was that. Now when she actually does ask “THE” question, I can show her the picture and continue our conversation, which she’ll understand a little more each time we talk about it. Nothing hidden, there’s nothing to hide anyways. I’ll probably always hold back tears when I tell her I couldn’t grow a baby in my tummy. That does still hurt a little. But I feel good that it’s out there and she’s already proud of it. So the other morning in the car when out of nowhere she said “Mommy, I want a girl in my tummy” I just laughed and thought, me too darling, me too.