Our Birth Stories: Sharing the Hard Truth With Children


By Katy Rank Lev for Brain, Child: The Magazine for Thinking Mothers

“Will Mommy be the next person in our family to die?” my five-year-old asked my husband as I lay on the sofa, drugged up on Vicodin. My grandmother had died a few weeks earlier and we’d just brought our third son home from the hospital. The birth had frightened my husband and me—a crash cesarean, blue baby, initial Apgar score of 4.

We’d done pretty well preparing the older kids for labor, we thought. We explained the essentials of a baby’s arrival, told them I’d be making some sounds at home as my muscles squeezed and we’d drive off to the hospital, where I hoped to push the baby out of my vagina. Late in my pregnancy, this concept caused my sons to barge in on me in the bathroom and beg, “Let me see up in there,” thinking they could catch a glimpse of their new brother while I peed.

I told my boys there was another way babies entered the world. “Sometimes, if things seem unsafe, a doctor has to cut the baby out from Mommy’s belly,” I told them. “That’s what happened with you and your brother.”

There’s nothing like a new pregnancy to spur young children to ask about their own entry into the world, and since my boys each arrived after long labors with nurse-midwives and doulas, followed by heart decelerations and hurried Cesareans, I found these questions the hardest to answer.

Was I born the wrong way? Was I sick when I was born? Did I hurt you when I came out the slice in your stomach?

I’ve been wading through my own sadness, my own lasting fear at hearing my babies’ heart rates slow until the inevitable distress surgery. I hadn’t considered how it would feel to share these birth stories with my actual babies. I can’t seem to find a way to explain without upsetting them.

After my new baby was stable, my mother left me at the hospital to pick the big boys up from daycare. My oldest and most sensitive son immediately asked, “Did they have to cut the baby out?”

He sighed deeply upon hearing they had. “Oh. Just like us.”


4 thoughts on “Our Birth Stories: Sharing the Hard Truth With Children”

  1. This is so sad. I wish I had some suggestion, I don’t. My first child’s birth was an awful experience, I’ve worried about what i’ll tell him when he finally asks. His sister’s birth was perfect – an “ecstatic birth”. How can i tell my son that his was awful and hers was so wonderful? I think i’ll just have to tell him that his experience was hard because people were very mean and in a hurry, and with his sister’s no one was there but me and papa and a friend so there was no hurry and no one was mean. I’m not sure about this either…

    1. Dear Viola, what about telling your son that during his birth you learned that you were stronger on your own, and should trust your own judgement. He helped teach you how to have an ecstatic birth. While truthfully it was awful, it helped shape you into someone who was bold enough to find a better option for his sister. You and he had some rough roads together but you made it!

  2. I told my daughter that we listened to her heart with straps on my tummy and decided it was time for her to come out. So Daddy and I went to the hospital and they gave me medicine with a poke in my arm to give me tummy squeezes. The tummy squeezes pushed her out on the bed so that she could have mommy milk the first time. She nods and smiles.

  3. I know what you mean. My children were all born vaginally, but my first was a train wreck. And the best part? It is all caught on tape. Goodie. Before I knew better, my first was born in a medical training hospital where LOTS of babies were born. I think people handle produce at the market more gently then she was treated. Recently my children had a snow day and they all watch their birth videos (G/PG rated). The kids were crying at the my first born’s video! Mommy why are they treating her so badly? Why are they being so mean? She is crying, why aren’t they giving her to you (she was taken from me the minute she was born and I didn’t see her for 3 hours)? But it is a good opportunity to share goodness. For me, I could say that I learned more about how I wanted them to be treated and how important that is for them to remember. For you, you could say – how grateful that you and they are OK! Many years ago, you both could have been in big trouble. CSections are miracles when they save lives 😀 Your babies are modern miracle babies!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *