Talking to Children about Infertility: Honesty is the Best Policy

Ok, I’ll admit it.

I have told a few white lies to my daughter.  I’ve told her that the ice cream truck only plays music when it is out of ice cream or that YouTube videos don’t work in the car.  These fibs have saved my sanity on more than one occasion but when it really counts, I believe in being upfront with her.

About 3 years ago we started having difficulty getting pregnant with our second child.  It affected me on a daily basis.  While she never said it, I know my daughter knew something was up.  She was always sure to give me extra hugs or cuddles when she knew I was feeling sad, but never really approached the topic with me.

All that changed one spring day.

We were outside swinging and chatting about friends at her daycare. She informed me that a friend of hers at daycare would be becoming a big sister when the baby came out of her mom’s tummy. With a very excited voice she said, “And Mommy, I’m going to be a big sister when a baby comes out of your tummy!”

My heart dropped and my mouth went dry. I knew that what I said next was going to be important.

“Well babe, that would be really cool, but there is a problem with Mommy’s tummy. I can’t have any more babies in there.” I said trying to be very casual. She looked at me with sad, blue eyes. I asked her how that made her feel. She said she felt sad about it and I told her that her dad and I were sad too. Though we were sad, there were lots of things we could do because we didn’t have a baby at our house. She was quickly distracted by listing the things she could do that a baby couldn’t and I tried to go about the rest of my day.

I reflect back on that conversation often and think about how I was able to respond to her in such an honest way while still addressing the issue at hand.

I was surprised at how natural it was to talk to her about this sensitive topic. Then it occurred to me that my job as a mom is to help her understand the world around her and answer questions that can sometimes have difficult answers.  

Since our talk there have been times we have been in public and the topic of her getting a sibling has come up in conversations.  She very casually says, “My mom can’t have any more babies in her tummy.”

Now I’d be lying (again) if I didn’t turn bright red when she said it, but looking back, she nor I have nothing to be embarrassed about. She was telling the truth in a very age-appropriate way and I should take a cue from her on her honesty.

In the future, I hope to continue to be a person my daughter seeks out for honest answers to difficult questions.  I hope to be able to give her an appropriate answer, no matter how uncomfortable or emotional the topic may be.  

But until then, please don’t blow my cover on the ice cream truck!  

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