Hard Topics: How are babies made?
Updated: Dec 2, 2022
You might think Advent is a fun time to retell the Christmas story and make whipped cream Santa beards (as is the case at our house!), but one year I found myself knee deep in the “birds and the bees” after reading this verse with my kids:
"This is how Jesus the Messiah was born. His mother, Mary, was engaged to be married to Joseph. But before the marriage took place, while she was still a virgin, she became pregnant through the power of the Holy Spirit" (Matthew 1:18).
Woah. That's some intense stuff right there! Stuff that we, as parents, usually avoid or skip over at Christmas. But that’s exactly where my 7-year old went:
“Mom, what does getting pregnant by the Holy Spirit mean?”
“Wellllll..." I said, stalling a bit so I could think of what to say... "That means Mary didn’t have sex to get pregnant.....God put Jesus in her belly.”
“What??! .... REALLY?!?!!!??!" I could see her wheels spinning as she compared this new information with how I had already told her babies were made.
She then proceeded to spout out question after question. (I assure you, these were NOT made up.)
“Did Joseph and Mary ever have sex?”
“Did they do it the way you and daddy do it?” (This one made my husband choke on his mashed potatoes.)
“Does the Holy Spirit get other people pregnant?”
And so on.
At this point, my husband had left the table, and I was left wondering what other parents do when this happens at Christmas...Do they feel prepared to answer their kids’ questions? Or do they skip over Immaculate Conception completely???
Now, I'm not sure where you fall on the sex-comfortability pendulum, but chances are you haven't used The Christmas Story as a launching pad. Yet if you‘re a Christian, don't you think immaculate conception is pretty cool?! I mean, if we omit this part, or don't explain WHY it's so miraculous, don't we miss out on an opportunity to teach our kids about the power of God and our bodies?!
Maybe you're still like, "Yeaaaah ... I don't think so, Jonna. Not at Christmas." And that's fine. You will have to discuss sex with your kids eventually, though; and when you do, I want you to be prepared. So here are few tips to help you sweat comfortably. 😏
1. Talk about ALL of your kids' body parts.
Our bodies are crazy cool. Our hearts pump blood, our stomachs break down food, and our anuses expel that food. Our penises and vaginas do cool things too, but for some reason many parents don't label those parts for their kids, which can cause confusion and awkwardness.
Anatomical labeling is crucial because it teaches kids that every part of them is fearfully and wonderfully made (Psalm 139:14), AND it keeps them safe.
A sex educator once told me that a 6-year old girl went up to her teacher and said that a man was touching “her kitty”; the teacher had no idea the girl was referring to her vagina so she did nothing. 😭 You can see the problem here...
An easy way to start labeling your child's body parts is during diaper changes or bath time. Saying "penis" to your 8-month old is a lot different than saying it when he's eight. However, if you've missed that window, don't worry about it. Just start labeling those body parts now.
2. Talk about sex as early as possible.
In our house, we have "the talk" when our kids are around 5 or 6-years old. I know this seems young, but the earlier you can talk about it the more normal it becomes. You don’t have to worry about telling your kids too much either. Children will only retain what they're interested in or can cognitively understand.
For example, when I talked to my oldest daughter as a 5-year old, she was fascinated that the sperm’s tail falls off when it fertilizes the egg. My middle daughter, on the other hand, was more interested in the penis-in-the-vagina part, while my youngest could care less about any of it! I had to repeat the information about a dozen times before she understood! (See step 3 below.)
I didn't walk blindly into these conversations, though, and neither should you. Here is a list of books to get you started. I downloaded it from the Awaken Love website - an awesome ministry that offers classes and other resources to help improve the quality of your sex life!
3. Talk about sex with your kids every year.
I know, I know.....this last tip makes every parent ☹️. We all want the "one and done" theory to apply to sex education too, but if we only talk to our kids once, we do a disservice to them as they grow and mature.
For instance, a conversation with my 5-year old looks a lot different than when she's 9 or 12. Each new stage of development brings new levels of awareness and questions, so as a parent, I want to capitalize on these moments and speak truth and love into their lives!
That's why it's up to YOU to approach them every year. Don't wait for them to come to you because they may never! (And take it from me, silence does NOT mean ignorance.)
(SIDE NOTE: If you're sweating right now just thinking about doing this, please reach out to me! As a Birth Doula and Childbirth Educator, I've helped lots of families navigate this topic, and I would love to create a strategy that's best for you and your family.)
The bottom line is that we are our children's biggest educators. We want them to learn about the big things in life from us and not the neighbor kid down the street who may not have his facts straight! It’s never easy to tell our kids the truth about topics we'd rather avoid (even when it's about the Virgin Mary during Advent), but consider this another chance to rely on God as you parent your kids about life.