She did all the eating…

My son, three and a half years old, is a funny little chap. Lately, he’s begun to ask questions about, well, more or less everything. From a simple ‘why’ with everything we say, to more complex questions that can sometimes be complex to answer.

Just now, he asked me: ‘dad, how did I even eat and drink while I was in mommy’s belly’?

(Last week we had to explain to him how babies get out of the belly, and there was no way on earth he could believe that this was possible. That would be way too small.)

How do babies feed inside the womb?

It’s a good question, and I am happy to see this kind of curiosity in my son. It’s the type of curiosity that I recognize in my younger self. The curiosity that inspired me to become a biologist, and certainly the curiosity that culminated into me becoming a scientist. My daily job is trying to listen to the curiosity in my head, selecting the most interesting questions, and trying to answer them.

Answering these questions is definitely a fun part of parenting. I love thinking of answers on a different level. The toddler level is particularly challenging, bit so much fun!

But I tried to answer his question anyway.

‘Well’, I said, ‘when you were in mommy’s belly, you didn’t eat for yourself. You were connected to mom’s body via a little tube that connected to your belly button. Mom did all the eating…’

Umbilical cords. You take them for granted. But think about them. Like, really think about them. Now, tell me you didn’t pull a strange face at the realization that for nine months you basically breathed and were nourished through a hose that connected to your own belly.

While I was explaining all these things at a level of understanding that would stick, I had this realization as well.

I saw it in my son’s face. I pulled the face. He responded.

‘You must think I’m fooling you here, but trust me, I’m not!’ I said.

Baby’s growing in a bag in a watery womb for nine months. You don’t make this shit up. Yet, I could imagine the disbelief.

We both started laughing at this weird realization.

I’m not sure the additional information that nutrients and air were transferred to the baby via mom’s blood helped to make the story more acceptable. But at the end of the conversation, I felt like he understood.

Or well…

At least his curiosity was satisfied.

Published by Robin Heinen

Father of two | Husband | Entomologist and Ecologist | Postdoctoral Researcher @ TUM | Traveler | Coffee Addict

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