Me: Liam, guess what? When I was at the baby doctor today, she could feel the baby's head and it's right down here. Right where it's supposed to be.
Liam: That's great, Mama!
Me: (semi-confused, wondering if I had talked to him about the difficulties a breech baby might mean) Thanks, buddy.
Liam: I'm glad everything is okay because I love you and I don't want you to die.
Me: (What the heck?! Did someone talk to my kid about maternal morality rates?) Oh, honey, don't worry. I'm not going to die until I'm much, much older. Remember?
We've talked a lot about death in the last 7 months. And not just because of Cloey. His fascination came many months before we were anywhere near ready to admit that was a conversation we'd need to have. Maybe it's normal preschool curiosity but I think it has something to do with wanting to understand the full picture. The circle of life, if you will.
As soon as we told him I was pregnant, he was full of questions. First and foremost, he wanted to know how the baby was going to get out. I gave him the best explanation I could muster. "Believe it or not, buddy, the baby is going to come out of my vagina. Crazy right? You know how you have a hole for peeing and a hole for pooping? Well, girls have three holes - one for peeing, one for pooping and one for making babies. When our baby's ready, he'll come out my baby-making hole!"
I don't know why, but he wasn't quite satisfied. It was like he wanted to actually see the hole. So on a whim I showed him (no, not my baby-making hole - gross!) a few select scenes from the documentary The Business of Being Born (great flick, by the way). I first chose a birth where the mother was lying on her side, dressed from the waist up. She moaned a little and the midwife plopped a squirmy wet baby on her chest. Liam was not impressed. "I couldn't even see anything!" So I fast-forwarded until I found a more graphic (but very peaceful) birth. The fully naked mother was squatting and moaning while the midwife was shining a flashlight on the baby coming out. It was a great birth and totally satisfied Liam's curiosity. Although, ever since watching that scene he can't help but mime a squatting woman in labor anytime he asks about me getting the baby out.
It didn't take long before he wanted to know how the baby got in. It's a natural progression of curiosity, sure, but we like to blame our friend Sean for planting the seed. See, anytime Liam would "tell Sean the good news" that there was a baby in my belly (he did this with everyone we saw for the first several months), Sean would say in a panic, "What?! Your mama ate a baby?" It didn't take long for Liam to put two and two together: Well, I know my mama didn't eat a baby. That's just crazy talk. But if she didn't eat it, how the heck did it get in there?
Like any good parents of our generation, Bill and I stalled, buying just enough time to simultaneously Google what to tell a 3 year old who wants to know how babies are made. Our search delivered the same results: Tell the child that the mommy has an egg and the daddy has a seed and when the egg and the seed come together, a baby starts to grow. We were both thinking, Yeah right! Like that's gonna do the trick. But we followed the internet's advice and figured, When he wants to know more, we'll tell him more.
Believe it or not he was perfectly satisfied with the seed and egg business. Score! He shifted his curiosity temporarily to adoption (perhaps the scene from that movie didn't sit so well...) and soon after that, death.
I don't recall anything out of the ordinary happening - no shows or conversations or funerals he would have been witness to - yet all of a sudden he was completely obsessed. Night after night we would read him his bedtime stories and sing him his songs and then sit and talk about death and dying until he was too tuckered out to ask another question. We were as honest as possible, giving straight forward answers when we could (Every living thing will die. You will die, I will die, Dada will die, Sia will die...) and shrugging our shoulders when we didn't know what else to do (I don't know if it will hurt - no one who died ever came back to tell us about it...Some people believe you go to heaven, some people believe you come back as something else, some people believe you just die - no one really knows for sure...). He would surprise unsuspecting baristas and babysitters with stuff you just don't expect to hear coming from a 3 year old's mouth. "Guess what?" "What, sweetie?" "We're all going to die."
And then, just as suddenly as his obsession had started, it was over. He hadn't so much as mentioned death in months. Until today.
Liam: But Mama, even if you don't die until you're really really old, I still don't want you to die. Because if you die and Dada dies (wiping his eyes, trying really hard not to cry), I'll be all alone. I don't want to be alone.
Me: Oh, buddy. You don't have to worry about that. Daddy and I will be like a hundred when we die which means you'll be in your 70s. Can you believe it? You'll probably have a wife and some kids and maybe even some grandkids by then. Plus, you'll always have your brother. You will not be alone. I promise.
Liam: But even if you're a hundred, I still don't think we should go one at a time. I think we should all three go together. Like if you die, then Dada dies, I want to die right after that.
Me: (What?!) Let's just play it by ear, okay? Now go get your swimsuit, we're going to the pool.
I mean I love my kid more than anything but there is just no way I'm making a suicide pact with a four year old. If it really means that much to him, I'm sure he can get his little brother on board after he comes out (picture me squatting while saying that last bit, my voice strained like I'm pushing really, really hard). That's what siblings are for, right?