This question will strike fear in the heart of every parent. It will send a chill down their spines.
What is the right answer? The cabbage patch? The stork? A watermelon seed?
Being pregnant brings to light a whole new series of problems in life: advice from strangers, a new wardrobe, and questions from young children, not always your own.
As the mother of eight very inquisitive children, I have answered this questions nearly incessantly for the last twenty years.
The key to answering this question is to find out what exactly the child wants to know and answering them in an age appropriate manner. For example, while the words of the three year old and the six year old might be the same but they might really have different questions.
The three year old might simply want to know where you picked up his or her new baby brother, while the six year might want to know how the baby got in there, which doesn't necessarily mean how it got in there.
Ask a couple of questions of your child to determine what their level of understanding is about the whole pregnancy thing and what they really would like to know. When answering your child you really need to be aware of the words you use. If you tell a child that you have a baby in your belly rather than uterus, you are going to have a whole new set of questions. The questions will probably include where does your food go while the baby is there, and does the baby eat your food too?
Using the wrong phrases can actually scare children. Which brings up what do you call these body parts? Some people choose to use the correct names for the parts of their body, while others use other names. A uterus can simply be described to a child as a special organ in a mother's body to house the baby until it's born. Using belly or stomach can frighten a child that they may also become pregnant, like the old watermelon seed theory of pregnancy.
The more complex the question, the more you may need to think about it. Don't be afraid to tell your child that you need a bit to think about a good answer for him or her or to locate a book to help you do so. Many children are thrilled with picture books of fetal development, so that they can see what is going on inside their mother.
Occasionally you'll be asked these tough questions by a child who is not your child or even a member of your family. The best answer there is that they need to ask their mother these questions. If you happen to know their parents, be kind and give them some heads up.
My advice, as a mother and as an educator is that honest is always the best policy. Although you don't necessarily have to go into extensive details. You know your child best and have the ability to decide what they are wanting to know and have the capability to handle.
"My 5 year old daughter asked me where babies come from and I panicked. I went into this long, nervous, diatribe about when a man and a woman love each other, how babies are made, where the come out, etc. I was beet red and my heart was pounding by the time I finished. Then she looked at me and said, 'No, the red hospital or the gray one by school?' I about died, although it's a fun story to tell now."
Hannah, Mom to 8 yo Elizabeth, 3 yo Harley, and Baby H on the way
When we told Bri that she was going to have a baby brother or sister, she was happy, but it really didn't enter her mind where we got it, she just marked the date on her calendar and waited... mommy got bigger and BIGGER and she waited. Then one day out of the blue, she says, "How is the baby going to pop out of mommy's stomach?" Leave it to my child to not ask the general question of where do babies come from... noooo she needs to hit us straight with that instead.
We explained that mommy goes to the hospital and the doctor will help the
baby come out. She gave me the "I know you're not telling me something" look,
and left it at that."
"When my three year old told me that she wanted to know how the baby got out. I asked her how she thought it happened. She said that my belly button would open up like a camera lens! I knew we needed to tell her something. So we told her that there was a special place for babies to be born and that all women had them. She never asked where it was, thank goodness!"
Maddy, mom to 3 year old Sarah and soon to be baby!
"We made the mistake of telling our son that babies grew in bellies. He seemed fine with that, but then approached a rather heavy man in McDonald's to ask when his baby was going to be born. Looks like we left some basic facts out. We nearly died of embarrassment."
Mom of a seven year old, three year old, and another one on the way!