Children can have a way of saying the most profound things at the perfect moments; whether it is a comic relief or just simple and beautiful, sometimes it’s just so right. When we first told our two and four year old that they would be getting a baby sister, I would say they were probably more interested in what was for dessert than this news. However, later as things moved along Little Wildman would proudly say, “my mommy has a baby in her belly…and I have a robot in my tummy!” He kissed my belly and said sweet things that melted my heart.
After my hospital stay I returned home sporting an even larger tummy due to the time that had passed and the extra fluids that are present along with the diagnosis we received of fetal heart failure. My sweet little Wildman looked at me as he was getting into the tub one night and said, “your belly is FULL, mommy!” He also continued on to say something about the baby as he entered the tub, and I knew that I needed to say something to him as he knew that plenty of unusual things had been happening in our family and our routines were completely changed. I had consulted the pastor at our preschool already, knowing that I needed to be prepared in some way for this conversation to start. I followed the advice and kept it rather simple and functional: I told him, ” about the baby….the baby is is very sick, and her heart is not very strong.” He looked perplexed and said, “her heart is broken?”
“Well, yes- her heart is broken or not working like it needs to, but mommy’s heart is fine. Your heart is working, and daddy’s heart….sister’s heart, etc,etc.”. He was quiet again and put his hands over his heart and said, “I have no heart.” “You do have a heart sweet boy! You have the biggest heart and it is so strong, because you love so many people and they love you,” naming off people in his life that are present and full of love for our kids. He splashed around a little more and then said, “I have a Transformer heart” with kind of a muscle pose…so we moved on that night to other topics of four year old interest.
Talking to a child about such a serious topic is challenging and tricky, but he clearly understands that something is going on. I imagine we will continue to revisit this topic in little understandable chunks, and I may need a lifetime to process it myself. One thing we know is that we would like for our children to know about their sister and for it to have a positive impact on their lives in some way. I imagine an idealistic version of them playing on a sunny day and releasing purple butterflies in honor of their sweet little sis. We are so very fortunate to have these sweet and joyful children in our lives, and I don’t want this experience to bring them deep sadness or worry. I believe that Grace can teach her family and those who learn about our story a deeper understanding of how important kindness is.