This is Part 2 of “The Talk” – click here to read Part 1 first!
My 8 year old daughter, who hadn’t asked about sexual dimorphic anatomy in 5 years, was now asking me, about sexual anatomy. I have waited for this moment. I have waited for the time, the platform, and studied the words to give my daughter the confidence and comfort I never had, sitting in a Texas “I Got It!” sex ed class that treated periods like cutie marks.
“A penis is what boys…male babies have, when they’re born. Female babies have vulvas. Intersex babies can have both sometimes.”
“What are vulvas?”
She was honing in on herself.
I moved forward, clinically, methodically, never revealing too much. As a mother, I wanted to share the bare minimum. As a sex educator to adults who have never been told anything, I wanted to share everything about pleasure, gender, sexuality, and attraction spectra. I didn’t go that in-depth. I wanted to be trans inclusive. I hope I did well, explaining that some males are girls and some females are boys and you can be anything you want in between. She told me some boys can have long hair, like her brother. YES! My heart screamed in agreement. And yes, Jesus loves EVERYONE! And he died for EVERYONE! Because sometimes we’re mean to people who are different from us. That’s not ok and we need to repent and not do that.
“What’s a uterus?”
OK, let’s do pregnancy first. That’s a bit easier. What does Google image search generate? Well, it’s crappy. Wait! I know! Erika Moen did pregnancy for Oh Joy, Sex toy! Let’s look at just the part about fertilizing the egg…uh huh…and zygote and baby… GREAT! She gets it. Ok, real quick, not all mommies require daddies and not all daddies require mommies. Adoption! God adopted us as his own. Jesus is like our brother. And he made a way. He made scientists so smart they can take sperm and an egg and put them together in a lab and make a baby in anybody’s uterus who wants to have a baby! That’s called IVF. And it helps mommies or daddies who have a hard time making babies through sex.
“Wow God was smart to make scientists learn IVF!”
OK, now, so gently…before an egg gets fertilized, the uterus builds up a lining. That lining has blood and tissue, which is rich in nutrients. The embryo will be nourished by this lining, but most of the time, there’s no sperm for the egg, or they don’t meet up. And so the unfertilized egg goes into the uterus and is expelled with the tissue. And the tissue and egg go out the vagina, and that’s a period.
“Oh! OK! So…the period…?”
She knows what it is. She wants the details. Here we go.
“The period is where the lining of the uterus comes out. It’s bloody. It leaks out for about a week. This happens about every month for most people who have a uterus.”
I wait. I watch it sink in.
“I’m going to bleed? Every MONTH? Oh no!”
She starts crying. To an 8-year-old, blood is a skinned knee, a paper cut. It’s a sharp pain.
“Oh, no baby, not like that! It might feel like a tummy ache. Cuddles and chocolate are always a good idea for a period!”
She looks at me skeptically. She glances at the box of office supplies from my former full-time job that have been sitting by the trash can for the past 2 years. In it are Band-Aids from when I’d wear uncomfortable high heels to work. The box meant Band-Aids.
She is sobbing now, as I hold her. She’s sobbing into my shoulder, afraid that the blood will hurt her where she pee pees. “No, not like that,” I say. “It’s more like a tummy ache. But you want to know where the Band-Aids are, right?”
She nods, wiping tears away.
“Come with me,” I say, as I lead her upstairs to my master bathroom.
I reach into my drawer by the toilet and pull out a package of pads and a box of tampons. I grab a clean pair of underwear from a drawer. I show her how pads go in panties and where. I explain wings. Then, we Turn on the sink and fill the pad with cool water. She touches it. Then I take the pad out. She feels the panties are dry.
I pull out a tampon. I explain where it goes and show her the diagram in the box. We talk about the pee hole, the butt hole, and the vagina again. I let her “shoot” the tampon at me. We hold the tampon under the faucet and watch it expand. I tell her we don’t use the same tampon or pad the whole period, but we have to change them a few times a day. I reassure her I’ll help remind her when she’s ready.
I explain there are other options better for the environment I’m thinking about switching to. Again I pull up OJST for the Moon Cup illustrations. She’s very interested in this option.
By the end of the day, she’d also learned that dogs have vaginas, what “fixing” is, that animal shelters put dogs to sleep, that putting to sleep is killing them (she asked, and then she cried), and that hair grows in weird places (and already decided she wants to shave down there because that sounds itchy).
I stop when she wants to stop. I answer questions only when she wants questions answered.
By the time Carrie comes home, she’s excited to tell them all about periods and where baby eggs grow and cups and pads that save the environment, and more!
My mom never really talked to me about this stuff. Chances are, your mom didn’t either. Please reblog, repost, retweet, and comment so that other sex-positive moms know they’re not alone, so that other women who were never told the truth know they’re not alone, and so every mom knows that even a seasoned adult sex educator can be caught off guard by a child’s questions.
If you are trans, I especially want you to comment with suggestions on how parents can be more inclusive with the sex ed & puberty talks. My daughter is cis-girl for now, but I’m not sure I’d have had the right words if she were trans-boy. I would love enlightenment here.