I was in the post office the other day, trying to squeeze in one more errand before lunch.
Without warning my stomach began to rumble. It started as a low gurgle but the gurgle was soon accompanied by a strange and high pitched squeak.
A little girl who was sitting in the child seat of her mother's shopping trolley looked up from her stuffed toy and glanced around.
"There's a cat". She exclaimed. Her mother smiled at me but was too polite to say anything. I placed my hand across my stomach. "It's my tummy". I told the little girl and as if to prove a point, my stomach made the catlike noise again.
The line moved and the mother and daughter were called up to the counter.
When they finished their transaction the woman smiled at me and said, "Good bye". I responded and gave the girl a little wave. She waved back but looked a me suspiciously, staring at my stomach as she passed.
I wondered what was going through her mind. Has she understood that my stomach sounded like a cat not that there was a cat inside it? Sometimes it is easy for things get lost in translation if an explanation is confusing or incomplete.
Seventeen years ago I was living and teaching in London. My daughter, Amy, was just about to turn three and attended the nursery (kindergarten) attached to the school where I taught. It was an ideal situation. The nursery was wonderful: large well equipped rooms, a lovely play area and an excellent staff. Plus it was slap bang next door to a City Farm. It was also very convenient because I took Amy with me, to and from work.
We were driving home one day and I was aware that Amy was unusually quiet. She usually chattered non stop about her day as we drove home. In face the only time Amy ever stopped talking was when she was asleep. I watched her in the rear view mirror as she stared silently out of the window. I wondered if she might be coming down with a cold or a sore throat.
I was about to ask if she was feeling O.K when out of nowhere she announced, "Sheeps are disGUSTing."
I was rather taken aback. 'Sheeps are disgusting' is not a sentence you hear everyday. I clearly couldn't let this go and so I said "Why?"
Apparently Amy's class had visited the city farm that day. A call had come through to the nursery that one of the ewes had gone into labor and if the teachers rounded up the children quickly enough they would have a chance to see the lamb being born.
The class had arrived in time to witness this wondrous event but Amy had not been impressed. "A baby sheep came out of its Mummy's bottom and it was covered in blood. It was DISGUSTING."
I tried hard not to laugh. I always loved child's eye views on life. It was one of the reason I became a primary school teacher.
But with this cute, child's eye perspective on an incredible but every day event, there was opportunity. Although Amy didn't know it, I was nearly four and a half months pregnant at the time and I decided that this would be a marvelous time to initiate a conversation about where babies come from and the miracle of birth.
"Ahhhhhh." I said. "That's not disgusting. It's wonderful. A new sheep has been born. The mummy sheep must be feeling so happy tonight."
I glanced at Amy in the rear view mirror. She was listening, although she still looked rather doubtful.
"That's how you got here" I told her. "You lived inside my tummy and then when you were big enough to be born, you came out of my bottom (I decided to leave the introduction of vaginas until another day) and you were covered in blood. But the nurse washed you and you were beautiful and Daddy and I were SO happy."
Amy's eyebrows raised in disbelief. "Is that REALLY?" she asked.
"Yes" I nodded. "It is."
"Oh". She said, she sounded quite surprised but she seemed satisfied with my story and let the matter rest.
Several months later, a group of friends came round for lunch.
I was large, my due date was fast approaching and Amy was now well aware that there was a brother or sister on the way. People were constantly touching my belly to feel the baby kick. The conversation turned to where I would be having the baby and what type of birth I was hoping it would be.
In the middle of the discussion Amy suddenly piped up, "I lived in Mummy's tummy before I was borned."
"That's right." said one of my friends, putting an arm around Amy and giving her a little hug. "You did."
But Amy hadn't finished. "When I was big enough to be borned......" she looked around the room and paused as if for effect.
"Yes...?" my friend prompted her. Amy waited until everyone was listening. "........I came out of Mummy's bottom, and I was a baby sheep."
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