Dear Dr. Faizal,
I’m a Caucasian man married to a woman from Pakistan. We have a five-year-old son and are expecting our second child. My wife and I are constantly arguing about whether to tell our son where babies come from and how they’re born. I’d like to share the pregnancy experience with my son, but my wife would rather ignore it. Why can’t my wife see how important this is to me?
– For My Son
Dear For My Son,
Your sentiments about wanting the pregnancy to be a family affair would be perceived as being quite sensitive and romantic to most Caucasian women, but you did not marry a Caucasian woman.
I believe that it’s important for you to first understand and appreciate your wife’s position. In Asian cultures, people generally do not discuss pregnancy because they relate to deeper social taboos like nudity and sex, topics never mentioned openly in the presence of children.
Your wife may fear that if your son learns there is a baby growing in her womb, he may question how it got there. This curiosity could very easily prompt a necessity for discussing “the birds and the bees,” and perhaps your wife is not ready to, or is uncomfortable with, addressing this issue at this stage.
Some mothers in certain cultures don’t talk about their pregnancy with their son because they feel uncomfortable being perceived as a sexual person in the eyes of the son. Some feel if the son perceives them as sexual, they will lose the son’s respect as a mother.
Regardless, your wife needs to understand the possible effects of not sharing this experience with your son. Seeing their pregnant mother putting on weight, unaware children form misunderstandings and judgments. The son of one of my clients lashed out, “Other mothers are so thin. Why are you so fat?” When another mother was close to her due date, her son complained, “You are always tired and never play with me these days. Don’t you love me anymore?”
To avoid misunderstandings, and without going into details, perhaps you could tell your son: “Mommy and Daddy wanted a baby, prayed to God (or wished) for one, and God placed one in a special place in Mommy to grow in.”
You could also visit the local library and consult with the librarian about books on how to tell children where babies come from. Both you and your wife could pick one that both of you feel comfortable reading to your son.
Tell your wife the sooner your son knows that a baby is coming, the stronger the bond he will develop with his sibling. By feeling the baby kicking in the mother, by helping name the baby and by talking to the unborn baby, your son will develop less of a sibling rivalry with his new brother or sister once born.