Sex and Death*

*Not necessarily in that order.

As we were checking out of the pediatrician’s office the other day (Kate is free from ear infections which is only a bummer because now I don’t know why she is still throwing epic tantrums and crawling into bed with us at 4:45 a.m.) when Flora said, “Aw, look at the baby.”

On the bulletin board was a poster. On the poster was a picture of a sorrowful-looking couple holding a picture of an infant between them. The poster was encouraging parents to vaccinate their children. In short, the baby had died of pertussis (whooping cough) because she hadn’t been inoculated.

I glanced at the picture, quickly scanned the poster, and turned back to Flora. “Yep. It’s a picture of a baby.”

“What’s that picture for?” she asked.

“Well, it’s asking parents to vaccinate their children,” I answered cautiously. “You know, those shots you have to get sometimes when you come to the doctor’s office. Those keep you from getting sick.”

“Oh. Did that baby have shots?”

Oh, no, oh no. “No, that little baby didn’t have any of those shots.”

“So did she die or what?”

“Yes, Flora, that little baby died.”

Pause. “Do you remember Mr. Tim?”

“Yes, I do.”

“Did he not get those shots? Is that why he died?”

“No. Mr. Tim had cancer.”

“What’s cancer?”

“That’s a type of sickness. Sometimes doctors can’t help you if you have cancer.”


And that was the end of that.


Later that evening, Flora again: “When I was a baby, and came out of your mouth —”

“Woah, what?”

“When I rose up and came out of your mouth. When I was borned.”

“Oh, honey, babies don’t come out of mommies’ mouths.”

“Well how do they get out of mommies’ bellies?”

Long pause.

“How did I come out?”

“You came out of my lady business.”

“What?? Babies come out of lady business?” And she laughed and laughed.

I thought, I’m glad you think it’s funny now.


Would you have handled any of this differently? How?