Q&A: resources for "the talk"

Frequent commenter and lovely person Bobbi writes:

"I'm hoping that, while you probably don't havemuch expertise in this area yet, maybe some of your readers do, because I'm stumped.  My oldest daughter is 9.5.  She is a really innocent 4th grader who goes to Catholic school, so she really doesn't know ANYTHING yet.  She was extremely curious about the development of my pregnancies in utero, and asked lots of questions about how the babies got out of me, but never once inquired as to how they got in there.  I have 4 kids, so getting some alone time to hang out with her doesn't happen as often as it should, but we try.  Last night we went to church and then shopping, just the 2 of us, and I took the opportunity to start to preface the sex talk.  Well, the conversation was an epic fail, with her sobbing over the weirdness of it all (and I never really got into anything - I was just prepping her for it coming).  SO.  I backed off, and told her I'd leave it alone until she's ready or curious.  I told her I'd be getting a book that explained things, and that she could take a look whenever she wanted to know more.  For the record, she had much the same reaction to the Santa truth.  Like she wants to know, but mourns the loss a bit.

Anything anyone can recommend?  Any good book recommendations?  I've never done this before, and I'm feeling like I'm doing it all wrong.  I want her to be as comfortable as she can asking me anything (I never was with my mom, so maybe she'll never be either, but I'm hoping).  This is so much harder than I expected it to be!


Bobbi is right that I don't have expertise in books about how sex happens for kids. (My 7-year-old knows the technicalities of how it happens, because he asked while I was pregnant with his brother and I told him, but the younger one hasn't asked anything yet so we haven't gotten to it, although his friend's mom's pregnancy makes this a perfect time. And, frankly, at this point we're too busy talking about love and being married and being divorced, etc. to have time to talk about sex. Although last Friday's comment section made me vow to include "making your partner come every time" as an integral part of the future sex talks. Anyway.)

I could go back and look up the books people always used to recommend, but the last time I remember thinking about this topic was a few years ago. I'm sure there are more resources out there now, so I'm hoping you guys can chime in with the best recommendations for her daughter's age and stage.

I wonder if your "prepping" her for the talk is what made it such a fail. It seems like so many times we put our own expectations onto kids and what they're going to think about things, and then it turns out that they're just so much more able to take it for what it is than we think.

I'm thinking specifically about death, or dying pets, and anything that our culture has taught adults to fear. Since our culture fears sex, it seems like this is another area in which we bring a whole bunch of stuff to the table that our kids don't need to have as issues. So I'm wondering if maybe doing the prep is what freaked her out, and if you just jumped ahead to the technical part and was really matter-of-fact about it, that she wouldn't be absolutely fine with it. It's really the other stuff that's tricky anyway (stupid messy emotions, making everything complicated...).

As an aside, the idea that she's sheltered from all this stuff at Catholic school makes me laugh and wonder if it's just the Catholic school that I went to for junior high that was so blatantly naughty! Those kids from St. [Name Redacted] were just light-years ahead of me in sexual knowledge and practice, cursing, drinking, smoking, and everything else. Now I'm wondering if there was just something special about the school I went to.

Honestly, though, it's going to be OK. It really is. The bottom line is that she's going to learn about sex whether you tell her or not. So you're not doing some big, innocence-smashing thing by having the (series of) talk(s). Instead, you're making sure she gets correct information before she gets really incorrect and potentially damaging information from somewhere else. There is no "wrong" here, just uncomfortable for you. And you've already done so many uncomfortable things for your kids that you know you can make it through this one, even if it makes you want to be swallowed up by a hole in the ground.

Book recs? Stories of telling your own kids? Stories of your mother being extremely uncomfortable while telling you, but giving you the info you needed?