February 21st, 2012
About this time last year I was in the queue at the supermarket. It was a busy afternoon. The ideal time for an inquisitive nearly-four-year-old to ask in the kind of voice that carries as only a small child’s can ‘mummy.Have you decided to have your baby out of the cut in your tummy, or your vagina?’
And then a lady ahead of us smiled and complimented my son on asking such a sensible question. The lady behind in the queue told him he’d be a lovely brother. There was a lot of laughter, mostly at my expense. But my son still wanted a reply. So I answered truthfully. I hadn’t yet decided but it was most likely the new baby would come through the special cut in my tummy the doctor would help to make – just as my son had come into the world. [In fact, several months later, having decided this was the right birth choice for me, son number two had ideas of his own and arrived through a vaginal delivery with the help of forceps].
Despite being a sex researcher for the past couple of decades and being comfortable in both hearing people’s sexual stories while discussing sex and relationships issues in a variety of formats, tackling the unexpected baby-related questions my son wanted answering was not always easy.
Like many children my son was less interested in how the baby got inside me than how it was coming out. But that’s not to say he wasn’t keen to know about both of these issues. He also wanted to know about his birth too.
Although I was eager to answer his questions as best I could – and happy for other professionals (midwives, doctors, nurses etc) to also help out – what I really wanted was a book to help me talk through the topic of pregnancy, birth and having a new baby at home in a way that would inform and reassure my son. And ensure I didn’t forget anything important.
I considered a number of texts, some of which I’d previously recommended to friends and colleagues who wanted to tackle the ‘where do babies come from’ conversation with their child(ren). Even with these books I struggled to find ones that really addressed everything my son wanted to know about – and I wanted to discuss.
While most texts did talk about babies being born in a loving relationship and stressed the importance of a family unit, the focus was invariably that a mummy and daddy made a baby (sometimes intercourse was mentioned). And that pregnancy simply involved a mummy getting larger. Or that birth took place in hospital with a vaginal delivery.
I struggled to find books that explained pregnancy as sometimes being positive but in some cases making mummies very tired. Or that showed birth might happen at home, or in hospital. And may involve a c-section. It worried me the focus in the texts on vaginal delivery, even if accompanied by cute illustrations of smiling babies emerging from a birth canal, might suggest to my son his birth was odd or a problem.
More than that, the texts I browsed described a very specific ‘family’ unit. They didn’t talk about other families like the ones my son was growing up alongside. His friends conceived through IVF, carried by a surrogate, or who were adopted. Or living with two mummies. Or born to a single mum. Or to parent(s) with a disability. They also didn’t really focus on babies being born within a pre-existing family – of siblings or step brothers or sisters.
I realised while the text books on having a baby were careful to be frank (in age appropriate ways) about conception, pregnancy and birth, they were also constructing very firm messages about family life. While I wanted to answer the questions my son had about the baby growing inside me, I also realised it was a chance to stress the importance of his role within our family, how he and his baby brother were both going to be very loved. And that babies are born in different ways, to different people, who enjoy different relationships.
At the time I complained to several of my colleagues about the lack of resources available that really took a critical view on this topic. One of those colleagues was Cory Silverberg who, it turned out, was doing all he could to ensure such a book could be created for children and parents.
So it’s really exciting to share with you that Cory’s book ‘What Makes a Baby?’ is now taking shape with a Kickstarter Campaign that invites you to get involved in helping create a really useful text
“What Makes a Baby is a children’s picture book about where babies come from that is totally unique and unlike any other because it’s written and illustrated to include all kinds of kids, all kinds of adults, and all kinds of families.
Geared to readers from pre-school to about 8 years old, it teaches curious kids about conception, gestation, and birth in a way that works regardless of whether or not the kid in question was adopted, conceived using reproductive technologies at home or in a clinic, through surrogacy, or the old fashioned way (you know, with two people and some sexual intercourse). And it fits for all families regardless of how many people are involved, their orientation, gender and other identity.
Best of all, it’s being lovingly produced in the spirit of classic books like Where Did I Come From? as a full colour, hard cover picture book, one that kids and parents will want to pick up and read”.
If you’re a parent or parent-to-be; a healthcare provider, teacher or social care worker whose practice covers pregnancy/parenthood, or if you just think it’s a good idea to have a wide ranging text on such an important topic, then here’s how to get involved.
You can tell other people about the project on twitter (don’t forget the hashtag
#whatmakesababy), Facebook, blogs, through parenting forums you might be a member of, or through any listserves you might be on.
And more importantly you can back the book! Over to Cory again
“in backing the project, you give to get. There are great rewards for your support at all levels. You can pre-order a copy for $25 (only $10 for the ebook). People who back the project at the $60 level can send additional copies to places and people who may not have $25 to spend, but who deserve beautiful books and good stories that include their lives and their families”.
I can’t guarantee this book won’t stop kids asking baby-related questions that interest them at times that aren’t particularly convenient to parents. But at least if you’re asked in the supermarket, on the bus, or wherever else ‘what makes a baby?’ with this text you’ll have somewhere to go to get the answer and continue conversations.
Cory’s a real inspiration to me and has tirelessly worked to talk about sex and relationships in critical, thoughtful, fun and empowering ways. Please join the rapidly growing number of people backing this venture. Kids everywhere will thank you for it!Tweet