TORONTO – Not every baby comes from a mommy and daddy who fell in love. Sometimes, kids have two moms, or a single dad, or they were adopted. Some babies are conceived through in vitro fertilization or with the help of a surrogate mom.
In the new children’s book, What Makes a Baby, a Canadian sex educator walks kids as young as four years old through where babies come from. What sets this book apart from its predecessors is that it doesn’t refer to moms and dads, nor does it mention gender – there are no blue, tuxedo-donning sperm or pink, girly eggs.
And this is all done on purpose: the author Cory Silverberg says his book is catering to the wide range of families, not just the nuclear family.
“Most of the books that exist tell one story. They tell a story that everyone has a mom or a dad and your mom has eggs and your dad has sperm. The books differ in how much detail – some say they make love or they get together, or others go into specifics,” he said.
“The problem with that is we all don’t have two parents. We all don’t have this nuclear family and it doesn’t reflect so many of us. When you read (these books), you’re always having to edit, you’re always having to make changes,” Silverberg said.
Instead of talking about sex and love, Silverberg boils baby making down to a science: an egg and a sperm come together.
“When an egg and a sperm meet, they swirl together in a special kind of dance. As they dance, they talk to each other. The egg tells the sperm all the stories it has to tell about the body it came from,” and vice-versa, the story reads.
“When their dance is done they are not two things anymore,” it explains. Sometimes, it grows into a baby – “like you did” – the story says.
It’s vague on purpose. Silverberg said he describes the rudimentary factors in how his little readers were created. But it’s up to parents to tell them the rest.
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“I explain the basics that are true about every child, but I let the parents fill in the details about how (the kids) were made – and it can be as much or as little as they want,” he said.
Accompanying the book is a 60-page reader’s guide to help parents navigate the language and responses they could use to commonly asked questions. It’s available online here.
Silverberg said he hopes the book could help guardians explain their child’s unique story: grandparents raising kids, single parents, gay, lesbian and transgender couples, for example.
These families may have worked to build their family. They could have worked hard for an adoption, or saved up for IVF treatments, for example.
“It can be horrible. It tears people up and makes people feel so bad about themselves and then it if works, it’s so amazing,” he told Global News.
“I wanted a book that would celebrate this. Parents want to tell their children a story about how they were born that is beautiful,” he said.
(Photo courtesy Cory Silverberg)
Parenting expert and author, Alyson Schafer, says that the book comes at a great time.
“Very few people feel they have the upper hand on how to approach it and I would say many Canadians feel they’re lacking in resources,” she said.
“We’re just starting to get the notion that a family is a group of people who love each other but just look different.”
Initially, Silverberg penned the book for a friend, who is transgendered and a father to two children.
When his son was four years old and his wife was pregnant, he knew the curious boy would have some questions.
Silverberg then spent about two years refining the book, collaborating with an editor and illustrator Fiona Smith.
He launched a Kick Starter project page, aiming to raise $9,500 in 30 days. That would be enough to print and self-publish 1,000 copies.
In less than a day, he met his goal. By the end of the month, he had more than $65,000 raised and plenty of supporters.
A publisher, Seven Stories Press, picked up the book. It’s sold across North America.
Silverberg has even signed on for another two parts to what’s now his What Makes a Baby collection. His next book targets kids 8 and up — it’ll look at sperm donation, egg donation, surrogacy and more untraditional forms of baby-making.
The third, and final installment is for pre-pubescent kids. Silverberg says he’ll touch on changes in the body, relationships and even contemporary subjects, such as child pornography.