Canadian Children’s Book Explains How Babies are Made in a Gender-Neutral Way!

Hey guys, I’m going to share something a little embarrassing with you, but I’ve been writing here for a while now, so I feel okay telling you this. When I was a kid, I pieced together bits of information from my parents and from Sunday school to form a very religious and imaginative idea of how babies were made. These are the steps I thought it took to create a new life:

1. Man and woman get married
2. Man and woman kneel down together and pray to God for a baby
3. God considers them and their merits and decides if He will grant their wish.
4. The woman stands outside under the sky (where God lives, obviously) and God reaches his hands out from the clouds and places a baby in her stomach.

Hey, um, so that’s not how babies are made. Surprise! You don’t need a man and a woman! They don’t need to be married! And God doesn’t have to reach down into a woman’s stomach from the Heavens! Canadian author Cory Silverberg’s new book, What Makes a Baby would have cleared this up for me, had it existed when I was a mini-Malaika.

Silverberg was inspired to write the book for a trans* friend who was having trouble explaining to his four-year-old son how their family came to be. What’s great about this book is it can speak to anyone. It focuses on the science behind conception, not the genders or relationships of the humans doing the conceiving, so anyone can use What Makes a Baby to explain their unique situation. Silverberg says he hopes his book can be used by “grandparents raising kids, single parents, gay, lesbian and transgender couples, for example.”

Editor and illustrator Fiona Smith's drawings are perfect.

Editor and illustrator Fiona Smith’s drawings are perfect.

“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. 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.”
-Cory Silverberg

The story of how Silverberg made the book is almost as beautiful as the book itself. Thinking he would have to self-publish, he launched a Kickstarter project page, aiming to raise $9,500 in 30 days, which would be enough to publish 1,000 copies. Instead, by the end of the month he had not only raised over $65,000 and garnered a lot of publicity and support, but he also had the book picked up by Seven Stories Press.

Silverberg explains that there are many families who, because they don’t fall into the heteronormative family model, lack resources that help them talk about their family to their children. But children are beautiful, amazing little creatures no matter how they were made or what their families look like:

“I wanted a book that would celebrate this,” he says. “Parents want to tell their children a story about how they were born that is beautiful.”

Lucky for us, Silverberg doesn’t plan on stopping with this one book. His next will be for older children and explain sperm donation, egg donation, surrogacy and more untraditional forms of baby-making. There’s also a 60-page readers’ guide to help parents navigate some of the terms and concepts in the book.

While you’re eagerly awaiting your copy, check out Silverberg’s adorable publicity video:

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Malaika likes books, drinking tea, long conversations, dinner parties, making funny faces, bike rides, and dogs. Originally from Edmonton, she now lives in Montreal where she edits, runs, and writes about the Alberta Tar Sands for The Media Co-op. You can follow her on twitter @Malaika_Aleba.

Malaika has written 84 articles for us.


  1. Ahhhh! This is so adorable. I will also never get over what kids will say in answer to questions. How they don’t even realize they’re being so funny (‘……beer?’) because they’re just being honest. This is going to be a great resource and I’m so glad it got the backing/support that it did. Also: I’m always a fan of books with people not coloured ‘people colours’. Blue/purple/green people ftw!

    • Yay for non ‘people coloured’ people. This is why I always buy Hello Kitty bandaids.

  2. I own this (live with two tiny humans + not the best of sex ed in the family/country) and I love it very, very much. The illustrations are stellar and the writing is even better — I am always SO in awe of kids’ books which explain things so simply & fairly.

  3. The only problem I see with this in terms of surrogacy/gamete donations/adoptions is that a lot of donor-conceived adults and adopted adults have a problem with the erasure of genetic heritage in books like these. So, hopefully this explains it in a more ethical way than a lot of books meant for donor conceived/adopted kids explain it…

  4. I’d be lying if I said I haven’t already made up my own versions for my future children. Super excited that this is a thing!!

      • It was more or less along the lines of “Your mommy and I went to the doctor who gave us special medicine to help you grow in my/her tummy” and then, with age, add in more information about how the growing was helped. I’m sure euphemisms along the line of “baby batter” will be used heartily.

  5. aaghlkfajs this is too adorable and has sent me into a serious bout of daydreaming about my future kids and reading this to them someday. seriously considering stockpiling a copy now even though future kids are very far in future, just because it’s so perfect and i want it. would that be weird? that would probably be weird.

    • …probably not as weird as already having your future-children’s-library started with 2 books signed by the author. I mean. My friend did this……

      • I definitely already have a library of children’s books started for my hypothetical children. If that’s weird, oh well.

  6. Ahh this gives me all the happy feelings. Definitely getting this for my future children.

  7. Also, when I have kids, I want Jurassic Park-themed announcements that say “Life Finds a Way.”

  8. Okay folks, one thing I need you to know about Corey Silverberg is that he was a founding member of a feminist sex toy shop co-operative in Toronto, called Come as You Are. They do amazing things like hold workshops on how to fist safely and pleasurably, and Corey himself goes to conferences and talks about gender-creative children and the way people have sex on World of Warcraft. Basically Corey person is a sex-positive bamf.

    That’s my rant, sorry. I was just kind of surprised that the author never mentioned Come as You Are, because it’s AWWWWEESOME.

  9. For those who are interested in pregnancy and surrogate motherhood, there is a good blog. My daughter was born thanks to a surrogate mother we found at the Feskov Human Reproduction Group. We liked our acquaintance with her very much, there is a wide choice of surrogate mothers, all proven and healthy, both physically and mentally. In addition, the price is very good and there are no problems with traveling home and documents. I suggest you also check out their YouTube channel, there are a lot of interesting information.

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