How Babies Are Made

by Jennifer on March 24, 2008

Did anyone spit coffee just now? I was totally going for that. So, I have to ask. Do any of you recognize this book?

how-babies-are-made-cover.jpg
It was published in 1969, a year after I was born. Yeah, that train had left the depot by then (chasing down the one that carried my older sister, I presume), so I can only assume that someone bought the book for the benefit of my sister and me, for the day when we might have questions. It was maybe one of the more genius parenting moves ever made by our parents, and one I actually might copy.

The book tells all about reproduction, starting with bees pollinating flowers, then moving on to the reproductive practices of chickens and dogs and, finally, humans. The illustrations are brilliant–all of the pictures are 2-D paper cutouts, and are remarkably representative of things. I won’t splash the pages across your screen, in case you’re not ready to explain the images to your kids who may be walking by, but you can see a few of them here, here, here, and here. (That was all the warning I’m going to give you.)

The book definitely creates a shortcut for parents. Here, read this. No, that’s covered on page, uh, see? Right here. Yes, that’s a doggie’s hoohoo. Jeez. Just go read it. Although, bless the kids whose parents call it a hoohoo.

By the time I was five years old (maybe sooner) this book was on our bookshelf in either my sister’s or my room, available to us whenever we wanted to read it. Which made for an interesting conversation in kindergarten, when I tried to explain it all to my friends. Of course, a kid name Gene had to tell Mrs. Compton that I said people hatched out of eggs. Guess I didn’t explain things very well. Or maybe Gene was kind of an ass.

Two Christmases ago, I bought a copy of the book for my sister as a surprise. She and her husband had good laugh at the pictures, and so did the boys (who are teenagers). I wish now that I had ordered two copies, since I’m thinking about buying one for our house.

I do have an issue with this part of the book:

“Unlike plants and animals, when human mothers and fathers create a new baby they are sharing a very personal and special relationship.”

It’s not exactly an all-inclusive representation, is it? ‘Cause sometimes human mothers and fathers just share the back seat of a Honda.

Not to mention that sometimes human mothers and mothers share a mortgage and a membership to a sperm bank. Ditto fathers and fathers, but with donated eggs. The list goes on.

Still, the book gives a pretty decent sneak preview of reproduction (including some insight into what the heck Fido was doing in the back yard last week with the poodle from next door). I can fill in those other possible scenarios myself, which I would do, in any case. I’ll admit, though, I’m not sure I’m ready for all the questions (a few have come up already), but it’s my job to be ready. On this subject, I would rather my kids have answers than questions.

So I’m going to order it, I think. As soon as I stop hyperventilating.

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And now, I’m dying to know: Would you buy this book for your home? Have you already? Are you going to steal it from your parents’ house next time you’re there?

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Since some of you have expressed an interest in buying this book, here are links for a few places I’ve found it:

Abebooks      Amazon      Barnes & Noble

There are two different covers, the one above and another that is pink with the title in white lettering.

When it arrives, try to convince your kids you bought it for the articles.

{ 39 comments… read them below or add one }

Mrs. Chili March 24, 2008 at 3:41 am

I am, and always have been, almost startlingly frank with my girls (currently 9 and almost-11). They know the whole story, from erection to delivery. I think it’s important for them to know all of it and properly (no “hoohoos” in our house) because it’s such an important part of life (and they’re going to be BEAUTIFUL young women – I’m figuring the subject is going to come up).

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Slow Panic March 24, 2008 at 5:12 am

it seems the more honest and more forthright i am with the boys the less they want to know – at least at the ages of 6 and 9 — it’s my strategy to not totally talk about it yet. it sends them screaming into the other room.

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Crazycath March 24, 2008 at 5:49 am

I have never seen this book but looking at the pics you posted I would definitely use it! Nothing can be all encompassing. This book, in what looks to be a factual and sensitive way, tells how nature intended it and I think that is what we need to learn first. Then we can learn about other ways (sperm banks etc).

I hope it does expand on the need for the loving relationship and stability but then again, as I said above, nothing can cover everything. If the book sets out to give “the facts of life” then I think it has achieved it’s aim very well.

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suburbancorrespondent March 24, 2008 at 6:13 am

Looks good – especially for boys, who would rather you didn’t tell them in person.

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Nicole P March 24, 2008 at 6:44 am

Holy Moly, I have never even heard of that book!! After I finish snickering at those photo links (yes, I am immature like that), I think I might just order a copy!!

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HRH March 24, 2008 at 6:57 am

That is one crazy book. I am just picturing the “artist” sitting down at the table with scissors cutting out the two dogs and them pasting them in that position. So funny. I also like the lady’s expression in bed. I had a pink book that said, “What Girls need to know” that went along with the corresponding blue book my brother had, “What Boys need to know”. Yep. It was all I needed to know….well, maybe not.

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cce March 24, 2008 at 7:09 am

Jennifer, I knew we connected on a lot of levels but now I’m really, really sure of it…we had the SAME book at my house and I was just talking about it the other day and everyone just sort of looked at me blankly as I described the cut out illustrations and the dogs humping. Damn girl, this was such a welcome blast from the past. And I’m LOL at
“It’s not exactly an all-inclusive representation, is it? ‘Cause sometimes human mothers and fathers just share the back seat of a Honda.

Not to mention that sometimes human mothers and mothers share a mortgage and a membership to a sperm bank. Ditto fathers and fathers, but with donated eggs. The list goes on.”

Well done and I’m definitely getting this book for my kids, definitely, definitely. Or is it for me that I get the book? Doesn’t matter. It’s just right on.

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the mama bird diaries March 24, 2008 at 7:14 am

I have never seen that book! I don’t think I’m ready for that one yet…

When I was a kid, I use to peruse my mom and step-dad’s “Joy of Sex” when they weren’t around. A whole lot of info in that book!

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Melissa March 24, 2008 at 7:31 am

I remember that book! Oh my!
I have good intentions with my sons, but when the moments arrive, I choke under pressure. Case in point–“The baby grows in your tummy, right?” Yep. “How does it get out?” Mommies have a special hole for babies to come out of when it’s time. (I only answer the questions I’m asked–volunteering unsolicited info. bites me in the hoo-hoo) “Do you have a special hole?”
Yes, I do. I’m a mommy. “Can I see it?” Aaaaaand this is where I choke. Our conversations never follow the script. Never.

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Daryl E March 24, 2008 at 7:50 am

No, never saw that one .. but have you ever seen Sally Grows Up? Sigh .. it was popular as an ‘education’ tool to teach young girls about menstruation ..

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Brenda March 24, 2008 at 7:53 am

Of course I would order that book! Why? Because I love paper cutouts! My favorite children’s books in the worlds are the ones with papers torn and cut out for 2-D imagines. Way too cool.

On to the subject…… I think it might be useful (are there more pictures of humans???) because sometimes when you explain things to kids, a picture might help. I’m forever explaining something to my 6-year-old, and she doesn’t understand. (Not about sex, but about anything.) A picture will help.

I’m not shy about talking about this to her, or her younger sister. I would rather they learn it correctly from me–soon–than like I did, at age 7 from a 4th grader, who was clearly a little misguided. When my daughters ask questions, I answer honestly. I probe to see if they want more information. So far they don’t, but it will happen soon, and if it doesn’t, I will tell them anyway so they don’t learn from an older school mate.

Strange that this book was on a bookshelf in your home, but there was no mention of bikinis or beer. You’d think your dad and Sue could have made some cutouts of their own as supplements!

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Jennifer Harvey March 24, 2008 at 8:28 am

cce, no way! That’s amazing that you were just talking about this book.

Brava, Mrs. Chili.

Slow Panic, I’ve heard you mention that strategy. I like it.

Cath, you’re right, it covers the bases

GM–hilarious story. Nice recovery by your mother, though I don’t suppose the dogs thanked you.

suburbancorrespondent–I’m bracing myself for the talks with the Boy

Nicole–I tend to snicker at them too. 🙂 Wait until you see the chickens. You may never recover.

HRH–can you tell it was a male illustrator?

mama bird–ooh, you hit the lottery with that book

Melissa–Yay, you know this book! Yeah, I’d say buy it.

Daryl E–I sense some ambivalence about Sally Grows Up?

Brenda–I wish I could have linked to more photos, but I couldn’t find any others of the humans. If memory serves, the illustrator didn’t do the human father any big favors, and the mother looked like she had a boob job. (Maybe plastic surgeons used this book as a reference.)

Did you and F never see this book when you came over to our house? Well, that was an untapped entertainment resource!

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Jenn @ Juggling Life March 24, 2008 at 9:10 am

Having it on the shelf is a perfect strategy–they’ll deal with it when they feel they’re ready. I’m with Mrs. Chili-just act like nothing fazes you and give them all the info they want–they deserve to know.

I have teenagers and I use the Meatloaf song, “Paradise by the Dashboard Lights” to teach caution and reflection in intense situations.

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baby boy March 24, 2008 at 9:12 am

when do you think you should start talking with your kids about this stuff?

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Lisa Milton March 24, 2008 at 9:17 am

My family had a ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ policy growing up; no doggy shots for us.

I use the ^ tried and true methods of being nonplussed and laid back when questions come up, although deep down I think I’m going to die.

(I reviewed the Body Drama book a while back and my daughter has looked at it some, although it embarrasses her to no end.)

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Meg March 24, 2008 at 9:27 am

I don’t know that book…hmmm…oh well.
My kids know everything there is to know now…oh well.
I remember the talks…some what embarrassing at first, especially with my daughter. Now we talk all the time about stuff I wish she didn’t share…oh WELL!!!

Hugs,
Meg

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Lisa March 24, 2008 at 10:47 am

Well I almost spit out my coffee 😉
I never saw that book. We are using the American Girl ‘Care and Keeping of You’ book for now. We’ll progress later.

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Grandy March 24, 2008 at 10:48 am

Ohhh. Times have changed indeed. Is it too late for me to order this book? My son just turned 12 but I’m panicked. I need to make sure he understands so he doesn’t try to “figure it out” on his own when he hits the teens. Think it will help? 😉

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liv March 24, 2008 at 11:13 am

i have a book called “everybody poops.”

of course i should have a book like that.

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fullheartandhands mama March 24, 2008 at 11:47 am

My oldest is content to say the baby came out of my belly and has no further curiousity. But, this could be an interesting addition to our home library for when we do need it.

Too funny!

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Mrs. G. March 24, 2008 at 11:56 am

I have not seen this book, but it really does seem to cover the nuts and bolts-no pun intended.

My parents used a seventies book with this hippy couple with way too much body hair. I can’t remember the name of it, but its images are burned onto my brain!

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Julie Pippert March 24, 2008 at 12:55 pm

Your editorial comments are hilarious. No, I doubt I’d get this one. We’re pretty factual in preference when it come to books, and will share our own morals. I’ll try to talk to them rather than follow the “unlearning sexual education” method LMAO! And I’ll try to follow their curiosity, KWIM.

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Tootsie Farklepants March 24, 2008 at 1:26 pm

I might buy this! Although, my oldest is learning everything he needs to know from “Family Guy”.

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marlee March 24, 2008 at 8:26 pm

No way, I am SO not ready for this stuff…

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JCK March 24, 2008 at 9:02 pm

Jen, this book triggered some memories. The cover and title looked familiar and then the picture of the couple in bed….OH, YES…

However, the doggy pictures didn’t ring a bell. Perhaps back then I couldn’t relate to being a dog, but now I’m so used to orders like “fetch, give and drop it” that I am much more in tune with my life as a dog…

I think this is a great idea! I shall perhaps buy it to keep it handy. BOY will be 5 in November…

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JCK March 24, 2008 at 9:03 pm

P.S. Does spitting out chocolate count? It wasnt’ that good anyway. Lindt’s chocolate creme brulee.

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Cowgirl March 24, 2008 at 9:19 pm

Loved it! Never had one of those when I was small but we did have a Mamma Cat who delivered 5 kittens in our lounge room one Christmas Eve – so got down to basics of where babies actually come from fairly early!

Never heard of a Hoo Hoo either but it made me lol!!!!

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sauerkraut March 25, 2008 at 8:12 am

Being the cool cat that I am, I am more inclined to snicker at “hoo hoo” and… well, yanno.

“hey baby, did you see that hooch on that pooch?”

“Q: what did Caspar say to Wendy the Good Little Witch?

A: let’s take a ride on your broomstick and practice our hoo hoo’ing together.”

Well, okay, so that last one sucked. (can I use that word here?)

meow

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leendaluu March 26, 2008 at 6:34 am

OMG….I so have to buy that. One of the twins (5 years old) is all awonder about how babies get here. I’ve been a pretty open parent with my older kids so this book is right up our alley. Of course, I’m going to make my HUSBAND read it to them, just to watch him squirm.

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Tyna August 30, 2008 at 9:18 am

I had that book as a little kid and loved it! 🙂 I thought it was (and is) a great way to explain sex, and to also explain that every living thing n our planet does it: showing that sex is NATURAL. I’ll have to admit I had no idea what homosexuality was until… I don’t know, it must have been during middle school.

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Michelle September 17, 2008 at 7:32 am

OMG!! My friend and I were just talking about sex ed and I said that I had this book read to me in the 70’s called How Babies Are Made. My book had a purple cover with blue trim and just the words How Babies Are Made but the pictures prove it’s the same book. Thanks for the laugh!!!

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michael January 20, 2011 at 4:13 pm

I thought, and still do, that HOW BABIES ARE MADE was and still is one of the finest books ever published for parents and/or teachers to use when teching basic sex education to youngsters 3 to 10. Since this book came out many books on the subject, some having similar titles, have been published, however none come close to HOW BABIES ARE MADE (by Schepp and Andry from Time Life Books and/or Little Brown & co). If you are serious about getting a book to help you teah your youngstres about the subject, this is the one book you want.

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michael January 30, 2011 at 3:52 pm

Incidentaly, HOW BABIES ARE MADE with blue or pink cover is the same book. It was originally released as a hardcover book with hard blue cover and then some 10-15 years later they changed to a pink soft cover.

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Danelle April 2, 2011 at 5:41 pm

This is the EXACT book I had as a child and I LOVED it! Wonderful book:)

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Andie January 17, 2012 at 4:53 pm

Wow, it’s amazing how many funny blogs I’ve found that mention this book! I found your post while I was researching a short piece on “How Babies Are Made” for MY blog. I really enjoyed your take on this relic from my childhood, and I gave your blog a shout-out and linked to it as well. You can find it here:
http://www.andiepants.blogspot.com/2012_01_01_archive.html
Cheers!

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Belinda Fleming April 19, 2012 at 6:25 pm

This book brings back memories. I love this book!! I bought this book for my 3 year old to help her understand what was happening. She got it immediately!! So much so that she took the book for reading time at school. Luckily it was a Montessori school, so was a bit more liberal than others may have been. (this was 1981). When her brother was about 4 years old and had not yet begun to ask questions, I decided to read the book to him. In case he was too shy to ask. I was wrong!! He had no interest at all. In fact at the end of the book I asked if he had any questions. “Yes”, he said “… what’s a microscope?” This confirmed my belief, that you needn’t worry about telling too much about this important subject. The child will absorb only the information they need. This book started dialog that continued through their childhood and adolescence.

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Laura April 22, 2012 at 7:01 pm

Not only do I have this, I use this as an example in the Human Sexuality course I teach. Admittedly, I use it to teach students to do a better job than my own mother did. When I began teaching the course, I asked my mother to buy the “sex book with the chickens that jump on one another” as that is honestly I recalled after over 20 years. Haven’t trusted a chicken since, to be perfectly honest.. they jump on one another you know!

All that aside, having a book that will START the conversation with your kids is wonderful. If you let the book do all the talking, you wasted your money.

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Rachel August 25, 2012 at 3:17 am

I have this book in front of me know. The 1972 reprint. I was born in 1968, my brother in 1970 – it is the copy that my mother purchased (for Australian $ 3.35, written in the front cover) to teach us about reproduction before I started school. I have had it on my bookshelf ready since my boys were born, #1 has just turned 8. I have had a few questions a while ago & answered them honestly, but not in full detail. This book will come out next time either of them asks again (#2 is 5 1/2)

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Renae December 17, 2012 at 11:03 pm

I had this book when I was growing up too. I remember showing my niece what was in it. She tried to tell me that the picture of the human couple was wrong and that the man laid ON TOP OF the woman, not next to her as illustrated. I told her she was crazy because then the woman would get crushed. I was utterly confident in my conviction … because books are ALWAYS right.

I saved it and used the same copy to teach my own kids.

Anyway, thanks for posting this, I was trying to tell a friend about it tonight and this great post came up in Google.

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