Where Did I Come From?
o you remember where you thought babies came from as a child? How old were you? Did you talk to your friends about your ideas of where babies came from? What did they say?
Psychologist Anne Bernstein interviewed children between the ages of 3 and 12 to examine their ideas about sex and childbirth. She found that even when adults provided children with the straight facts, the story of human reproduction was often distorted and understood in different ways. Here is a sample of children’s ideas about where babies come from. Notice how their thinking about pregnancy and birth changes as they age.
You go to a baby store and buy one.
It just grows inside Mommy’s tummy. It’s there all the time. Mommy doesn’t have to do anything. She just waits until she feels it.
To get a baby to grow in your tummy, you just make it first. You put some eyes on it. Put the head on, and hair, some hair, all curls. You make it with head stuff you find in the store that makes it for you. Well, the Mommy and Daddy make the baby and then they put it in the tummy and then it goes quickly out.
God makes Mommies and Daddies with a little seed.
He puts it down . . . on the table. . . then it grows bigger. The people grow together. He makes them eat the seed, then they grow to be people.
Daddies don’t have babies because sometimes they have to work and it might come out when they’re working, and they’ll have to work with it in the tummy. But when there’s a baby in the tummy, they have to go to the doctor right away, see. So they don’t grow babies.
[The father] puts his penis right in the place where the baby comes out, and somehow it comes out of there. It seems like magic sort of, ’cause it just comes out. Sometimes I think the father pushes, maybe.
The father gives the rest of the egg to the mother. When the man sticks his penis into the vagina. Because the mother just has half of it. It’s like a egg has two parts. It’s just like—we had a big salami, which is whole, and we cut it in half, and we just go like that.
Well, first a man and a woman have to like each other and be with each other a lot. They have to sleep with each other sometimes, and then—after a long time the woman starts getting a little bit big, starts getting big around here. Then in about six months she has a baby and the baby comes out of here [she points first to her abdomen and then to her crotch].
Well, they have sexual intercourse. Then the man, he puts his penis in the lady’s vagina and sperm comes out, and they go, if the lady’s had her period and if her egg is in her ovary, a sperm will go into her egg, and it will fertilize it, and that becomes a baby.
The man and the woman have sexual intercourse. The man’s sperm goes into the woman’s egg and starts a baby. Lots of sperm go and only one gets through, and the egg gets fertilized.
The male injects sperm into the female’s womb, and an egg forms, and there you have a baby. Well, an egg is fertilized, and it grows into a fetus, which after nine months of living in the womb, emerges as a baby.
Source: Adapted from Bernstein, 1994.
and older women (over the age of 30) seem to have fraternal twins more often than younger women (due to erratic ovulation and an increased possibility of releasing more than one ovum).
Identical twins occur when a single zygote completely divides into two separate zygotes. This process produces twins who are genetically identical and are referred to as monozygotic twins. They often look identical and are always of the same sex. In rare cases, the zygote fails to divide completely, and two babies may be joined together at some point in their bodies; these are known as conjoined twins, often popularly referred to as Siamese twins. In some instances, many ova are released and fertilized, and triplets or quadruplets may result.
Recently, the number of multiple births has been increasing as more older women become pregnant and fertility drug use, which can stimulate the release of ova, becomes widespread (Garber, 2003). We will discuss this more later in this chapter.