For some reason, a lot of people seem to get embarrassed by this question – especially parents who are asked about it by their children. They seem to think the truth is somehow unpleasant or bad, or not suitable for young(er) ears. This never made any sense to us.
The fact of the matter is that every single one of us was born at some point – that’s how we got here. And it’s silly that there should be some kind of big secret around it when every single one of us has been part of this process ourselves.
From one perspective, it’s incredibly complicated creating another living being; there are many parts of our bodies where we don’t even understand how they work, and yet we are able to create completely new people – that’s pretty amazing!
But, in other ways, it’s very simple. Nothing lives forever, and so every living creature needs to be able to make new, young versions of themselves if their kind are going to survive – otherwise, creatures of that type would simply have died out long ago.
And, as our bodies grow to maturity, they gain the abilities that are needed to do this.
[A short side note here – gender is a complex thing – please see our separate note on this topic. For simplicity here we will use “male” / “female” and “man” / “woman” based purely on body parts.]
Both female and male bodies play their part, but the female body wins hands down when it comes to the incredible things it can do. At the centre of making a child is an amazing organ called the uterus, also known as the womb.
It starts off the size of a small pear, but it can stretch and grow to hold a full-sized baby. It’s an incubator, a protective shell and an incredibly advanced life support machine all rolled into one. It’s far beyond any machine we can build.
About once a month, one or two tiny eggs, each smaller than the head of a pin, are released from the woman’s ovaries. They travel down the fallopian tubes (also known as oviducts) towards the uterus. This is part of the menstrual cycle.
Inside the uterus, these tiny eggs can grow into a baby – with arms and legs and fingernails and a brain and all the other astonishing things that make up a human being.
But in order for that to happen, the egg needs to be fertilised, and for that we need a sperm, which is made in the male body.
So how does the sperm get to the egg? Well, that’s where our genitals (our penises and vaginas) come in – in fact, it’s why we have these different body parts.
The penis becomes erect (it grows, gets stiff and stands up to attention) and takes on a shape that can slide up inside the vagina.
In order to fertilize the egg, the penis produces a liquid called semen, which contains millions of sperm, and squirts it up towards the uterus in a process called ejaculation.
The sperm are very tiny, even smaller than the egg, but they have little tails that let them swim. They wriggle their way up through the entrance to the uterus (the cervix) and from there up the fallopian tubes (or oviducts), looking for the egg.
If one of the sperm finds an egg, it burrows inside and the egg is fertilised. When a fertilised egg reaches the uterus, it attaches to the lining and a baby begins to grow. The woman is then said to be pregnant.
Over the following 9 to 10 months, the baby grows and grows until it is ready to come out into the world and breath for itself.
When the time is right, the cervix opens and the muscles of the uterus push the baby out, through the mother’s vagina. Like the uterus, the vagina has incredible elastic powers of stretching, allowing the baby to be pushed out through what is usually a small opening.
There’s a lot more to it than that, but those are the basics. No storks are required 😉