Saturday, June 13, 2009

Before I Was Born

Carolyn Nystrom's Before I Was Born, first published in 1983 and now fully updated, is designed to teach sexual education to children ages 5 to 8. Winner of a Christian Book Award, the volume endeavors to help parents teach children about Godly sex.

The book begins by speaking to parents:
"Many forces will push your children to make bad choices about sex. From their earliest years, children are bombarded by destructive, false messages about the nature of sexual intimacy. These messages come through music, television, the Internet, discussions with their friends, school sex-education programs, and so forth...We believe God means for Christian parents to be the primary sex educators of the children. First messages are the most powerful; why wait until your child hears the wrong thing and then try to correct the misunderstanding?"
Next, the author stresses that each and every one of us was made by God. The Lord knew everything about us before we were born - even our names. After he made the earth and called it good, he made a man and woman and "He said, 'I made their bodies wonderful.'"

Boys, we learn, have a penis and scrotum; the penis sometimes gets hard for a few minutes "but most of the time it stays soft and close to the body." Girls have a vagina, which leads to a special place where a baby can grow. God made boys this way, so that one day when they grow up and get married, they can make a baby. Eventually, all little boys and girls grow up. Men get hairier and their bodies produce semen. Even though the semen is "too small to see...someday he can use these to help make a baby." Women have breasts and once a month their "womb gets thick and soft. Then a tiny egg no bigger than a dot passes through it." This also means that someday when she's married she can make a baby.

God designed men and women to love each other, and if they love each other for a while, they think about getting married. "But men and women need to choose carefully whom they will marry. Once they are married, God wants them to stay together as long as they both live." Once married, God gives men and women a special gift called sex. They lie close to each other and the man puts his penis inside his wife's vagina. Sometimes when they do this, they make a baby.

The book then describes and pictures what a baby looks like during the first and third trimesters, explaining in a rudimentary way how the umbilical cord works and why babies kick. Then we learn how a baby is born: "The mother feels her womb muscles push hard. She feels her vagina stretch open. It hurts, and it is hard work...Finally the baby's head pops out from the mother's vagina." After the baby is born, the mother feeds him through her breasts.
"Long ago, before the world was made, God planned for this moment, planned for this baby to be formed partly from his mother and partly from his father...God planned you, too. And He has given you a wonderful body. Have you ever thanked Him for it?"
What I Like: God is the center of this book - and that's so refreshing. Readers quickly learn God planned for only husbands and wives to have sex. They also learn everything they need to know about their own sexuality and how babies are made. Throughout, the soft illustrations by Sandra Speidel are ideal. Although we can see a little boy naked, a baby coming out of his mother, and a little girl naked, there are no details. We just get the general idea. In addition, I appreciate the author's tips on reading this book to adopted children.

What I Dislike: Some parents may object to this description, which speaks of Adam and Eve: "[God] saw the man's scratchy beard and the woman's soft breasts and He was pleased." The "soft breasts" part took me be surprise at first, but I also know many children who are curious about whether breasts are hard or soft, and grab them inappropriately.

My only real objection is the description of intercourse: "When a husband and wife lie close together, he can fit his penis into her vagina. His semen flows inside of her and their bodies feel good all over." I don't really want to teach my children that sex feels good. To me, this is just makes premarital sex more of a temptation. I think they'll figure out that sex feels nice on their own.

As you read this book, though, bear in mind the author's warning that your child will - without question - learn about sex elsewhere. Even toddlers and preschoolers are exposed to sex talk and graphics. They probably already know more than you think they do. How much better that they learn the correct facts from loving parents.

Overall Rating: Very good.

Age Appeal: According to the publisher 5 - 8. Some parents feel this book is more suited to the 8 and up crowd.

Publisher Info: NavPress, 2009; ISBN: 0061131768; hardback; $10.99
Special Info: Check out our review of The Story of Me, a sex ed book by the same publishers, suitable for younger children. Also take a peek at our reviews of other Carolyn Nystrom books.
Buy it Now from for $9.99,
OR buy it from for $7.99

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Anonymous said...

The statement about woman's having a vagina where the baby grows seems just a bit misleading. I thought my babies developed in the uterus.

Kristina said...

That is my poor writing, and not the author's. I've corrected my confusing sentence!