Explaining where babies come from sometimes causes slight discomfort for some people.

Before children are old enough to understand the intricacies of the birds and the bees, many people choose to gloss over the story.

Some parents make a wish and invoke the baby into existence.

Some parents plant a seed and wait for it to grow (which is technically true). And others require a bit more imagination.


The classic story that comes to mind is the stork, the long-legged deliverer of babies in blankets.

This myth has appeared in folklore around the world including Europe, North Africa, the Middle East and the American continent.

A common birthmark on the back of a baby's neck or face is still referred to today as a stork bite.

But why the stork? They are large birds and thought to be big enough to carry a human baby.

They are white, the colour commonly used to represent the innocence and purity of a newborn child.

Cranes and herons also feature in Greek and Egyptian mythology relating to babies. The birds look similar, which could explain the association.

In Europe stork migration begins at the summer solstice and they return in spring, a journey of nine months.

Many pagan weddings took place at the summer solstice and a lot of babies were born in spring, when the storks returned to raise their chicks; thus, the birds became a symbol of new life.


That belief developed into the concept of birds bringing human babies back from migration with them.

The myth was solidified in public thought in the 1830s when Hans Christian Anderson wrote his version of the fairy tale, The Storks.

In this story, storks pulled dreaming babies out of lakes and brought them to deserving families, but families with badly behaved children were given dead babies as a punishment.

This fairy tale served as a warning to children to behave, and also fitted very well with Victorian prudishness and desire to hide the crude realities of making babies.

Another way to gloss over the reality of reproduction is by the old "found it in the garden" excuse.

When people think of Cabbage Patch Babies, they think of the popular toys from the 1980s with their chubby cheeks and official adoption certificates.

But these toys are a much later incarnation of another 19th century baby-making fable.

Sisters Pansy, Queenie and Claire Nixon of Sedgebrook Grange in Whanganui East were avid collectors of postcards.

They collected a series published in around 1906 and produced by an uncredited artist from the French School Style.

They explicitly show the process of how babies were made in cabbage patch mythology.

In the series a gardener tends to his crops, watering them and ensuring they are getting all they need to grow healthy and strong.

A number of well-dressed Edwardian couples browse among row upon row of plump cruciferous cherubs. Once they have made up their minds the gardener picks one fresh cabbage patch baby to take home.

Like the stork, the gardener is seen making deliveries to the doors of deserving families.

* Sandi Black is the Archivist at Whanganui Regional Museum.