Yellowknife resident Isabelle Caron Hébert recently published her first book: a children’s book about family diversity and sperm donation.
Though it’s fiction, The Greatest Gift: A Story of Sperm Donation is based on the experience of Isabelle and her husband, Philippe Hébert, who made the decision for Philippe to be a donor for a same-sex couple they had known for more than 20 years.
“Before they got married, they were talking about eventually wanting children and, as friends, we were discussing the different options available to them together,” Isabelle aid.
“We offered it to them and said if Brad Pitt is available, we understand,” she said. “They didn’t ask us, we offered it, and it’s a decision that my husband and I made together.”
A few years later, after the couple got married, they accepted the Héberts’ offer.
Shortly after the couple got pregnant, Philippe and Isabelle learned they were pregnant, too.
“We were able to live our pregnancy together, and we gave birth to a daughter each, three weeks apart,” said Isabelle.
“The girls grew up together, they’ve been really close.”
Until recently, the girls, Jade and Novalie, went to the same school and were neighbours.
The two families kept no secrets from their daughters, being open from the start about Novalie’s birth story.
“We didn’t want it to be a taboo. We were really honest with both girls about the origin of Novalie,” said Isabelle.
Jade and Novalie now “self-identify’ as half-sisters, she said.
Isabelle’s inspiration to write a children’s book came when Jade, three years old at the time, asked one night: “How come I don’t have two moms?”
“I found it so cute when she asked that,” said Isabelle, “instead of asking, ‘Why doesn’t Novalie have a mom and dad?'”
The book’s main character, a young girl, asks her mom the same question.
Daughter ‘so proud’ of book
Originally from New Brunswick, the francophone author saw the need for more resources on the topic of sperm donation, especially in the French language. She wanted to provide parents with a resource to help conversations surrounding family diversity.
“When the girls were in school together and they were saying to their friends, ‘We’re sisters,’ other kids were like, ‘No, you’re not from the same family,'” said Isabelle.
She wanted to help parents have conversations about conception and where kids come from.
“A lot more families than you would think have to use a sperm donor to conceive a child,” said Isabelle.
“Obviously, from the LGBTQ+ community, but I have a lot of friends that, due to infertility reasons, used a sperm donor to conceive.
“Just in Yellowknife, in my close group of friends, I know four families who used a sperm donor to conceive.”
Isabelle says the reaction to her book was not what she expected. The book gained national coverage and Isabelle received an influx of messages thanking her for the story.
“I’ve had a lot of support and I’ve had so many news outlets contact me to interview me,” she said.
“Even the local library where I grew up will sell it and be sold out within a few weeks.”
Most recently, Isabelle participated in this year’s NorthWords NWT festival. She read her storybook to families with her daughter one of many kids in the crowd.
“She loves it. She’s so proud of it and being in Grade 1, she’s learning to write and learning to read this year. It’s been a big motivator for her to learn how to write,” said Isabelle.
“She keeps saying: ‘When I’m older, I want to write a book.’”
Isabelle wrote and published the book with illustrator Sakshi Mangal, with the help of a grant from NWT Arts. Originally, the storybook was published in French. After seeing its success, Isabelle had it translated into English.