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Nothing Spurs Baby Fever Like a Global Pandemic

Whether it’s because of a deep-rooted survival drive or a reshuffling of priorities, these women say the weirdest side effect of lockdown has been the urge to procreate

Oralia, a writer and translator on lockdown in Mexico, has recently done a complete 180 on the question of whether or not to have children. “I’m 28, with no money saved at all, and in the middle of this pandemic I realized I want a baby,” she says, adding that this is a significant departure from her previous position. “I was pretty sure up until now that I didn’t want to have such a huge responsibility — I even have an IUD to prevent any surprises.” 

Emma, a 29-year-old journalist in London, is having similar urges. She used to be ambivalent about the idea of having children, saying she “never felt strongly about kids either way.” Now on lockdown in her mother’s home, she’s been surprised by the intensity with which she’s become sure that she does, in fact, want to have kids. “This pandemic has certainly ramped up my wanting to have a baby,” she says. “I’m so firmly in the ‘I want’ camp now that I’ve started putting more effort into dating apps than ever before.”

For some people, the coronavirus pandemic has been the nail in the coffin of their desire to bring children into the world. For others, though, it’s having the complete opposite effect: They’re newly broody — either wanting kids when they didn’t before, or wanting them with an increased sense of urgency. “Weirdly, as someone with one small child, this time inside has convinced me I want to have a second one,” says Brydie, a 33-year-old TV writer in Australia. “There’s no logic to it and I don’t plan to do it soon, but I didn’t expect this change.” 

Does Having Kids After Coronavirus Make Any Sense?

These people remark that the urge feels “illogical” and describe it as “making no sense.” “It feels sort of out of my control, like all of a sudden there’s this intrinsic need to be a mother,” says Natasha, a 25-year-old office administrator in Canada. “This thought of being a mother that used to terrify me or cause a negative response now feels soothing and comforting. My logical brain says, ‘That’s a terrible idea,’ and yet, something else inside me disagrees.”

Brydie describes it almost like a deep-seated survival drive. “[My partner and I] both have parents in their 70s, and we worry all the time about them getting sick and dying,” she explains. “There is some internal drive that I don’t fully understand that makes me want to keep adding to my family in a time when maybe you don’t have that much time left with some of your family.”

Elise Franklin, a psychotherapist based in L.A., says that it makes psychological sense that some people are feeling this way. “Wouldn’t it be nice to have something else to focus on right now other than our own fear and pain?” she asks rhetorically. “Wouldn’t it be lovely to have someone to live for and ‘have a job’ when a lot of us are out of jobs and out of fucks to give for ourselves? I could understand that.”

There’s also something about the pandemic that is causing people’s priorities to become crystal clear. “For me, the pandemic has simply sharpened in my mind’s eye what I want from life, rather than creating a panic to get pregnant by the first man I see post-quarantine,” Emma explains. “That parental connection is something I feel l might be missing.”

Franklin says that this crystallization of priorities is common in life-and-death situations, of which the coronavirus pandemic is certainly one. “When mortality is in question, it often makes people want to finally jump the gun on things that have been on the back burner,” she says. “I see this when people lose a loved one, when they conquer an illness or when they have a near-death experience. Having a new lease on life alters our desires and makes us really look at what we want and question what we’ve been waiting for.” 

For Brydie, who is already a mother, it’s not so much that motherhood is a new priority, but that there’s a new sense of how enriching the role is. “I’ve felt like being with him all the time and having far less stuff to focus on, has made me realize that he’s the center of my world,” she says. “I was so worried before about falling into the idea of being ‘a mom’ in a way that freaked me out or seemed regressive, but when we’re at home and there’s no external pressure to be doing anything except looking after our family, I feel very rewarded by it.”

There’s nothing particularly attractive about an option that seems forced on you, which is how Oralia saw motherhood pre-pandemic. “Women are expected to be mothers no matter what, and you’re some sort of failure if you’re not,” she tells me. “I was okay with not having a kid because for years I didn’t feel like I had any stability. Plus, I didn’t really think of myself as a mom — it wasn’t something that was a priority or that I’d necessarily have to do.”

But the seriousness of the pandemic has stripped away the layers of societal and self-judgement around motherhood, and revealed it as an inherently worthy pursuit. “In the end,” Oralia says, “that’s all we can do right now: Take care of others.”