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COVID-19 has made women change their minds about having children

Although millennials are firmly in their family-building years, less than 25-39 years have children than ever, thanks to factors such as the 2008 financial crisis, the lack of paid family leave or affordable childcare , and a lot of anxiety about the state of the world. Now, they can list “living a pandemic” among the issues that affect whether or not they want children.

Despite early reports of an expected coronavirus boom, demographers say it is probably less likely. With so many unemployed or laid-off Americans, fewer people are likely to feel financially stable enough to start a family. As a result of COVID-1

9, over 40% of American women have changed their plans for having children or how many children they have, according to the Guttmacher Institute’s new analysis of data from over 2,000 women. More than a third of cisgender women said they would delay pregnancy or want fewer children than they would have liked before; that number is even higher for black, Hispanic, queer and low-income women.

If having a baby looked like an uncertain pre-coronavirus, it may now seem unimaginable, no matter how much you hope to become a parent at some point. But on the flip side, quarantine has a way of adapting priorities and perspectives. Nearly a fifth of those surveyed in the Guttmacher study said that COVID-19 made them wish they had a child earlier or have more children.

Bustle spoke with four women about how COVID-19 changed their plans to start families.

The interviews were edited and condensed for greater clarity.

Ally *, 33, Missouri

I’m not very interested in the industrial complex of motherhood of our culture, this idea that you have to carry out a certain type of lifestyle to be a “good” mother. Thinking that if you weren’t worried about taking your child to a kindergarten with a waiting list longer than Harvard’s, you didn’t do it right, it made me feel discouraged from having children. I thought being a parent meant having to change the way I thought about all those things in a way that made me more selfish in trying to do my best for my son. And even before the pandemic, climate change and social unrest gave me the feeling that things weren’t in an exceptional place in a world. Before it seemed that “the world is a bad place, but I can solve it without having children”.

The pandemic triggered a switch for me. It reminded me that we are all just a group of humans sensitive to things like disease and death. I feel like I can wrap my head with a son now that I have a better understanding of the fact that I am part of this messy and wild circle. It’s kind of giving up on the fact that the pandemic and our understanding of mortality are bigger than all of us.

My husband and I have stepped up the search for pregnancy because we are together more. It now seems to be about giving up and embracing uncertainty. Because not have kids?

Jaime, 32, Georgia

We got married in December – I was 31, almost 32. I thought we were going to have a two-year stint before trying to get pregnant. We wanted to travel first. So this would take a child close to 35 years old.

But with COVID-19, my husband ended up losing his job and our two-year plan is totally upset. There aren’t many jobs for what it does where we live, so we could be uprooted to go where I am, to another city.

I feel the pressure of having a baby right now from people I know and total strangers, saying that because of my age, I may not be able to have one if I wait, especially if I wait even more because of COVID. But it is frightening to bring a child into the world with so little certainty. Should we really have a baby right now, when we don’t even know where we’ll be living in a year? With everything in the air, postpone our timeline until we no longer feel comfortable.

But I wonder if I wait to have a child up to 36 years old, can I have a second one? Can I even get one first? I have been doing birth control since I was 16 and now I am concerned that I may never have a baby.

Elena, 32, California

I’ve always wanted children. Then, five years ago, my husband and I had a dog, and I was like “Oh God, that’s a big responsibility”. We love to travel; we want the flexibility to do what we want, when we want. I also have a lot of anxiety about climate change. We have spent the past five years saying, “We probably won’t have kids, but we’ll see. We reserve the right to change our mind.”

Literally a week before closing, my husband got the dream job he has been waiting for all his life. We went from barely making ends meet and thinking, “How could we ever raise a child on this?” to say, “We could do it.” It made us start to reconsider our position and think about trying. But now who knows? Even before the pandemic, we were concerned about climate change and the impacts of the current presidential administration on the world. It’s as if you have a pro-con list to determine whether or not to have a child, the list with is growing.

With the pandemic, it sucks to feel lucky not to have children. I thought briefly about being pregnant last summer. If I had been, I would have been due in the spring. I kept thinking, “Thank God I’m not pregnant.” It is irresponsible to ignore the things I thought the world could only understand.

Stephanie, 26, Texas

I can’t wait to be a mother. People always ask me if my abortion works – I’m an abortion narrator and on the board of an abortion fund – it’s in conflict with me wishing for children. I’m like “I want kids, but on my terms.” If anything, the pandemic made me realize how important families are to me. I have a mother, brother and sisters, but strange people, often we have to create our families.

I wonder what it would be like for me to adopt a child as one person, to get pregnant alone. I spent alone in my apartment for months, so I realized that when it comes to children, I can also do it alone.

The pandemic made me feel really hopeless at times. There is so much economic uncertainty, people are not sure what is legal and what is not [in terms of abortion access], they’re not even sure it’s OK to leave the house. Despite everything, it’s wonderful to know that there are people who work to make sure we have a company where someone like me – someone who is strange and Latinx and lives in Texas – can raise a family.

* The name has been changed to protect privacy

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