Falling Birth Rates

Apparently, according to this article, U.S. women are having fewer babies. I find that hard to believe because it seems like every time I turn around, I find out someone is pregnant or I’m hearing about someone’s new baby, grand-baby, or god-baby. Maybe the “fewer babies” trend is mostly in the more “blue” states like New York and California, because here in North Carolina, I’m just not seeing evidence of it.

I do think the decline in birth rate could be caused by how hard it is to establish oneself in the world as a 20- or 30-something, especially given the Great Recession in 2009 from which we’re still recovering. People my age have student loan debt, which is hard to pay off when you’re also making an inflated rent payment because you can’t buy a house because the housing market is insane. Because women are working on their careers, they are having babies later, in their 30s, and they have fewer babies because their window of fertility is smaller. There’s talk about freezing eggs, but that process is expensive and probably risky.

Some people also have the mentality that it is irresponsible to have children when there is not enough food to go around or when the world is as polluted as it is. I think those issues are more a problem with the distribution of food because I remember hearing somewhere that the world produces way more than enough food for its population. Food is poorly distributed around the world because of government or environmental factors, but there is certainly enough of it.

Another factor could be that life is easier without kids. People in this day and age want a carefree, Instagram-able life, where they can do what they please whenever they please. People also want to buy classy cars and go on expensive trips and pour all their energy into their pets rather than add another child to the world. And I’m not gonna lie: Life is indeed easier without kids. But is it better? That’s a question that you can’t really answer unless you have kids, and most people who have kids would say that their life is enhanced by them.

But as life-enhancing as they are, kids cost a lot of money, and you can’t plan for many of the expenses associated with them. How to avoid these expenses? Don’t have kids, which is now much easier because of the more widespread use and availability of contraceptives. The pill and other forms of artificial birth control like the patch and IUDs have become incredibly effective (98%) over the years (of course, only when used properly). Honestly, I don’t believe abortion is much of a contributor to low birth rates.

Is human life in the United States in danger of dying out because of the low birth rate? I think it’s too soon to tell.

Joyful, Odd Course of Events

The reason I’ve been MIA lately is because my son was born on January 5, which was two weeks before his due date. I’m actually glad he arrived early because he weighed 7 pounds and 14 ounces at birth and was 21.5 inches long. Had he waited till his due date, he most likely would have been 9 pounds or more… and I don’t think my body could’ve handled it. I’m not sharing his name here for privacy reasons, but everyone says it’s a nice manly name. 🙂

They say labor pain is the worst pain ever. Now that I have actually given birth, I am allowed to have an opinion on that, but I don’t know if I agree. It was a pretty awful pain, but it is an “organized” pain, if that makes sense. The simple fact that the pain had a purpose made it easier to get through. The weirdest part about it was sleeping between contractions and actually having dreams.

They also say that a child is a source of joy. My child was born with a disease of the intestine that was not foreseen before birth, so we were in and out of the hospital for all of January until today. To make a very long story short, the baby needs to have a colostomy bag until he is 6 months old, at which point he’ll have surgery to fix his large intestine. After that, he will be like any other kid. All of this did not diminish my joy in the knowledge that my son is actually here, that he exists, and that he is a charming little soul. But hospital stays are depressing even without the postpartum hormones, so I can’t say that the entire experience was joyful.

So that was the past month in a nutshell. What an odd course of events. If I were to imagine in 2009 what my life would look like in 2019, I certainly wouldn’t have imagined it like this (in a good way).

First Comes Love…

The inevitable happened. You remember that rhyme you used to sing when you were in elementary school, the one that went “first comes love, then comes marriage”? The thing that, in tradition, happens after marriage has happened to me.

My first thought was that I majorly screwed up, and I internally heard laughter at the joke (which I now relate to completely) that goes “What do you call people who use the ‘rhythm method’? Parents.”* My immediate second thought was “I’m married… isn’t this what’s supposed to happen?” My third thought was about how much tinier our 600 square foot apartment was about to become. Then I tried to stop thinking altogether and called the ob/gyn. It took a couple weeks for the morning sickness to kick in, and I am fortunate that it never got as bad as some women supposedly have it. I never actually got sick, but I got darn near close to it, and I was so tired that all I wanted to do after work was flop down on the couch and sleep (which I did on most days).

The exhaustion lifted slightly after the 12th week or so, along with the nausea. But I still wasn’t able to get happy about the whole situation. I’m Catholic, so I’m supposed to be all joyful about this little soul that God deigned to put in my weak human body. Man, was it hard to be joyful. Every now and then, the joy would come, but the next second I’d be back to kicking myself for what I perceived as ultimately a birth control failure. We should’ve been like one of those couples with great self-control that somehow manages to use NFP successfully for the first five years of the marriage, then has a kid in “God’s perfect timing.” Nope, we’re just regular people after all. The ideals have fallen yet again. So I have been contenting myself with the clichĂ©: “Nobody is ever ready to be a parent. You just do it.”

I’m trying to tell myself that we didn’t fail and that this is in fact a great success (and, you selfish thing, you better think about all the people who desperately want children and can’t have them), but my perfectionist nature is reluctant to buy it. The reality is that now is the time to let go of my perfectionist nature once and for all. I’ve been telling myself that it’s OK if the dishes don’t get done the second after we eat or that the apartment isn’t going to burst into flames if I don’t vacuum exactly on schedule. Or if someone emails me at work, I don’t have to get back to them within the next five seconds. Not to mention that I’ll traumatize my son (and probably my husband, too) for life if I keep being such a perfectionist.

All this life-changing craziness started in April, which means a little more than I’m halfway there. Then in January, we’ll hopefully have a healthy, crying, screaming little creature to be responsible for, for the next 18 years and beyond. Scary? Hell yeah. Fun? Yes, from what I hear. But marriage is my vocation, and with it comes children, as the rhyme goes. So my life’s true mission has begun. 🙂

As a side note, I’m not sure what will become of this blog in the meantime and after January. I’ve been using it less and less, even though the actual desire to write has not left me. I won’t ever delete the blog, but I may not keep my own domain. I’ll try to post every now and then, but I doubt it will be regular at all. I want to try really hard not to be someone who only writes about their kid and/or posts pictures of their kid. If I was a kid these days, I’d be pissed at my parents for posting pictures of me on social media.

*NFP is not the rhythm method, but it still relies mainly on self-control, which fails far more often than we weak humans would like.