Why We’re All So Horny for a Coronavirus Baby Boom
Post-disaster baby booms are a myth. So why do we still cling to them?
We like the idea of people having sex. We tend to like it even better when we’re the ones having it, but really any sex-having will do.
Which is probably why, every time a disaster forces droves of people to stay cooped up inside together, we assume they’re fucking. Or, more specifically, we assume they’re procreating.
This is the general line of thought underscoring the purported baby booms that are often rumored to take place approximately nine months after any substantial blizzard, hurricane or power outage. And while plenty of data seems to suggest this theory rings true, with hospitals reporting an uptick in deliveries nine months after disasters like Hurricanes Sandy and Michael, as well as various blackouts and blizzards, such reports are often followed by a series of counterarguments from baby boom mythbusters debunking the evidence as more anecdotal than scientific.
Despite the frequent debunking, these myths tend to prevail, so it’s no wonder the post-coronavirus baby boom predictions began to swirl as soon as it became clear that many of us would be spending unprecedented lengths of time quarantined in our homes. The Boston Globe was among the first to summon the coronavirus stork earlier this month, and similar headlines soon followed from the Washington Post, the Chicago Tribune and SFGate. And while the majority of reports qualified their tentative predictions with some mention of the frequent baby boom mythbusting, Cosmopolitan’s Carina Hsieh was among the first to bust that myth right in the headline, informing us that “There Probably Won’t Be a Coronavirus Baby Boom, FYI.”
As Jaimie Meyer, MD, a Yale Medicine infectious disease specialist, told Hsieh, the data suggests that times of crisis actually tend to result in a dip in birth rates nine months later, which only start to recover 10 to 11 months after the crisis has been resolved.
Of course, as anyone will tell you, these are unprecedented times on just about every level. In case you haven’t noticed, this isn’t just a snowstorm or blackout. With couples quarantined together indefinitely, condoms in short supply and reduced access to birth control and abortion, who’s to say we couldn’t end up with a baby boom for real this time?
“The answer, of course, is who the heck knows,” says Mary Jane Minkin, MD, Clinical Professor of Obstetrics & Gynecology at Yale University. “Certainly we may see an increase in couples quarantining together and not using contraception,” she tells InsideHook, adding that almost half of pregnancies in America are unplanned, even when a pandemic isn’t affecting birth control access and cabin fever isn’t wearing away at our decision-making capacities.
However, adds Dr. Minkin, it’s worth noting that many would-be pandemic parents may be taking extra precautions to avoid pregnancy in a time of such widespread uncertainty. “I don’t think we know which is going to be predominant: this idea of ‘well we’re together; let’s just have a kid or something,’ or the anxiety of what could happen,” says Dr. Minkin. “I don’t know the answer there.”
Given the dead ends that baby boom speculation inevitably meets, the more interesting question may not be whether or not there will be one, but rather, why we’re so invested in the idea in the first place.
Demographer J. Richard Udry, the OG baby boom debunker who called BS on the rumored birth-rate spike thought to have resulted from New York’s Great Blackout of 1965, had a sound, if cynical, answer: “It is evidently pleasing to many people to fantasize that when people are trapped by some immobilizing event which deprives them of their usual activities, most will turn to copulation.”
In other words, we like the idea of people fucking.
But beyond mere adolescent snickering over snowstorm sex, our collective coronavirus baby boom obsession may have somewhat unique roots in a kind of forward-thinking fantasy. The idea of children and childbirth presents some hope for the future at a time when our own seems increasingly bleak. Through the eyes of an imagined future generation, we can recapture an image of the radically transformed life we knew mere weeks ago and project it over the grim reality that seems to be rapidly swallowing up the foreseeable weeks, months and beyond.
We want there to be a baby boom because we want to sip sangria at the many baby showers that will suddenly crowd our calendars this summer. We want to cluster together with friends and make jokes about all the quarantine sex the new parents must have been having in that strange, distant time that now seems like a weird fever dream from which we’ve long since awakened. Years from now we’ll buy our coronial nieces and nephews their first legal drinks at our favorite bars and restaurants, which are all still in business and have been since their swift post-pandemic recovery, and we’ll tease our friends’ kids about how they were conceived during a global crisis.
Is any of this terribly likely? Maybe not. But, as Hemingway once mused, isn’t it pretty to think so?