Finally some good news. In 2021, there will be more babies in North Rhine-Westphalia than at any time in the last 20 years. According to an estimate by the State Statistics Office IT.NRW, a total of 174 children were born in 2021.000 children into the world – the last time there was a higher birth rate was in 2000. So while the pandemic raged relentlessly in its second year, families had a particularly large number of children born to them.
At first glance, this can make you wonder. One would think that the fear of the virus and the stressful circumstances would make people more hesitant about planning a family. The record-breaking number of births allows another assumption: Did Corona even help to trigger the baby boom?? Did the pandemic play a role in many people’s family planning??
"Having a child is an emotional decision"
"Children are always born," says psychologist and family therapist Marina Gardini, "but if more children are born, then it probably also has something to do with external conditions." It is rather rare, he said, that decisions, including those for a child, are made completely independently of everything else. "I can imagine that couples who were planning to have a child anyway, now plan it more specifically or decide to do it more consciously."The home office experience in particular encourages many couples to believe that they can cope better with everyday life together, even with a child. For many, this is how equality has improved under the radar.
Marina Gardini is a psychologist and family therapist.
But it’s not just a matter of practical conditions. "Having a child is first and foremost an emotional decision," says Gardini. "People feel the need to focus on hope and the future in such difficult times – and nothing represents that more than planning to have a child together."In this way, parents give themselves the opportunity to feel anticipation, to be constructive, to be able to create something and to let the positive feelings resurface in the preparation for the child. "The principle of hope is a kind of inner counter-design in such threatening, existential crises. The small system family gives itself its own future within the big system society." That was one possible explanation for the increase in births last year.
Many parents made baby plans regardless of the pandemic
On the other hand, there are of course couples who would decide to have a child anyway, completely unimpressed by the external crisis. "Even though the pandemic has made you more externalized in a lot of ways, family planning is still generally self-directed. Planning children remains a private, free-spirited matter."
That the pandemic doesn’t have such a big impact on baby planning is also the impression you get when you ask around among new parents. "I talked to a lot of people who became parents last summer and fall," says freelance midwife Saskia Huda from Cologne, "but they all told me that the pandemic didn’t play a role in their baby planning."She and her husband were also expecting their second child in May and had not allowed the pandemic to influence their family planning. "For us, the deciding factor was when we as parents were ready for another child and when it would be a good time for our younger son to have a sibling. But we would never have postponed or brought it forward because of Corona."
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These testimonials echo those of many other parents who had a child last year. Corona or not, all interviewees said they would have made their wish for children come true one way or another. "I am convinced that Corona does not significantly influence the decision pro or contra child," says also midwife Heidi Bernard from the parenting school "Neue Kolner". "I think the parenting generation, like all of us, has hope that it’s a temporary crisis."
"Without Corona, we wouldn’t have become a couple at all"
Jennifer Mohr is having twins in just a few weeks.
Jennifer Mohr will also become a mother during the pandemic, with her twins due in just a few weeks. "In our case, the planning of children was accelerated, at least indirectly, by Corona," the 25-year-old says, "because my partner and I would not have become a couple at all if it hadn’t been for the pandemic." They would have met on vacation before Corona, when she lived in Spain and he in Scotland, but decided against a long-distance relationship first. "When the first lockdown came in March 2020, I happened to be visiting him in Scotland and I then stayed directly for three and a half months – after that we were a couple after all." They have lived together in Cologne-Nippes since last summer. "So in the long run, it’s also thanks to Corona that we can now look forward to the babies. But this did not have a direct influence on the pregnancy."
Natural birth spike with small corona effect?
So the sample surveys in the area don’t lend themselves to singling out Corona as a strong factor in the baby boom. But why was there now? This question can also only be approached. "I imagine the baby boom would have come even without Corona," says midwife Saskia Huda. After all, the number of births had tended to rise. The statistics also prove this: in 2016, there was a jump in the number of births in NRW, since then the numbers have remained constant at a higher level. "In the last ten years, I have observed that family values are becoming increasingly important to the generation between 25 and 35," says Huda. "Maybe it’s a natural increase in births where Corona has just put the icing on the cake, for example because couples can share parenting duties better during family time and then perhaps feel confident about having a second or third child."
Jennifer Mohr sees it very similarly: "I think that Corona has subconsciously led to couples deciding to have a child at this time," she says, "because their priorities have shifted and they’ve perhaps realized that things like going out and traveling, which had previously kept them from planning a family, aren’t so important after all."
Babies as a "hopeful signal for the future"
How great it is that there were and are so many babies, all respondents agree on that. "I think it’s nice that Corona doesn’t affect many of them and that having children can continue to be an emotional decision," says Saskia Huda. "Having a baby is a decision for life," says midwife Heidi Bernard, "and for me a very hopeful signal for the future, into which we all want to look confidently, after all." Life with children brings a lot of fun and joy even in the pandemic, says Marina Gardini. "A new baby remains just a miracle. Then, when it smiles so beautifully, parents’ Corona fears are quickly erased."