Monday, February 11, 2013

28 weeks and "how many?"

28 weeks!  Here we are.  If you've been wearying of my chipper attitude, rest assured that things are starting to get a little more . . . uncomfortable.  Mostly I just feel kind of crowded.  No surprise, as I've got a little cabbage in there.  I can't eat as much as normal (and if there's one thing I love, it's eating a lot!).  It's becoming a bit taxing to bend down and tie my shoes or pick up Vicki.  But still, in all - things are really going well.

It's been interesting to note the reactions when we say that we are having a baby boy, in addition to our daughter.  Several people have remarked, "Oh, then there's your family!"  As if having two children, one of each sex, is the perfect combination.  I always want to ask some follow-up questions (like What if it were a girl?  Should we have more then? or Is more or less than two children bad?), but I don't.  I just leave it alone.

People also like to ask if this will be all the children we will be having.  To which I usually respond, "Yes!  For now."  Of course, I have no idea how many children we will be having.  We have one now.  I hope that another will be born safely.  Any more than that is really kind of out of my hands.  We did always know that if we had one child, we wanted another.  Siblings are such an important thing for me, and for Jeff too.  Even if we couldn't have another biological child, we would have tried to adopt another.  But beyond two?  God knows.

I never had much anxiety about whether I would be able to have children or not.  Of course, I never faced infertility, so I can't know what that feels like.  I got pregnant both times very easily.  I have never, that I know of, suffered a miscarriage.  I have a lot of other problems in life, but this doesn't seem to be one of them.  After we had Vicki, I did kind of want to have another child within several years, just to make sure that we could.  I felt a bit of time pressure on that.  But after Todd is born, I feel no clock ticking.  If there are to be more babies, they will come later.  After one or both of the other children are in school.  Because frankly?  Having kids is costly, in terms of money, time, energy, and more.

In light of all this, I heard a great NPR piece on To the Point the other night.  The discussion centered on the United States' fertility rate, which is dropping.  Many of our economic programs depend on the replenishment of the population at the current rate.  Think social security.  Apparently, for sixty or more years, the "ideal" fertility rate (the number of kids most people say they want to have) has been 2.5.  However, we are dropping below that.  We are down into the high 1's now (like 1.8, I think?).  That is not a sustainable rate to maintain our population.  There are many factors in this.  Things like immigration reform (there are many babies born here that are not recognized as being born in our population figures), unpaid and short maternity leave, unsubsidized daycare, the persistent earnings gap between men and women, and so on.  Western European countries, which faced stagnating population decades ago, have somewhat successfully implemented many of these programs as a way to incentivize fertility.

It's kind of a weird thought, because we tend to think of the number of children we have as a very personal matter.  But it's really not!  Children are private as well as social goods.  We invest social resources in them (education, public health), with the anticipation that they will re-invest in society when they come of age and work.  But that may be breaking down.  Of course, the government will never be able to mandate family size (hello fascism!).  But we can make it more attractive to have more children.  One way we do this now is through the dependent tax write-off, which increases proportionally with the number of dependents in your household.

For a long time, I had only thought of family size in terms of environmental effect.  I thought the less children we had, the better, since we have limited resources globally, and the United States already hogs them.  But apparently these economic effects that are in the pipeline will be quite detrimental.

So, maybe we had better have more kids to do our American duty!


Erin said...

We could also just adjust our social programs to get rid of the assumption that the population will be ever-increasing. The UN is projecting that the world population will level out in the next 50 - 100 years. As you mentioned, this is definitely good for the environment, as right now the rate at which we are using resources would take 5 earths to sustain. The decrease in population growth rates will (hopefully) give technology a chance to catch up, so that we reach a more sustainable equilibrium.

lynn feng said...

Em, read this it's totally fascinating re: birth rates.

Emily said...

Totally. That would be the wise and forward-thinking way to go. And yet we seem stuck in these inertia-driven ruts, policy-wise.

Emily said...

Lynn - super fascinating!! It makes me think of the church as a whole, which is desperately struggling to find "children and young people." Perhaps they don't exist at the volume we believe they do.

Erin said...

No kidding. Headdesk. :)

even one sparrow said...

That's so interesting that people are saying that to you about your family being "done" because you have a boy and a girl. When I tell people we're having another girl, they say, "So you've gotta keep trying until you get a boy, huh?" Granted, we'd like to have more kids, but sometimes things don't work out that way. It's just funny how one boy/one girl = the perfect family for so many people.

I read about the birthrate stuff in The Washington Post. Our neighborhood is so Irish Catholic, and the average family is 5 or 7 kids. I feel like my neighborhood MUST be balancing everything else out.

Emily said...

Yes - there seems to be some kind of presupposition about nuclear families being man and woman, boy and girl. Very interesting to me. I really couldn't have cared less about that whole thing. Seven kids . . . wow. I just don't think we'll ever make enough money to raise that many kids!