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Americans not reproducing themselves

They keep telling us the world’s population is growing, but America isn’t part of that boom.

Three decades ago, just one woman out of ten in her forties was childless. Today, that number has doubled. Fully 20% of America’s women have never had a baby.

Of course, it’s not possible to have ‘part of’ a child, but the average woman who does bear children, has only 1.86-more than one child fewer than our 1970s counterparts. If you average America’s children over ALL households (including the ones that don’t actually have any kids), there is just .9 of a baby born to each one.

In some ways, we are becoming more responsible parents. We aren’t overpopulating the planet and stretching our limited resources even further. The highest birth level in 2006 was to educated women. Two-thirds of our babies are born into 2-parent families. And 75% are above the poverty level. (Unfortunately, the world’s statistics are much more dire. Consider that women in Rwanda have 6 children, on average.) But kids aren’t statistics. We are not being fruitful and multiplying.

I don’t get it, and I do. When I was a teenager, I thought I wanted five children. When I met my husband, we talked about having kids. He didn’t like the middle child problem, so we said maybe we’d have four, in about 6 years. After graduate school, after buying a house, after?


After 7 months, I became pregnant with our first child. We were devastated, but knew that perhaps his birth wasn’t so much that it ‘my time’ to be a mother, but ‘his time’ to be born. So we raised our boy alongside our fledgling marriage. But those next three kids were out of the question for the time being.

We raised our only child, all the while saying, in a few more years we’ll be ready. But life intervened. You know what I mean, don’t you? Graduate school happened-push back those babies a few years. That house happened (and a mortgage along with it that I help pay for) – insert a few years. Injuries happened – insert more years.

Ten years later, my husband and I looked at each other and said, ‘Why do we only have one child?’ We had done all those things we said we wanted to do. My husband had recovered sufficiently from his injury to feel comfortable with the idea. We are still in our early (well, maybe mid-) thirties. Are we actually grown up enough to have a baby? I’m a planner. I like all my ducks in a row, and my finances in the black. Laugh if you want to, but my hubby and I sat down with a calculator and a piece of paper and mapped out the feasibility of supporting another baby. In the back of my mind, I was scared that it would work out. I mean, I wanted another child in theory, but life was pretty comfortable.

We decided, yes, we could do this. We should do this. With much trembling, I ditched the birth control, and two months later, I was pregnant again. So now we have two only children (an 11-year old and a 4-month old). And, if you look at the statistics – I have 0.14 more children than the average woman! We have reproduced ourselves!

I don’t think numbers three and four will ever happen. But that’s OK. I understand now why some people end up childless. I mean, if my son hadn’t been given to us when I was 22, I might have been one of those people in her mid-30s without kids. And at that point, perhaps I can imagine why you’d say, ‘Let’s not rock the boat.’ One of my sisters is 43 and childless. She and her husband are awesome people, but I ‘get’ why they kept their family to 2.

So I’ve come full-circle, almost. I wanted to make a rational, responsible decision about babies. Yet if they are truly a miracle, a blessing, should I limit that? How does a person make this decision? How did you make your decision?

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