New Zealand's Covid baby boom: where familiarity didn't breed contempt | David Downs and Joe Davis

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Lockdowns may have had an anti-baby boom effect in some parts, but Kiwis appear to have made the most of close quarters

One of the early observations made by internet wags was the prediction that nine months after lockdown there would be a baby boom. The theory goes that suddenly being forced to spend weeks at home would ignite the passions of those interned in a way that a normal Saturday night on the couch watching reruns of Friends might not.

The “Covid baby boom” was predicted to be like the period after the second world war, where soldiers returning from the front were delighted to be back in the bosom of their home country, with all the comforts that brings.

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World news | The Guardian

One of the early observations made by internet wags was the prediction that nine months after lockdown there would be a baby boom. The theory goes that suddenly being forced to spend weeks at home would ignite the passions of those interned in a way that a normal Saturday night on the couch watching reruns of Friends might not.

The “Covid baby boom” was predicted to be like the period after the second world war, where soldiers returning from the front were delighted to be back in the bosom of their home country, with all the comforts that brings.

The generation that resulted from that delight are today’s retirees (the “baby boomers”), and it’s easy to see the impact of that generation on the population statistics of almost every western country. (Given that the definition of “baby boomer” is anyone born from 1946 to 1964, clearly there was a slight delay in delight for some.)

But if absence makes the heart grow fonder (and keen on a bit of delight), then familiarity breeds contempt. Surely being cooped up at home might have the opposite impact? Spending hours, days, months in constant contact – trying to juggle work, face masks and possibly other siblings, let alone the stress of a global pandemic – perhaps that would pour cold water on the passions of the nation?

And sure enough, the international outlook for an outbreak of delight seems bleak. The New York Times reported a decline in pregnancy rates in the first few months of Covid there, and in the UK the Guardian reported dismal statistics from a survey of people considering having a family during the crisis.

The Dutch government – worried about the health and wellbeing of their singleton citizens – issued official advice for people to consider getting a “seksbuddy” (I’m pretty sure you won’t need me to translate that for you) to keep them company and, well, delighted, during lockdown. But despite their concern about the fertility rate of the Netherlands, they weren’t able to get it up at all. The fertility rate, that is.

But New Zealand is not the world, and our initial short, sharp lockdown appears to have certainly had some outcomes. It seems locking down was not the only thing we Kiwis were quick off the mark to take up. For, despite the naysayers, Kiwi midwives are reporting a significant increase in activity.

“We have definitely seen the baby boom come through,” reports Ohakune midwife Kelly Lowson. “I have never seen so many bookings for January and February come through all at once.”

It’s good to know that New Zealand’s early lockdown had some delightful moments when the rest of the world was clearly turned off by the crisis. Sasha K is one of those women who made the most of the lockdown, telling us that the lockdown was a chance to reconnect with her partner, relax and “have some fun”. Which clearly worked; she was due in January.

They were planning to have a second child “sometime”, but, in a comment that is perhaps a tad too descriptive, she said “lockdown made us get our A into G”. And for those further along the gestation cycle, Covid also had some unexpected outcomes.

Women expecting children during the first Covid lockdown period faced an uncertain environment with hospitals all set up for the virus. Visitors were severely restricted, and birth partners banned or turfed out within two hours of birth.

Expectant couples were sent links to online videos to learn about the birth process, and antenatal classes were held online. While this was not ideal, it did have the unexpected benefit that the content created was able to be revisited later – after all, it’s all very well to learn about bathing a baby when you’re practising with a doll, but replace that with a real live squirming, screaming kid, and a refresher might be handy.

This is an edited extract from Silver Linings: Kiwi Success Stories in the Time of Covid by David Downs and Joe Davis (Penguin, $NZ45)


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