Talk about love among the ruins. For years, New York women managed to keep “have kids” well below “get promotion” or “upgrade apartment” on their list of life’s priorities. But the old priorities ain’t what they used to be. “I know three people who told me they wanted to conceive on the day of the attacks,” says a 31-year-old editor. “I totally felt a deep, primal need. It made me broach the subject with my boyfriend for the first time. You read about these people dying and the telephone calls – ‘I love you, take care of the kids’ – it’s heartbreaking, but at least they had that. It really brought home that I never want to regret having put something like that off.”
“After it happened, all these families were out walking around and it made me realize how much I wanted to reproduce,” says a 29-year-old museum curator who lives on the Upper East Side. “I told my fiancee, ‘I’m having major baby pangs.’ What am I waiting for? A baby is naive and cute and wonderful and new to the world and doesn’t understand the horror of what happened.”
A baby can also come down with anthrax, as we’ve sadly learned. Still, in the face of tremendous loss, the life-affirming aspect of childbirth has a poweful appeal, explains Gail Saltz of the New York Psychoanalytic Institute: “The wish to be nurturing and maternal and to take care of something is a defense against feeling vulnerable.” So are we in for a springtime baby boom? “I don’t know for sure,” says Dr. Shari Lusskin, a reproductive psychiatrist at NYU, “but people were home for a week.”
Dr. Joan Berman, a gynecologist with two patients who conceived on September 11, has her own theories on end-of-the-world baby-making. “More people are probably having unprotected sex, throwing caution to the wind, since everything else seems so dangerous,” she says. “Plus there’s been a lot of very irregular menstrual cycles this month – stress can change them – and people could be caught off-guard.”
If apocalyptic events make some women want to have a baby, they also make those who are with child feel that much more hormonal. “I’ve wondered, If I’m crying, does that affect the baby?” says Hyla Bauer, fashion-market editor at Condé Nast Traveler, who is seven months along. “A lot of pregnant women are quite anxious right now,” says Dr. Charles J. Lockwood, chairman of OB/GYN at NYU.
While friends have upped their margarita intakes or rekindled their smoking habits, moms-to-be can’t fall back on their favorite coping mechanisms. “I can’t take a Xanax. I can’t have a drink,” sighs Jennifer Fisherman-Ruff, a 31-year-old P.R. consultant who is expecting twins. “There’s nothing to cut the edge,” she says. “I can’t even take a Tylenol.”
Which may explain why classes at Julie Tupler’s Maternal Fitness, a pre-labor exercise program that focuses on relaxation techniques, have been packed since the 11th. “My husband and I debated for two years about having children,” Kay Johnson-Suglia said while waiting for last Tuesday’s night session. “Then we said there will never be a perfect time, and now – oh God, the bombing and the economy.”
And yet, the mere sight of their bellies is often a comfort to others as Hillary Butler, another Maternal Fitness devotee, found on Rosh Hashanah: “A friend who didn’t know I was pregnant saw me and burst into tears. She said, ‘Seeing you just fills me with a sense of hope.’ ” Lockwood has heard similar tales: “I’ve had patients tell me that people just come up to them on the street and grab their bellies and say, ‘I’m so glad you’re doing this!’ “
Now you can add baby-making to your list of patriotic duties.