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For some parents, the pandemic was the perfect time to have a baby; here's why

Global pandemic, massive recession, overwhelmed hospitals? It doesn't add up on paper but for some parents, the time was right to expand their families.

The COVID-19 pandemic has caused a "baby bust" — birth rates are down across the country. But for some families, it was the perfect time to get pregnant and have a baby.

Hadassah Noonan, 34, and her husband had been considering expanding their family for some time. Already parents to three children, ages 11, 9, and 3, they had a feeling their family was not complete. The problem was their grueling schedules — they were, as Noonan describes, “insanely busy.” So busy, in fact, that her husband missed the birth of their 3-year-old. Her labor progressed so quickly he couldn’t leave work and make it to the hospital in time.

Hadassah Noonan and her husband took advantage of the "COVID slowdown" and expanded their family.Courtesy Becca Bleznak

They were also racing against another clock — Noonan did not want to get pregnant past the age of 35. “Pregnancy is not fun,” Noonan told TODAY Parents. “And the older you get, the less fun it is.”

Then COVID-19 came to the U.S. and, eventually, their home state of Alaska. “COVID was forcing us to slow down, so we thought we might as well take advantage of it,” Noonan explained. “Even with how insane things were and how scary the thought of having a baby in a hospital and making medical decisions during a pandemic was, it just made the most sense (to expand our family) at a time when we were all home.”

Some researchers initially assumed the ongoing pandemic would cause a so-called “baby boom,” but there was a significant drop in the U.S. birth rate as a result of the public health crisis — and for good reason. The coronavirus thrust the entire globe into a historic recession, nearly 3 million U.S. women, mostly Black and Latina moms, were pushed out of the workforce, and an estimated 7.7 million Americans lost their jobs just a few months after COVID-19 hit the United States. Hospitals were overwhelmed, some laboring women were forced to give birth alone, and moms were experiencing an increase in mental health issues as a result of isolation, working from home, and managing virtual learning.

On paper, the era of COVID-19 looked like the worst time to have a child or expand your family.

But for some parents, the opposite was true. From spending more time with their spouse and families, to no longer having to endure a grueling commute, the pandemic afforded them the time, space, and opportunity to try to conceive.

That was the case for Becca Bleznak, 33, pregnant with her first child. While her husband initially lost his job due to the pandemic, he eventually got it back and was allowed to work from home, making it possible for Bleznak to move from Los Angeles to Pennsylvania, where her family lives. “Combined with us having recently married, it all made it a good time (to get pregnant),” she told TODAY.

Of course, the decision to get pregnant during a pandemic came with some challenges. While Blexnak said she got the vaccine as soon as she was able, she canceled her baby shower as a result of the Delta variant. And as she nears her due date, she said she’s becoming increasingly anxious about being in a hospital setting.

“I think that fear overtakes my other fears about giving birth, because it's so out of my control. People can help you with what to put in your birth plan, and you can understand that things will turn out differently,” she explained. “But it's impossible to prepare for an ever-mutating virus in a hospital where I have to be to give birth. I actually did consider going with a birthing center for that reason, but they don't typically require their employees to be vaccinated and that was important to me.”

Obtaining a vaccine was important for Zoe Reich, 37, too. Reich completed a round of IVF in 2018, and had frozen embryos ready for transfer when the pandemic came to New York, where Reich, her husband, and their daughter lived at the time. The embryo transfer was initially postponed, and Reich and her family traveled to a family cabin in Maine to escape their small Brooklyn apartment while they sheltered in place.

After six months in Maine, Reich and her husband realized they wanted to make the move permanent. But they wanted to have another baby first and, given Reich’s past history of complicated pregnancies, keep her team of fertility and high-risk doctors.

“We felt like our life was on pause until we could get through another successful pregnancy,” Reich told TODAY. Reich said that being pregnant during a pandemic did add another layer of anxiety and stress. But there were also some upsides to having a baby during a pandemic, too.

“The birth experience itself was more calming,” she explained. “It was just me and my husband, so we were able to spend time bonding with the baby instead of dealing with the chaos of a revolving door of visitors at the hospital.”

There were positives for Noonan as well, who said her home birth was the most serene birthing experience she has ever had. “I literally walked from my bathtub to my bed, my kids came in, my midwife helped out, cleaned up, and my family was just right there,” she said. “And then we had dinner. It was surreal. I don’t even know how to describe it — it was peaceful, it was quiet, there was no commotion from the nurses coming in and out like they do at a hospital. It was complete tranquility. I don’t even know why I never really thought to plan for a home birth before, but the pandemic made it possible.”

Noonan was grateful for that tranquil birth; her big fear was getting COVID while pregnant and she did, months into her pregnancy.

“It was horrible,” she said. “I never want to go through that again, especially when having no immune system. So planning to have a pregnancy during a pandemic is a dichotomy — it’s smart because you’re forced to be home and forced to slow down, but it’s also scary because there’s a rapid pandemic that’s constantly evolving.”

Reich said that part of her decision to have a baby during COVID-19 was believing that the country would not find itself where it is now — another rise in cases, deaths, and a slew of overwhelmed and understaffed hospitals. “I definitely thought once the vaccine was rolled out that, as a country, we would have come together and be in a better place with the virus,” she said. Still, she said she wouldn’t change a thing.

“Having the baby was really important for us in our next steps as a family,” she said. “I just really wish that we weren’t in this place that we are in now in terms of COVID and the Delta variant. I really do hope that people start taking it seriously and get vaccinated, because it’s not just about them — it’s about all of us and protecting the people most vulnerable, which, in my case, are my kids.”