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Last August, Jules Perowne, a 39-year-old PR executive based in London, was thrilled to find out she was pregnant — surprised, too, as she’d long been told she’d never carry a baby.
“Someone said, ‘You’ve lost so much weight, but your boobs are enormous — could you be pregnant?'” she told Insider about how she found out. “I was totally shell shocked.”
Joy quickly turned to panic as Perowne tried to make plans around her due date in February. She scrambled to secure a prime, private obstetrician, finding most were already oversubscribed with their monthly allocation of new patients. Doulas she called kept demurring, as they were already booked for that window — maternity nurses, too.
Many in her circle weren’t surprised. “When I told my smart friends, before they even said, ‘Congratulations!’ they were handing me the names of a maternity nurse, warning that the good ones might be swiped up,” Perowne said.
She’s not alone in her frantic search. The well-to-do Briton is one of many for whom lockdown has become a confinement. Birth rates overall in developed nations are expected to plunge this year — the Brookings Institute, for example, predicted a 13% drop stateside, or 500,000 fewer babies — but one-percenter would-be parents seem to be bucking this blip, at least according to data from companies that cater to their needs.
Now add another stress to the birthing process: waitlists for key products
Luxury stroller maker Silver Cross, whose handmade Balmoral pram costs $4,000, reported to Insider a 54% growth in sales in August to October 2020 over the same period in 2019. San Francisco, California-based BabyQuip, which rents out high-end equipment for traveling parents, told Insider that pre-bookings of the $1,395 Snoo, a smart crib for newborns, surged 1,400% over the past quarter.
Upscale, millennial-aimed baby brand Lalo, based in NYC, reported an 80% increase in its products being added to registries on Babylist in Q4, while enrollment was up 20% year on year in The Bump Class, an elite antenatal support program where eight sessions costs £480 (around $650), according to founder Marina Fogle. She told Insider that this surge could be as much due to upgraded marketing efforts as accelerating birth rates.
Bump Class member Jules Perowne is convinced it’s the latter, especially from the evidence from her group chats among like-minded, soon-to-be moms.
“Everyone has been saying, ‘There is a waitlist for diapers for newborns because so many babies are being born in this period — there’s even supposed to be a shortage of HiPP organic formula,'” she said. Certainly, when Perowne’s own mother went to buy some items from the baby registry, she was startled to see it wasn’t uncommon for items to be long backordered. It was impossible for her to source an $199 Angelcare baby monitor, for example, in time for her grandchild’s birth.
The baby boom has been a boon for staffing agencies
Of course, manufacturers can eventually increase production in response to greater demand for products. A surge in bookings for staff is harder to address, though, as Los Angeles-based doula and author Lori Bregman, whose services start at $6,000, knows first hand.
“There’s definitely a mini-boom happening, as there’s been nothing to do but have s*x or get divorced,” she said. “People started calling me and saying, ‘I’m going to start trying to get pregnant, so please keep me on your radar.'” She shared that one client of hers went from their house in New York City to their house in the Hamptons and their baby nurse quit because she didn’t want to go. “They’re asking everyone for a baby nurse and everyone is booked,” she said.
Anita Rogers, owner and founder of British-American Household Staffing, which has offices in London and across America, has also seen a boom.
“What we get a lot right now is, ‘I want the best, and I don’t care what it costs,'” she said. Enquiries for baby-related staffing are up 40% for Q1 2021, she reported, versus the same period last year. In California, six weeks with an elite baby nurse will cost around $36,600, Rogers said. In New York, where rates are slightly lower, parents-to-be must budget around $23,000.
There are newfound challenges, too: Many high-end families have decamped from major urban centers to second homes in enclaves like Jackson Hole, Wyoming, and Aspen, Colorado. Those who didn’t arrange to bring a nurse with them from LA or New York, for example, are now struggling to find appropriately trained alternates from a much smaller, local pool — or tasking Rogers with doing so on their behalf.
As goes the stock market, so goes the fertility rate
There’s clear precedent for a baby boom like this, around 10 or 11 months after a crisis: Birth rates ticked up after events like Hurricane Katrina or 1918’s Spanish Flu pandemic in this way.
But the particular stresses of the COVID-19 pandemic and lockdown suggest this crisis could buck that trend: The Kinsey Institute reported last year that almost a quarter of the couples it studied suffered from lowered libido, and so had s*x less often in the spring. The one percent, it seems, remained much more s*x positive and likely for one reason above all: their stock portfolio.
That’s at least the thesis of Christine Whelan, a clinical professor at the University of Wisconsin-Madison with specific expertise in the intersection of money and relationships. Economic pressure usually dampens birth rates, she explained, while bull periods boost them. The uneven economic impact of the current contraction has caused both to happen, simultaneously.
See how the world’s wealthiest increased their assets by $637 billion during the pandemic, while the wider population struggles through a K-shaped recovery.
“There were really tough economic times for people who are not in the stock market, like workers laid off from a factory line,” Whelan said. “But the rich have gotten richer, as the market has continued to go up, so those who could afford to expand their families have done so.”
There’s an emotional component, too, according to Rogers. Time and again, she’s heard the same refrain from her would-be clients: Stuck at home on lockdown, those well-to-do couples have often found themselves more connected — and more often in the same place at the same time — than ever before.
“It’s given couples time to really think — time that isn’t spent on planes, or commuting, or on office politics,” she said. “That’s one of the reasons people are having babies now, too.”
The next looming shortage: kindergarten and school places
Christine Whelan predicted that the efficacy of a vaccine will likely determine whether this boom unspools through the rest of 2021.
“The rich might already be more insulated from the idea of whether you want to bring a baby into a world that’s dangerous or disease-ridden,” she said. “But if the vaccine works, and we see a quote-unquote return to normal, we could see a baby boom of larger proportions.”
Some involved in the mini-boom right now are already thinking beyond this year and the domino of problems they might encounter for the next 18 years. “It’s already impossible to get a nursery place or boarding school place, but now there will be extra competition,” Perowne said. “Everyone has been so fertile, it’s going to be an absolute nightmare.”
Source: FS – All – Interesting – Lifestyle
Rich people are having babies, and it's putting pressure on
the market for private nurses and luxury products