It's a recession baby!

Sara Steffens with her daughter Rosie


Kai Ryssdal: Recessions have this nasty way of messing with people's plans. If you lose your job or your hours get cut, you probably can't take that vacation you've been counting on, or replace the old clunker you've been driving. But for some couples a bad economy is the perfect time for a little addition. Tamara Keith explains.

TAMARA KEITH: A recession is a time to hunker down, work harder than ever, and avoid extra expenses. Oh, like, say maternity clothes and diapers. Or is it?

ROSIE STEFFENS: I'm the baby.

SARA STEFFENS: You're the baby? Oh, you want to put it on my tummy like it's on the baby?

ROSIE: Yeah.

Sara Steffens is preparing her almost 3-year-old daughter Rosie for the arrival of a baby sister. She admits the timing of this pregnancy may seem a bit unconventional.

SARA STEFFENS: Nobody's actually said this to me, but I'm sure there's people I know who thought that this was some sort of a terrible accident or something.

Last July, Steffens, who lives in Oakland, Calif., lost her job. She was laid off by the newspaper where she had worked for nine years. A blow like that would cause a lot of people to put their family plans on hold. But Steffens and her husband came to a very different conclusion.

STEFFENS: I think we just decided, Well, it's not going to be a great year for my career anyway. And we wanted the kids to be somewhat close in age and, you know, why not.

Steffens has spent her pregnancy doing contract work, which is a pretty standard path for people who have been laid off. The flexible work schedule made it easier for her to coordinate all the doctors appointments that come with pregnancy. And it gave Steffens time to think about what she wants to do next since returning to a career in journalism doesn't seem like a particularly viable option.

ELLEN GALINSKY: I think it's a very clever decision.

Ellen Galinsky is president of the Families and Work Institute.

GALINSKY: It gives you a break as long as you've got health insurance coverage, or unemployment, or some other source of income that you can depend on.

Galinsky isn't surprised that some women are choosing to weather the recession with motherhood.

GALINSKY: This country is increasingly becoming family centric. There is much more of an emphasis on children and families and being with them and taking good care of them than there has been before.

At this point, there are no solid statistics to tell us how the recession is affecting the birth rate. Stephanie Ventura, a demographer with the national center for health statistics says, historically, in a serious economic downturn , births have fallen or flattened out. The latest data she has only go through last July, so it's a little too soon to tell this time around.

STEPHANIE VENTURA: Because it's kinda what you might call a lagging indicator, because it takes nine months.

Ultimately, Ventura says the data will reflect a lot of different personal choices -- those who put off pregnancy and those who went ahead in spite of the recession.

VENTURA: There's more than 4 million babies born every year so that's a lot of decisions. And of course there are some non-decisions.

The decision to have a recession baby just became a reality for Sara Steffens. She welcomed little June Susan into the world 11 months to the day after she was laid off.

In Washington, I'm Tamara Keith for Marketplace.

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I'm actually pregnant right now because of the difficulty I've had in finding a job after law school. My husband has a good job, so we decided that we'd start a family while waiting for the economy to turn around. I'm planning on starting my own practice initially, then see where life takes me!

I'm actually pregnant right now because of the difficulty I've had in finding a job after law school. My husband has a good job, so we decided that we'd start a family while waiting for the economy to turn around. I'm planning on starting my own practice initially, then see where life takes me!

I was refreshed to hear this story, as I am saddened to hear of female friends puting off their longings to have children due to the economy and their debt. I know everyone's situation is different, but I personally believe that all children need is their parent's love, attention, and health insurance (yes!), all the rest of the stuff that people think they need for babies is just perpetuated by the marketing spin doctors who want to improve their bottom lines. A lot of couples assume conceiving a baby will be easy, but not everything can be put off until our finances are in order...

You recession baby story really caught my attention. Although we've been hoping for our family to begin for many years we only recently made it an aggressive pursuit. It seems that about the time my husband had to change jobs (and then get reduced to part time) our modest home's value began to plummet. We agreed that there would never be a "good" time to get pregnant since money will always be tight so now was as good as any. Better actually. With my husband on part time (and me working nights) we have time to meet with the fertility specialist and not take time off work. Another upside is that we would need very little in the way of child care. In addition our problems with infertility meant that there would be substantially more cost involved. We reasoned it was better to try now while we have insurance and income then to put off our dreams until they became truely unattainable. The weird thing is that we have chosen not to tell friends and family what we are doing. While this is due in part to the roller coaster of infertility it is also to avoid the expected discouragement from well meaning parents and siblings asking "A baby? In this economy? Are you crazy?" Maybe. Maybe not.

I heard this story and there's one point that I'd like to dispute. One source was quoted as saying that if someone is unemployed and has insurance coverage and is receiving unemployment benefits that it may be a good time to have a baby. (I'm paraphrasing.) If someone is receiving unemployment benefits, it's my understanding that a requirement to actively search for work and to not turn down offers of work (maybe this is a state-by-state requirement, but I doubt it.) I was unemployed with an infant at one point and had to take her to an interview. I also got called into the unemployment office to show proof of my active job search. I didn't end up finding work until the baby was 3 months old, but I knew that I couldn't just coast on unemployment. It's incorrect to suggest that a mother-to-be could do just that.

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