For other older parents, the changes brought about by the pandemic have helped clarify their boundaries, in painful ways even as they have brought them something akin to wisdom.

Sarah Balcomb, a writer with a 9-year-old daughter who lives in Lexington, Virginia, realized that she was definitely done with reproduction as Hemingway once described it as going bankrupt: gradually, then all at once.

Ms Balcomb, who is 47, had tried various fertility treatments for years and in early 2020 was considering a round of IVF, which her insurance would cover. But she and her husband adopted a puppy at the end of March, and the nightly trips from the crate to the yard and back gave her visceral flashbacks to the harrowing first months of life with a new- born human.

The second night, she says, the sleep deprivation produced a revelation. As she went to respond to the puppy’s moans, “The weight of it all came crashing down on me,” she said, listing the pandemic, polarized politics, climate change, economic inequality and racism. systemic among the reasons. “I knew that night was over.”

Now, she says, even though she regrets that her daughter doesn’t have a brother, nothing could change her mind unless a sudden utopia erupts. “Even though we were super rich and could hire full-time help, no thanks. If the planet was miraculously repaired and there was no more war and we were rich, well then. …”

And then there are the pandemic divorces. Rates rose nationwide after the first year of the pandemic (although it’s hard to say, of course, if they were pandemic-related; the rise could be the result of court closures). For parents of young children who have not survived the pandemic with their relationships intact, the prospect of having more children in the future seems much less likely than before.

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