The words came to Ann Travers as she watched her husband sleep that night: “He’s going to make an excellent father.”
And there it was, the answer she’d been searching for — her personal response to tragedy after walking out of Manhattan and turning to watch the World Trade Center collapse.
Little more than 10 days later, she was pregnant. Not long after, so was Stacey Stapleton, who made the decision with husband Paul to have a child as fighter jets flew over their Manhattan apartment. Anthony Andreano and wife Tamara, who live on Staten Island, also have started trying to conceive a Christmas “surprise” for their families.
While the trend may be strongest in New York, doctors say people nationwide seem to be shunning talk of a world gone wrong and pursuing pregnancy not just in spite of, but because of, the Sept. 11 attacks.
“It’s the ’carpe diem’ mode,” says Dr. Michael Silverstein, an obstetrician and gynecologist at NYU Medical Center in Manhattan. “They’re saying, ’Life’s too short — who knows what’s down the road.”’
Dr. Steven Brody says Alvarado Hospital Medical Center in San Diego has received roughly 25 percent more calls from new patients wanting to learn about overcoming infertility since the attacks.
“The concept is not (just) having a baby, it’s building a family,” says Brody, medical director of the hospital’s reproductive endocrinology unit. “I think that’s the priority that this disaster has made apparent to people.”
Right after the attacks, Dr. Matan Yemini, co-director of the Diamond Institute for Infertility and Menopause in Millburn, N.J., says some patients put plans on hold. But recent weeks have seen a surge in interest — and an unprecedented willingness in patients to talk frankly about their fertility problems.
“In a way, it’s opened people,” Yemini says.
Dr. Kenneth Johnson in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., says many potential mothers he’s seen recently are asking more about the role of exercise and nutrition in pregnancy.
“Lately, I sense a lot of interest in getting it right,” says Johnson, director of the Women’s Health Center at the Nova Southeastern University College of Osteopathic Medicine.
But business has not been booming for everyone. Maureen Rayburn, a certified nurse and midwife in Manhattan, says several of her pregnant clients left New York after Sept. 11. And another, who before the attacks planned to have her baby without the father’s help or blessing, decided to get an abortion.
“With all the chaos, it’s hard for people who aren’t getting adequate support to take on that challenge,” Rayburn says, though she adds that the patient who sought an abortion was the “exception,” not the rule.
One population expert says major crises often cause people to procreate in attempt to “return to normalcy.” But he’s not convinced there will be a baby boom this time, since the sagging economy may cause some people to postpone pregnancy.
“It could go either way,” says Douglas Bachtel, a demographer with the University of Georgia College of Family and Consumer Sciences.
For Travers, it wasn’t economics that was holding her back before Sept. 11. Mostly, it was fear.
“Fear that we would lose our youth, the quality time we’re used to spending together, our freedom to come and go as we please,” she says of herself and husband John Medford, who had been talking for years about wanting to be a father.
Then, after the planes hit, Travers says she realized the time for a child had arrived, as she believes it did for many women.
Stapleton, also a 31-year-old mother-to-be, agrees.
“Before, my whole life was about what I could and couldn’t afford,” says Stapleton, whose husband works three blocks from Ground Zero. “Now, really, the only thing that’s important is that I have my husband and that I’m able to have a family.”
Travers decided to tell her husband she was ready as they walked on a Long Island beach on Sept. 15, the day before their first anniversary.
“He didn’t say a word,” she says. “His eyes welled up, and he gave me a hug and a kiss.”
She knows there are some who question bringing a child into a war-torn world.
“But bad things will always happen,” she says. “And good things will always come out of them.”