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Is Noe Valley Seeing a Post-9/11 Baby Boom?
By Olivia Boler
Let's face it: If you aren't pushing a baby stroller down 24th Street, then you're probably trying to avoid getting run over by one. For years, Noe Valley has had a reputation as one of the most baby-friendly neighborhoods in San Francisco. So, in light of the forecasts of a post-Sept. 11 baby boom, we thought we'd ask around town to see if the neighborhood can expect a few extra deliveries from the stork this summer.
While no one is able to back up their claims with exact statistics on pregnant women due to give birth from June through October, the local consensus is yes, we are likely to experience a bump (and more than a few burps) in the baby population in July and August.
Dr. Nayana Anne of Noe Valley Pediatrics on 24th Street near Dolores says in the past she used to see only one or two pregnant women a week. This spring, that number has risen to two to three expectant mothers a day.
"It's hard to say why there are more new moms, though," says Dr. Anne, whose patients are mostly residents of Noe Valley or Bernal Heights. "I thought it might have to do with the dot-coms. Many of the moms are in their late 20s to early 30s. They lost their jobs and decided that now was a good time to start a family."
Lisa Moresco of Natural Resources on Castro Street is also certain that there are more babies on the way. Natural Resources is a center that provides information on childbirth, as well as classes and support groups for expectant mothers. According to Moresco, her business was very slow in the months leading up to Sept. 11, but has been busy ever since.
"We've been booming," Moresco says. "There's going to be a huge boom, I think, because people are reaching for their families more. They've realized that life is not a rat race. No one wants to be the last rat standing -- they want to be a family of rats!"
Carol Yenne of Small Frys on 24th Street agrees. Her store, which sells clothes and accessories for infants to small children, is doing well. Business has increased in the past few weeks, and customers are buzzing about babies due later in the summer and early fall.
"It may be that right after 9/11, people were more interested in shopping in neighborhoods because there were [supposed] threats to malls," Yenne speculates. "Also, the size of purchases has increased. People are sometimes spending fifty to a hundred dollars on shower gifts."
Overall, Yenne expects a 5 to 10 percent increase in sales this summer and business is already up 10 to 15 percent from last year.
Hospital Docs Skeptical
Others, however, see this year's baby bubble as nothing out of the ordinary. Paul Morgan of Peek-a-Bootique, a Castro Street retailer of secondhand kids' clothes, toys, and furniture, says his sales have remained stable this spring.
"In the last five years, there's been a baby boom," says Morgan, whose store has been in Noe Valley for 12 years. "But I haven't noticed a fluctuation in the last year or nine months."
And many hospitals in the area are reluctant to say there's been an increase in pregnant women. Eve Harris of UCSF's Public Affairs says that the clinic obstetricians, who see all of the hospital's pregnant patients, have not noticed an uptick in those patient numbers. The obstetrics nurses at St. Luke's Hospital, which also serves the Noe Valley community, have not seen a rise in pregnant mothers either. (The Voice tried, but was unable to get comments from California Pacific Medical Center.)
Pat Marjavi, a delivery nurse for Kaiser Permanente Hospital, says the doctors she questioned are actually anticipating fewer babies. "I haven't seen anything that would give rise to the idea that we're having a baby boom," Marjavi says. "And the doctors I talked to actually thought that the events of 9/11 would make people more pessimistic about having children."
Families Invest in the Future
But many people reject that notion. Kim Johnson Krummel, a 29th Street resident who is expecting her first baby on July 9, says she was deeply affected by the terrorist attacks, but that she and her husband, who had already been trying to conceive, were not swayed to give up.
"It was strange, because I had this duality of feelings," Krummel says. "On the one hand, I was saddened [by the terror attacks]. My husband and I stayed home and meditated right after they happened. But I think that trying to get pregnant makes you feel really introverted, and we were really happy because of what we were trying to do. So while I felt great sadness, I also felt really joyful."
Krummel, who will deliver her baby at home, admits that being pregnant while her country is at war is strange, but that it didn't change her mind about wanting to have a child now.
Alexandra Torre of Sanchez Street agrees. She and her husband have been trying to get pregnant for almost two years and are expecting their first baby in October. If anything, Sept. 11 reaffirmed their desire to have a child and invest in the future. "Some friends ask me, how can we bring a child into a horrible world," Torre says. "But I'm an optimist. I think my life has been good, and I can pass on my life experiences to a child. We don't know what will happen next, but I think the terrorist attacks were an anomaly."
Gabrielle Edwards, who lives on Jersey Street and is expecting her second child on Oct. 9, is originally from Germany. She says that feeling anxious about one's safety is a new experience for Americans, but not for others around the world. What concerns her most is security while traveling, especially since her husband must travel for work.
"The security at American airports has always been laughable," Edwards claims. "Security at the European airports has always been much tighter. As a mother, you see this."
All three women attend Elizabeth Bassemir's prenatal yoga class at Open Door Yoga on the corner of Castro and 25th streets. Bassemir, who has been teaching yoga in the Bay Area for six years, has noticed an increase in attendance, but is reluctant to call it a post Sept. 11 baby boom.
"I don't usually ask my students if their pregnancies are planned," Bassemir says. "In 2000, I saw a small boom because people wanted to have a millennium baby. But it does make sense that after a crisis, you reach for your loved ones." She shrugs. "Sex can be very comforting. It can bring people closer."
And it can lead to babies. Whether or not Noe Valley will see a baby boom this year because of Sept. 11 (or the dot-com demise) is still uncertain at this stage. But watch out for those baby strollers -- all signs indicate they'll be multiplying.