Right up until November 2016, Whitney* and her husband were actively trying to conceive. After five years together, the couple was finally feeling ready for the sleepless chaos that comes with having kids.
But after watching Donald Trump get elected on November 8, Whitney says something flipped in her mind. "We had about a month of trying to get pregnant last year," the 33-year-old black, bi-racial resident of Thunder Bay, Ontario told VICE. "When Trump got elected we both freaked out. We just lost our nerve."
I can relate to just about any reason for not having kids. I mean, they puke, they cry, and they will inevitably be damaged by all of your terrible unspoken neuroses. But to hear from women who had their minds set on starting a family reverse their life plans—that speaks to deep and very real fears about the future of humanity. They've done some climate change calculation, and witnessed mass murder against Muslim people, and decided Trump is their deal-breaker.
Whitney assures me this wasn't a decision she made lightly. She told VICE having kids was always something she imagined for herself. "I met my husband at 27 or 28, and I kind of put it out there that I wanted to have kids," she said. "I met his step daughter, and in the time we spent together I just thought, yep, this is definitely something I want to do."
For Whitney it was the rising tide of hate that changed her thinking. She lives in a small northern city with plenty of Trump supporters and had a sense that hateful confrontations were already on the rise.
"I have a few Muslim friends where I live and the things that happened to them in the last year I cannot believe," she said. "One woman had her head scarf yanked off. Another was told by a bus driver to 'get off' because 'you're a terrorist.'"
"We're super scared of all this crazy, white fragility takeover," she said. "The election just felt like a confirmation of everything I had in the back of my mind."
Whitney is certainly not alone in her thinking. Kiera, a 28-year-old Vancouverite, told VICE she's had many discussions about this with her partner of six years. "We were really enthusiastic about wanting to have kids sometime down the line," she said.
Even before Trump entered the presidential race, Kiera was thinking about the impact of bringing a kid into a world facing climate change. When Vancouver was hit by an intense drought a few years ago, she started to question what the environment would look like a generation from now.
"It's been an ongoing conversation with some close friends. Trump getting elected was for sure the last straw in a way."
Unlike Whitney, Kiera did not see the Trump victory coming. "I did not think it was possible for him to win. I think a lot of people saw this long-standing joke of Trump trying to be president. I thought it would just fizzle out, but it kept going."
"It's super scary from a climate perspective," she told me. "He's been pretty vocal about pushing through as many fossil fuel projects as possible, which makes it pretty much impossible to restrict emissions the way we need to if we're going to prevent catastrophic climate change."
Kiera worries most about the availability of water and the social and political instability that will come with an unpredictable, changing climate.
Like Kiera, Whitney thinks Trump has locked the planet in for irreversible warming. "I feel we're already in such a dangerous time for climate change and deniers," she said. "We have such a small window, I'm not sure if we even have time now to act on that."
"If the planet is literally uninhabitable in 35 years, I don't know ethically how I could bring a human into this world. Just because I want to have a kid, you know, for funsies?"
Contemplating our collective doom has always been a popular human pastime. In the 1970s, it was the specter of the "population bomb" that got people to swear off kids. In the 80s, it was the threat of nuclear winter.
"I used to kind of tell myself that every generation feels they're witnessing the end of society. I thought this might be normal neurosis, but I don't know. It's hard to see a light at the end of the tunnel. Getting pregnant would involve lying to ourselves."
In small town Ontario especially, this line of thinking can sound hyperbolic. "When I tell friends, they look at me like I'm an alien," Whitney told me. "I'm Canadian, and I think that's part of the reason why I feel so strange about being frightened.
"A barista once told me don't worry—we've got a strong liberal government, it's not going to affect you," she said. "I thought, How long was it until we saw a mosque getting attacked? We don't live in those times anymore; it's not like it's just going to stay in America."
It's also not something you can easily bring up at the dinner table with your parents. "I think if I had this conversation with my mom she would probably freak out," Kiera told VICE. "Her generation assumed everyone is going to have kids."
So instead of discussing it openly, these would-be moms are taking a quiet, wait-and-see approach. "I think my biggest hope now is that he will be impeached in a couple months," Whitney said. "We need to give it a few months, but we're not very optimistic."
*Name has been changed.
Lead photo by Jackie Dives
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