Berlin, Germany, January 2, 2020: Gretchen and Karl Nygren made history in Berlin this week. Their baby girl, Katarina, was the first European child of the new year, born at 1:01 am January 1.
She was also the first child born of native citizens in Europe in over a year. Europe's population has declined, but the economy has remained stable thanks to a huge wave of guest worker immigrants and their children.
"I know that my parents and friends kept telling is to wait until we're ready, and to establish ourselves financially, but we just said, we're both 37 years old. It's time," said Gretchen. "It was amazing to us how quickly we became pregnant when we stopped trying to prevent it. It was like, a natural consequence or something."
"We did get a lot of sneers and snippy comments," said Karl. "About one person a day came up to us and said we were destroying the earth's resources. But you know, we're going to try to live lightly on the planet. We decided to just own two cars rather than three, and downgrade to a four bedroom house. That ought to count for something."
"There were lots of double takes, too," said Gretchen. "When I began showing, my co-workers thought I had a tumor and were begging me to see an oncologist. And human resources just looked at me when I asked for a copy of the maternity leave policy. No one had used it in five years."
"There are no day care providers left in Berlin, so Gretchen is taking leave from her job," added Karl. "It will be tight but...well, Katia's too beautiful to give up. I tell you, just looking in her eyes makes us want to have another one."
"Our friends say if that happens, we may as well become Catholic," shrugged Gretchen.
"At least we'd be able to take her to Church and not worrying about people shushing a screaming baby," said Karl.
(See related story: "Europe's Plunging Birth Rate Moves Eastward." Also dotCommonweal's commentary on the article.)