“I wanna have twenty-two babies!”

My little sister was five years old and didn’t quite understand the mechanics of childbirth. She thought babies were just like stuffed animals, only people-shaped.

 

“Okay sweetheart,” my mom smiled indulgently. “Then I’ll have lots of grandbabies one day!”

 

“But Mom! My teacher said that the planet is becoming overpopulated! People need to have fewer children or else we’re all going to starve!” I was ten and didn’t quite understand the likelihood of my sister actually bearing twenty-two children. I thought my sister was going to ruin EVERYTHING.

 

“It’s true that the world is becoming overpopulated. Other people should have fewer kids. But you and your sister should still have as many babies as you want.”

 

“Why? That’s not fair.”

 

“Because Hitler killed six million Jews in the Holocaust. You don’t have to worry about Jews overpopulating the world; we’re just making sure that the Jewish people don’t die out.”

 

“I only wanna have twenty-two babies, not six million.” My sister explained, reasonably.

 

“Why do you want to have twenty-two babies, anyway?”

 

“Because two is my favorite number!”

 

“Then have two kids.”

 

“But there are TWO twos in twenty-two!”

 

I rolled my eyes. My sister was going to ruin everything, and she was bad at math. And my otherwise liberal mother was saying that it was okay to overpopulate the world because of genocide. Also, it appeared that the fate of the Jewish people rested in my hands–or rather, my ovaries. Why did everything end up involving the fate of the Jewish people? If I didn’t marry a nice Jewish boy the Jewish people would die out. If I didn’t have babies the Jewish people would die out. If I didn’t go to shul the Jewish people would die out. If I ate the wrong foods the Jewish people would die out. How fragile were our people? If eating peeps during Passover were a threat to our existence, maybe we ought to toughen up a bit.

 

 

That conversation with my mother and sister happened twenty years ago. I would like to think that the Holocaust has very little bearing on my current decision to try to get pregnant, but I still remember being given Hitler as a rationale for bearing children in a world with too many human beings.

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