Researchers are unsure whether snowstorms, hurricanes and blackouts lead to more babies, but one local furniture shop is already seeing the signs of what it calls a Snowzilla-fueled baby boom.
Mark Riddle, a design associate at Room & Board in Logan Circle, says he began noticing a flurry of pregnant shoppers a few months ago. They were all looking for cribs, and had similarly sized bumps.
“People would tell me their due dates and they were all the same: late September, early October,” Riddle said. “So I did the math. And it just clicked.”
He confirmed his hunch with a number of shoppers: “I literally just said, ‘I don’t mean to be too indelicate, but did you happen to conceive during the snowstorm?’” recalled Riddle, 52. “Without hesitation, people would chuckle and say ‘yes.’ ”
Now business is booming in the store’s baby department. Crib sales are up 71 percent from last year, while glider sales have increased more than 40 percent, according to Riddle. Sales of the Flynn Collection, a line of children’s dressers and changing tables, have risen 110 percent since last year. (Overall revenue, meanwhile, is up about 5 percent this year, he said.)
Anecdotal evidence of babies arriving 40 weeks after a major event seems to be everywhere, dating back decades. A New York Times story in the mid-1960s reported a surge in births following the Northeast blackout of 1965. But a study conducted five years later discredited the idea that the one-day power outage had led to any sort of population boom.
Similar conflicting reports have followed. Blizzards, hurricanes, even government shutdowns, have all been credited with generating mini-baby booms. But researchers say there is very little evidence that supports such claims.
“This is an urban myth 95 percent of the time,” said Phil Morgan, director of the Carolina Population Center at the University of North Carolina. “Do we really have more sex when there’s a snowstorm? Well, maybe, but not if the kids are at home. Not if the electricity is off and you’re freezing. It’s just not clear it works the way people think it works.”
For example, let’s say couples were indeed having more sex during the two-day snowstorm of Jan. 22 and 23. Well, says Morgan, only about 10 percent of women are ovulating on any given day. And, he added, “Are people really going to stop using contraception because it’s snowing? What about a blizzard makes people not take the pill?”
But, he added, there’s a caveat: Researchers did find an increase in births following the Oklahoma City bombing in 1995. Academics at the University of Oklahoma found a discernible increase in births in counties near Oklahoma City after February 1996.
“It was an event that shocked people,” Morgan said of the bombing of a federal building. “It made them stop and think, What’s going on? What’s important in life? Why are we waiting to have a kid?”
At Room & Board, Riddle remains convinced he’s on to something. Sure, more young families may be moving into the neighborhood and expectant parents may be more willing to stick around than they were before, but he says there’s no question there will be an increase in local newborns come fall.
To prepare, employees recently added a set of wooden blocks, crayons and a library of children’s books to the store’s play area. Next month, Riddle plans to host an event for expectant parents, where they can browse and mingle over virgin cocktails.
“I mean, you are in the city and if there is a storm, you only have so many things to do,” Riddle said. “It’s a cute phenomenon.”