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The Chinese Zodiac as a guide to when to procreate

horse-sheepI am slightly outraged and I can’t say why. But, I will try.

When I look around at people I know who have procreated, sometimes I can get cynical. I know, I should get their take but it’s too many people to ask and who knows if I would get the truth.

In China, there is a marked increase in births during years for auspicious zodiac signs. The Year of the Tiger last occurred 14 February 2010 to 2 February 2011. Amongst the people I know, two friends had their first child (A&S and T&Y). These couples had been married five years by then and met in university or before and the mothers were the awesome child-bearing age of 32-33.

Two years later, the most auspicious zodiac sign rolled around – the Year of the Dragon spanning 23 January 2012 to 9 February 2013. A&S and T&Y had their second child while two other couples (S&C and A&J) had their first and so did my cousins (W&S). The couples having their first child had by then been married about five years and the mothers were 33-34 years old. And it was the Year of the Dragon so all Chinese grandparents-to-be are over the moon. My cousin and his brother are a Tiger-Dragon sibling pair, one of three such pairs on that side of the family. Talk about family planning.

That means A&S and T&Y have the most coveted Tiger-Dragon sibling pair of them all. I’m not so surprised for A&S but a smidge for T&Y. But why not? I know that all of my friends and cousins are mature and responsible, bringing children into prepared and loving families. Some have been married a long time compared to my fledgling one-year.

Fast forward another two years and it was the Year of the Horse which spans from 31 January 2014 to 19 February 2015. I hadn’t really noticed the number of births this year and merely attributed it to couples wanting to have a second child two years later or not having a great deal of time to wait for couples who had “just” been married. S&C and A&J had their second child and F&E had their first. There will be two (or three) Year of the Horse babies amongst my cousins: W&S‘s second, F&A‘s first and my Hong Kong cousins V&V may have reproduced again this year. The first-time parents haven’t been married all that long, two years for F&E and just 15 months by the time F&A‘s comes around but the first-time mother is the oldest yet at 35.*

I’ve always known about the glory of the Tiger and Dragon signs and that my own, Horse, is up there. They are powerful and they are swift and they are not food sources. Are my intelligent peers subject to this hocus pocus? I want to think I’m better than all of that but if “everyone’s doing it” and I do take such stock in “being Chinese” am I denying a child of mine something to be proud of?

There are multitudes of reasons  – none of which sound altruistic – that I did not want to reproduce this year, which happened to be Year of the Horse. I was married only in September 2013 and while the status of going from unmarried to married wasn’t earth-shattering and dramatically different, I also didn’t want to have a child within a year of that date. How cliché. The Year of the Horse is my year, and that is either a good year or a bad year and it turned out to be a good year that could not have been if I was on the way to getting fat and sick throughout. (But having a child during the year would have made it the best year yet, blah blah blah.) We didn’t have a home yet and while that is a weak excuse, I hardly wanted to immediately set up a nursery and have an impending addition to the family force our hand in where to live. The most reasonable excuse to not reproduce is that I haven’t felt for a second the biological urge to have a child. It’s the way I’m wired.

Throughout the year, my mother told me that it would be a-okay for me to have a Year of the Horse child and when summer rolled around and I would miss the cut-off, she told me to wait a year. Not that I was keeping her apprised of my (lack of) baby-making plans – it was simply that important for her to inform me of these dates.

Because, and no Internet source will back it up, my mother truly believes that a Year of the Sheep daughter will turn on her parents (or just her mother). Her own experiences make her terrified at the prospect. The difficulty and the heartbreak are not worth it and once summer rolled around, she advised me to wait a year. The zodiac prediction outweighed the risk of my eggs getting older and crappier.

In China, a spike in pregnancies last year was marked. In May, the Washington Post reported, “Chinese couples rush to get pregnant before dreaded Year of the Sheep”. While you can read horoscopes and interpret what you will, this description of Sheep characteristics is kind of dire: “Sheep are meek creatures, raised for nothing more than slaughter. Babies born in the Year of the Sheep, therefore, will grow up to be followers rather than leaders, according to some superstitions. The children are destined for heartbreak and failed marriages, and they will be unlucky in business, many Chinese believe. One popular folk saying holds that only one out of 10 people born in the Year of the Sheep finds happiness.”

In China, the increase in birth rates in during the best year (Dragon) can be measured, like 5%. It is offset a bit because “no one” wants to have a child that is born in the subsequent Year of the Snake. Still, then the Dragon child will grow up in a bigger cohort in schools throughout his/her life and encounter more competition. To a lesser extent, it could be true for Tiger and Horse babies but it’s not as remarkable to write articles about. In a city like Vancouver with a larger Chinese population than, say, Toronto, it would register as a most minor of blips.

Well, here is to Year of the Sheep children having less crowded pastures and tremendous room to grow. Good luck.

* I don’t have everyone’s birth year memorized but this is the sequence that I remember.

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