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Backlit shot of a young pregnant woman awaiting the arrival of her new baby. (Rosemarie Gearhart)
Backlit shot of a young pregnant woman awaiting the arrival of her new baby. (Rosemarie Gearhart)

Canada's birth-rate boom Add to ...

Call it the echo of the echo.

Canada is heading for a mini-baby boom as the offspring of boomers enter their childbearing years and women get their careers in order.

Canadian women gave birth to 367,864 babies in 2007, up 13,247 babies from 2006 - the fastest annual increase since 1989, according to data released yesterday by Statistics Canada.

The 2007 spike is part of a larger upward trend that follows four years of increases, with women aged 30 and over responsible for 56 per cent of the current rise.

Statscan analysts attribute the surge to two colliding demographics: "baby busters" aged 33 to 41, and women born to boomers - the "echo" generation aged 12 to 32, and now poised to give birth.

"The children of the boomers are getting into their late twenties now and that's when some people start having children," said David Foot, demographer and bestselling author of Boom, Bust and Echo .

While Prof. Foot hazarded the "echo of the echo" moniker, he quickly added: "I don't think that they've been around long enough to get branded. They've just been born."

The data revealed another shift: women in their thirties bore more babies than women in their twenties, for only the second year in a row.

"Women have been postponing their childbirth. Ten years ago, the highest fertility rate was between age 25 to 29, and since 2006, the age group is 30 to 34," said Shiang Ying Dai, senior analyst at Statistics Canada.

"This increase of older motherhood tends to be more pronounced in professional women, which makes sense," said Dr. Andrea O'Reilly, associate professor of women's studies at York University and founder of the school's Association for Research on Mothering.

"If you choose to pursue a career, it's more likely that you'll postpone motherhood simply because of the years of training that such a profession requires."

Prof. O'Reilly added: "We've really pushed out, or expanded, the time frame of good motherhood. For a long time there was a very short window on when you could be a mother and this long trend really signifies a shift in that thinking."

After a "career-focused existence," Toronto-based musician Tara Slone felt confident about starting a family. She had daughter Audrey eight weeks ago, at the age of 35.

"I needed everything to be lined up. It wasn't, 'I'm going to have a child no matter what.' It was, 'I'm going to have a child if and when it's the right situation."

And Ms. Slone points to another perk of belonging to this childbearing demographic: active, healthy, boomer grandparents.

"I would trust them with my daughter. They're really tuned in. They don't seem old. I think once upon a time grandparents seemed old and you might not want to trust them with a little teeny baby, but I would."

Still, many boomers remain firmly active in their own lives, which can prove challenging in their new found roles as first time grandparents, argue Kathryn and Allan Zullo in their 2004 book, A Boomer's Guide to Grandparenting .

Mr. Zullo is 62 and has six grandchildren, with another on the way. He says grandparenting "really stretches" boomers.

"In many cases, the boomers' parents are still alive. They're also still typically working. So you're dealing with your own stuff and then having to deal with wanting to spend time with your grandchild."

Added to that, Mr. Zullo said, is the prospect of actively raising grandchildren out of necessity after adult children have split up, or fallen on difficult economic times.

But he allows there are unique bonuses for his demographic as well: "There were a lot of boomers who were so focused on their careers, maybe they weren't the best of parents, or maybe they did things they wish they hadn't done. They get a second chance now. We're much more aware of the roles that we play. We're actively involved."

According to StatsCan, total fertility rates - the average number of children per woman - increased to 1.66 in 2007 from 1.59 in 2006. While that was the highest total fertility rate since 1992, it remained well below the level of 2.1 children per woman needed to offset deaths. Prof. Foot said the trend follows those of other developed countries.

Ontario had the highest fertility rate for women aged 35 to 39, and British Columbia for women aged 40 to 49. Those provinces, as well as Alberta and Ontario, accounted for 83 per cent of the total birth increase.

With a report from The Canadian Press

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