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Why Asian-Americans feel pressured to give birth this year

You’ve heard of Tiger Mothers – now, enter the dragons. The Year of the Dragon babies, that is.

Many Americans of Asian descent are, at the urging of our parents, aiming to conceive by May – all to ensure that we have children born under what is considered the most auspicious sign of the Zodiac. Once this lunar year ends in February 2013, the next lucky annum opportunity doesn’t roll around until 2024, so pressure is high.

Among the twelve years of the Chinese Zodiac cycle, why this year? Dragon children are ideal, according to Chinese astrology, inheriting the mythical creature’s qualities of fortitude, charisma, and good fortune. Enthusiasts cite the success of Jeremy Lin, breakout player for the New York Knicks, Harvard graduate, and, yes, a Dragon, and Bruce Lee, breakout martial arts icon, and star, ironically, of Enter the Dragon.

This makes for a lot of anxious wanna-be grandparents – and newlyweds. Asian-Americans total 17.3 million nationwide, and many who are first-generation immigrants to the U.S. retain ties to Zodiac lore. These would-be grandparents insist that their second-generation American sons and daughters give birth to fortuitous Dragon babies. Though it’s not unusual to be pressured by your parents to conceive after getting married, second-generation Asian-Americans are now deciding between conceiving due to their parents’ superstition and waiting until they feel it’s the right time for them financially and emotionally.

“My dad emailed me and my siblings to say, ‘I want a Dragon baby!’” says Chinese-American Jane V. of Brooklyn, NY, who recently got engaged. “I don’t think a lot of people plan to have their kids be a Gemini or something, but for Chinese Zodiac culture, it’s a huge deal.” Though Jane acknowledges how important a Dragon baby is to her father, she is postponing pregnancy – at least until after her vows have been said.

Theo, a Chinese-American from Houston, TX, says his parents’ request for grandchildren is now worse than ever: “Since I got married about a year and a half ago, my dad constantly puts pressure on me and my wife to have a child. I feel like [he has] become more explicit now that it’s a Dragon year.” Though this potential dad-to-be may roll his eyes at the Chinese Zodiac, he and his wife have been trying to get pregnant for about two months.

Linda Vertlieb, a married Asian-American based in Philadelphia, PA, says, “I was recently confronted by my mother about conceiving a Dragon baby. Lots of pressure here.” And Lisa Cho, a Korean-American in Culver City, CA, even feels the heat from outside the family, thanks to a friend who holds fast to the mystical tradition. “She is Vietnamese and is really, really pushing me to have a baby this year because it’s the Year of the Dragon.”

A BBC report notes that, in the previous Year of the Dragon in 2000, Hong Kong saw a more than 5% increase in the number of births. So will the Asian-American population see a similar rise in births this year?

It’s hard to say. Despite the enormous pressure put on them, it seems that parents with children due in 2012 see the timing as a little extra luck rather than a requirement. This could be due in part to their full assimilation into American culture, having been born here.

Catherine Sjoberg, a married Chinese-American living in Boston, MA, is expecting a child this June. “At first I didn’t even realize it was going to be the Year of the Dragon when our baby is born, so it was just a happy coincidence,” she says. “My husband and I decided to try for kids and – surprise, Dragon baby!”

Similarly, Alex Chan of Morgan Hill, CA, a Chinese-American woman who’s expecting this year, says that she and her husband didn’t consider astrology in planning their first child. And although five of Alex’s friends are aspiring to have Dragons, she believes that the popular year might perhaps render her baby unlucky: “It could mean it’s going to be very competitive in terms of getting [our child] into good schools.”

While our more traditional Asian-born parents and peers may insist otherwise, we Asian-Americans looking to have children aren’t quite as keen on timing our pregnancies to the Zodiac. Chinese astrologers may favor the Dragon, but this generation of Asian-Americans seems to focus on non-lunar issues of money and relationship stability. Clearly, there’s more on our minds than planning to give birth in an auspicious year.

Still, Asian-Americans like Theo and his wife can’t help but muse on this cultural tradition: Wouldn’t it be great to have two children, and wouldn’t it be a treat to have twins? “Man, that has a nice ring to it, doesn’t it?” Theo says. “Twin dragons.”

Spoken like a true Dragon father.

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