For thousands of Americans, Donald Trump’s victory two years ago collided with another momentous event: the birth of a baby. Here are the stories of eight families raising children in the age of Trump.
Forty-nine minutes after the polls closed along the Eastern Seaboard on November 8, 2016, I gave birth to my second child, a boy, in Rochester, New York. “Election Day Eddie,” the nurses called him. Many Americans think of that day, two years ago, as stunning and historic, overwhelming and exhausting—for good or for bad. But for the mothers and fathers of some 11,000 babies—more, if you count those born on November 9, when the election was finally decided—Donald Trump’s presidential victory was only the second most life-changing event that day.
I’ve since wondered: Did those parents, like me, spend the past two years juggling bottles with TV remotes, watching a whole new era of American politics unfold as their infants grew into toddlers? How did they, and their children, handle it? This spring, I decided to search for other families who had babies on or within days of Election Day 2016. I scrolled through newspaper birth announcements online, joined Facebook groups, and reached out to synagogues, mosques, temples and churches, as well as doulas and midwives. Although I knew I wouldn’t be able to capture every facet of the American experience, I sought people from different backgrounds, and in the end, I spoke with 15 families from across the country, eight of whom were photographed by Politico’s director of photography, M. Scott Mahaskey.
Many parents told me of dramatic moments in the hospital two years ago. Jess Wholey of San Diego found out the election results just after being wheeled out of the operating room with her newborn twin boys, Marleau and Boh, early on November 9. “It was such a crazy mix of emotions,” she recalls. Chastity Romero-Latham of Lawrence, Kansas, refers to her November 8 son, Bowie—the first child she and her husband, Jonathan, were able to conceive after almost a decade of marriage—as her “saving grace” while the voting results were rolling in. Other parents, from Wyoming to Maine, saw the birth of a new baby and the election of Trump as a double blessing.
Far beyond the births themselves, these families offer a window into what it means to raise a child in Trump’s America. Regardless of their politics, just about every set of parents I spoke with had concerns about the world their toddlers are growing up in—struggling school systems, gun violence, discrimination, the cost of college and the effects of climate change. But while some parents are shielding their young children from the news of the day, others are actively initiating them into the political process. Beth and TJ Vargas, for instance, encountered an anti-Trump rally in Sacramento as they left the hospital with their newborn son, Owen, in November 2016; since then, Owen has attended four marches. What’s clear is that being a toddler today—perhaps especially for these November 2016 “Trump babies”—is not what it used to be.