Wajahat Ali makes the case for having kids — even in his darkest hour

The case for having children

Last Updated Jun 5, 2019 3:03 PM EDT

Just hours before Wajahat Ali was to give a TED Talk about why more people should be having children, he got the kind of news every parent dreads: his 2-year-old daughter had stage 4 liver cancer. 

The New York Times contributing op-ed writer recounted that first tearful phone call he got from his wife, breaking the news that doctors had found bumps all over his 2 ½-year-old daughter's liver.

"My wife is a doctor. She said most likely this is going to be cancer," he told "CBS This Morning" on Wednesday. "I said, 'Should I come back?' The universe just sucker punches you in the gut. She said 'Stay, let's find out.' My mom happened to be visiting from the Bay Area. Thursday was my talk. They said 'Just stay there, crush the talk for our little girl.' Three hours before my talk, the official diagnosis came out," Ali said.

Instead of canceling, he incorporated the news into his speech — which has garnered over a million views since he gave it just over a month ago — and dedicated it to his daughter. The heartache, he says, is worth it.

"It's the best thing that we've ever done. I said that in the TED Talk. My wife and I talked about it. We don't regret it for a second."

Ali is hoping that despite all the reasons there are not to have children — climate change, overpopulation — he can inspire others to make the same deeply personal choice he did to have kids. But some of the world's largest economies — China, Japan, the United States, Europe – are suffering birth rates so low it's become a crisis.

U.S. birth rate at record low in 2018, CDC says

The United States just saw its lowest birthrate in more than 30 years. Why? They can't afford it.

"The United States is the most expensive country in the world to have a kid if you don't have insurance. If everything goes perfectly, it will cost you $32,000 to have a kid. The United States is the only industrialized country in the world that does not offer paid parental leave. So congratulations. You have a kid and then your employer says get back to work," Ali said.

But there are other countries, like Sweden and France, who are doing a better job at that and seeing results.

"In Europe, the birth rate is declining, but Sweden and France, ironically, offering pronatal policies, subsidized day care, helping women stay in the workforce, affordable health care. The birth rate went up. So in the United States, maybe we should help people who want to have kids, help young people, help women stay in the workforce. Crazy idea: affordable childcare."