One of the things the middle school version of the sex ed class I teach does is presents the students with a variety of prospective parents and asks them to determine who they would provide a hypothetical baby to. We are not going to do that here today.
As you might have noticed, one of the themes in these pieces for me is to look at the societal frameworks. Whatever fiction you are writing, be it sci-fi, contemporary, historical, or any other genre or sub-category, it arrives to readers steeped in the now. The choice to be a parent is a choice that is huge in our society, and that was even before we entered into a global pandemic.
In an earlier segment, I noted that pregnancy is neither punishment nor reward. And I still stand by that. But let’s dive a little deeper into that. Pregnancy gets a lot of time in fiction because it is a fascinating life event that literally in a single moment presents a huge change for characters. One could say it’s the original plot twist. (Also, my folks who have had pregnancies, when I say single moment, I mean the recognition of the pregnancy. I am well aware that the pregnancy itself takes a bit of time.)
So when I say pregnancy is neither punishment nor reward, this is not to say that your characters can’t or won’t be excited, concerned, happy, angry, confused, or any other of the myriad of emotions available to them. I am saying, that even in the deepest POV, you as the author, have the opportunity to build and layer into your story why your character thinks that thing. Or those things. And if their initial reaction evolves, you want to take the time to bring your reader on that journey.
Other things to note: -There is no ideal age to be pregnant. There may well be ages that the pregnant character is aware that they will experience a lot of judgement from others for being pregnant. -There is no one way to be pregnant. The only universal symptom is a fetus.
-Successful conception is not an indicator of a relationship’s longevity.
-Successful conception is not a sign that the relationship is on the correct track.
Does this mean I am saying no one can write a secret baby story? (Say it with me now.) No! I am not. I am saying that a story that contains pregnancy still has to do all the work if the author’s end goal is to convince me that this relationship is successful.
I am saying that a story that contains a character with a past pregnancy – whether it was carried to term or not – is not a signal of anything other than that character having prior sexual experience.
I am saying that if you are writing a burgeoning relationship and you add pregnancy into it, then yes, you also have to demonstrate how they would be good parents. And that applies to all members of the relationship equally.