Pregnancy and birth in romance

    I'll admit it. I'm a sucker for it. And I'm not even sure why.

    When I wrote Ride the Fire, I was pretty sure the story was going to tank. It contained so many forbidden elements, foremost among them a heroine who was heavily pregnant with a baby that wasn't the hero's. I didn't care. The story had fallen into my heart in one big chunk, and I wanted to write what I saw because to me it was beautiful. A tortured man and an abused woman find themselves alone together in the midst of a violent frontier and, by working together, slowly overcome their own horror and fall in love.

    I was also determined to write a more realistic birth scene than one gets from, say, television. Having given birth twice — once without so much as an IV or an aspirin — I really wanted to do justice to this very feminine experience of childbirth. So often, it's glossed over, and yet it is an amazing, horrible, terrifying, exciting and transformative experience for women. I've always felt our society doesn't give the act of giving birth the respect it deserves. (In ancient Sparta, for example, women who died in childbirth were given the same honors as men who died in battle. Can you imagine that here? But I digress...)

    Of course, once you have a baby you have to feed it, so I include breastfeeding, which was the only way to nourish a baby in historical times and is still the best way to feed a child. I nursed my oldest till he was 15 months old and my younger son till he was 10 months old, at which time I was in the hospital for a while and he was weaned by circumstance, not choice. Neither received formula or bottles.

    In my other novels, both contemporary and historical, the HEA often involves a new baby, though not always. I'm conscious of the fact that I tend to include that and have tried to veer away from it so that it doesn't become repetitious for you all to read. But there's something about pregnancy and new babies that adds to the HEA for me, at least.

    In historicals, of course, it's realistic. I always find it strange and unrealistic when a man and woman in a historical romance can get it on for several weeks or even months and not make a baby. In contemporary novels, it depends on how careful the hero and heroine choose to be, so it's completely realistic that the heroine might not get pregnant. Still, it adds to the sense of fulfillment at the end of the story if I know that a baby is on the way.

    Why do I feel that way? Not sure. I guess that children, for me, are the outcome of deepest true love between a man and a woman. They represent the love the hero and heroine have for one another.

    I've caught some heat for having birth scenes that are detailed and for including breastfeeding. One reader emailed me and asked, "Can't we just assume that she nurses the baby? Why do you have to show it?"

    I show it because I think it's beautiful. The same is true of pregnancy and birth. They're beautiful and natural and the outcome of the hero and heroine's passion for one another. Also, they're a very real part of many women's experience of life and are far too often hidden to society's detriment, I believe.

    But that's just how I feel.

    So what do you think? Does pregnancy and/or birth enrich the HEA? And what about breastfeeding?

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