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I grew up in Colorado at the foot of the Rocky Mountains, then lived in Denmark and traveled throughout Europe before coming back to Colorado. I have two adult sons, whom I cherish. I started my writing career as a columnist and investigative reporter and eventually became the first woman editor of two different papers. Along the way, my team and I won numerous state and several national awards, including the National Journalism Award for Public Service. In 2011, I was awarded the Keeper of the Flame Lifetime Achievement Award for Journalism. Now I write historical romance and contemporary romantic suspense.

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Saturday, March 14, 2009

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?

22 comments:

Anonymous said...

*Waving* Hey Pamela! I can't believe I've been away for so long!!!
To answer your question, I'm not the kind of reader that needs marriage or babies in a romance to feel that the characters have reached their HEA. I don't mind them, but I don't need them. Like in real life I don't feel concerned by anything that has to do with motherhood ,pregnancy, and babies in general. When there's a new baby around I don't oh and ah. Mostly I run away. Fast. LOL
I'm glad for the new parents but I don't understand the need to...reproduce. But that's just me.
See, in your contemporaries, I thought that Sophie getting Marc his Chevy back was so sweet and beat getting him diaper packs.
I loved what you did with pregnancy and motherhood in RTF though. I thought it was ...fascinating would be the world I think. Because like you said you didn't gloss over things. You never do and that's what I like in your books.
stef

Barbara said...

It does for me. I supposed I look at the child as formed from the love and bond between the hero and heroine. I love reading about a child having been the product of a love story I read.

I thought Ride the Fire was a great story. The HEA most often does feel more real when the birth of a child occurs. It reminds me of the old song- first comes love, then comes marriage, then comes baby in a baby carriage. Although sometimes they get mixed up in a different order. Ride the Fire really mixed it up lol.

Sometimes I feel though that it's sending the idea that the perfect family is so easy to achieve. In the first 4 years of my marriage I have been pregnant 5 times, one missed pregnancy, 3 miscarriages and one live birth- my daughter Jazzy, who as the only child is very very spoiled. My best friend had to have a hysterectomy at a young age and feels sad that she won't be able to give her husband children of their own. I keep urging her to adopt because they would make great parents. Another friend has had 2 miscarriages and then went through treatment for cervical cancer and a hysterectomy is going to be happening soon. She feels she would have loved any children she might have had but at the same time is a bit relieved because she fears she wouldn't have been very maternal.

A HEA does not have to include having children, or having your own children. My step-father was one of three children adopted by his parents, they were all loved very much. He married my mom and became the instant father of 4 children and he was so wonderful! He is my dad, we are his children, our kids are his grandchildren. It wasn't all sunshine and roses of course but we are a real family in every other sense. My mom was a mentor to several friends of ours and the grandkids friends as well. They sought out her advice and counsel all the time just because she would listen and not judge! They will leave a great legacy that has touched many people. They had 25 years together but no children of their own.

Linda A. said...

Pamela, I think your latest poll is interesting. I've always been very annoyed by stories where the hero is cruel to the heroine - I mean real cruelty, not just being short-tempered due to frustration. I can't root for a hero who acts that way, or feel anything but pity for a woman who accepts it. Not what I want in a romance.

as for your question - I agree that a baby enriches the HEA, and I don't think birth should be glossed over. Amalie's birth scene really touched me. And I agree that in historicals, it's the inevitable outcome of true love. But, I'm all right with contemporaries where the couple doesn't have children - like everything else, it depends on the characters.
I find it curious that people would be offended by breastfeeding in a novel. My own novel ends with the hero watching the heroine feed their new daughter, fascinated by the bond between mother and child. I can understand some folks being uncomfortable with a woman feeding her baby in public - though I'm not - but in a book? I don't get it.

Anonymous said...

Hi, Pamela!
Wow, it's scary how much we think alike. I think this is why I love your books so much :). I agree with EVERYTHING that you've said. I think pregnancy and birth are two very beautiful things and IMHO, YES, they do make the HEA better. I love it when a book ends with the heroine being pregnant/having given birth. And I don't think there's anything wrong with writing about breastfeeding. I'm surprised that some female readers are offended by this.

I got your e-mail and I know that you're busy, so thank you for taking the time to reply :).

Shaz

Christine said...

I 100% agree with your feeling that the child is the culmination of the love the hero and heroin have for each other. That's how I hope to be one day with the man I fall in love with. I also agree that it is a very beautiful thing.
I actually get upset when I finish a book and the characters aren't even married, they're just together. I get angry because I like to see that they have had children, they have embodied their love for each other. Like in your last contemporary, with her trying to get pregnant and having the baby by the end. I loved that, its one of my favorite romance novels of all time because it.
Sometimes there isn't a baby by the end of the book, but the characters are reintroduced later on, in a related book, and there's a baby (another point for your contemporaries).
But there's also the occasional case where the heroin or hero can not produce children. But I think just raising children together is still a way to show their love.

Debbie H said...

I love the pregnancy, birth and nursing in your books. It's a part of life and the natural progression of love. I think you described it realistically. I love that about your books.

I had my son natural, no meds and nursed him until he was 10mo old. I loved breastfeeding, it was relaxing to me and made him a healthy rolly-polly. LOL

Heather said...

I like it...and I especially like it when it's part of an epilogue. I mean I don't need to it believe in the HEA...but when it's in the epilogue...and it's 2 or 3 or more years into the future...I just like seeing that they h/h are still together and still very happy, and now they're having a child. I don't mind the details of it either...especially in historicals, because I think it's important to also see that part of life during that time. We read about the wars and the industry (or lack thereof) of the time, why not read about how birthing occurred? Of course, I took another path in the road, and adopted, and I'd love to see THAT in a book someday!

Heather said...

Oh...and can I mention here that the "Dear Author" website is having their annual DABWAHA Tournament. I voted for "Unlawful Contact" as best book of the year...and so far, I'm in 50th place out of 225 entries. I sure hope it wins...it just started so we'll see how it goes. All you fans posting here...should go and play.

Here's a link...just in case anyone wants to play...

http://dearauthor.com/wordpress/

Christi said...

Pamela, I agree with you about (especially in historicals) pregnancy as an inevitable outcome from "doing the deed" a few times without taking any precautions. I do believe that not every historical an author writes should include a pregnancy, especially if they are sequels.

Unlike today, women in the past did not have a much of a choice but to marry (if she was in a position to) the baby's daddy. I wrote one into my historical and how a pregnancy can alter well intentioned plans of the characters. Once the baby was born, in the epliogue, my heroine was breast feeding as she and the Hero discussed names.

I have two boys myself and think that pregnancy and childbirth is beautiful and quite an experince. I could not breast feed my older son but my younger one i did. I think to most mothers who choose to do it, its a wonderful bonding experince (however, having not been able to bf my older son I can see both sides of it - dad could help with feedings and such). Anyway, I think that is one (of the many) reason why I personally bonded well with your characters -their experiences with motherhood.
Christi

Luci said...

I loved Ride The Fire completely - with the birth, breastfeeding and all!!

As a side note, I loved too how Alec and Jamie had a part in the final chapters of the book and the ending was not rushed.

Talking about preganancy, I love it too that in your books Alec and also Nicholas played a very important part in the births described. Love an alpha male in awe of his woman giving birth :).

RitaSV said...

I'm totally fine with birth and breastfeeding scenes. You can hold off detailed descriptions of afterbirth and such but I, too, find there's a beauty in that wonderful combination of two people in love sharing the gift of a child.

Hi, Stef —::waving back:: So good to see you here again! LOL on running away from babies. You know, I wasn't into babies until suddenly I was. BAM! Then I wanted babies SO BADLY. Of course, I was only 20, so it's not like I waited a really long time. But when I was a teenager, they just seemed like annoying, stinky loud things. LOL!

I like your comparing little Chase to Marc's Chevy. So the car was more touching than the baby. I can see that.

No, I don't gloss over things, and I'm glad you appreciate that! You can see on Amazon that not everyone shares your appreciation. LOL!

I hope you can stick around for a while! I know you're busy, but I missed you. :-)

Hi, Barbara — BTW, I loved the photo of you and your DH. I didn't have a chance to post, but I really liked it. It sounds like we're on the same page where babies and HEAs are concerned. You know, I keep worrying that it will seem redundant, but that's the natural direction my Muse takes me at the end of the book.

::::: SPOILER for HARD EVIDENCE::::: You have no idea how HARD it was for me to not have Tessa be PG at the end of HE. OUCH! LOL!

:::: End of Spoiler:::::

Hi, Eugenia — LOL! First comes love, then comes marriage... That was almost the title of this post. And, yes, RTF really mixed that up. I'm so sorry to hear about your miscarriages! You know, I also thought about that as I wrote up this post. Fertility issues affect more women than I think a lot of us -- particularly those of us who get knocked up on the first try -- realize. I have a friend who won't read romances that have pregnancy/birth in the plot for that reason. It's too painful for her. I'm very glad you have Jazzy!

It's true that an HEA doesn't have to include children, and maybe I should look at that issue one day. Love — and families — come in all shapes and sizes, especially these days with so many mixed families -- step-moms, dads, kids, etc. Your mom and stepdad sound fantastic. What a wonderful story! In the end it's how many lives a person touched that counts, not how many kids they had. I stopped at two kids because I wanted to do other things with my life — like write. :-)

Hi, Linda — You know, if I were to vote, that's what I would pick. I just can't stand a hero who deliberately hurts the heroine, whether physically or emotionally. He can be a jerk, but there's a difference between being a jerk and hurting her. He can tease her, be irritated with her, dislike her, even yell at her if she deserved it, but when she's in pain or facing true danger, he'd better put his hero pants on and do something about it and CARE.

Wow, I got up on my soapbox there, didn't I? That's really the cardinal rule for me with heros, though. Iain is as close as I've ever come to breaking that rule.

I agree, it's harder to go without a baby in a historical than a contemp, in part just because of the reality of no birth control. But I'm with you on the breastfeeding issue. I'm fine with it in public or anywhere else, and it certainly wouldn't offend me in a book, for goodness sake! It's what boobs are for, after all! The ending of your novel sounds very touching!

Hi, Shaz — Wonderful to see you here! Funny that we agree so much. I guess that means you're not bothered by the fact that this is an element in so many of my books. LOL!

Yes, I have been INSANELY busy lately. Ug! But I am trying to keep up when I can.

Dinner's on the oven... I'll be back in a few!

Hi, Christine — I think it would disappoint me, too, if the H/h aren't even committed. I don't suppose they have to be married, but even knowing they will get married is better than, "OK, the book is over, and, yeah, I love you."

As for Sophie in Unlawful Contact, I took some heat for Sophie's decision to try to get pregnant. One reviewer said it kept the book from being a keeper for her. And some readers said it was totally irresponsible. Yes, it was. But when you love someone, and you know they may never, ever see the light of day again, much less become a father... Well, I might do the same thing in that situation. And, I agree — adopting a child or raising a stepchild together also shows love.

Hi, Debbie H — I totally knew you were going to say that. LOL! Good for you for breastfeeding for so long! I loved it, too. It's the most precious memory I have from motherhood, in fact. I love those milky smiles, where they look up at you and grin while still nursing with milk in the corners of their mouth. I think any woman who gives birth without drugs deserves a medal from Congress. So I would get one medal because after doing it once I said, "No way am I going through THAT again!"

Hi, Heather — I thought specifically of you and Leila when I wrote this post. You know, I really respect what you did and the love you put into your daughter. And it would make a great story element one day!

Also, I can see what you're saying about having it in the epilogue. I think my stories mostly have it there. For me, the epilogue is the way to show the fulfillment of the love between the H/h. We get to see them actually LIVING their HEA. And that's why I'm such an epilogue slut in my books.

Yes, I know, except for Ride the Fire. Believe it or not, I was so wounded when I finished that book that I just couldn't write another word.

Thanks for the heads-up about DEAR AUTHOR. I've never heard of that contest before, but thanks! I'm thrilled to know Unlawful Contact is in the running.

Hi, Christi — You're absolutely right that the whole question gets trickier when you're talking about a series, especially if it's a historical series. If the heroine in the first book gets pregnant midway through the story, it will feel stale if the heroines in the next two books do the same. And yet, if they have unprotected sex (which they would under most circumstances in a historical), how do they not? I try to be conscious of this, but who knows if I'm getting that balance right.

One thing I've never been able to do to a heroine is have her have a miscarriage.

Hi, Luci — I'm so glad you enjoyed RTF. I was elated when I got to bring Alec and Jamie into the story. In fact, I believe I burst into tears at that moment. LOL! And what a fun way to put it: an alpha male in awe watching his wife give birth. And they SHOULD be in awe, in my very humble opinion! I think society doesn't give women the respect they deserve in that regard. But I said that already. :-)

Hi, RitaSV — Wonderful to see you here! As for afterbirth... Yeah, not really going there. It's interesting if you're the person who just had a baby. But details? Not really necessary. As far as my contemps go, there will be no placenta shakes for the moms afterwards. EW! LOL! Thanks for posting!

OK, dinner's done. Time to eat!

Tena said...

hello Pamela I love the birth and breastfeeding parts of your storys it lets you see the love that was shared what you write was the most wonderful think to me its God's gift for us(women) to give birth to life and I love reading aout how two people loved each other and brought new life to the world I say write what you feel bc every word i have read from you has been so wonderful, kind, loving, beautiful, and I want to read more of your books

shirley said...

Hello Pamela Id have to say I have loved all the books I have read of yours I havent read all of them but so far everyone to me was beautiful and I love reading about births Im a new mother and I think it is the most wonderful gift to be able to bring life in the world and the pain well let me say you wrote it right and I say go girl bc then it can be real we see what their love did it made a life

Anonymous said...

Hey gorgeous, long time no postee, sorry about that but as I did give birth about 14 weeks ago I am a mite busy!

I don't need the couple to be having a baby on the way to complete the HEA. In fact sometimes I think they should slow down and enjoy each other before throwing a baby in the mix! That is what appealed to me about Julian's story's resolution, it would have been way too much for that character to deal with at once throwing a baby in there too. The first time I read that part I was congratulating you on avoiding the obvious.

As to wowsers having a problem with reading about breastfeeding, I wonder how on earth they deal with the sex? The mind boggles. Here in HK women are routinely asked to cover up if they try to breast feed in public. I am sure you can guess how well that sits with me! It amazes me that we are bombarded with sexual imagery of breasts, but the sight of them doing what they were designed for sends so many into a frenzy of disgust.

Sophie being irresponsible because she is in those first heady days of the love of her life...well when else are you more likely to be irresponsible?!
I still remember the feeling and I also remember practically not eating for three months either I was so high on emotion. I totally bonded with her character in that scene. Sounds to me like some reviewers are putting fictional characters up there with politicians in the expectation stakes!
Same kind of thinking that reads homosexuality into children's literature. Says more about them than the writer. IMHO.

Gee, I don't post for yonks and then I really dust off the old soap box ah? Can you tell I spend all day talking to a 14 week old? *grin*

Suppose I better climb down and let someone else have a go. I need to get to bed anyways!
Miss you, thanks for the email and tell Ben I haven't forgotten the diggers hat and am glad for the tip about his big noggin!

I don't know what's happening with my account, but I had to post anonymously.

J xx

Ronlyn said...

Yeah. What Joanie said. Except I gave birth 21 months ago, not 14 weeks. LOL

Sue Z said...

Good topic, PC. I dearly love your birthing scense in all of your books. You are very realistic in your stories involving child birth. In Sweet Release & Ride the Fire I felt like I was right there in the room with them.

My DH & I are not able to have children so I will never know for myself what it feels like. However your stories at least give me some experience of the extreme emotion that is there. Thank you for that.

I can't beleive that people have issues with nursing a baby in books. It is such a beautiful and natural process. And especially for a hystorical when that was the only method of feeding the infant. I never even gave it a second thought in a book.

And I have to agree with you that a baby deepens the love of hero & heroine for each other in a romance and HEA. It is something that they created together. I can only imagine what it felt like for Unlawful Contact's hero, Marc when he held baby Chase for the first time.

Hi, Tena — I'm glad you like those parts of the story. Honestly, I think God could have made this gift a whole lot better by eliminating the agony aspect of it. A lot of women say the days they had their babies were the best days of their lives. I don't feel that way. I say, "I never, EVER want to do that again." LOL! BUT it is a very female experience, and women ROCK for doing it. I try to honor women for that.

Hi, Shirley — I'm glad you've enjoyed the stories. I think every woman who's a mother -- regardless of how she became a mother -- deserves accolades. Mothering a child is a lot of work. It's wonderful, but there are certainly some days where it doesn't SEEM wonderful. LOL!

Hey, Joanie, love! It's been ages, but yes, you've had better things to do lately, haven't you? Give the wee one a hug from her Aunt Pammy. I'm glad you appreciated the decision I made regarding Julian and Tessa. It was HARD, but it felt right, so that's what I did. IMHO, it made the ending more real for them, in part because it gives him the chance to tell her he's marrying her for HER and not because of a baby.

I love your soap boxes, mate, so keep at it. And I'll climb up there beside you for a minute. A fictional character is a fictional character. Though I do try to be a "socially responsible" writer by mentioning contraception and condoms and STDs and stuff when appropriate, I'm not writing public service announcements. I'm writing novels. And sometimes people do stupid stuff, both in real life and in my books. What else could Sophie have done, being who she was and how much she loved Marc?

Recently I posted that the only religion I feel I have to respect in my books is my characters' religion, the same is true of their actions and their politics (if you want to call it that). It must fit the character. Period. Whatever IT is. :-

Hi, Ronlyn — I can't believe it's been 21 months ago already! That means Alex is going to be 2 in the blink of an eye. Goodness!!! Time flies when you're working your butt off, I guess.

Aw, Sue, hugs to you! You're a great auntie and a wonderful mom to you bunnies and dogs. I'm glad the stories have given you a way to experience that emotion. I have NO IDEA why nursing in fiction bothers some readers. I won't even hazard a guess. I will say that their squeamishness is not going to prevent me from writing stories the way I want to write them. I got choked up writing that epilogue. Heck, I cried like a baby for the entire last 50 pages of UC. I know that doesn't surprise you. ;-)

Tena said...

I'd have to say yes to that too it could be a little less pain I was in labor off & on for 4months with my son then when it was time for him to come I was in there for about 14hours wow but with my daughter she came fast I got to the hosp and had her 30mins later & I could do without some of the hormones lol

Mandie said...

Didn't see this post.

My comments on your "blizzard" post may better belong here. My apologies.

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