Note: This is my opinion, based on my experiences. You may think differently and that’s okay.
Have you figured out yet why I’m writing about pregnancy in romance novels?
Romance novels are a huge business. Some statistics list it as a billion dollar business (annually) and as one of the highest selling genres in the book industry.
Why do people read romances so much? Because they are fun, and they always have a happy ending.
Some romances are fluffy and some are steamy, but many are also nuanced, delve into difficult topics and are an amazing way to see how relationships can develop – for the good or the bad. Romance novels written today include things like consent and mutual enjoyment of sex. They are usually written about and for women. They are empowering and entertaining.
The best part about a romance novel is that you always know how it’s going to end – with the two characters who are in love getting together in a happy ending. You don’t have to worry. You know it’s all going to work out.
And yet, I’ve found that I do have to worry when I pick up a romance novel.
The key to a romance being a romance, is that the two characters who are in love get a happily ever after or happy for now ending. During the course of the story they are trying to get together and then they do. Seems simple right?
Except…a lot of romance novels that I’ve read lately have included another aspect to that happy ending — pregnancy.
I get it. It’s a great addition to the happily ever after. It’s the one I want for myself.
But, it changes the meaning of the romantic happily ever after. The happily ever after is no longer about the two characters getting together (the defining aspect of a romance novel). It’s about them getting together AND getting a baby.
And for some of us, it’s a pretty crappy addition to the happily ever after ending. As someone who is picking up these books to distract me from my grief over pregnancy loss and ensuing infertility, that extra bit added to the “happy ending” is a kick in the stomach. Everywhere I look on social media or in the grocery store, or in church, I see real people getting that extra happy ending that I had ripped out of my grasp. I’m in the age bracket where everyone, and I mean everyone, is getting pregnant and having babies. Except for me. I read romance novels for the romance, not to see yet another couple get a baby before me.
I know not all readers will feel this way. Until I experienced pregnancy loss, neither did I. But I know some who are on journeys like mine, share my feelings. It’s hard enough seeing pregnancy in the real world. We don’t need to read about it in our romance novels too.
Pregnancy loss shows up in romance novels too.
Surprised? I was.
A few weeks after my son was stillborn, I picked up a romance novel to distract me from my grief. I needed something to focus on that was happy and lighthearted. And then the secret scandal of the main character’s past came out. She was back in her hometown because her child was stillborn, and she and her husband split up over it.
That was not what I needed to be reading about.
So I picked up another book, also a romance. And within the first few chapters the main character found out she was pregnant and that she was miscarrying.
Not quite the happy story I was looking for. And that major plot point was definitely not included in the jacket copy in either book.
So I tried one more time.
And the story was great, until the very end when the happily ever after included not one, but two healthy babies in a span of three years.
That’s how long I’ve been trying to have one child. I didn’t need that epilogue as part of the romance story; the characters had never expressed a desire to start a family. The fact that they overcame the obstacles in their way and became a couple was the story I was looking for, that’s the romance. The babies part was added at the end…and I didn’t feel it was necessary.
It’s important to talk about pregnancy and loss, but maybe not in romances?
I’m not saying that pregnancy and pregnancy loss can’t be included in novels. I think it is wonderful that people are talking about pregnancy loss and including it in books and increasing awareness that it happens all the time. That’s the whole point of Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month.
But, when including pregnancy as a happily ever after or including pregnancy loss in a novel, especially a romance novel, a lot of loss mamas like me would really appreciate a heads up. If that’s included as part of the story, and I know that, I won’t pick up that book. I’ll know it’s not for me. If the pregnancy or pregnancy loss isn’t necessary to the story, maybe leave it out? Especially in a romance novel. We pick those books up for fun, so let’s keep them fun for all readers.
I know this is a complicated issue. I don’t want to tell people what stories to tell or how to tell them. But I also don’t want to be blindsided again by something that really, really hurts.