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What to expect when your character’s expecting

December 9, 2013

I’m not pregnant. I just ate 37 hot dogs.

It’s inevitable. On television shows, the actors have lives that exist outside their characters’. And periodically, some of them become pregnant at points that aren’t handy in the progression of the series. As I’ve been sick this week, I’ve spent a good deal of quality time in bed with Netflix, specifically, watching How I Met Your Mother reruns.

I’m to the point in the show where both lead actresses, Alyson Hannigan and Cobie Smulders, became pregnant. The show dealt with their pregnancy as many others do–the characters carried jackets, bags, or stood behind strategically placed objects, such as globes, guitars, or Neil Patrick Harris.

It got me thinking that I don’t remember reading a book in which one of the main characters became pregnant and dealt with the difficulties of pregnancy. Sure, if you look up pregnancy and babies on the Internet, you see lots of pictures of hands over stomachs (sometimes making the shape of a heart), typically from smiling women (if you see their faces at all).

What you don’t see is the daily bout of nausea, sometimes manifesting itself as a prayer session in front of the porcelain altar. You don’t see someone having to go pee every 12 seconds because of the massive weight pressing down on her bladder all the time. You don’t see the maternity pants that fit well last week being too tight this week, and on the day of a must-attend meeting at work. And you don’t see pictures of women dying with a living space heater inside them while it’s 94 degrees outside every day.

Awesome. I was psychologically ready for the sleep deprivation and diapers, but now I have to deal with *this*.

When my wife was pregnant, she had gestational diabetes, which meant she had to carry insulin with her if we went almost anywhere, in a little blue Rubbermaid container with some ice. (That’s become easier since she was carrying my daughter.)

It seems that pregnancy is a chance to introduce some wonderful complications into a story, and strike a tone of reality for those who’ve been there (if you get the details right). Because not everyone plans a baby, and not every unplanned pregnancy is a blessing in disguise. And even the planned pregnancies are different than you thought.

And those kinds of struggles are like gold to your story.

  1. December 10, 2013 2:47 pm

    My WIP (first novel) is a woman’s fiction family saga, and yes, there are problem pregnancies involved. Thanks for bringing this up. It’s good to know it might be interesting for readers.

  2. December 10, 2013 11:39 pm

    I was so ill with each of three pregnancies (toting an IV around during the last one) I weighed less the day after delivery than I did before I was pregnant. I’ve never considered drawing upon those memories of severe morning-noon-and-night sickness for character insight–until I read this post. Thanks for the great idea.

    On second thought, just thinking about it makes me queasy. Maybe not!

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