the ask@AAR: What love stories do fertility, abortion, and adoption well?

Babies and the decision to have or not to have them are part of every human’s life in some way. But in romance, the way having children or not having children is handled rarely reflects reality.

I confess, I’ve never understood why we can’t discuss abortion. Perhaps it’s because I grew up in that era where abortion was legal in the US and it was fairly common. Curious how common? This chart tracks with my own lived experience. While never having had an abortion myself–I was a fiend about birth control in my youth–I’ve had several friends who have, all in the mid and late 80s. It was, when I was young, something that one did if you got pregnant and you weren’t ready. Several of the couples I knew who decided to get an abortion later married and had kids. In my social circle I know of no one who regrets having made that choice. That’s just my experience, not one I claim is true for all, but it does make me wonder why we can’t, in romance, write a love story where a woman chooses not to go through a pregnancy.

I’m also someone who is married to an adoptee–I’ve written some about that here.

Lastly, three of my four children were born with the help of fertility drugs. My husband and I, when I was 28, started trying to conceive. After a year, we consulted an infertility specialist. On the second cycle of Pergonal, I got pregnant with our first child. My second child was conceived  au naturel–which explains why there are only 17 months between my first two. After a few years, I was ready to try again and this time, after six months of no luck, I again tried Pergonal and conceived my twins on the first round. I was lucky–my insurance covered it all, all my children were full-term and healthy.

Thus, I feel pretty comfortable talking about abortion, adoption, and infertility. And I’m rarely happy with how any of these issues are typically handled in romance. Either children are easy to come by–the surprise pregnancy is a staple of romance and there are countless epilogues with super blissful parents and kids. Abortion is almost unheard of–I am grateful that is no longer true–as much–for birth control. And adoption too is rare and when it does occur, it’s usually an easy gift for all. True infertility is almost non-existent.

There are exceptions.

Zoe York handles abortion well in her contemporary romance, Fearless at Heart. In it, a couple reunites in later life–they’d been high school sweethearts. January had gotten pregnant and had opted for an abortion. Seth supported her through that but then they’d chosen–mostly he’d chosen–separate lives. Now they have a second shot at love and, perhaps, conceiving again. They talk about the baby they didn’t have and while both acknowledge the sadness of this decision, they both believe it was the right choice. They are at peace with their past and it doesn’t get in the way of their current shot at happiness. Fearless at Heart is the only book we have tagged with abortion and, honestly, I can’t think of another. (It doesn’t appear that any of the books we have tagged as unplanned pregnancy have abortion as the chosen outcome.) Nor have I seen books that incorporate RU- 486 into their storylines. Given the rising use of this–we will, of course see where America lands with medical abortion over the next year given the Supreme Court’s ruling last year–I wonder at its lack as well.

As for adoption, I’ve read a fair number of books where a baby is given up for adoption: The Sweetest Thing and What the Librarian Did come to mind. I’ve read romances with fostered children that are happy stories: books like Scandalous Desires and Seduce Me at Sunrise. In Kristan Higgins’ latest, A Little Ray of Sunshine, she shows the perspectives of all parties in an adoption–the birth mom, the adoptive parents, and the child. But most of the romance novels I’ve read, if the heroine gets knocked up, she keeps the baby.

Infertility is also unusual in romance and, when it does exist, it’s often magically cured by the right partner. (This makes me NUTS.) More recently, infertility is being easily cured by medicine–I recently read an upcoming book where a forty-nine year old heroine decided she was finally ready for kids and a few clinic visits later, she was pregnant. Given that there’s a one percent chance of getting pregnant at forty-nine with one’s own eggs, I’d say that book truly is a fantasy romance. I guess I’d like to see romance novels handle infertility a bit more realistically although I do understand the genre routinely traffics in wish fulfillment and I support that.

I’m looking for books that handle any of these issues well–and, yes, well is in the eyes of the reader. (It should go without saying that the opinions expressed in this piece are mine and mine alone and do not reflect those of anyone other than me or of AAR.) Do you know of any? If so, share the in the comments. And, as usual, be kind to one another. At AAR, we are open to–as long as you do not attack anyone–all sorts of perspectives. Thanks!

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