We all know how the basics of pregnancy and childbirth go in pop culture, including SFF. It’s usually an unplanned pregnancy. The pregnant character discovers the pregnancy after throwing up breakfast several days in a row, which may coincide with finding clothes tighter at the waist. As the pregnancy progresses, the character experiences turn-on-a-dime mood swings and cravings for unusual foods or food combinations.
Labor is preceded by the pregnant character going on a cleaning or decorating binge. It starts abruptly and unmistakably, usually with water breaking, and takes only a matter of hours. The character will be lying down in bed during labor and delivery, will scream a lot, and will gain unusual strength — which will be used to break the hand of any companion. If the forthcoming child’s father is present, the pregnant character will curse and berate him; regardless, any father will have freaked out at the very prospect of labor and is likely to be entirely useless.
And here’s the thing. It’s not that any of these things are wrong, that is, that they never happen. But they’re boring. Pregnancy and childbirth vary remarkably across people, and even across different pregnancies of the same person, and falling back on the same clichés over and over again is not only lazy, but likely to bore or irritate a substantial portion of readers (including me). Fortunately, it’s not very hard for SFF writers to do better.
[Simple suggestions for writers]