What to Expect When You’re Expecting: A Guide for Fictional Victorians -The Toast

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Birthcontrol2Katja Jylkka’s previous work for The Toast can be found here.

So you’re thinking about – or perhaps already planning on! – welcoming a new life into the world, but you’re not sure how a baby will fit into your novel. Well, dear reader, wonder no more.

1. Babies are an adorable and efficient way to make sure your relationship with your husband is running as smoothly as possible. Telling him you’re pregnant or taking your delicately conditioned self on a reckless horseback ride across the countryside will put an end to those late nights at the office and assure that he’ll stay by your side. At least for the next nine months, anyway.

2. If anything else, the baby will give you something to do – who knows! Maybe your pregnancy will mess with somebody’s inheritance schemes and you’ll get all sorts of chapters that, let’s be honest, you never would have gotten otherwise.

3. Remember, it may be a baby. It may also be brain fever.

4. Never use the word “pregnant” to refer to your present state. You shouldn’t even say you are “with child.” If anything at all, say that you “will soon be a mother” or that a baby will “soon arrive,” as if it’s a houseguest. Having others talk about your being “in an interesting condition” is also acceptable. Best yet, use unconventional metaphors to tell your spouse the happy news, like “there is a ship on the ocean bringing us a little baby.”

5. Presumably, your body will change during your pregnancy. This will be neither apparent to the reader nor discussed by your fellow characters.

6. You won’t be able to tell the sex of your baby until fairly late in your pregnancy. Typically, not until you’ve given birth and your husband has left you for someone who can actually produce a son.

7. Just as in announcing your “delicate condition,” the narrator will most likely discuss the duration of your pregnancy in equally abstract and weirdly poetic fashion. You can expect off-hand references to the earth moving around the sun, the seasons changing, tides turning, or “after an interval of time.”

8. In fact, it’s really best if your pregnancy isn’t depicted at all. Prepare for much of your pregnancy to occur in the gap between chapters and for the baby to suddenly appear at the beginning of the next section, only to be whisked off by a wet nurse a sentence or so later.

9. Babies are always your fault.

10. Problems during your pregnancy or with the delivery of the child won’t haunt you afterward (unless you die), as it will thereafter be summarized merely as a “somewhat alarming birth.”

11. It isn’t your fault if you miscarry. It’s just so strange, considering your husband’s family always produces such strong, healthy babies. Strange…

12. Having a baby will make you happy. Until it doesn’t.

Katja Jylkka and her cold New England heart are currently living in California. She is a PhD student who writes about food, animals, and trolls, much to the dismay of her professors. You can read more of her writing here or here.

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