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Death By Childbirth

Discussion in 'World Building' started by DragonOfTheAerie, Sep 2, 2016.

  1. So, I've been thinking about my WIP, which I've been away from for several weeks, and it's brought up lots of questions, so sorry about all the threads...

    This is a quick question. Not sure if it goes in Writing Questions or Research since it has an aspect of both. Basically, I have a secondary character who is in an arranged marriage. Before she was married, she was in a secret, forbidden relationship with another guy. She continues this relationship after she has married and becomes pregnant...by the other guy, not her husband.

    She has to die in the story (long story) and up until recently I was thinking of having her die giving birth to her illegitimate child...but, now I'm starting to realize how *dumb* it sounds. I'm not sure how to word it, but it seems like...maybe poetic justice? It seems a little too appropriate. And more than a little melodramatic.

    Also, does dying in childbirth really happen that often? It's such a huge trope in fiction (I'm thinking of Padme Amidala's death and groaning) and for that reason I don't want to use it anyway. The society these characters are in is fairly advanced in medical technology, so somehow I doubt it would happen.

    So, death by childbirth, or death by something else (probably worse, knowing me) is the question. First, is it too dumb, and second, is it even realistic? Might she die of complications relating to the birth? What can go wrong? Having never given birth or researched it, I'm not quite sure how exactly childbirth kills you...I always assumed you start hemorrhaging and don't stop.
     
  2. X Equestris

    X Equestris Maester

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    Death by childbirth is very rare in nations with widespread modern medicine, from what I can recall.
     
  3. Trick

    Trick Auror

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    In modern times (in countries with modern medicine) a mother dying in childbirth is relatively rare. The child dying is much more likely but still very low chances.

    So, it is entirely dependent on the medical (or magical) level of your WIP. A common cause for a mother dying in child birth before advances in modern medicine is placenta previa. This can cause death before or during birth. In our times, a c-section and restrictions from manual labor in the later stages of pregnancy have almost eliminated this as a cause of death but it is guessed as a common cause in history. My sister-in-law had it and, because she had to have a c-section anyway, it was no big deal, relatively speaking (it was uncomfortable and even painful at times, but not life-threatening). 100 years ago, she probably would have died.

    There are many other conditions that are no longer an issue with proper monitoring and care that were deadly not all that long ago.

    So, it is not a dumb way for a pregnant female character to die, nor is it silly, if the tech/magic level makes it seem logical. It is also an intensely tragic way to lose a loved one because of the mixed feeling of gaining a baby at the expense of it's mother. I would think that this could be cliche or it could be the most intense thing you ever write, depending on how much work you put into it.
     
  4. SaltyDog

    SaltyDog Sage

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    Back a while, like Trick said, 150 years ago, the mortality rate among women giving birth was extremely high, so know, it doesn't sound dumb. Actually, it sounds like a good idea, but does the illegitimate child die? Or does it live?
     
  5. Heliotrope

    Heliotrope Staff Article Team

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    In the Middle Ages death by childbirth was around 1-4%, or around 600/100,000 births depending on the source you check. That is hardly extremely high. Most deaths were not from childbirth itself but from bacterial infections etc.

    It is a trope that is way over used in fiction and actually drives me crazy. This is just personal opinion though lol.

    I believe that the prevalence of this trope has led to our modern fear and misunderstanding of childbirth, and I wish more authors would present it in a more realistic light....

    However, nothing is more sympathetic to readers than a newborn and a dead mother, so I can see why it is so overused.

    Use it if you want to, but I think there are so many other more interesting ways to kill the mother off if you have to.
     
  6. All of you make good points.

    My concern about it being "dumb" was just as Heliotrope said--it's an extremely overused trope.

    The illegitimate child lives, as far as i know. It might not. I have no idea where the plot takes the child, but it's not an issue right now because this is quite far in the future. Since the mother is a fairly important character, I've got her demise almost set in stone.

    I was thinking of having her die not as a direct result of the birth, but from complications relating to it. Or i could kill her in a totally different way. I could either have her die soon after the baby is born, or kill her when she is near term, thus killing the child as well...
     
  7. Demesnedenoir

    Demesnedenoir Istar

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    Yes, way over used. The more realistic in an advanced society story is the mother being wounded beyond saving, but the child survives the birth... still over used, but more believable. As always, whether it works is a matter of execution, but it sure has the earmarks of a groaner for many folks.
     
  8. Devouring Wolf

    Devouring Wolf Troubadour

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    So long as there was a medical reason why she was at higher risk or something (for example if she had preeclampsia), then I would buy it, but the believability of that decreases the more advanced their technology is and I think the trope is way overused.
     
  9. TheKillerBs

    TheKillerBs Inkling

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    I think you're really underestimating those figures. Not the actual numbers themselves, but their impact. I'm more inclined to believe the 4% than the 1% considering that according to the World Health Organization's data, current maternal mortality rates are as high as 1 in 54 in countries they term "fragile states". 4% of deaths stemming from childbirth means that 1 out of every 25 deaths was due to childbirth. That means that everyone knew multiple women who died in childbirth and even more people whose lives were directly affected by them. It would really create the sense of a pervasive, ever-present danger of pregnancy. And that's assuming that the 4% just refers to women of childbearing age.
     
    Trick likes this.
  10. Most opinions are coinciding with my instincts. The civilization these characters belong to is fairly advanced in medicine (not modern day though, not even close, can't say for sure how close, but they're far beyond bloodletting and witch doctors) and the woman in question is exceptionally healthy. Also, I cringe a little at the death-by-childbirth trope. Is it me, or does it seem that the percentage of fictional mothers who die giving birth far exceeds 4%? It's dramatic and tragic, the joy of new life coinciding jarringly with the pain of excruciating loss. I understand its appeal completely.

    That said, I'm not quite sure how I'll go about killing her. Any suggestions? I'd prefer it be painful and tragic. I still feel like I should connect her death to the birth somehow...
     
  11. FifthView

    FifthView Istar

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    Given the infidelity, you could have her die by her husband's hand. Is she one of the winged people? Maybe he cuts her wings off and casts her over the edge of their floating city. Connecting it to the birth....hmmm. Maybe she gives birth as she's falling and some passerby in the sky sees this and grabs the baby, saving it. I don't know. This could turn into another brainstorming thread heh.

    But come to think of it, ^that's dying during childbirth. Just not the normal kind.
     
  12. Heliotrope

    Heliotrope Staff Article Team

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    Except for the umbilical cord... that would be tricky when falling lol.
     
  13. FifthView

    FifthView Istar

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    Yeah, a problem, but perhaps they carry daggers, heh, or something else, or the passerby happens to have something handy.

    Edit: Maybe her water breaks, she goes into labor, while her husband is yelling at her, beating her, whatever. He doesn't realize this. He has some kind of cleaver or ax, planning to cut off her wings, which he does. But they fight and she comes into possession of it, slicing him across the face—at which point he rages and shoves her off the edge. She's still clinging to the ax, which will in moments be used to cut the umbilical. Meanwhile, someone who knows her, or even some stranger, saw all this happening from a distance (beyond the city) and had already started flying toward them to intercede, but gets there too late. Too late to try and save her but when the baby comes... Heh, I don't know. I don't know how high the cities are, how much falling time there is.
     
    Last edited: Sep 3, 2016
  14. First, her husband isn't a completely horrible individual. Since one of the main purposes of the death is to send him deeper into grief and despair, he wouldn't actually kill her himself.

    They are of the winged race, yes...
     
  15. TheKillerBs

    TheKillerBs Inkling

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    Otherwise perfectly reasonable people are capable of doing horrible things in anger, and jealousy is the worst fuel for it. He could, in his rage, seriously hurt her. Giving birth could take care of the rest. Knowing that his actions are responsible for his wife's death would really mess him up, I'd imagine.
     
  16. Now I'm conflicted.

    He doesn't strike me as the type of person that would hurt someone out of anger. Not at all.

    However, I know he would be absolutely tortured by guilt if he were to hurt her.
     
  17. FifthView

    FifthView Istar

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    Maybe it's a relative or friend of his. Or a colleague. Someone who might take matters into their own hands, for whatever reason. (Type of honor killing, or perhaps there are political stakes i.e. scandal.) He could still feel guilty once discovering what happened, feel as if he was responsible, if he's mentioned infidelity to this person.
     
  18. Heliotrope

    Heliotrope Staff Article Team

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    Again though, we need to be realistic about the birthing process here.

    The typical birth, from the first contraction to the actual birth is 12-14 hours. Having gone through it twice, even though my births were very fast (5 and 2.5 hours) there is absolutely NO way she could be fighting anyone during this time. None. Zero.

    I had both my babies naturally with no medication.

    Contractions hit every 1-3 minutes and last about a minute. They are double-over-in-pain-can-barely-stand intense. She would need all of her energy to simply breath.

    Women don't simpy have their water break and then deliver a baby. In fact, in most births the water does not break until very late stages of labor.

    An honor killing would be fairly reasonable, I'd think. That sounds like the most likely. Perhaps after the child is born (or before if you want to be really gross). It might be somone who does not want the identity of the child known, and can take advantage of a woman in such a vulnerable state.
     
    Last edited: Sep 3, 2016
  19. FifthView

    FifthView Istar

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    Yeah it seemed like a stretch. There are stories of very quick births—"The entire labour and delivery took about an hour and 45 minutes."—and I have little knowledge of this in general, let alone what happens with winged humans; but even if the timeline and other details worked out, it'd be such an extreme event it probably wouldn't fit in the story. One of those Wow cool! ideas that ultimately needs to be scrapped.

    Edit: Incidentally, your comments Helio and a few other recent discussions are tempting me to start a new thread/topic titled "But it doesn't happen on Earth!" :D The limits of fantasy, the tendency to not follow "Where there's a will, there's a way" but rather to stop at "OMG I just can't do this!" But my problem lately is that my mind is ranging so wildly, I'm oscillating between those two approaches. Y'know, where the freaky thought occurs, then I slap myself, then I experience the different stages of grief...lol.
     
    Last edited: Sep 3, 2016
  20. Giving birth while falling in midair sounds pretty ridiculous.

    For those of you who have been on my The Problems with Wings thread, you'll remember that genetics are very important, and arranged marriages are the norm in the upper classes. If she was in a secret relationship with a servant class individual, this could have serious implications indeed.

    The married couple are quite young, and they don't really love each other, but he does care about her somewhat. Their relationship is very much in the public eye. They have a lot of pressure to produce children with their valuable genetics--this will win both their families more influence and power. Upper-class couples take drugs to increase fertility...it's kind of dehumanizing, really, the way the upper class families basically breed their children.

    Several facts may shed light on the subject. First, if the affair made it into the public eye, all hell would break loose. Both would probably be utterly disgraced, but especially her.

    Second, despite all the pressure to procreate, it's quite possible they have never had sex, or at least no longer do. As I said they were forced into the marriage at a young age and neither is anything short of terrified of the idea of intimacy. She especially dreads their wedding night, but he finds the idea of forcing himself upon her very distasteful and they don't. Maybe realism demands that eventually they would get over it, but at any rate, they spend as little time together as possible outside of the public eye and probably don't sleep together.

    I'm not sure if he knows about the affair; it's possible he just tolerates it to avoid the horrific scandal that surely would ensue.

    It would be quite impossible for the husband to pass off the illegitimate child as his, as there are significant genetic differences between the classes. If they weren't immediately apparent in the infant, they would be unmistakable once the child is grown.

    It's entirely possible that she, knowing that her husband will find out she is pregnant and immediately know she has been with someone else, tries to abort the baby, and accidentally kills or seriously harms herself in the attempt. It's also possible that her family (or his) finds out and tries to kill the servant that impregnates her...she, trying to save him, ends up on the receiving end of their attack and gets herself killed.

    This is getting complicated...I wanted the child to live.

    Maybe the secrets not out until the child is born, and looks nothing like his supposed father...
     
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