I love love love love love love love that this fic is predicated on a misunderstanding. Rodney doesn't want children and he see Elizabeth doing all the things he assumes happily pregnant women do: glow and nest and buy or make clothes for their burgeoning children, and all the while she is quietly as unnerved and upset as he is.
I love kidfic. I will admit it. Unabashedly. I think when it's done well, it can be a really neat way to explore the parents' characterization; most kids in fanfic tend to be an interesting blend of characteristics from both parents and particularly if parentage is a mystery, that's super fun for me to read. I also like kidfic because I enjoy reading about couples dealing with the often overwhelming and negative ways that being a mom or dad changes one's life.
But one trope I abhor is the Magical Pregnancy. The notion of a baby as the panacea that fixes relationships or, hell, even the universe (*points the finger at Farscape and then retracts said finger because, dude! Farscape. *loves*) is spectacularly annoying to me. I hate it in film or TV or books when women give birth and you'd think that unicorns and fairy dust were expelled from their wombs as well. I'm not saying that I don't believe that women can be happy as mothers or that motherhood can't be a fulfilling role. But when I think about movies like "Waitress," which rocked, ROCKED, for me right up until the woman who had been ambivalent, even hostile, about her pregnancy looked into her baby's face and was instantly so besotted that all her misgivings of the previous nine months disappeared. And let's not even get me started on "Knocked Up," a movie whose gender politics are so freaking confused I don't think *it* even knows what it's trying to say.
So it is very, very nice to read a piece that treats pregnancy and parenthood in what I feel is a very realistic way and one that is rarely portrayed.
I suppose I must add a caveat here and say that I am a mother. I had a high risk, terribly dangerous and physically exhausting pregnancy. I had severe post-partum depression for roughly a year following my daughter's birth and milder depression for several years after. I still struggle with defining myself as a mother. Although I love my daughter very much and every day she grows older I feel more comfortable as a parent, I still struggle very strongly with selfishness. Parenthood is very much about selflessness and sacrifice and I sometimes regret giving up my autonomy to be Emma's mother. I don't think that women who are not mothers can be aware of the subtle social pressure that exists to be a Good Mother. This pressure comes from strangers as well as friends and family and when you feel that you are Failing As a Mother, that failure seems very public and obvious to those around you and therefore a source of shame. I talked with few people about my post-partum depression because most of the women I knew wouldn't admit to feeling even a little bit overwhelmed at times as a mom, much less depressed. And even now, I feel this strong compulsion to explain to you guys that I do love my child very much and I don't abuse her and that I think she is made of awesome.
So yes, that has gone on for long enough. Sorry.
Edited at 2008-10-18 12:44 am (UTC)
To bring my ramblings back to the story at hand, my heart aches for this Elizabeth who is doing all the things that she feels she should, in the hopes that her actions will actually impact her feelings. She must be so lonely here.
There is really very little to timestamp the fic and so I'm imagining this is taking place in an AU world where Teyla is playing with Torren and maybe some of the other expedition members have children as well and I can hear Elizabeth's inner monologue as she contemplates confessing her dismay over being pregant to the woman whose team DEFEATED THE SPACE TIME CONTINUUM so her baby might live. Sheesh.
The one thing I wish is that this was longer and had more details that clearly identified time and place. There's really nothing here that indicates that they're still on Atlantis even.
Also, I generally like fics that feature non-canonical pairings to offer more in the vein of ship set up, but that lack doesn't bother me so much here because the narrative focus is elsewhere.
That line did lead me to believe we were dealing with some kind of apocalyptic AU situation; while it's clear to me that they are surprised by having the child and don't really want to be, it wasn't as clear that they are doing so in order to repopulate. I took Rodney's comment as a kind of a flippants, "Well at least there's this positive side effect of Elizabeth's faulty birth control," rather than "Our new colony will not survive unless we start making babies and so Elizabeth decreed a fertility law and we are now leading by example." (OMG do i want to see this apoca-society now! LOL)
But I don't think that really matters. Like I said before, as the focus is elsewhere, the set-up isn't as important.
Oh, I loved the sucker-punch at the end -- both Elizabeth's admission, and then the extra whammy of the last line! I admit to being a bit of a pushover for stories that take a common romantic trope and then do something different with it. Despite how flawed the characters are depicted in canon, I think it's often difficult for people to acknowledge that they may be less than heroic in fanfic -- it's rare to see the characters mess up badly in fanfic, unless it's as a prelude to a redemption. And yet, I can totally see both of these characters screwing up in this very human way: bearing a child (or more than one, who knows) that neither of them wants, then having to deal with that.
On a broader level, I think it's pretty rare for fiction to acknowledge that a lot of people just don't like kids, and aren't going to fall over into insta-love when they see one. (I don't really have insider knowledge of this, though, since I don't have kids -- I know how I relate to other people's children, but have no idea what it's like to relate to one that's your own.) But in real life, there are an awful lot of people who don't like their kids, and a lot more who probably don't but are able to put up a good front anyway. It was nice to see that addressed here.
*pretty much just nods along with everything you've said here*
I like this story intellectually, for all the reasons already mentioned. It's a clever twist on the cliche, it uses Rodney's obliviousness perfectly, it turns what's often an overly romantic premise into something more real -- both happy and scary, as it should be. I can and do admire all of those aspects.
That said, the story doesn't ring true emotionally for me, which isn't really a valid critique in this context. And the only way I could explain my reaction would be to justify it with my internalised Rodney (and to a lesser extent Elizabeth), which is totally not the point!
I only bring it up because my emotional "Yes... but that's not how it would go," hinders me from giving better and more interesting commentary. After considering it for a while, I thought you might be interested to know why I wasn't commenting, rather than just letting silence speak for itself.
Okay, well I think Rodney protests too much about hating kids. All the evidence shows that he doesn't get close to people easily, and a lot of his bluster is clearly a defence mechanism; but once he does get close he's kind of smitten and loyal, and also vulnerable to them. He visits his friends in the infirmary despite his hypochondria, holds Torren, loves his sister enough to give up his life, etc. etc. Kids glomp onto him immediately, and that's because at least 90% of his bluster is just bark with no bite, and the remaining 10% is a deep but real fear that he'd be terrible with kids and scar them.
So I think he'd *say* "OMG, I don't want a kid," and fall in love with his own with a terrible intensity. That said, he'd be a pretty terrible father a lot of the time, because he'd get distracted, but he'd genuinely love them to bits.
And I think if he were having a kid, no matter how unplanned, with someone he loved, it wouldn't take him that long to be reconciled to it in his secret heart.
That's not the Rodney you've written, and I find your Rodney plausible enough that I can admire the story, and even see it as reasonable and in character. But it's not my Rodney, if you see what I mean. And that means the story reads as an interesting intellectual exercise, but that I'm not at all invested.
I wonder if my reading will change once I've finished my own Rodney-as-a-dad fic. Perhaps I'm especially invested in the Rodney I've outlined right now.
Oh, I agree that planned and happy childlessness, and celibacy too, are under-represented in fiction. I find both of those options interesting to write, and they are often part of the personal backstory I have for characters (like Elizabeth) even if they are not foregrounded in my stories.
It just happens that Rodney is the one character on SGA who I actually think really does want kids and that his biological clock has started ticking really loudly -- that's a big driving force in him dating Katie and Jennifer, imo. Part of that is down to Teyla, making it look so easy; Rodney's taken the lesson to heart. The only other person I think might be a contender soon is Ronon -- I think his clock is starting to tick now that he's safe.
I don't think Jennifer wants kids yet. She's too young and invested in her career. Rodney had a better chance with Katie in that regard.
Anyway, it's pretty clear from this conversation that we're interested in taking Rodney in different directions at the moment.
I think you're right, which amuses me no end. I would never have imagined I'd end up thinking about Rodney in this context, as I've never wanted to write kidfic in any of my other fandoms. Abortion fic and celibacy fic, yep, but kidfic, nu-uh. But it's definitely one of the ideas my mind is consistently turning over at the moment.
I wonder if it's the fannish hivemind in action.
As for Elizabeth, I totally buy that she'd not want kids. This is a choice she's clearly already made -- she chose her career. But also, she's at the age where I almost don't buy the trouble-free pregnancy and her glowing. I think conception would be hard, as fertility goes right down in the late 30s. I buy it could be an accident. But I think she'd have a hard pregnancy -- she'd too thin, too old, and htere's all the worries about Downs Syndrome (odds go right up for her age group) and so on. Also, she may have a secondary reason for having chosen career over kids, either a history of problems in her family, or something personal.
And given her key role in Atlantis, her age, and that she doesn't want kids, I'm not convinced that she'd go ahead with the pregnancy. Maybe if repopulating the human race was really important. But I think she'd be just as likely to donate eggs and let someone else carry the child, expanding the gene pool that way, but not risking her own health in the process. But without more background on the situation you were envisioning, this is a much more tentative thing. Still, my gut says she'd have an abortion.
To clarify -- By "risking her own health," I don't mean that it would be a selfish choice on her part, but a tactical one -- she's too important to risk, and childbirth is risky. If she didn't abort, I'd also think she'd consider adoption before being the parent herself, especially with Rodney as a partner. I think parenting would be her very last choice, and she'd only do it if her sense of duty demanded it.
I think you made the right choice about the length. I mean, a longer story probably could have convinced me emotionally, but the charm in this piece is in the reversal at the end, and the parallel experience it reveals. A longer story couldn't easily have an analogous moment without a lot of other baggage in the way.
It's not the non-canon pairing that's the issue for me (although as an aside, I do think it makes Rodney a less likeable person, as you've written him here. It's like all his edges that come from ambition and narcissism are honed with Elizabeth as his partner. Kind of fascinating -- I love the hints you've given on this front). I mean, I ship McShep, so canon shmanon, I say. :)
But now that you bring it up, I think I *would* buy this more easily if it were Jennifer. She has the same drive as Elizabeth, and is obviously in love with her career, but she's younger and probably hasn't made a final choice about whether she wants a family yet. So I can see her ending up in this situation, and having that reaction. I think she'd make a better mother than Elizabeth though, and would probably smooth out some of Rodney's edges (or bring out others).
Thanks for such a thinky chat. I've really enjoyed poking at the characters from all these different directions.
You guys have been having a fascinating conversation. :)
Usually, I enjoy more of a set up for non-canonical pairings in fic. One of the things I enjoy most is that "how did we get here" road that those first time fics must travel. But I find that the longer I'm in fandom, the less I seem to *need* that kind of set up. I still enjoy it, but I don't NEED it the way I did when I was a newbie. I would often just click right out of established relationship fic because I couldn't wrap my brain around how they got together in the first place. But the longer I'm in fandom, I'm much more able to accept at face value that Teyla and Chuck are dating, or Lorne and Cadman. I wonder if that's a product of Natural Fannish Growth or just a Me Thing.
One last thing! :)
I find it odd that my own take on the characters matters so much when reading this story, but I think it's because your scenario has that realistic twist at the end -- it makes me consider "what would be realistic in this situation?" And that's where my answer differs from yours, because my default reading of the characters is so different from the version you offer here, so of course I end up with a different answer.