"Once on a time there was a king and a queen who had no children, and that gave the queen much grief; she scarce had one happy hour. She was always bewailing and bemoaning herself, and saying how dull and lonesome it was in the palace. 'If we had children there'd be life enough', she said."
The fertility of a couple is inversely proportional to their desire to have a child.
Couples who want to have children will have trouble not only conceiving, but adopting and using surrogates as well. Women who don't want to have children, however, will be faced with unwanted pregnancies even if they used birth control. Particularly if the conception was forced upon them. Teenagers, of course, will get pregnant their first time, double points if they thought they couldn't. The reason for this, of course, is obvious: "woman becomes pregnant with longed-for child immediately" and "woman doesn't want to get pregnant and doesn't" don't make for very good stories. At least the woman with a baby she doesn't want can give it up to the woman who is desperate to conceive, but expect much angst along the way.
In many cases the stress of trying to have a baby will suppress fertility, and, once the couple decides to adopt or give up, the stress disappears, and: hooplah! They have a baby! Sometimes it's after they went through the hassle of adopting, as if Mother Nature felt humorous one day.
Conversely, if an unexpectedly expectant woman starts to warm up to the idea of having a child, her chances of a Convenient Miscarriage double. Or it'll turn out that she was never pregnant in the first place. This particular trick is common on shows where Status Quo Is God, and having a baby would spoil everything; whether the former or latter version is used depends on how much drama the writers wish to evoke.
If, against the odds, a couple who genuinely wants a baby manages to get pregnant without complications, don't expect the father to live to see it.
This is very old, involuntary infertility being found in the opening of a number of Fairy Tales, before the birth of the main character, and just about required for the Wonder Child. Note that this law gets revoked during the Dénouement for Babies Ever After. The page's image misses out if you've just been raped, which is about 200% (that's right; if you were raped you'll probably have twins).
Compare Law of Inverse Paternity
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Berserk: Being career mercenaries, parenthood was probably the last thing on Guts and Casca's minds when they finally consummated their relationship. And it only took their first time to get knocked up. Alas, things do not end well for them or their child.
The Dragon Ball franchise has an uneven history with this trope. Trunks was apparently the result of a one-night stand between Bulma and Vegeta. And given the amount of time Goku spends either dead, traveling through space, training in the wilderness, or bedridden with a killer virus between and during the Freeza and Android / Cell sagas, it's amazing that he and Chichi ever found time to conceive Goten.
Word of God is that Goten was conceived in the ten day span between the virus and Goku's second death. Though whether this was planned or not is never stated. It was probably just an off-screen Pre-Climax Climax.
Fullmetal Alchemist- Izumi and Sig tried desperately to have a child, and when Izumi finally became pregnant the child was stillborn. She was then convinced that she killed her child a second time when she attempted to transmute the child to life, though thankfully this was eventually shown to not be the case. For this, her "divine punishment" from the Truth was to lose her uterus along with a few other organs, effectively making her infertile there on out.
In the Child BalladTam Lin, Fair Janet becomes pregnant after her first meeting with Tam Lin. Which raises the spectre of an Arranged Marriage to ensure that the baby is born in wedlock, and has her resorting to some desperate measures to ensure the right father marries her.
Out then spak her father dear, And he spak meek and mild; "And ever alas, sweet Janet," he says, "I think thou gaes wi child."
In the Green Arrow miniseries The Longbow Hunters, Ollie tells Dinah he'd like to get married and have children. She says no, because their lives are too dangerous. A few years later she changes her mind...at which point they're informed that due to damage she sustained during Longbow Hunters, she's not physically capable of having kids anymore.
In the Salvation arc of Preacher, Toby and never-seen girlfriend Turleen aren't even thinking of having a baby (or much else, for that matter) when he tells Jodie that he thought she was pregnant because she'd missed her period. They're not worried, because it happened once before, last month. God, these two are such idiots.
In Runaways, Victor learns that his mother wanted a child but was infertile and unable to adopt because of her past as a drug mule. She was so desperate that she ended up letting Ultron build Victor as a half robot/half human with her supplying the human genetic material.
Spider-Man's Aunt May had a miscarriage that left her barren. She and Uncle Ben were more than happy to adopt Peter when his parents died, and at least one story mentioned that Ben and May are his godparents, so Child services automatically place him with them.
Ma and Pa Kent wanted a child, but weren't able to have one before baby Kal-El landed in their backyard. Some stories try to explain this, like Superman & Batman: Generations which shows that Martha took a stray bullet to the abdomen when a criminal tried to gun down Jonah Hexx.
In Y: The Last Man, the (literal) last man on Earth manages to have sex exactly twice (in one night, with the same woman) in the years directly following the plague that killed all the other men. Nine months later, guess who's the last father on Earth?
A long time ago there were a King and Queen who said every day, "Ah, if only we had a child!" but they never had one. But it happened that once when the Queen was bathing, a frog crept out of the water on to the land, and said to her, "Your wish shall be fulfilled; before a year has gone by, you shall have a daughter."
In "Tatterhood", the queen is so eager to have a child, she neglects to follow the magical directions to get them.
Micaiah and Sothe tried to have a baby in The Tainted Grimoire. However, Vaticus arranged for Micaiah to be poisoned resulting in a miscarriage and Micaiah becoming infertile.
The Harry Potter fanfic Burning Down the House has this happen to Ron and Hermione. To add insult to injury, Harry and Ginny have sex without a condom once and Ginny gets pregnant.
In Touhou MAMA, infertility (assuming she's attempted to have children) is suggested to be the possible source of the 'howling grief of something unresolved' that Ran described Yukari as having and that would explain why it is she gravitated towards Reimu in Mine and her unwillingness to let her go, though it is unknown if she is infertile or not.
In a recent fanfic, Yukari's supposed in infertility is discussed in The Child She Couldn't Have but, however, it is a tad unclear and it seems only Yukari knows.
In chapter II, where it tells it from Yukari's perspective, she states she is and her chances of having children are zero.
On the other hand, in chapter five of Gensokyo 20XXI, Ran persues a romance with a male kitsune and a few chapters later, in chapter 8, after having been thinking she was getting fat (depsite her age and knowledge as a kitsune, she is quite inexperienced, likely due to being servile), she discovers she was indeed pregnant.
Used both ways in Myths And Birthrights. Fleur desperately wants to be a mother, only to discover she's infertile. Meanwhile, Rainbow Dash, who wants to pursue her racing career, gets magically pregnant against her wishes.
A Death Note fanfic Mama plays it totally straight both ways, to disastrous effects. Karol a maid tries over and over to have a baby but either doesn't conceive or ends up miscarrying soon after if she does. Her employer Adele is pregnant but it's implied that she doesn't really want the baby (it's also implied that the baby is the product of an extramarital affair). Karol eventually snaps, breaks in and shoots Adele and her husband in their home and kidnaps the baby soon after he's born. The baby would grow up to be L.
In the Axis Powers Hetalia fanfic Tizenot, Hungary's shown to really want a baby with Austria. A miscarriage however shatters both of them.
In the Teen Titans fic Timing is Everything, played for both couples and causes quite a bit of tension. On the one hand, Robin and Starfire have trouble conceiving - turns out they are genetically compatible despite being different species, but human sperm are too weak for her reproductive system. First, there is an argument about using IVF, then an attempt fails. Raven, on the other hand, has a But I Can't Be Pregnant! moment - she's only supposed to be capable of having children with someone who has demon blood. However, she's dating Beast Boy, and apparently his shapeshifting abilities extend to his sperm enough to fool Raven's reproductive system. Then Beast Boy recommends that Starfire sits in the T-Car next time she's implanted, since that's where Raven got pregnant. Apparently, it works.
Seen in Of Lilies and Chestnuts. Fleur De Lis had to put her dreams of having an adorable little filly of her own on hold for years due to her modeling career, and once she's finally settled down with Fancy Pants and secure in her upper-class social standing, she naturally finds out she can't conceive a child. After Fancy Pants comforts her through a few days of depression, they look to adopt a child, which results in an excitable teenage bat pony crashing into their lives.
Baby Mama. Though it should be noted that the main character is over 35.
In Beetlejuice the one cloud in Adam and Barbara's blissed-out life is their inability to have a child - but by movie's end, they've become sort-of surrogate parents to Lydia.
Part of Bethany's backstory in Dogma is that her husband left her when he found out that she couldn't have kids. (Information in the script reveals that her sterility came from an earlier abortion that her husband didn't want her to have.) The movie ends with her pregnant, apparently from a supernatural conception a la the Virgin Mary.
Cthulhu (2007). The father of the protagonist wants his gay son to start a family; naturally he refuses and snidely suggests pressuring his sister instead. She immediately storms off crying as she's been unable to have children. It turns out the father has his own dark reasons for continuing their line, and later arranges for the protagonist to be drugged and raped by a woman to ensure this happens.
The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, Queenie wants a child but can't have one. The only child she raises is Benjamin, who loves her and later says that Queenie is born to be a mother.
In Diary of a Mad Black Woman, Helen wanted to have children with Charles, but had two miscarriages. Meanwhile, he had two unplanned children with his mistress.
In Hannah And Her Sisters, Mickey is told he is infertile. He and his wife Hannah have twins via in-vitro fertilization and a sperm donation from a family friend. Years later, Mickey marries Holly and she surprises him at Thanksgiving by telling him that she's pregnant.
The introduction to Idiocracy features a highly intelligent couple who want to have a baby but keep putting it off for various reasons (not ready; not settled; husband's infertile; husband's dead; husband's frozen sperm melted in an accident...) while dumb white trash Clevon having a continually growing family tree. Particularly funny when Clevon gets into a crotch-related accident, but still has a dozen more kids after that.
Handled with wonderful subtlety in the film Julie And Julia. At one point near the beginning, Julia gives a woman passing by with a stroller a longing look; later in the film, she gets a letter informing her that her sister is pregnant, and while she tries to express joy she can't help bursting into tears instead. That's all we get on the matter.
In the dark comedy Kingdom Come, Luanne's angst comes from her inability to have children. She had multiple miscarriages, her latest one lost in an empty fried chicken bucket (she was ordered on bed rest and was using it as a makeshift bedpan while her husband Ray went to the drug store to buy a real one; a KFC bucket becomes a trigger for her). She and Ray stopped trying after that. Towards the end of the movie, she discovers that she's pregnant again, and the "Where Are They Now?" Epilogue over the end credits show her and Ray with a baby girl.
The premise of Knocked Up, where Allison gets pregnant after a one-night-stand with Ben and the film explores their relationship through the following nine months.
Justifed as a example of Truth in Television due to the fact that diaphragms are not as reliable as other methods of birth control.
In Match Point, Villain Protagonist Chris Wilton has trouble conceiving with his wife, but knocks up his mistress pretty much immediately, the irony of which he notes ruefully. After killing the mistress to keep things quiet, his wife finally gets pregnant.
Dr. Elizabeth Shaw from Prometheus is unable to conceive a child, and late one night gets freaky with her husband after he has been unknowingly infected with an alien mutagen. She ends up conceiving, but the child... well, cross Starfish Alien with Enfant Terrible and you've got a start.
Raising Arizona uses this as the crux of its plot, where a married couple can neither conceive (because the wife is infertile) nor adopt (because the husband has a shaky, criminal history), so instead they opt to kidnap one of the recently-born Arizona quintuplets, since the father was quoted in the media as saying they had more children than they could handle.
This particularly fits the trope because the wife is absolutely desperate to have a child. When she finds out she can't, she's so depressed she quits the police force.
Claudia desperately wants a child in Snow White: A Tale of Terror, but she only carries to term/gets pregnant (the film doesn't specify which) the one time in nine years. The baby doesn't live.
Secrets & Lies: Cynthia had two unplanned pregnancies, while Maurice and Monica tried to have kids for 15 years with no success.
What to Expect When You're Expecting: After deciding to take a break from baby-making one of the couples conceives during a drunken romp in the bushes. Keep in mind that she was drinking because they had decided to take a break and therefore she no longer needed to abstain from alcohol.
Surprisingly averted with another couple who has struggled with infertility for years and finally decided to adopt. At no time does she finally conceive naturally.
Aunt Sissy in A Tree Grows in Brooklyn wants a child more than anything, but all her pregnancies result in stillbirth. She finally fakes a pregnancy and adopts the child of an unwed Italian girl, and about a year later becomes pregnant and has a healthy baby boy.
A Soldier of the Great War references this trope. A young boy is talking to the protagonist about various fertility superstitions he's heard about. Alessandro tells him that the real rule is "Once if you're not married; a thousand times if you are."
Sonea in The Black Magician Trilogy falls under this trope from the virgin side of things. And manages to get pregnant while in the very stressful situation of travelling into exile into a hostile land filled with ruthless stronger magicians, who are hunting them (her and the teacher) as a prelude to the invasion the country they've just been exiled from. High stress isn't usually conducive to fertility.
A major part of Gordie's character in "The Body" (the Stephen King novella that later became the film Stand by Me): his late brother Denny was born after a series of miscarriages and stillbirths and regarded as a gift from God, while he came along ten years later, when his parents didn't want another child.
Played with in Ciem: Vigilante Centipede in a few parts, but played totally straight most of the time. Candi seduces Donte twice in the hopes of them having a baby. And nothing happens either time. After Donte's (fake) death, Candi meets Denny. They try to restrain themselves at first, but eventually succumb. They have sex numerous times without incident. Then, after tricking Gunner in a fight to kill himself by falling on his own knife, Candi has sex with Denny again. And this time, gets pregnant. By that point, she wanted a child, but was not amused with the timing. After Denny is Killed Off for Real, she rescues Donte and reconciles with him. Several times they try to get pregnant, with no success. It's when Candi no longer cares that she actually ends up conceiving Frank.
Miriam never aimed to get pregnant at all. But in a subversion, took a few hundred bouts of unprotected sex (she never once used protection with any of her seven partners in her lifetime) before conceiving Steve's child.
Marina never really thought through the consequences either; just acted on a mad impulse. Still, it took her first time with guy #17 before she got pregnant.
Happens to Detritus and Ruby as their relationship is developed through the Discworld series. Vimes noted that their marriage was happy but childless. They do however adopt Brick later in Thud.
In Codex Alera, Amara fears that she is infertile because she was 'blighted' (A potentially lethal disease that renders the majority of its female survivors infertile) in her youth. Bernard, her husband, points out that not every blighted woman is infertile, so they resolve to keep trying until they get the child they desperately want (Repeatedly, and with much enthusiasm). After years of (Very enjoyable) efforts, Amara finally resolves herself to never being a biological mother and instead focuses on caring for the orphaned children whose parents were killed in the recent fighting. Almost as soon as she accepts this, she is cured of her infertility and gets pregnant.
In Katherine Kerr's Deverry Cycle, the Maelwaedd clan has something of a succession crisis looming. Rhys is the ruler and needs an heir. He's been married for years and his wife hasn't given him any children at all. His brother Rhodry isn't so burdened, has a way with the ladies and accidentally gets a servant girl pregnant. Rhys, meanwhile, is forced by politics to cast off his wife for one who isn't barren and his cast-off wife is given to a widower with so many children, he needs a wife to mother them but doesn't need any more heirs. Within a year, Rhys's cast-off wife is pregnant and giving birth causing everyone realises the infertile one is actually Rhys (nobles start whiling away their time by placing bets as to whether his second wife will ever get pregnant). Rhys tries to solve this problem by adopting Rhodry's illegitimate child as his legal heir, but he dies before he can go beyond considering it as a hypothetical solution.
In Gone, Diana becomes pregnant quite quickly once her and Caine get down to it, even though not long before that she was very badly starved, which should have had some kind of effect of her fertility/menstrual cycles (it should have stopped them.)
In Gone with the Wind, he one time Scarlett is genuinely happy to be pregnant, she miscarries.
Justified in The Last Herald-Mage trilogy, during the Heir Club for Men B-plot. Shavri gets pregnant by Vanyel on the first try, but as a Healer she can make darn sure everything goes together right at an egg-and-sperm level on the first try.
In The Mists of Avalon, Gwenhwyfar desperately wants to bear Arthur's child, but instead has miscarriage after miscarriage to the point where Arthur tells her to sleep with Lancelet in the hopes that he might be able to get her pregnant. Morgaine, on the other hand, got pregnant with Gwydion (Mordred) the first time she ever had sex.
Similarly, The Once and Future King has Guenever badly wanting a baby to no avail. Both her lovers father children by other women, which she finds especially aggravating in the case of Lancelot and Elaine.
The heroine of Francine Rivers’ Redeeming Love is revealed to have been surgically sterilized as a teenager right after her unwitting husband announces he is looking forward to having children almost more than anything else. This trope then gets jerked around a lot, as Angel pulls an I Want My Beloved to Be Happy and leaves Michael, hoping he’ll marry someone who can defy this trope, and then eventually comes back and in the "Where Are They Now?" Epilogue is revealed to have had four children with Michael despite having been barren.
In The Secret of Platform 13,Mrs. Trottle tries for a long time to have a child, and after finding out there's a waiting list for adoptions (don't these people know who she is!) she winds up stealing a baby (the prince of a magic island, though she doesn't know that) to pass off as her own. She finds out she's pregnant soon after the kidnapping and passes the baby off on her servant to raise, causing confusion when the prince's subjects come to rescue him.
Naomi Novik's Temeraire series, particularly Victory of Eagles, also references this trope. Despite every other male dragon being able to easily sire eggs with female dragons, even those of other breeds, the titular character, Temeraire, notices that despite mating with many dragonesses, and the British government's high hopes he will sire offspring with the "divine wind", he seems infertile.
In Throne of Jade, it is also noted that Celestials, like Temeraire, are so closely related that they do not mate with one another; instead, they mate with Imperial dragons to produce Celestial eggs. Occasionally, the mating of two Imperials also results in a Celestial. Because of this interbreeding, Celestials are very similar in appearance to Imperials and share many common traits. It is not known whether Celestial/Imperial matings may produce Imperials, or even if Celestial/other breed matings may produce hybrid breeds, or are even viable in terms of fertility.
In Twilight, Rosalie and Esme can't ever have kids and yet they really, really want them. Bella, who wasn't trying to have kids and in fact wasn't even thinking about them, gets pregnant the very first time she and Edward have sex, despite being explicitly incapable of it. Justified if (as they imply) a vampire can't get pregnant but a vampire can get someone pregnant.
Averted entirely in Lois McMaster Bujold's novel Barrayar. Cordelia, who's actually trying to have a baby with her husband, gets pregnant first go, while her friend Drou, in the midst of a pregnancy scare after an ill-judged encounter, is not. And then the real plot starts. Growing up, Miles is uncomfortably aware that his parents had chosen not to, to protect their "mutie" son from being shunted aside.
Now, family size; that was the real, secret, wicked fascination of Barrayar. There were no legal limits here, no certificates to be earned, no third-child variances to be scrimped for; no rules, in fact, at all. She'd seen a woman on the street with not three but four children in tow, and no one had even stared. Cordelia had upped her own imagined brood from two to three, and felt deliciously sinful, till she'd met a woman with ten. Four, maybe? Six?
Worldwar: Upsetting the Balance: Sam Yeager and his new bride, Barbara, have sex without protection exactly once; on their wedding night. The once was all it took.
Federico García Lorca's Yerma is mainly about this topic: a woman who wants a child but can't get pregnant no matter what.
In Zel, a Twice Told Tale of "Rapunzel", we get to learn about the witch's backstory and it turns out that she was a barren woman who desperately wanted a child of her own and turned her back on God to make a Deal with the Devil after she came to the conclusion that a truly good God wouldn't have inflicted an infertile woman with such an unbearable desire to have children. This is also what eventually drives her to lock up Zel in a tower when she fears that Zel's budding love for a boy might cause her to leave her one day.
Angel and Buffy the Vampire Slayer: It's established that vampires cannot have kids. When Angel and Darla—both vampires—have sex, however, she winds up pregnant, with some kind of magic preventing her from aborting. Weirder still, the child turns out to be at least Ambiguously Human. It's eventually revealed that Jasmine, one of the Powers That Be, arranged this to happen as part of her master plan.
Both sides are featured in Boardwalk Empire. On the one hand, Rose Van Alden, who wants a child more than anything in the world and practically considers sex a chore to get that, can't conceive. Her husband Nelson is not so thrilled about having children himself but knocks up Lucy during his first and only one night stand. Meanwhile, Lucy had suggested to stop using birth control in order to secure Nucky for herself, but only gets pregnant after he has abandoned her.
Brothers and Sisters: Given the fecundity of their parents, the Walker kids seem to have an unusual amount of fertility problems. Sarah being the sole exception.
Tommy and his wife Julia try to have a baby, but it ultimately turns out that Tommy is sterile. Julia eventually conceives using sperm donated by Kevin and Justin. But of the twins she gives birth to, one dies and the other nearly does as well.
Kitty is likewise unable to conceive with Robert, even after undergoing fertility treatments. They end up adopting a baby boy. After Robert's death, and despite having undergone treatment for Non-Hodgkins Lymphoma, Kitty later becomes pregnant by her much younger boyfriend Seth. The ultimate fate of this pregnancy is unknown, as the series was Cut Short.
Kevin and Scotty hire a friend to be a surrogate. They start running into problems like having difficulty with conception and eventual miscarriage. They then give up on that idea and adopt a 9-year-old girl, who they were happy with. Later it turns their surrogate was lying about the miscarriage and took the baby for herself. So they got the baby back, but then their adopted daughter's homophobic brother who abandoned her wants to take her away from them. He fails.
While never directly stated onscreen, evidence suggests that Justin may also be sterile or have defective sperm. Despite years of casual, often drug and alcohol influenced, sex with many women he has seemingly never fathered any children. The fact that Tommy and Julia's daughter Elizabeth is confirmed to be Kevin's biological child seems to support this. Justin later fathers a child on Rebecca, but she miscarries.
On Charmed, after a year of marriage, Piper and Leo admit that they've been trying to have a baby for a while but have been unsuccessful. Piper eventually finds out that all the demon-hunting and "sharp blows to the abdomen" have made it "difficult if not impossible" for her to get pregnant. Meanwhile her sister Phoebe, who has been married for a month to the Source of All Evil but doesn't want children does get pregnant. She at first doesn't tell Piper about her pregnancy because she knows it will hurt her; when Piper does find out she says this is ridiculous and that she would love to be an aunt if she can't be a mother. Subverted in the end when Phoebe's fetus is taken from her ( It Makes Sense in Context )and Piper finds out she has gotten pregnant.
Provides the motivation for murder in the Cold Case episode "Family".
Coupling: in the season finale Susan is desperate to conceive but is told the chances are low, while Sally has a pregnancy scare when she doesn't want a baby - subverted as Susan finds out at the last minute that she's pregnant, and Sally isn't (Jane was also involved in the test mixup and she was not pregnant).
On Desperate Housewives, Gabrielle took a tumble down the stairs a few minutes after she accepted her pregnancy. When she later decided she wanted to try to have a baby, "complications" from the fall made her unable to do it the old-fashioned way. She and Carlos attempted to adopt a baby but were thwarted when an employee of the agency blabbed Gabrielle's history of statutory rape and Carlos' slave labor charges. They managed to adopt a child through the services of a private adoption lawyer but the biological mother had a change of heart and took the child back. Finally, they used a surrogate, and nine months later discovered there had been an embryo mix-up and the baby belonged to someone else.
In Season 5 we find out Gabby had two miracle pregnancies...right after her husband went blind and they lost all their money.
Lynette gets pregnant at the end of Season 5, despite having just undergone a chemo and being, judging by the age of her older children, well in her forties. Well, at least it gave occasion to one of the best lines of the season "Are you sure it's not cancer?"
In an episode of Dharma and Greg, Dharma became convinced that she and Greg were about to have a baby after seeing a vision. They tried to have a baby for a long time, using various methods, but, in the end, it was Dharma's middle-aged mother who became pregnant. Dharma explained that her vision was correct, but that she just misplaced its womb.
Subverted in Frasier, when Niles and Daphne were trying to have a child. Niles finds out that he has lethargic sperm and goes through a whole rigmarole of ridiculous procedures to increase chances of impregnating Daphne. He then finds out that she is already pregnant.
Played straight, however, with Roz, who gets pregnant even though she doesn't want to and has been using birth control.
Roz: The best birth control is only 99% effective. I can't beat those odds.
Very much in effect in Friends: There are a lot of accidental and engineered pregnancies, but the two couples that desperately wanted children are the ones that are unable to conceive naturally.
It's only after Ross has divorced his wife, who had found out she was gay, that they both learn she's pregnant from one last fling they'd had at the end of their marriage. This is after them having been together for seven years (four years of which were married) without any baby coming along.
Frank Jr and Alice desperately want children, but can't, so blindside Phoebe by asking her to be their surrogate. Only after she agrees, does she learn how low the success rate actually is and that her brother only has one shot at this because it's so expensive. She ends up pregnant far faster than medical science predicted and with three of the five embryos that were implanted.
Rachel did have a plan that involved meeting the right guy, dating him for a healthy period of time, being engaged for a healthy period of time and then being married for a healthy period of time before having children. It didn't work out that way, and she became pregnant after a one night stand with Ross just before Chandler and Monica's wedding. They'd even taken precautions, too.
Monica was the one member of the gang who had wanted children from the earliest episodes and even lost one serious relationship because of her desire for children and her (older) partner's desire not to have any more. However, after she learns Chandler's more than ready to have children with her, they discover they each have fertility problems and that it'll be very unlikely that they could ever conceive naturally, making them the second couple that wants children but can't have them. Many fans found this move unnecessarily cruel, considering how much Monica longed for a child, all the insecurities Chandler worked through to be actually excited for parenthood, and of course the Reality Subtext of Courteney Cox's miscarriages. However they ended up rejecting sperm donor/surrogacy and going down the adoption route, deciding giving an unwanted baby a happy home was more important than biological children. (A happy home incidentally, neither of them had growing up, turning a cruel storyline into a Crowning Moment Of Heart Warming). Word of God reveals they did envision Chandler and Monica also having their own kid after the show finished.
It's even played with in Janice's storyline. Her first husband is not much of a family man at all, but has no trouble having children with Janice. Janice's second husband, however, is a much better family man and desperately wants children, but has fertility issues, resulting in them needing medical help each time they want to have a child.
Ross and Monica's parents were told they were incapable of having children, then Ross came along. It's cited as the reason for Monica being The Unfavourite. Ross was the miracle baby, and Monica was just another birth.
Glee features Terri, who is desperate for a baby yet can't get pregnant. Meanwhile the religious celibacy club president Quinn cheats on her boyfriend and has sex with his best friend once and ends up pregnant. The two stories then overlap as not only do both women pull The Baby Trap on their respective men but Terri is attempting to secretly adopt from Quinn.
On the other end of the scale it is a miracle that Brittanyhasn't become pregnant. She has claimed to have had sex with almost every guy in the school and yet she thinks using protection means having a burglar alarm and additionally she still thinks babies come from the stork.
There's also Shelby Corcoran, who after giving Rachel up for adoption is told she can no longer have children. She finds her way around it by adopting Quinn's daughter.
Addison cheats on her husband with Sloan, gets pregnant, aborts, and then when she tries to have a baby on her own finds out she's barren
Cristina gets pregnant by accident, turns out to be ectopic and miscarries before she could get it aborted.
Bailey, who after 7 years of trying, gets pregnant right when she's about to become an attending.
Adele gets pregnant at age 50 while separated from her husband, only to miscarry once they've reconciled.
Callie and George briefly talk about trying to have a baby which doesn't happen. Callie gets pregnant after sleeping with her best friend Sloan after a breakup with her girlfriend. Callie gets back together with Arizona and the three raise the baby together.
Sloan knocked up some chick when he was young and dumb and his teenage daughter shows up in season six, ALSO knocked up.
Meredith gets pregnant, and though she is happy about it she WAS on birth control... but then miscarries. She then spends all of season 7 trying to get pregnant, but she doesn't so they adopt a baby in season 8. The next season her and Derek are happy with Zola, only for her to get prenant again.
And then Cristina gets knocked up, AGAIN, despite only having one functional Fallopian Tube, and desperately never wanting a child. She goes through with the abortion this time.
Lampshaded by Meredith when April, who had until recently been a virgin, had a pregnancy scare:
"Plans never work out the way you think they're going to. Especially with babies. You try and try to get pregnant you can't. And then a baby comes when you least expect it, probably because you didn't plan it."
Played with in Hex: Cassie falls pregnant to Azazeal while under his influence. Upon discovering that she's pregnant, she decides to abort it. The baby survives and grows to adulthood, thanks to the efforts of the father.
Cuddy from House went to great lengths to get pregnant. When that doesn't work out, she tries to adopt which doesn't work out either, at least at first.
Averted in How I Met Your Mother. In Season 4, Marshall and Lily decide that the time just isn't right for the two of them to have a baby, and they actually make it stick; Lily doesn't get pregnant. What makes it notable is that Alyson Hannigan, the actress who plays Lily, was pregnant throughout the season, but the writers still passed on the chance to write it into the story.
In an unbelievable coincidence, Cobie Smulders (who plays Robin) was also pregnant at the same time, and her character also had no desire for kids. Which makes this a Double Aversion and a Crowning Moment Of Awesome for the writers who actually pulled it off.
Played straight in season six, where Lily and Marshall have decided that they want a baby and are having trouble conceiving. The trope is parodied initially, though; the first time they go to a fertility specialist, it's revealed that they've only been trying for six days.
Subverted as of "Bad News." Marshall and Lily both learn that they are fertile. They've just had bad luck so far.
Subverted in season 7 when Robin, who absolutely despises kids, gets a pregnancy scare only to find out that not only is it a false positive, she's infertile. She has no idea how to react to it, because she's never wanted kids, ever, but the knowledge that she can't have them, period, makes her realize that she might've wanted them someday, but now that choice has been taken from her and she'll never, ever be able to change her mind. It's made even worse when she's trying to convince herself that infertility is a good thing, now she'll never have to worry, she has no right to be sad because she never wanted kids in the first place, she's glad her and Barney's beautiful future kids that she's been imagining telling the story of how she met their father to aren't real...
Carrie and Doug's difficulties in having a baby were used occasionally on The King of Queens. One two-part episode had Carrie get pregnant, only to suffer a miscarriage. In the Grand Finale they end up adopting, only to find out that they are having one of their own as well.
In an episode of Legend of the Seeker, Kahlan gets magically split into two people, each one representing a major part of her personality: a highly-emotional Kahlan with no powers, and a cold, calculating Confessor who enforces draconian laws whether or not they are moral. Both of them end up having sex. The emotional Kahlan finally sleeps with Richard, and the Confessor Kahlan sleeps with a tyrant she has confessed purely for procreation. When it comes time to re-join them, both claim they could be pregnant from a single encounter. Zedd, however, performs a magical scan and determines they aren't pregnant. He claims this is because they are not real people.
This appears to be law #1 on LOST's island. Pregnancy is a death sentence for mother and baby, but normal sperm count is magnified by five.
Also seen in flashbacks. Sun and Jin desperately want a baby, and can't conceive. Claire is on the pill, and gets pregnant.
Mad Men uses this both ways with the same character: Pete unknowingly knocks up Peggy, who in turn is in very deep psychological denial about her pregnancy (and was on birth control), but takes years to do the same to his wife. Not only does she want a baby, her father also demands a grandchild in return for helping Pete's business. They finally have a daughter, Tammy, in season four.
Again played two ways with Joan, who tries for months to get pregnant with her husband's child, worrying that past abortions have possibly made her infertile, then becomes pregnant with Roger's on their one-night stand (and her only episode of infidelity).
Betty discovers she's pregnant while estranged from Don and considers aborting. They reconcile, but not much later they split up for good, and she's holding the baby on the plane as she and her second-husband-to-be fly to Reno to obtain the divorce.
Through flashbacks, we find out that Son of a Whore Don was only taken in by his father's wife because all of her pregnancies had ended in stillbirths and she desperately wanted a child. She had a son of her own about ten years later.
Subverted in Mama's Family, where Vinton and Naomi had reached the end of their rope (turned down for adoption, Vinton's low sperm count) and were about to move away from Thelma's house after a nasty row, only to find out Naomi was pregnant after all.
Happens on Martin. His girlfriend Gina misses her period and Hilarity Ensues as they and their friends scramble about getting her tested for pregnancy and if they're ready for a baby. Just when Martin and Gina warm up to the idea of having a child, it turns out she wasn't pregnant after all.
Modern Family presents an interesting variation: in Season 3 Mitchell and Cameron, a gay couple who already have one adopted daughter, have decided to try for a son through various means (several variations on adoption, surrogacy, etc.) only to see every attempt fall through in increasingly heartbreaking ways. Meanwhile, Mitchell's step-mother Gloria, in her late thirties/early forties, becomes pregnant by her sixty-something husband: a pregnancy they were definitely not planning, and which comes as a bit of shock to the whole family.
Implied to have been the case with Jessica and her late husband Frank on Murder, She Wrote. In the pilot, Jessica explains her childlessness to a new suitor by saying "We were never blessed in that way."
This is really played up in the Korean DramaOjakgyo Brothers. Cha Soo Young had surgery that removed one ovary completely and partially removed the other, yet became pregnant by a one-night-stand with her coworker.
On One Tree Hill, Brooke Davis wants to be a mother, but her foster daughter leaves her, and she ultimately discovers she is infertile.
Played hilariously straight on Scrubs, where J.D. accidentally impregnated his girlfriend without even having sex with her (he didn't have a condom, and he didn't want to get her pregnant), Jordan and Dr. Cox had Jack with their relationship being little more than a booty call, and Jennifer Dylan after Dr. Cox had two vasectomies. Turk and Carla, on the other hand, had to both have fertility tests and counseling before they finally had Izzy.
In Sex and the City, Charlotte, who is the character who's the most excited about the idea of marriage and family, turns out to have trouble conceiving. Miranda, who's more lukewarm on the subject, suffers an unplanned pregnancy. What's more, Miranda had a lazy ovary and the man who impregnated her had lost one testicle to cancer!
Charlotte does get pregnant in The Movie, though, as an example of "getting pregnant once you stop trying."
Also averted with Samantha, who remains adamant that she doesn't want children throughout the series and movie, yet never even has a scare.
Actually she mentions that she has had two abortions.
Used multiple times in Six Feet Under. Spoilers ahoy: Lisa becomes pregnant with Nate's child after a one-night stand; she decides to keep the baby, which causes Nate much angst. After Nate and Brenda decide to get married, Brenda becomes pregnant only to have a miscarriage the day before the wedding. They conceive again but only after their marriage has begun to show signs of strain. Claire gets pregnant by her boyfriend but only finds out after they break up; she chooses to abort, and during a hallucinatory trip to the land of the dead sees the baby in Lisa's arms and asks her to take care of him.
South of Nowhere has Chelsea getting pregnant to Clay, and then deciding that she can't go through with an abortion. She later loses the baby in a car accident.
On Spartacus: Blood and Sand and Spartacus: Gods of the Arena, Lucretia tries for years to provide her husband Batiatus with an heir, even resorting to adultery with one of his gladiators due to the belief that a Gaul's seed was extraordinarily potent. Despite regularly having sex with both men and undergoing a fertility ritual, she remains unable to conceive. Until the end of season one. Not long afterwards, the Gaullish gladiator and probable father stabs her in the womb during a revolt.
In That '70s Show this trope is invoked when Eric and Donna realize that Donna had missed a day of her birth control, and were therefore convinced that Donna was pregnant. Most teenagers don't realize that birth control doesn't stop working just because you missed one day, so their panic is understandable.
On 3rd Rock from the Sun, Vicki and Harry go to a doctor when they can't seem to have a baby. Subverted in that they had only been trying for a month.
On The West Wing, we find out via flashbacks that Toby's wife Andi desperately wanted to have a baby, and they tried every fertility treatment under the sun. In the series timeline, they're divorced, but Andi becomes pregnant with Toby's twins — and then rejects his proposal of remarriage, saying that he's "sad," "angry" and "not warm," and she's worried about the influence he would have on the kids. Oddly, we're never told whether she finally had a successful in vitro fertilization using his stowed-away sperm or they rekindled their relationship long enough to do it the old-fashioned way. This is a point of contention is the fanbase: one side insists that it's too much of a long shot for Andi to have become pregnant just by luck, after failing for all those years, while the other maintains that if those are really her conclusions about Toby's potential as a family man, she wouldn't have intentionally made him the father of her children.
On The X-Files, Scully is not only told she is infertile, but that she had her ova removed. While she had never given that much thought to having children before, she did after hearing that. An invitro attempt with Mulder failed, as did trying to adopt, and yet by the end of season seven Scully is pregnant by circumstances never fully explained. However, Word of God did confirm that Mulder is the father of Baby William.
Avoided, mostly, on Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. Keiko opens up one episode by telling her husband, Chief O'Brien, that she's pregnant. While there was no build-up in previous episodes of them wanting a second child, they apparently were trying. O'Brien is simply disappointed because he wanted to have to keep trying a little while longer.
In season five of Stromberg, Jennifer gets pregnant with Stromberg's child, which was unwanted and thought they had used birth control. Conversely, in the same season, Tanja and Ulf are trying to have a child, but it turns out that Ulf is infertile.
Played straight on Rules of Engagement with Jeff and Audrey not only unable to have children but having major trouble with surrogates.
May Wright, one of EastEnders most popular villains was a perfectly nice doctor who miscarried her child and was rendered infertile as a result. Not even repeated fertility treatments could work. This woman was as barren as a brick wall. This tipped her off the Despair Event Horizon and becoming an Axe CrazyManipulative Bitch who conspired to steal her husband's lovers baby in order to replace her own. After kidnapping Dawn and trying to force a Cesarean on her, chasing after her while she escaped screaming "I WANT MY BABY!", trying to steal the baby from the hospital after Dawn gave birth, getting arrested, being released, trying to steal the baby again, breaking Dawn's ankle and chopping down a door with a crowbar, Jack Nicholson-style, she realised that she wasn't getting her hands on this baby. She just gave up and committed suicide. The actress who played her must have been picking scenery out of her teeth for months.
Played for drama on the Doctor Who episode "Asylum of the Daleks". Due to her ordeal at Demon's Run, Amy learned that she couldn't have any more children. Knowing that Rory had always wanted children of his own, Amy decided to break up with him in the hopes that he could start over with someone who could give him the family she couldn't. "I didn't kick you out, Rory, I gave you up!" Amy and Rory are a pretty good example of this trope since they (presumably) weren't trying to have kids when Amy got pregnant with Melody, but now, thanks to the events on Demon's Run, they wouldn't be able to have kids even if they wanted to (as Rory apparently does).
Played straight on Merlin. Ygraine is desperate to give Uther an heir, but is unable to do so. She gets so desperate that she turns to magic — or Uther gets so desperate that they do, we don't know for sure — and though she gets pregnant, she dies giving birth.
In an episode of Flashpoint, one couple desperately wanting a baby simply couldn't and the stress of it caused the husband to cheat and sleep with an ex-girlfriend who did become pregnant.
The second season of Downton Abbey presents with the housemaid Ethel, who has a few dalliances with an officer convalescing at Downton, resulting in her pregnancy. The third season gives us Matthew and Mary, married and trying, and failing. They both secretly go to a fertility specialist about it in London and run into each other there.
Zig-zagged in the Season 5 finale of Parks and Recreation. Andy is trying to figure out which of the women in the office is pregnant. The first one he rules out is Ann, who ends up helping him "investigate" the other women.
Justified in the Stargate SG-1 episode "2010", where in an alternate timeline Sam and her husband Joseph Faxon have been trying for a couple years now to have a baby. It turns out the offworld government that helped them defeat the Goa'uld has now sterilized most of Earth's population.
Played with in The Decemberists' The Hazards Of Love concept album. The Rake, who really doesn't want kids, got four, although one died in childbirth. Subverted with the Star-Crossed Lovers William and Margaret, who, also in accordance with the trope, seem to conceive very quickly. Although it's kind of a problem, they're extremely happy about it. Too bad they die before the baby is born.
Religion & Mythology
Theseus's father visited an oracle to find out why he was childless. Theseus was conceived on the way home.
Genesis is ripe with examples of this trope; in fact, the only matriarchs who don't have problems conceiving are Eve and Leah (who in fact subverts this trope, having at least seven children). Sarah, Rebekah, and Rachel were all infertile, and all three required divine intervention in order to have children.
Not just Genesis; the respective mothers of Samuel, Sampson, John the Baptist. In fact, Michal, the wife of King David and daughter of King Saul, was the only notably infertile woman in the Bible who didn't eventually give birth (her infertility being a divine punishment). Mary, the mother of Jesus, could fall under this trope as well.
Apocryphal stories say that Mary's mother was also infertile for a number of years before having Mary at a relatively old age.
Weird variant in the history of Forgotten Realms monarch Azoun of Cormyr: A red wizardess of Thay once used magic to seduce the king, apparently believing that their son could one day make a claim for the throne, stealing it from Azoun's legitimate daughters. Subverted in that, while she may well have succeeded in one try, Azoun had already sired so many illegitimate children in his bachelor-prince days that hers would have to get in line behind hundreds of older half-sibs. She may have gotten the son she wanted, but he won't be any use as a political pawn.
Blood Brothers is a major example of this trope - Mrs. Johnstone seems to have produced about ten kids and gives one away because she can't afford any more. Ms. Lyons, on the other hand, wants nothing more than to have children of her own, but they can't concieve, and her husband refuses to adopt.
The Baker and his wife in Into the Woods want a child, but are magically cursed with infertility. Act 1 revolves around the quest they must complete before the Witch will lift the curse. (They have a baby in Act 2.)
Very nastily subverted in the popular module A Dance with Rogues: if the princess and Vico are in a romance, she ends up pregnant with his baby, which adds more tension to the group, as they all fear the consequences this could have due to the horrible situation they're in. Eventually, though, some of them start cautiously warming up to the idea, possibly including the princess and definitely including Vico. Then the princess is captured by the Dhorn and infected with a demonic plague that kills the baby.
Played with in Baldur's Gate in the form of Aerie, and more straightforwardly, the mod-added Mary Sues Kelsey and Saerileth.
In the sound novel Umineko no Naku Koro ni, it takes Natsuhi and Krauss Ushiromiya 8 years after their marriage to conceive their daughter, Jessica. Krauss' ambitious younger sister Eva, however, gives birth almost immediately after she and Hideyoshi marry, so she tries to use this as a bargaining chip to secure her son George's headship in the family over Jessica.
Used in Arthur, King of Time and Spacehere. What kicks it up a notch is that it's the exact same people, but in different situations - one where they want to have a child, one where they don't. That particular comic makes it seem as though the desire to have a child is the one factor that keeps them from having one. Later averted in the space arc.
Eugene and Sara Greenhilt's contraceptive spell fails in The Order of the Stick, leading to the protagonist's unplanned birth and the end of his mother's freewheeling lifestyle (until she got to the afterlife, anyway!)
Lampshaded in The Rant for Bring Back Roomies!, as Willis tries to work out whether or not Mary was using birth control, and if not why not (since Past!Willis hadn't explained this) before concluding "Ah well. I guess the likelihood of getting pregnant when you’re evil and having dramatically hypocritical sex is about 1:1."
Quite a few surprise pregnancies occur in Chakona Space, most notably Admiral Boyce's first three children (all by different mothers of supposedly incompatible species). On the other hand most characters who want kids usually have little trouble making them, the major exception being Forestwalker's foxmorph mates Katrina and Kristopher.
Frequently happens in The Gungan Council. Beth gets knocked up after her first time ever and Kirk, who vehemently does not want children, knocks someone up as well with just one encounter note The woman he knocked up decided to terminate the child anyway, yet for her own reasons..
Happened in Family Guy, where Lois and Peter tried to have a fourth baby. Of course they had Stewie actively working against them, and eventually shrinking down to destroy every sperm in Peter's body. Manually. He meets a sperm he considers a worthy ally and abandons the plan, only for Peter and Lois to decide they actually don't want a fourth kid.
Delicately handled in The Flintstones, where it is implied that Barney and Betty Rubble are unable to conceive a child. After the birth of their goddaughter Pebbles, the Rubbles come by to see the new baby every night until one day Fred thoughtlessly orders them out of the house, which drives Betty to tears. Fortunately, their prayers are answered when the next day presents them with a Doorstop Baby, Bamm-Bamm.
In Disney's Hercules, the title character's adoptive human parents have prayed to the gods for years to bless them with a child, and they see Herc as the answer to that prayer.
A flashback episode of King of the Hill reveals that prior to conceiving Bobby, Hank had been declared infertile due to a narrow urethra, which was exacerbated by his habitual uptightness. He and Peggy gave up on trying to have a baby and got a puppy (Ladybird) instead. Playing with the puppy was relaxing enough to counteract Hank's anatomical difficulties, and pregnancy ensued.
Later, when Hank and Peggy are trying to have a second child, Hank's seventy-something father Cotton winds up having a child with his forty-something wife Didi. After the baby is born and both parents are neglecting him, Peggy even miserably alludes to the fact that she can't have a child while they somehow got to have a "beautiful child they don't even want." Becomes a Crowning Moment of Heartwarming when the episode ends with Peggy rocking the baby to sleep with her toes, despite being in a full-body cast.
The Simpsons - Apu and Manjula are trying to have a child with no success. Apu asks Homer how he and Marge did it, and Homer laughingly notes that each of their kids was unintentional. He then tries to deliberately invoke this trope to help them - staging an entire setup where they were having sex dressed in teenage-y clothes in the backseat of a car, while Majula reads her lines in a monotone: "Oh no, I hope I don't get pregnant."
And of course, because apparently every member of the Simpson family sans Maggie was slipping Manjula fertility drugs, they have octuplets.
In the ThunderCats (2011) episode "Native Son" a flashback reveals that the king and queen of Thundera tried to have a child for years. It got so bad that the queen worried she might be infertile. Their concerns were put to rest when baby Tygra literally flew into their lives in a balloon. So of course just when the royal couple have gotten comfortable with Tygra inheriting the throne as crown prince, the queen became pregnant. Then she died in childbirth, so little Tygra lost his mother and the throne in one night.
Up. Subtly implied in the opening montage of Up. It's especially heartbreaking since the buildup has Carl and Ellie making a room for the baby. Word of God says it was a miscarriage that left Ellie unable to have more children. What we see is what little they could actually show/feel comfortable putting in a kid's movie.