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Having a family, particularly a child, is the dream of many women. Unfortunately, there are times when some women go a bit overboard. Maybe they were in an accident that stops them from getting pregnant, they're infertile and can't have a kid, or they're haunted by the loss of a child. Or maybe they just envy what others have. But regardless of any of this, these women will go to any lengths to make this dream come true — even if it means stealing a child from someone else to raise as their own.

Ways of achieving this include:

  • Ripping a baby straight out of another woman's womb
  • Kidnapping them after birth
  • Being a surrogate who's grown too attached

As having one's child taken away like this is a huge fear of any mother or parent in general, characters willing to steal other people's children are often the villains of the stories that feature them.

This can be because of The Baby Trap, Darwinist Desire, or Mandatory Motherhood. It can involve a Breeding Slave or a Stalker with a Test Tube. The common Freudian Excuse for this is a miscarriage or a Tragic Stillbirth. The woman's fixation on having a child often epitomizes Babies Make Everything Better. Compare Kill the Parent, Raise the Child, where a character adopts and raises a slain enemy's offspring, which can overlap with this trope if the child-seeker is determined enough to have someone else's children to kill for them.

Also related to Pregnancy Makes You Crazy and the Law of Inverse Fertility, in that the couples that are the most desperate for a baby are the least likely to be able to have one. May cross over with The Kindnapper if the kidnapper believes that they are a better parent for the baby than the actual parents, and I'm Taking Her Home with Me!, which is when someone sees a child and decides that they want to keep them note .


Examples:

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    Anime & Manga 
  • Sket Dance: Twins Bossun and Tsubaki were Separated at Birth through a more benign application of this trope. Their biological parents died the day they were born, and Bossun was adopted by their friend Akane. The doctor hid Tsubaki's existence from her (and thus Bossun) because she did not have the means to raise two newborn children at the time, and also so he and his wife could have a child of their own. Out of guilt, the doctor admits the entire thing to Bossun and Tsubaki during the manga.
  • Weather Report in JoJo's Bizarre Adventure: Stone Ocean was abducted at birth by a woman who switched him with her own stillborn baby. He's actually the fraternal twin brother of the arc's main antagonist.

    Fan Works 
  • In the Encanto fanfic Replacement, has a couple fake Camilo’s death, kidnap him, and force him to use his shapeshifting powers to pretend to be their dead son. This charade last for two years before Camilo escapes.
  • In the Fairy Tail fanfic Obsessed, unable to bear children due to an accident and having grown increasingly jealous of other successful female mages who have children, Elena endeavors to kidnap children to make her own guild and kill their mothers. By the time she starts targeting the Fairy Tail and Sabertooth guilds, she has already taken a number of children. When she is later defeated it is revealed that she used a spell to steal an unborn child to impregnate herself and killed the mother. While in captivity she gives birth, and Natsu and Lucy secretly adopt the child and hide her away as a twin of their own newborn child.
  • Mother Gothel pulls this on eight-year-old Varian in Light of the Moon. This isn't done because Gothel wants to be a parent, though (as she has a kid already), but more because she believes she's the only one capable of understanding and controlling Varian's Moonstone powers. All the same, she still takes him from his father and holds him captive for six years. Also, this trope is the reason why Rapunzel's raised by Gothel in the first place.
  • One of the reasons Simon is aghast in FireflyFreedom to the Free” is because two of the babies he helped deliver were taken from their slave mothers to be given to free women who’d bought them. Along with other things he’s forced to do, it makes him feel he violated his oath as a doctor and causes a lot of mental suffering.
  • Eyes on Me: It's revealed in Chapter 10 of Eternal Flame that this is how Ruby came to be. Her mother Aurora became a surrogate for a Puerto Rican couple (Reuben's brother Diego and sister-in-law Beatriz, to be exact) who couldn't conceive, only to witness firsthand how dysfunctional the intended parents' relationship was and deciding she wouldn't let a child be raised in that environment. Making things more complicated was Aurora and Reuben developing feelings for each other while she was still pregnant. They settled down in New York and then sent Diego and Beatriz a letter telling them that Aurora had had a stillbirth, essentially faking Ruby's death.

    Films — Animated 
  • Tangled: When the Sundrop flower was taken and used to save the queen and princess, Gothel (who had been using the flower to stay young for centuries) broke into the castle. When she learned that the princess' hair held the flower's magic, she tried to cut off a strand and take it with her... only to learn that cutting the hair takes away its power. Thus, she kidnapped the baby and ran from the kingdom, raising the baby (who she named Rapunzel) as her own and gaslighting her into never leaving their tower.
  • The whole plot of Tokyo Godfathers is kicked off when Sachiko, an already depressed woman due to her gambling addict husband, suffered a miscarriage and kidnapped the newborn Kiyoko from the hospital in desperation for a child, only for the baby to end up in a trash pile to be found by the protagonists.

    Films — Live Action 
  • A Lifetime film based on the actual case of Carlina White is called Abducted: The Carlina White Story.
  • Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness: After America Chavez goes to Dr. Strange for help, Strange consults Wanda "The Scarlet Witch" Maximoff about what she knows about The Multiverse, and Wanda reveals that following the events of the Westview, N.J. incident, she became so obsessed with having Billy and Tommy, the sons she was raising with Vision inside the Hex, by her side again that she wants to use America's Multiverse-hopping powers to steal another Wanda's Tommy and Billy, from another dimension, and raise them as her own.
  • The Family Jewels: More like Child Be Mine. Bugsy Peyton is a gangster who is only after Donna due to her substantial inheritance. One would think his approach would be to be a Bitch in Sheep's Clothing. Nope, he goes and kidnaps his niece to make it seem that she's chosen him as her replacement parental figure and therefore get his hands on those sweet $30 million.
  • The very premise of Home Sweet Home (2005), where May and Alex's young son was abducted by what was supposedly a "monster" of an urban legend, one who brutally injured Alex and left him in the ICU as May attempts to piece together clues in order to recover her son. It turns out the "monster" is actually a mentally insane woman who lost her family years ago, during the destruction of the slums where she used to live, and her reason behind the kidnapping is to seek a replacement for her dead child.
  • In I Know Who Killed Me, it's revealed that Daniel bought Aubrey from her drug-addicted biological mother after his own daughter was stillborn.
  • Inside (2007) is built around this as La Femme goes on a bloodthirsty rampage to steal Sarah's unborn child. Her reason? She blames Sarah for the accident that killed her unborn baby. She succeeds in the 2007 original. The remake ends with Sarah surviving and giving birth while La Femme drowns.
  • Raising Arizona is about an ex-con whose wife is infertile but desperate for a child. Because of the husband's criminal past, they can't adopt, so they decide to kidnap a baby from local rich guy Nathan Arizona, whose wife just had quintuplets.
  • Run: After the death of her own baby, Diane kidnapped and poisoned another baby, who she raised as Chloe.
  • The Surrogate has Amy (Alyssa Milano) acting as the surrogate to a couple who cannot have children. She decides she wants to keep the baby girl for herself after the birth, and for good reason. The mother Joan accidentally smothered her son Christopher to death and became unhinged.
  • Witch Way Love has a male example in Evil Sorcerer Molok (Jean Reno), who, having no heir to keep his Black Magic bloodline from dying off, wants the baby son of his niece Morgane for himself.

    Literature 
  • Evillious Chronicles has this as the twist to "Moonlit Bear", where Eve Moonlit, supposedly under the impression that she was taking apples away from a bear, was in reality stealing a set of infant twins from their mother, Meta Salmofer, whom she then killed. Moonlit later raises the children as her own.
  • In Little Fires Everywhere, this is the story behind Pearl's conception. In college, Mia agrees to become a surrogate for a wealthy couple who can't conceive but midway through her pregnancy, she realizes she can't go through with it. She leaves a note claiming she miscarried and leaves, cutting all contact and subsequently raising Pearl herself.
  • This trope gets suggested by Imogene Herdman in The Best Christmas Pageant Ever when everyone is trying to figure out how to get a baby to use to play Jesus in the titular pageant. It does not take long for this idea to get promptly shot down.
  • Two versions are revealed to have happened within the same family in The Darkest Corners. Tessa's older sister is actually "Baby Morgan" and was kidnapped from her mother. Tessa's "mother" also kidnapped a woman until her due date and performed a fetal abduction and killed her to have Tessa. Lori found out and Tessa's mother killed her and made it look like the Ohio River Monster.
  • Teased as being the case with Rachel in The Girl on the Train. Her husband, Tom, cheated on her and left her after their numerous fertility treatments failed, and ended up having a child with his mistress Anna. Rachel obsessively stalks them, fantasizes about their life, and at one point, "kidnaps" Tom and Anna's baby (by carrying her outside and refusing to give her back). However, Rachel never intended to hurt the baby, though she did behave creepily about it. She actually ends up helping to save Anna and the baby from the murderous Tom at the end.
  • The Irregular at Magic High School character Maya is a complicated example. It's not clear what really happened, because it involved experimental magic and Maya is mad as a box of hammers, but she firmly believes Tatsuya is her son even though she didn't gestate or raise him. Nobody buys this, but Maya is powerful enough that they have to go along with her delusions anyway.
    “It’s true that genetically we are nephew and aunt. But psychologically, Tatsuya, you are my son. (...) It was my sister in whose womb you grew, but it was I who created your magic to be as it is. As a magician, you are very much my son. (...) And my sister knew this. She knew that somehow I, her younger sister, had seized control of her womb. She stole from me my very self, and I stole from her, her son."
  • Pretend Shes Here follows an older example as the 15 year-old protagonist is kidnapped by her recently deceased best friend's family and forced to pretend to be their daughter.
  • Two Little Girls in Blue: Although three year old twins Kathy and Kelly were initially kidnapped just to extort money, Angie - who has always desperately wanted a child of her own - decides to keep Kathy for herself, only leaving Kelly behind at the drop-off and faking her death. It's also revealed she was committed to a psych ward in the past for attacking the mother of a child she was babysitting when she came to collect him, implying it's not the first time Angie has tried something like this.
  • Waterland: Mary, the wife of protagonist Tom, is infertile, which makes her very unhappy. So she ends up kidnapping a baby. Although Tom gets her to give it back, the publicity around the event tarnishes his image and puts his career at risk.
  • The Wee Free Men: Tiffany remembers a local incident in which a very lonely spinster who had gone a bit off kidnapped a baby.
  • The inciting incident in What Was Mine involves a mother taking someone else's baby from a shopping cart to raise as her own, getting away with the crime for 21 years until the truth comes out.

    Live-Action TV 
  • 9-1-1: Lone Star: In Season 3, former nanny Danica Hendry kidnaps her old charge Katie Conrad to raise as her own daughter, even manipulating Katie into setting her house on fire, the goal presumably being to kill the parents. Thankfully, Danica is apprehended and Katie returned to her parents.
  • All My Children's Maria tried to kidnap the baby she and husband Edmund had finally adopted after struggling with infertility for several years when the birth mother changed her mind.
  • Cold Case:
    • In "Maternal Instincts", it turns out that the boy who witnessed his mother's murder at the age of three had actually been kidnapped. The woman was desperate to have a child, but her husband was infertile and a pregnancy from an affair ended in miscarriage, so she manipulated him into stealing the baby from the house where he landscaped. Once she had what she wanted, she disappeared and moved to Philly, where she continued manipulating men to help her care for her "son". Her murderer is one of the men she was using, who figured out what she'd done and tried to blackmail her into staying with him. She refused, so he killed her and stayed quiet about the boy's true parentage, leaving him in the foster system.
    • Played with in "The Good-Bye Room". The victim was staying in a home for unwed pregnant girls in the 1960s, where she could discreetly have her baby, but she resisted the idea of giving her daughter up for adoption. She was killed by one of the other girls there, whose son had already been taken; the killer wanted to stop the victim from getting to keep her child out of jealousy, and in the frenzy of the murder, came to believe the victim's daughter was her own son.
    • In "Ghost of My Child", it turns out the dead infant at the scene of an apartment fire didn't belong to one of the residents after all, but matched a John Doe missing from a local hospital's morgue. The fire was started by one of the doctors and his wife, a drug counselor, to cover up their switching of the infants. The counselor was convinced that the baby's Recovered Addict mother was incapable of caring for him, and she'd just suffered a third miscarriage, so she was desperate to have a child and keep her marriage afloat.
  • Coronation Street:
    • Alison Wakefield Webster, Kevin's second wife, gave birth to their son Jake in 2000, who sadly died only days after birth. In her immense grief, she took 13-year-old Sarah Platt's recently-born daughter Bethany out of the hospital only for Kevin and police officials to catch up with her. She then surrendered the little girl and promptly killed herself by running into the path of a lorry.
    • Brenda Fearns, Bethany's paternal grandmother, was likewise overcome with grief following her son's death in a car accident and obsessed with her only grandchild that she kidnapped her again in 2003. Only this time, it was heavily implied that it would be a Murder-Suicide to join Neil if not for Emily Bishop talking her out of it.
  • Criminal Minds:
    • In one episode, a pair of unsubs are determined to replace their deceased son. They try to do this by kidnapping women, raping them until they're impregnated, and then forcefully providing prenatal care until the captive gives birth. Female newborns are discreetly placed in the foster system and the process is repeated immediately, resulting in the death of the women.
    • In another, it turns out that the unsub who'd been abducting young boys in Las Vegas was a psychotic woman who'd gone off her medication for the sake of her unborn son while pregnant and failed to go back on after giving birth. As a result, she both lost custody of her son and became convinced that random toddlers were actually her own newborn. She occasionally had enough clarity to realize she'd abducted a child from his proper mother, but she was still convinced that she was the proper caretaker anyway.
    • The episode "I Love you, Tommy Brown" featured a variant where the Unsub was going after one specific baby: the one she had in prison from an affair she had with a student she seduced.
    • Suspected in "The Good Earth." The profile indicates that the unsub is a woman who's abducting men to act as breeding partners in an effort to conceive the perfect child, so when a heavily-pregnant woman is abducted, they believe she's reached her deadline to produce a child. The fact that mother and child are returned (relatively) unharmed after a crude C-section makes them reevaluate everything. Turns out she was after the placenta, not the baby, and she was turning the men into fertilizer, not sleeping with them.
  • CSI: Miami: While investigating a murdered sperm donor, the team stumbles onto the revelation that the surrogate mother who'd delivered one of his children had secretly had identical twins; she told the woman who'd hired her that it had been a single birth and kept the "spare" so that she could have a child of her own. The ending of the episode implies that the boys are going to keep in touch now that they've been reunited (and that the healthy brother will become a tissue donor for the sick brother) but steers clear of addressing whether the surrogate technically kidnapped her son or whether the biological mother would press charges if she did.
  • CSI: NY: In "The Box," a young woman's body is found in a car, and it's quickly discovered that she was pregnant. Turns out she'd agreed to sell her baby to an infertile couple who couldn't adopt legally, but she'd changed her mind. When she told the couple she was keeping the baby, they confronted her and she fell down the stairs, hitting her head and dying. Realizing the baby could still be saved, but than an ambulance would take too long (and they wouldn't be allowed to adopt him anyway), the couple cut out the baby and dumped his mother's body so they could keep him. The episode ends with the baby being given to his grandparents to raise.
  • In Desperate Housewives, Mary-Alice and Paul Young bought their son, Zach, from Deidre, a drug addict fallen on hard times who planned to sell him. The really "crazy" part only arose after Deidre, now sober, returned to get Zach back and threatened to have the couple arrested for kidnapping. Mary-Alice killed her and dismembered her instead.
  • An older version in the "Sam's Missing" episode of Different Strokes, when Sam is kidnapped by a grieving father desperate to replace the son who was killed in an accident and repair his family. His wife takes to him instantly, even slipping up and calling him "Timmy", her dead son's name. Luckily, the man's other son realizes that what his father's done is wrong, allowing Sam to make a phone call and telling the police where to find him.
  • EastEnders: Dr. May Wright (known to the media as Mad May) develops this desire for her husband Rob's daughter Summer with his mistress Dawn Swann. Unable to have children herself, May goes out of her way to push herself into Dawn's life, claimed to be the infant's mother during the pregnancy, and after threatening to take the child from the womb, tried to steal a newborn Summer from the hospital (though Dawn woke up and managed to retrieve her). Things took a turn when May attacked Dawn and her brother Mickey to kidnap Summer yet again, only to fail and die soon after.
  • On Glee, Terri Schuester knows her pregnancy is the only thing keeping her marriage to Will going, and rather than informing him when she is diagnosed with a hysterical pregnancy, continues the charade. She goes as far as faking sonograms, wearing a false belly, and refusing to let her husband touch her in order to pull it off. Luckily for her, Quinn, one of Will's students, just happens to be dealing with an unwanted pregnancy, and together they scheme to pass the baby off as Terri's. Terri goes to extreme lengths to keep Quinn from reconciling with the baby's father lest she change her mind, but in the end, it all falls apart when Will finds one of Terri's false bellies.
  • The Handmaid's Tale much more heavily implied this to be a motivation for the Sons of Jacob's takeover, though it was briefly referenced as being the case in the book. June and Luke's daughter Hannah was stolen shortly after birth (in both mediums) by a devastated woman who mistakenly believed her to be her own daughter who was stillborn. The series implies this far more heavily, painting Serena Joy as genuinely obsessed with having a baby for its own sake. This is built into the premise, though, as the Commanders rape women in order to impregnate them and take their babies from them.
  • In an episode of the In the Heat of the Night, the cops discover that the local dance teacher actually kidnapped her teenage daughter when the girl was a baby, in the midst of a nervous breakdown over the death of her own.
  • Law & Order: SVU:
    • In one episode, Martin Short plays the Perp Of The Week, a rapist and murderer obsessed with virgins. He has a devoted wife and a little boy, but as the episode progresses, it's discovered that the wife actually can't have children because her husband refuses to have sex with her; he's obsessed with virgins and she wasn't one. She assaulted a woman who was near the end of her pregnancy and cut the unborn child from her womb in order to give her husband a son. She goes to prison at the end of the episode, with Stabler informing her, to her complete surprise, that the boy is being returned "to his real father, the grieving husband of the woman you butchered."
    • Another episode had Sharon Lawrence play an Aileen Wuornos-inspired character who was also a loving mother. Her "son" was actually a little boy she had abducted from a supermarket after strangling his mother and leaving her widower to believe that he was dead, too.
    • Olivia's own adopted son, Noah, is briefly kidnapped by his biological grandmother, played by Brooke Shields, who was grieving the loss of her estranged daughter. She had tried to vacate the adoption, but lost, then resorted to an elaborate plan to lull Olivia into a false sense of security so she could abscond with Noah during an outing. Given she took off with child of an NYPD captain, Noah is recovered in about 24 hours, but not before trying to take Olivia out so she could keep him.
  • In the Little House on the Prairie TV movie Bless All the Dear Children, Laura and Almanzo's toddler daughter Rose is taken by a woman who has been driven a bit mad by the death of her own child. Her husband is unaware that the child is stolen, and when the frantic parents finally track them down, he very nearly pulls a shotgun on them. Only then does his wife admit the truth. It ends unusually happily, though. The Wilders are reunited and decline to press charges against the grieving mother, and meanwhile an orphan boy who has stowed away on the whole adventure ends up being adopted by the childless couple.
  • Manifest: In the season 3 finale, Angelina, having come to see baby Eden Stone as her "guardian angel", decides to kidnap the infant and raise her as her own. She even kills Eden's mother, Grace, in the process.
  • Within a month of the Tragic Stillbirth of her son, One Life to Live's Cassie Carpenter found an abandoned baby in the church's manger scene and instantly declared that she was going to adopt him, ignoring all the warnings from everyone (even her own husband) that this was an extremely poor idea, as she was still in mourning. She promptly tried to stop the baby's birth mother from visiting and, when the young woman decided that she wanted her baby back, tried to buy her off, then ultimately tried to kidnap the child, having a nervous breakdown when he was taken away too. She later became so desperate to conceive that she went to a Back-Alley Doctor and became very ill from the treatments that he gave her.
  • In the last season of Salem, Anne Hale claims she is pregnant with her husband Cotton's child. Then she meets Gloriana Embry, a prostitute who is pregnant with Cotton's child. Believing she can give the baby a better life, Anne uses magic to transfer the baby to her womb instead.
  • Silent Witness: In the Season 17 story "Undertone", the Body of the Week is a young woman, Alice Preston, who was heavily pregnant when she died; her baby was cut out of her body and there's no sign of the infant, leading the police and forensics team to speculate that Alice was killed because of this trope. It's revealed Alice had been persuaded to give her baby – the result of a one-night-stand – to a childless couple rather than have an abortion. However, she eventually began having doubts about giving up her baby and argued with the would-be adoptive mother, Ellie Brooks; Alice was accidentally killed when she fell and struck her head, and Ellie cut her open to save the baby (as opposed to calling an ambulance). Her husband helped her dispose of the body so they could keep the baby.
  • A Christmas Episode of Sisters had Frankie's son being kidnapped by a delusional woman who believed he was hers, still in denial over the fact that she miscarried months ago—when she first appeared in the episode, she was insisting that she was due to give birth any day.
  • Without a Trace: In one episode where a young girl was abducted off the playground, it's eventually revealed that the kidnapper was a surrogate mother who had since become infertile and felt it was her right to "reclaim" the daughter she'd been able to carry to term. In her haste, she grabbed a similar-looking child, but decided to keep her even after she figured it out.

    Music 
  • "Don't Go Near the Indians", a top-5 country and top-20 pop hit for Rex Allen in 1962, about a man who reveals to his son, who is full-blooded Native American, that he kidnapped him from a tribe when he was a baby, this in retaliation for one of the tribesmen killing his biological son. This comes at the end of the song, after the man, who had been admonished with the titular advice, had fallen in love with a maiden from the same tribe and he was forced to reveal the truth. The reason for the father's heartbreaking revelation: because the young couple were biological brother and sister.

    Religion 
  • In The Bible, Solomon once had two women come to his court with a dilemma of two babies, one dead, one alive. One woman says that her baby was replaced by the mother whose baby perished while another woman claims that she's lying and that her baby died. The king resolved the problem by ordering the living child be cut in two and shared between the women, knowing that the real mother would beg for the child to be spared and the fake mother would not. As soon as the women did exactly what Solomon predicted, he ordered the child be returned to the real mother.

    Video Games 
  • BitLife lets you hire a surrogate mother, but less trustworthy ones may run off with the baby. You can sue them, but you won't get the child back.
  • The plot of Resident Evil Village involves the main antagonist, Mother Miranda, stealing Ethan Winters' infant daughter, Rosemary. Her intent is to perform a ritual that will transform Rosemary's body parts into the body of her child that died years ago.
  • Rule of Rose has a rare male example; Gregory, a hermit grieving the death of his son, forced the survivor of a nearby crash to replace him. He went so far as to make the girl dress as a boy and reply to a name that wasn't hers, a situation which she would fortunately be rescued from.

    Web Original 
  • CatGhost: As depicted in the game Midnight, Bethany kidnapped Narrah from a Native American village so she and her husband Gideon can raise a child together and make up for her inability to bear children.
  • Revenge Films: In this story, a 40-year-old Taylor snapped over becoming sterile from all the pregnancies and abortions she got while sleeping around with abandon since high school and almost stole a young mother's baby in broad daylight. However, this get the cops called on her when said mother screamed for help. As a result, Taylor ended up in jail for kidnapping and misconduct charges.

    Western Animation 
  • In the fourth season of Archer, Lana decides that she wants a child, and thus steals a vial of Archer's sperm and impregnates herself with it.

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