There is a female villain. She could be a minor crook, or something more impressive like a professional assassin, The Dragon or even a Big Bad in her own right. Either way, she's going about her wicked ways and has every intention of continuing to do so.
And then, completely by accident, she gets pregnant.
All of a sudden, she just can't seek redemption quickly enough. Sure, she's killed and looted for years without a shred of pity for her victims — but now she's going to be a mother, and she just can't stand the idea of her baby thinking ill of her. Or the coming baby forces her to look back on all she's done and realize that she does not want this for her child, and does not want him or her to become like her. And of course, it is possibly simply because it's easier to keep the baby safe and Give Him a Normal Life if she abandons the lifestyle of an evil outlaw.
A variation is that she gives up the child once it is born and continues much the same as before, but we are made to understand that by doing so she squandered her chance — if she had kept the baby, she would have been possibly redeemed.
This does not generally happen as often to male villains. If they have children, they are more likely to want them to grow up to follow in their evil footsteps. And even if they don't, since they are fathers they may find it easier to balance their life of crime with their parental responsibilities rather than having to give up completely to raise the kids.
The prospect of parenthood does occasionally make people straighten their lives out. However, there are also people who have children because they assume that that will make them (or their partners) better people and turn out to be wrong about that, much to the misfortune of those children — making this not quite Truth in Television.
Not to be confused with the novel by David Baldacci or the 2006 Academy Award-nominated documentary feature by Amy J. Berg. (Or with The Lord's Prayer, which both titles, like this Trope's name, were inspired by.)
- The manga Parasyte plays with this trope: Reiko Tamura ("Tamara Rockford" in the original Mixx adaptation) was a Parasyte who became pregnant; initially, she only plans to bear the (completely human) child out of dispassionate scientific curiosity, and is completely willing to kill it when the time comes. However, by the time the child is born, she's far enough into Anti-Villain territory that, when she's finally killed, she goes out of her way to protect the child. This later happens to nearly all of the Parasytes, too — they become so humanized they forget they're flesh-eating aliens, in a metaphor for cultural assimilation.
- Averted in Blood+. While she takes time away from plotting to contemplate her unborn, yet already beloved children, Diva's idea of good motherhood is trying to wipe out most humans so that her daughters grow up as part of the dominant species on the planet. Considering how she went about conceiving them in the first place, however, this is really no surprise.
- While not a villain herself, Hotaru Enjouji from Kizuna had ties to the Yakuza. When she got pregnant with the baby of the Yakuza leader she was The Mistress of, she inmediately ran away from him and his group, keeping her child in the dark in regards to the past life. The boy, Kei Enjouji, didn't learn about his dad until Hotaru died of illness and left him a letter where she told him about his heritage. And he was not thrilled.
- Avoided with Mystique. When she had the child who'd go on to become Nightcrawler, she briefly reverted to her true form and Nightcrawler was obviously inhuman, so her cover was blown. She tossed 'Crawler into the drink, and happily returned to her evil ways. She does genuinely care about her foster daughter, Rogue, but turning away from her evil ways for love of Rogue alone... not gonna happen.
- Then there's her OTHER biological son Graydon Creed. The less said about him, the better. The gist being him being a Muggle Born of Mages made him worthless in her eyes so she absued him into the mutant-hating bigot he's infamously known as before Offing the Offspring.
- Averted in Nexus: Ursula doesn't become a better person when she has Scarlet and Sheena, although since she had them as part of her plot to take over the galaxy, and conceived them in the first place by raping Horatio, this is hardly surprising. Ursula does appear to develop real feelings for Horatio though, but given that these feelings lead her to plot the death of his girlfriend Sundra, it's pretty clear she's still evil.
- Subverted with Umar, foe of Doctor Strange. Umar is a pure evil Eldritch Abomination in human form who got stuck in Shapeshifter Mode Lock after giving birth to her daughter, which amongst other things cost her a portion of her power and left her weaker than her just-as-evil twin brother, the Dimension Lord Dormammu. This enraged her and made her even more of a bitch than before (which is really saying something), but it is sometimes implied that she cares for Clea at least a little. This doesn't stop her from using Clea as a pawn in her cosmic games of interdimenisonal domination or frequently plotting-and causing-the deaths of billions throughout the universe for the sake of her diabolical schemes though, or even just For the Evulz.
- Very common example in Fanfiction is Shego from Kim Possible Fandom. Countless stories have her setting down and having children, with said children often being the cause.
- Inverted in the World of Warcraft fanfics The Last Days of Grace, Criminals and Sinners and Forget to Remember. It's a male villain (the Lich King) who does a HeelFace Turn on account of a Deus ex Machina, a Mary Sue, and babies.
- Averted in the Harry Potter fanfic Little Stars, about Bellatrix and Rodolphus's daughter Aquila. The two parents are thrilled when their girl's first word is "Crucio" and are counting down the days until she can torture Muggles with them. Oddly enough, though, her aunt Narcissa plays this trope perfectly straight, feeling guilt about Aquila's nonchalance when it comes to tormenting Neville and trying to convince her it's wrong.
- In this The Secret Show fanfic, Doctor Doctor, after reforming from villainy due to an unexpected pregnancy, gives birth to twins fathered by Professor Professor.
- Played with in The Swarm of War. After Alena (the new Queen of Blades) goes through the Hormone-Addled Teenager phase, the Overmind thinks that an actual pregnancy may restore her humanity completely. Of course, there is no way he'll risk it.
- Played with, but ultimately averted in this Naruto fanfic with Sakura's mother. Yes, she settled down and found a fake-husband so she could raise her daughter safely in peace. Yes, she wants Sakura to be a good little girl who grows up healthy and happy. Yes, she gave up a lot of power, as she could no longer continue her habit of seducing and using powerful men, in order to raise her daughter. That doesn't mean she can't continue performing inhumane experiments through alliances with several co-conspirators or use her disguise as a helpless and loving mother to subtly influence village politics without anyone suspecting her. Mama Bear she may be, the kid is not a Morality Pet.
- The backstory of One Day At A Time had this happen to Selina Kyle. She fell pregnant with Bruce Wayne's child, one month before he was murdered by the Joker. The pregnancy combined with the loss of her One True Love drove her to finally go straight for good, fencing her remaining goods and leaving Gotham behind under an assumed name. She would spend the next ten years raising the child, Helena Wayne, in anonymity and normalcy until her past caught up to her in the form of Black Mask II, who killed her after she refused to work for him.
- Kill Bill:
The Bride: Before that strip turned blue, I was a woman. I was your woman. I was a killer who killed for you. Before that strip turned blue, I would have jumped a motorcycle onto a speeding train... for you. But once that strip turned blue, I could no longer do any of those things. Not anymore. Because I was going to be a mother. Can you understand that?Bill: Yes. But why didn't you tell me then instead of now?The Bride: Because once I would have told you, you'd claim her, and I didn't want that.Bill: Not your decision to make.The Bride: Yes, but it was the right decision and I made it for my daughter. She deserved to be born with a clean slate. But with you, she would have been born in a world she shouldn't have. I had to choose... I chose her.
- The Bride not only made a 180 the moment she discovered she was pregnant, but the woman trying to kill her suddenly agreed to spare her life. Though the fact that the Bride promised to abandon her mission probably helped; she saw the positive pregnancy test right in the middle of it.
- In the first movie, Vernita Green was an example that turned into a HeelFace Door-Slam. She tried to go straight for the sake of her husband and newborn daughter, but the Bride didn't care. After apologies fail to dissuade the Bride (even though she at least listens) Vernita seems to offer a duel on equal terms. However, the offer is only a distraction so she can use a gun that she hid in a cereal box. Unfortunately for her, she misses her surprise shot (it's hard to aim a gun you can't see), and the Bride was quick enough to throw her knife and kill her before she could try again.
- Averted in the movie Willow, where evil Queen Bavmorda wants her daughter Sorsha to follow in her footsteps. Of course, that just means that point 19 of the Evil Overlord List starts to apply for her...
- A slightly complicated example appears in the movie The Long Kiss Goodnight; the main character, an assassin, loses her memory shortly before learning that she's pregnant, and lives the next eight or so years of her life as a loving mother. When her memories of being an assassin eventually return and override the "mother" persona, her first instinct is to dump the kid as it's not really "hers" and pick up things where she left off. This instinct lasts right up until her daughter is kidnapped by the bad guys, whereupon she goes Mama Bear. Totally averted with her child's father, terrorist sociopath Timothy, who leaves them to die without a qualm even after learning about his daughter (she tried to invoke this through revealing it).
- The Chinese movie A World Without Thieves is about a thieving/extorting couple. The woman gets pregnant and tries to get redemption by convincing her lover to help her protect a naive young man going by train to Beijing with a lot of money.
- In the movie Rosemary's Baby almost the opposite of this happens at the end when Rosemary decides to stay and raise her baby, the anti-christ, with the Satanists. It's not clear whether she will become evil or not though.
- Lampshaded in Seed of Chucky wherein Tiffany, upon realizing that she has a child, is determined to give up killing in true twelve-step fashion, even to the point of leaving her hardened killer-doll boyfriend. This does not actually prevent her from killing, even after using Voodoo to first impregnate and then take over actress Jennifer Tilly's body, but those murders are "just a little slip".
- In Avengers: Age of Ultron, Natasha states that the people running the Black Widow program are quite aware that a child is the one thing that can be stronger that all the conditioning. As such, all the trainees are sterilized at the end of the program. Since Black Widow graduates are also expected to seduce many targets, the sterilization is brutally pragmatic all around; no need to worry about accidentally getting pregnant and complicating things in the middle of a long-term mission.
- In A Brother's Price getting pregnant does not stop Kij Porter from continuing to work on her evil plans. To be expected, as she doesn't view herself as evil, and would want her child to follow in her footsteps. For many women, the desire to get pregnant is actually their motivation to turn to a life of crime in the first place, due to male Gender Rarity Value.
- The title character in Jennifer Government used to be a greedy corporate climber before she got pregnant with her daughter.
- Inverted in the Victorian novel Vanity Fair: Becky Sharp starts out as a somewhat likeable Anti-Hero but then has a major Kick the Dog in her treatment of her son, who she neglects and has no affection for.
- Mrs. Coulter from the His Dark Materials trilogy of books becomes a much more sympathetic character once it is revealed that she is a mother and does care about her child. In the end, it is actually because she is so wicked otherwise that she is able to perform a Heroic Sacrifice for her daughter's sake (by convincing a being which can see her entire life and soul that she is far too self-interested to be willing to perform a Suicide Attack).
- Morgause in the novel The Wicked Day averts it. She never thought of Mordred, or any of her other sons, as anything more than little tools with which to further her evilness.
- In Sandy Mitchell's Warhammer 40,000 Dark Heresy novel Innocence Means Nothing, Jenie lies to inquistorial agents, claiming she can lead them into the tunnels. After her ruse is discovered, she reveals that she was desperate to escape: as a Gatherer of Diversity, her duties are to whore herself out to passenger and get pregnant, so that her sons will be raised by other castes (to introduce new genes to the gene pool) and her daughters will become Gatherers, too, and she is pregnant and wants better for her daughter. The Knight Templar Kiera is awed at someone going to such efforts to escape her sinful life.
- Eragon's mother in the Inheritance Cycle. When the series starts, all we know is that his mom has been dead for a while, and that she ran away from his dad who was some kind of evil person. Then we find out his dad was The Dragon and his mom was a Dark Action Girl whose incredible devotion to her husband was only overruled by her desire to see her second child live a better life, away from his Archnemesis Dad. It's played with in that Eragon's father is actually Brom, and Selene's HeelFace Turn was a result of her love for him, then their child (Morzan's rarely letting her see Murtagh helped as well).
- Discussed in its gender-flipped form in From a Buick 8, where one of the police officer heroes mention that sometimes, becoming a father really will make a crook straighten himself out, but usually it doesn't.
- Darla. By all means, the fact that her unborn child had a soul meant that technically so did she for the duration of the pregnancy-but she became a lot nobler than she was for most of the time she possessed a soul of her own. Well apart from craving specifically innocent blood, but that stage passed. Creepiest example of Wacky Cravings ever?
- When she realizes that once the baby is born (if it's born at all, vampires' anatomy not begin designed for labor) she'll no longer be able to love it without a soul and may even try to kill it, she makes Angel promise to tell their son how much she loved him and then stakes herself, turning to dust and leaving behind only her (living) son. Did we mention it's pouring rain?
- Jace in Dark Angel faints in the middle of a fight with Max and it turns out that she's pregnant. After that, she overcomes ten years of Manticore brainwashing with surprising ease.
- In the Birds of Prey TV series, we are told that Catwoman gave up her life of crime when Huntress was born.
- Inverted in Charmed, where Phoebe's pregnancy was gradually turning her evil.
- Subverted in The Drew Carey Show, where Mimi, Drew's nemesis and all-around-horrible woman that she is, tries to be nice and motherly when her baby is born. However, the baby doesn't recognize this nice, clean-mouthed woman as his mother, and in order to get the baby to stop crying every time she holds him, she goes back to her old ways.
- Cylon Number Eight copy Athena in the new Battlestar Galactica turns on her Cylon brethren when she becomes pregnant with Helo's child and falls in love with him. After she loses her child due to its premature birth ...or functionally kidnapping, she doesn't go back to being evil.
- A temporary occurrence in Stargate SG-1: While Sha're/Amaunet is pregnant, the Goa'uld suppresses itself to protect the unborn child, and Sha're (a good guy) is in control of herself; as soon as the baby is born, however, Amaunet reasserts control.
- The male version of this happens with Sylar in the Bad Future of Season 3 of Heroes. Sylar goes from a brain hungry psychopathic murderer to a cuddly, waffle-baking, more-or-less well adjusted single daddy who has to fight everyday to keep his murderous impulses (or "hunger" as he calls it) under control, all for the sake of his child. And then when his son is killed in a crossfire between him, Peter and the company, Sylar literally goes nuclear and wipes Costa Verde right off the map.
- Once Upon a Time:
- Another Gender Flip version is Jefferson, the Mad Hatter. It turns out he was a major Jerkass and was not above manipulating Regina and drive her mad with despair for Rumplestiltskin in exchange for gold and a passport to travel anywhere he wants. Once he became a father, he quits his original life and retreats to the forest for a quiet life with his daughter. Then Regina, now the Evil Queen, shows up with one last job...
- Regina herself might count. Adopting Henry doesn't actually make her a nice person but it does bring out a more human side to her character and in all fairness she does at least try to become a decent person for his sake.
- Outrageous Fortune:
- Avoided as Loretta gets pregnant and gives birth, showing a few signs of never-before-seen empathy in the process, and everyone expects her to become nice, which is greeted with a resounding "fuck you."
- Now that Loretta has married Hayden to fight for custody of Jane, this is beginning to happen in Fan Fiction with alarming frequency.
- A minor example occurs with Grayza in The Peacekeeper Wars. She remains pretty evil and uncompromising throughout her pregnancy but when the time comes to either surrender (something she spent pretty much her whole tenure on the show trying to avoid) or condemn her child (and everyone else) to death, she says, while stroking her very pregnant belly, "For the sake of our children, I will agree to a settlement."
- One episode of NCIS featured a number of female North Korean spies. One of them was killing all the others, and Gibbs was the one who figured out she had turned on her country once she became a mother. Of course, a couple of the other spies were also mothers, and that didn't seem to slow them down at all.
- The Boys (2019): Notably averted with Stillwell. She has a new baby who she dotes on, but it has clearly not made her the least bit less of a ruthless and amoral Corrupt Corporate Executive.
- Fire Emblem
- Almedha in the backstory of Fire Emblem: Radiant Dawn was pretty much a Blood Knight until she had a baby, who'd grow up to become Soren.
- In Fire Emblem Awakening, a nameless woman married to Validar, a man leading the Grimleal cult ran away with her young son/daughter (The Avatar) to protect him/her from becoming possessed by of Grima, the Evil Dragon. However, as nothing is explained about her apart from this, it's unclear whether she was villainous to begin with, or what her motives were.
- In Baldur's Gate II, in her paired ending with the protagonist, it is stated that Viconia became a lot nicer once they had a child.
- A Rare Male Example took place in the backstory for Tsukihime. Kiri Nanaya was ever exactly evil, even when he was a Badass Normal assassin, but the birth of his son Shiki Nanaya changed him significantly. He retired from being an assassin and came to view life as something precious... Bad thing, Makihisa Tohno decided that Kiri's decision wasn't the best one, and sent out Kouma Kishima to slay the whole Nanaya clan. The Sole Survivor was Shiki.
- Utterly averted in Girl Genius. Big Bad Lucrezia Mongfish is the mother of Agatha, the titular Girl Genius, and is both a Mad Scientist's Beautiful Daughter and a Mad Scientist in her own right. Her apparent High-HeelFace Turn after marrying Bill Heterodyne is a complete farce - she kickstarts her new career as a Super Villain by blowing up Castle Heterodyne, killing her baby son in the process, and plans to download her brain into her daughter so that she can trick the entire continent into accepting her as their ruler. After she succeeds with her Grand Theft Me of Agatha, she wastes no time in copying herself over into multiple other bodies so that she can kill her daughter and get her out of the way. If anything, having children has made her even more evil.
- Demona doesn't exactly turn good when she finds out she has a living daughter, but it does seem that Angela is the one thing in the world she cares more about than her revenge on her enemies.
- David and Fox Xanatos turn from sympathetic bad guys to something resembling good guys after their son is born. In fact, one of the best Heel Face Turns in animation is directly due to this trope, as David Xanatos almost loses his newborn son the day he was born, because Oberon of Faerie wants to take him. Though he puts up a ferocious fight to protect him, it rapidly becomes clear that for the first time in his life, Xanatos is absolutely, completely overmatched. Even with the assistance of his usually hostile (for good reason) father-in-law and the Gargoyles and his own father, plus Puck of Faerie and all his own technological resources, Oberon is just too powerful to defy successfully. In the end it's a stroke of wild luck that saves them, and that was the night that David Xanatos grew up. At the end of the episode, his characteristic adolescent smirk is gone.
- On Young Justice, Cheshire apparently did a HeelFace Turn during the Time Skip and married Roy, only to leave him and return to crime. She later returns and reveals that she's had a daughter, Lian, and wants to help Roy get his life together so that the three can form a coherent family. And even her return to crime after marrying Roy was planned from the start as temporary, since the only reason for it was so that she could call in all the favors she was owed in the criminal world for a final shot at finding the original Speedy so Roy could get over his Cloning Blues and be the father Lian needed.
Examples of the "gave up the baby, missed her chance" scenario:
- Played With for Catwoman, who had her daughter Helena and tried to raise her, but after Helena's life was endangered by a supervillain, she put her up for adoption. Afterwards, she turned her back on her role with the Batman Family, but she soon reverted to her normal self and begins working with Batman Inc.
- In Batgirl, Sandra Woosan's handover of her child (eventually Batgirl III) to David Cain (complete with the execution of the midwife) is Lady Shiva's official Start of Darkness.
- Cheshire, a notable villain in Teen Titans was willing to allow her daughter to be raised by the father, Roy Harper, because she thought it would be safer if he raised her. Thanks to recent events it turns out she was wrong...
- It's not that she thought it was safer, but more along the lines of Roy realizing she was in no way fit to raise Lian. And even then it is blatantly implied that the only reason Cheshire "cares" about Lian is because it gives her leverage over Roy. When Lian's well being was used against Cheshire in Villains United she chose to get herself pregnant again by sleeping with Catman, thereby having a replacement baby and being free to walk away from the Secret Six regardless if Lian gets hurt.
- Visser One from Animorphs is a downplayed example of this. She originally had every intention of keeping her twins and being the full Visser famous for conquering Earth, using her status to protect them. The revelation makes her sympathetic, but nowhere near good. Visser One does want her kids to love her, but if they don't... she can always infest them, and they will be forced to love her.
- Kitiara from Dragonlance got impregnated by Sturm Brightblade (though to be fair, she seduced him out of anger against her on-again, off-again lover of Tanis Half-Elven) and almost kept the baby. Almost. But she gave her child to a dark knight who raised him as her own and went right back to her rise to becoming a Dragon Highlord as soon as she could get rid of the kid, though it did seem as if Kit almost had regrets over her decision. Almost.
- Xena: Warrior Princess, whose son was cursed in the womb by Xena's evil adviser Alti to never know the love of either of his parents. Alti wanted Xena to stay bad, and knew that "the light on a child's face" would turn her good.
- In Time Trax, Darien's mother — a petty criminal at the time — did not think she was fit to raise him and gave him up for adoption. When she turns up in the show, SELMA tells her that being responsible for a child might have helped her become fit.
- Analinde in Grimm may be in this class, although she didn't give up the baby, but rather it was taken from her. She did show some signs of becoming if not good, then less evil, up to that point.
- In The Vampire Diaries, Elena's biological mother Isobel had her as a teenager, only to quickly give her up to adoption and leave to go on a quest to become a vampire, which she succeeded at. By the time we see her come back, she has become one of the most depraved vampire characters in the season.
- Moriarty on Elementary is a complicated case. She gave up her daughter for adoption in order to better pursue her criminal ambitions, but she's still been keeping track of her and for anyone to threaten said daughter is... unwise. Whether motherhood would have really redeemed her remains unstated and uncertain, but her maternal feelings are definitely the only thing that makes her seem even the tiniest bit redeemable.
- In the Jack, it's outright stated that if Fnar's mother hadn't been killed while she was pregnant with him, she would probably have redeemed herself.