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Give the Baby a Father

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Niles: It's time to do the honorable thing.
Martin: What, divorce your wife and marry the woman carrying your brother's child?

A man who isn't the father of the child proposes to a pregnant woman in order to preserve her honour in a society with strong views on extramarital sex. Whether this is a suitable basis for a happy marriage largely depends on the work's idealism.

This trope has three main threads:

  1. Protecting the mother from Slut-Shaming.
  2. Supporting the mother and her child, because being a single parent is hard. UNBELIEVABLY HARD.
  3. To give a kid a father figure. (This is the most likely one for recent times that will be used.)

If it happens in a work set in a modern, Western society, the guy either has a very strict sense of duty or is just in love with the woman and making excuses. Expect his actions to be criticised for implying that a single mother can't raise a baby alone.

There are, regrettably, still plenty of places in the world where single mothers are vilified by society, and raising a baby under such circumstances can be very harsh indeed. In Period Dramas, the man doing this will definitely be seen as a wonderful person. If the mother faces Slut-Shaming, then the man might be mocked for accepting "used goods."

Can be considered a Defied Trope (or Subverted Trope) to Defiled Forever. From the mother's point of view, this may be seen as Remarrying for Your Kids. Subtrope of Honorable Marriage Proposal, and Sister Trope to Shotgun Wedding, when the actual father is pressured into "doing the honorable thing". Compare the more modern Platonic Co-Parenting, where someone unrelated also offers to parent a kid but without the marriage proposal.


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     Anime & Manga 
  • Hanasakeru Seishounen: This is revealed to be the backstory for Kajika's father Harry. His mother had a brief, yet loving relationship with Prince Machaty of Raginei, Rumaty's grandfather, and when he had to leave her and go back home, her best friend/coworker asked her to marry him so that he could give her unborn child a father. To be fair, if he'd had the chance, the child's biological father would have loved to marry the woman he impregnated, but given who he was, that was never going to be an option.
  • In Shouwa Genroku Rakugo Shinjuu, Kyouji aka Yotaro Yurakutei not only marries the daughter of his master, Konatsu, but becomes the father figure to her baby whose actual father remains unknown.

    Comic Books 
  • Long before he would become the Fantastic Four villain Puppet Master, Phillip Masters' business partner Jacob Reiss was killed in an explosion that happened as a result of an argument between them; the explosion also blinded Reiss's daughter Alicia. Reiss's widow would later marry Phillip for this reason, and as a result of Alicia being his stepdaughter, Masters would develop a personal grudge against the Thing years later, when Alicia and the Thing start dating.

    Comic Strips 
  • In the newspaper comic 9 Chickweed Lane, Gran/Edna says this is the reason she and Bill ultimately got married: He was "protecting her honor" after they discovered she was pregnant by the man she left to be with Bill. (Because going back to the baby's father was just impossible. Apparently.)

    Fan Works 
  • Acts of Kindness has Asuka finding out that Shinji is now engaged with one of their classmates because they had an affair and he accidentally got her pregnant. That's actually a cover story; what really happened is that the girl got raped by her own father and got pregnant from it. Since the bastard was a Nerv employee, Gendo quickly has him disposed of by Section 2 and Shinji volunteers to provide the cover story. Of course, the girl then has a Convenient Miscarriage and she moves out of the city, knowing that Shinji and Asuka love each other but Cannot Spit It Out.
  • In Apprentice and Pregnant, Hollypaw was raped by a ShadowClan cat named Longtail and left pregnant as an apprentice. Her friend Greyclaw offered to act as her kit's father. The two ended up pairing up and, though their kits know their biological father is an unknown-to-them ShadowClan cat, they see Greyclaw as their father.
  • In the Law & Order: UK fanfic Choices, Alesha Philips learns she's pregnant as a result of her rape. She can't bring herself to have an abortion and after she decides, "I'm having a baby", pal Matt Devlin corrects her—"No, we're having a baby." They never get a chance to discuss the logistics of whether this means they're now a couple or if they'll ever tell the kid about her true parentage because of course, she has a Convenient Miscarriage.
  • In a Neon Genesis Evangelion fanfic named Father, someone takes advantage of a drunk Asuka during a house party and she gets pregnant. Shinji instantly proposes to her. Learning about this, Asuka's estranged father comes barging back into the picture and attempts to force her to cancel the engagement and get an abortion before returning to Germany with him for an Arranged Marriage. All at gunpoint. The emphasis is on "attempts" as Shinji, Misato and Gendo all gang up on him. Special mention goes to Gendo being a Papa Wolf to Asuka.
  • Inverted in the Berserk fanfic Happy Ending, where Casca asks Griffith to be the father of her unborn child in Guts' absence. Internally, Griffith doesn't like the child, due to it being a symbol of Gut and Casca's union, but he ultimately relents since he cares for—and is physically dependent on—Casca. And just to add a classic Griffith creep factor, he hopes that the child will at least grow up to look and act like Guts.
  • In The Goblin Emperor fanfic The Honourable Thing, Beshelar is invited to a wedding; but then he gets a letter that the wedding is cancelled because the bridegroom—a (former) friend of his—ran away and left the pregnant bride to her fate. Having a very strong sense of duty, Beshelar asks the Emperor for some extra time off and attends the wedding... as the bridegroom.
  • The New Retcons offers a dark twist on this: after The Baby Trap failed to work on Michael's Glorified Sperm Donor, their mother got together with another man, who wasn't aware that the kid wasn't biologically his. When the truth eventually comes out, neither takes it well.
  • An odd case is brought up in Secret Sunshine, when Shiro, after hearing Ryuuko tell him that Satsuki became pregnant and that she's been raising Kiko, suggests that he marries her (not Satsuki). Of course, Ryuuko isn't sure as to how to respond to the idea.

     Films — Animated 
  • In Lady and the Tramp: Though they were offering Lady a place to stay after she is kicked out by Aunt Sarah, Jock and Trusty were actually offering to marry Lady in order to preserve her honor. Especially with the implication that she might had become pregnant after her night with Tramp, and with the knowledge that he was a womanizer.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Albert Nobbs, which takes place in 19th-century Ireland, ends with the girl the title character wanted to marry having had a baby by a cad, who's long abandoned her. Albert himself has died (and been discovered to be secretly female), which didn't stop her from naming the baby for him. But she knows it's only a matter of time before the Church finds out, which means the baby will be taken away and she'll be thrown out onto the street. But when she tells Albert's friend Hubert (who is also secretly female) that, he says, "Well, we can't let that happen," and one assumes he's going to marry her to prevent it.
  • Played with in the 2002 movie adaptation of The Count of Monte Cristo. Unlike her book counterpart, who spent a year and a half waiting for Edmond to return before resigning herself to marrying Fernand, the movie version of Mercedes married Fernand just a couple of months after Edmond's arrest and supposed death. It's then revealed that she only married Fernand so quickly because she found that she was pregnant with Edmond's child (making Edmond and Albert Related in the Adaptation here) and, due to this taking place in the early 1800s, didn't have many other options available.
  • It's couched somewhat in the slang of the time, but in Grease, upon learning that Rizzo thinks she's pregnant, Kenickie immediately offers to marry her because "I don't run away from my mistakes." Rizzo gently turns him down, claiming it was somebody else's mistake, which clearly hurts him - and her, since she's lying to protect him. Near the end of the show, he brings it up again, and she reveals that she was wrong and she was never pregnant at all. Much to her delight, he still wants to marry her.
  • Central to The Miracle of Morgan's Creek. Made awkward by her technical marriage to someone she couldn't remember and would probably never see again.
  • In Michael Bay's Pearl Harbor, Rafe (Ben Affleck) does this to his ex-girlfriend Evelyn (Kate Beckinsale), who is pregnant with the kid of Rafe's best friend Danny (Josh Hartnett) after he is shot down and killed in battle by the Japanese. This also neatly ties up the Love Triangle.
  • In People Will Talk, Cary Grant's doctor/professor character meets Jeanne Crain's coed character, gives her the "yes, you are pregnant" news, upon which she says she's not married and immediately attempts suicide after leaving. Naturally, he does what any ethical medical professional would do given the circumstances: apologize for the "misdiagnosis", court and marry her lickety-split, and be overjoyed at her becoming pregnant very soon after—as far as she knows—the wedding. He eventually reveals the deception, but convinces her he didn't do it out of pity but because he really loves her. Values Dissonance, anyone?
  • ¿Qué Culpa Tiene el Niño? revolves around a young woman, Maria, who, after getting pregnant at a wild party, is forced by her parents to marry the suspected father, Renato, in order to prevent causing a scandal for her politician father. When Maria gives birth, the baby is clearly Asian and thus cannot be Renato's son. However, Renato admits he always knew he wasn't the father, but chose to marry Maria both out of love for her and because he didn't want the baby to grow up fatherless like he did. The movie ends with the now happy couple and their family celebrating Renato Jr.'s first birthday.
  • This is part of the background narrative in Racing Daylight. As often happens, an engaged couple couldn't wait. He went off to fight in The American Civil War, leaving her pregnant. He's mistakenly declared dead, so she marries his cousin. Then her fiancé returns, and thereby hangs the tale.
  • Sylvie's Love: Sylvie was pregnant with Robert's child when her fiancé Lacy returned from the Korean War, but Lacy still agreed to marry her for the child, which Sylvie comments was very noble.
  • This is what drives the plot of the Keanu Reeves movie A Walk in the Clouds. He gets home from World War II and meets college student Victoria, who is pregnant from an affair with one of her professors. The professor has written her a letter ending the romance, so Keanu's character offers to pose as her husband (and thus the father of her child) and then send the letter after leaving her with her parents. Of course, things don't go as planned.

  • The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay: Sam Clay proposes to Rosa Saks for this reason. She's pregnant with his cousin Joe's child, Joe has gone off to war and probably isn't coming back, and he's gay and heartbroken as he's just split up with his lover.
  • Call Me Sunflower: Sunny's legal adopted father was Mark Beringer. After Mark died, Mom entered a sham relationship with Mark's brother Scott, her best friend, so Sunny would have a father. They stayed together until Sunny was eleven and her sister Autumn was eight, at which point they finally split up.
  • Dollanganger Series:
    • Chris offers this when Cathy is pregnant with her first child. She actually is married to the father of her baby, but he's an abusive asshole. Chris does want to support Cathy in her pregnancy, and he does want to protect the kid from growing up with an abusive father—but really, that's all secondary to his main motive, which is that he just really wants to marry Cathy, period, and this is a convenient excuse to propose. He's been in love with her for a decade, and even pregnant with another man's child, he would still marry her in a heartbeat. (Also, because he's her brother, the two of them beginning a marriage with a child they could raise together, but who is not biologically theirs together, would be quite convenient.) She turns him down.
      Chris: Come away and let me be the father to that child! Julian isn't fit!
    • Cathy does go on to remarry twice—the second time to Chris. She both wants a husband for herself and a father for her kids. But her kids are older then, and the trope instead becomes Remarrying for Your Kids.
  • Dragonriders of Pern: In The Masterharper of Pern, which explains Masterharper Robinton's Backstory, it's revealed that the simple-minded workman of Harper Hall, Camo, is actually Robinton's son by the headwoman Silvina. When Silvina tells Robinton that she's pregnant, he offers her marriage. She refuses because she knows he's still in love with Kasia, his dead wife.
  • In The Fall of Atlantis, this is a relatively common practice; since, in the priestly caste, a fatherless child is seen as having no status and being basically an Un-person, in cases where an unborn child's father can't or won't acknowledge them a woman may have another man stand acknowledge paternity.
    • Chedan acknowledges Lissi, the daughter of his betrothed Elis, as his despite knowing he's not the father. (The situation would actually be even more serious if he was, since sex with one's betrothed before marriage is heavily frowned upon in their society.) He strongly dislikes Lissi at first, but eventually grows to love her. It is later revealed that Lissi's biological father is Arvath.
    • When Domaris is pregnant by Micon, Arvath, out of jealousy, spreads a rumor that he is invoking this trope and that the real father is Rajasta, which would be deeply dishonorable if it were true, since it would violate their mentor-student relationship.
    • Reio-ta acknowledges Tiriki as his child for two reasons: first, because with Riveda dead, he would be unable to acknowledge her and second, so he can legally take her away from the Ancient Land, where she would be persecuted for her true father's crimes.
  • The First Law: Glokta marries Ardee to save her life and that of her unborn child; she's the mistress (and carrying the bastard) of the new king, and it's the only way for him to get out of killing her to protect the throne.
  • In The Governess Affair by Courtney Milan, Hugo is hired to prevent a duke's ex-governess from causing a scandal. However, he learns that the duke had raped her, then fired her for not being a virgin (and thus too immoral to raise children), after which Serena realized she was pregnant with the duke's child. The threatened scandal is Serena's desperate attempt at child support. Hugo marries her himself and claims the child as his own, giving Serena and her child both respectability and financial support.
  • The Halo: Evolutions story The Impossible Life and Possible Death of Preston J. Cole implies that Admiral Cole did this for his first marriage.
  • The Keeper of the Bees by Gene Stratton-Porter has Jamie MacFarlane, a dying (he thinks) World War I veteran, encounter a distraught woman who says she needs a marriage certificate and a name for an unborn child. He marries her at once, thinking he won't be around but the kid will be legitimate. Nine months later and starting to recover his health, he is called to the hospital, where his "wife" — another woman entirely — has just died in childbirth. The nurse catches on and hands him the kid once he assures her that his landlady can help to care for it. The women were sisters, the elder standing in for the younger; when she'd met Jamie, she never said the items she needed were for her. Jamie later marries the older sister.
  • The Lady and the Unicorn: In the late Middle Ages, Philip marries Aleinor after she gets pregnant from another guy, to help her escape from an Arranged Marriage to yet another man.
  • In Emile Zola's book La Curee (The Kill), Aristide Saccard uses this ploy to marry a rich girl.
  • The Lords of Discipline: Will Mclean tries to do this to the mysterious and enigmatic Annie-Kate, with truly tragic results. This is invoked mostly due to the novel being set in mid-1960s Charleston, and Annie-Kate being from a prominent family within the city's social structure. Word of God says that Annie-Kate was based on a real woman with whom he had a romance during his Senior year at The Citadel.
  • Midnight's Children: Saleem reluctantly proposes to Parvati the Witch to save her honor after she gets pregnant with his archrival's son—with whom she had an affair on purpose in order to get Saleem to marry her. To be fair, he probably would have married her on his own if not for certain... issues he has with his sister.
  • In My Year of Meats by Ruth L. Ozeki, when Jane finds out her ex got her pregnant, one of her coworkers offers to marry her. Naturally, the fact they're also quite good friends isn't enough to make her accept.
  • In Somebody Killed His Editor, the first book in the Holmes and Moriarty series by Josh Lanyon, part of the reason novelist and amateur sleuth Christopher Holmes thinks fellow author and former fling J. X. Moriarty is unavailable on meeting him again ten years later is that Moriarty was said to be married; but it turns out that the marriage was this trope, both to give his dead brother's child a father for the first few years and to placate conservative family members.
  • In Timepiece, sequel to The Christmas Box and set in the early 1900s, MaryAnne Chandler becomes pregnant by her boyfriend, who promptly dumps her over it. Her employer David, upon finding out, offers to marry her, since he cared about her already but had felt it was inappropriate to pursue a personal relationship given their professional one. As she has no other income and little savings, there are pragmatic reasons as well as the social ones.
  • Warrior Cats:
    • A variant in Bluestar's Prophecy, the eponymous character has a forbidden inter-Clan relationship with Oakheart, and ends up having his children. Thrushpelt — despite also having feelings for Bluestar — offers to help her care for the kits and let their Clanmates assume that Thrushpelt was the father, which Bluestar accepts.note 
    • A similar example exists in Mapleshade's Vengeance where Thunderclan assumes the deceased warrior Birchface is the father of Mapleshade's kits. Since their true father is a Riverclan warrior, which is forbidden, she does not deny the rumours.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Downplayed in Bones. Hodgins doesn't outright propose to Angela when he hears she's pregnant, but he immediately declares "I'm your guy" and promises to be there to support her and her child so she doesn't have to go through it alone. They both know that the father, Wendel, is a good man who would take care of his child, but he's also younger and not in as stable a position as Hodgins, and the pregnancy is the result of a casual fling. It quickly turns out that Angela had a false positive, but Hodgins's willingness to support her encourages her to rekindle their relationship after she and Wendel break up.
  • In Brazilian soap opera Chocolate Com Pimenta, Ana Francisca is tricked by her boyfriend's aunt into thinking he knows about their yet to be born child but doesn't care. A rich man who had previously befriended her before she learns he's rich proposes to marry her and her family agrees for her honor's sake. People who don't know the real reason behind the marriage think she's a Gold Digger because of the big age gap between her and her husband.
  • Days of Our Lives Jan is raped and too terrified and ashamed to tell anyone but her friend Shawn. When he learns that she's pregnant, he declares that he's the father to spare her any humiliation, even as it results in him being blasted by virtually everyone, including his girlfriend's family, for supposedly having cheated on her. She eventually has a Convenient Miscarriage, resulting in everything being revealed.
  • In Deadwood, Ellsworth to Alma Garret, as she's bearing the child of a guy who's only (lovelessly) wed for the similarly-honorable reason of dutifully marrying the widow of his dead brother. Something of a Deconstruction; they're both (relatively) good people, they like each other, they work well together... and they are terrible spouses for one another.
  • Ezel: One of the reasons Eyşan marries Cengiz is to give her unborn child a father. As it's early on in her pregnancy, she is able to keep his true parentage a secret for many years, until an offhand comment prompts Cengiz to investigate.
  • In Frasier Niles (somewhat drunkenly) proposes to Daphne after an overheard conversation leads him to believe she's pregnant with Frasier's child. While he's at a Masquerade Ball. Dressed as Cyrano de Bergerac. And he tries to challenge Frasier to a duel for actions which he interprets as an attempt to bully Daphne into keeping quiet. This being Frasier, it's all a spectacular web of misunderstanding. Of course, it's really just Niles finding a way to express his love for Daphne via loophole. Once he finds out it's Roz who's pregnant, his desire to 'do the right thing' evaporates.
  • A French Village: Jules proposes marriage to Lucienne so that her baby can have a father, after Kurt is being sent East. She accepts.
  • Friends: Joey proposed to Phoebe when everyone thought that she was the one that was pregnant (not to "preserve her honour", but because it's tough to be a single mother). Once they find out it's really Rachel, he promptly asks the ring back from Phoebe so he could propose to Rachel. Made funnier by the fact that Phoebe gleefully accepted Joey's proposal, then seems upset when Joey says he needs the ring back.
    • When Rachel has the baby, she thinks he is doing this - Ross has an engagement ring which his mother gave to him to propose, which he has no intention of doing. The ring falls out of Ross's left behind jacket, and Joey goes down on one knee to pick it up, leading Rachel to the wrong conclusion.
  • In How I Met Your Mother, after Robin sarcastically says she's pregnant after Ted asks why she was throwing up, he's down on one knee immediately, swearing that he'll marry her and help her raise the kid—though he quickly stipulates that it'll have to be "one of those marriages", where they date other people (this being long after Ted and Robin broke up). Later, the exchange is repeated between Robin and Barney, whose reaction is instead to bolt from the room in a panic at the thought of this trope.
  • In Laverne & Shirley, when Laverne thinks she might be pregnant (a few days after a drinking contest at a party where she can only remember bits and pieces), Lenny comes down to talk to Laverne.
    Lenny: So, me and Squiggy flipped a coin to see which one of us was gonna volunteer to be your husband.
    Laverne: Awwww, and you lost, huh?
    Lenny: No, I won.
    • He then adds how he's going to go out for an exam to get a better job.
      Lenny: I'm gonna make a good living. Plus, I'll practically never hit you or nothin'...
  • In Midnight Caller, Devon's boyfriend leaves her to sail around the world, not knowing she's pregnant. Shortly before her due date, Jack proposes to her, since his own father left him when he was seven and he doesn't want her child to go through what he did. However, the father soon finds out about the pregnancy and returns, and Devon chooses him over Jack.
  • Money Heist has Denver do this for Mónica's child.
  • One Life to Live's Jessica conceives after a drunken tryst with her friend Will. Despite her having cheated on him, her boyfriend Christian declares that he is her baby's father, presumably not wanting people to think she's a tramp. She later has a Convenient Miscarriage.
  • In The Secret Life of the American Teenager, Ben, convinced that he is in love, proposes to Amy shortly after finding out she's pregnant with Ricky's baby. Since they're 15 and have only been dating a few weeks at that point, their parents don't approve. In fact, no one thinks that Amy needs to be married just because she's pregnant. None of these things stop Amy and Ben from secretly getting married. But since it's with fake IDs, the marriage is invalid and they end up breaking up later anyway.
  • Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip: Danny proposes to Jordan while she's giving birth. He first asked her out shortly after discovering she was pregnant, and she was initially worried that this trope was the sole reason for it.
  • Horshack in Welcome Back, Kotter proposes to Rosalie Totsie after she claims to be pregnant by one of the Sweathogs. She's lying to trick them into taking back rumors about her being "easy;" but after the reveal, she thanks Arnold for offering to do the right thing and asks him out on a date.
  • In A Woman Of Substance, Blackie tells Emma to list him as the father of her child on the birth certificate when she refuses to name the real father, so the child will not have the shame of having the father listed as unknown.

    Myths & Religion 
  • The Bible:
    • In the Book of Genesis, Dinah is raped by Shechem, who then wants to marry her; instead, her brothers Levi and Simeon kill him and raze his town. According to some Jewish accounts, Dinah was pregnant from the rape and was angry at her brothers, since she didn't think she could ever find another husband after the incident. She then forces Simeon to take her into his home like a wife and raise her child, though the two never actually consummate the arrangement.
      • There is an alternative Rabbinical legend making her Job's wife. In yet another one, she goes to Egypt ahead of her family, where her daughter is adopted by a priest named Asenath, and grows up to marry Dinah's half-brother Joseph.
    • As recounted in the Gospel Of Matthew: Joseph and Mary were betrothed, but not yet married, when Joseph found out Mary was pregnant. Since they'd never had sex, Joseph knew darn well it wasn't his. He was about to break up with her, although — in his Establishing Character Moment as a Nice Guy — he planned to quietly cancel their engagement rather than publicly accuse her of cheating, since he didn't want to expose her to public disgrace. Then an angel from Heaven stepped in cleared up the situation, explaining that it was a Mystical Pregnancy and Mary had not cheated. Joseph married her, legitimizing her pregnancy in the eyes of society, and being the social father of her son. And Joseph was such a good stepdad that he became the Patron Saint of fathers.
    • King David tried to pass his marriage to Bathsheba off as one of these (or even as just a regular marriage), but he actually was trying to cover up the fact that he got her pregnant even though she was already married... and he had killed her husband to facilitate the cover-up.

  • The 1932 Broadway musical Face the Music has the song "I Don't Wanna Be Married," in which a compromised girl refuses such a proposal:
    I never would change my name,
    Even after the baby came,
    'Cause I don't wanna be married,
    I just wanna be friends.

  • In Tina's Story, this was Tina's backstory. Tina's mother, Georgette (a canine Hybridnote ) had been raped by humans, and Tina's stepfather, Stan, (also a canine Hybrid) stepped up to give her child a father. Later, we find out that was a cover story. Stan was Tina's biological father all along. They made up the rape to cover for the fact that Georgette was underage when she got pregnant.

    Western Animation 

    Real Life 
  • Grover Cleveland did something roughly similar. He didn't marry the mother but did support the child, even though he was only one of the possible fathers. His political opponents tried to use the scandal against him; but the fact that he owned up to the situation and took responsibility, despite no one being sure he was the actual father, made him look better in the long run.
    Opposing Political Slogan: Ma! Ma! Where's my pa?
    Response: Gone to the White House! Ha! Ha! Ha!
  • In Alberta, Canada, there was an incident in the 1960s where an older man married a young widow so that she'd have someone to support her and her four children. This was seen as an admirable act of charity.