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A woman's about to have a baby, be it her first or her third. Maybe it's a difficult pregnancy, maybe everything's been perfect so far, but one day that baby wants out.
The problem? Mom's only about seven months along (or less). And even when measures are taken to try to keep the baby in there longer, most of the time there's just no holding them back. The water breaks, other complications are happening in the womb, the baby needs to come out.
A variation is when a routine doctor visit or a seemingly innocuous symptom means something is wrong with the pregnancy and the mother needs to be induced.
In fiction and in real life, sometimes babies decide to come earlier than ideal. While a good number of preemies survive, the angst and fear are palpable as parents see their much-too-tiny baby struggling to survive outside the womb. Many premature babies are unable to breathe on their own or are susceptible to infection.
In fiction, it depends on the medium. If it's a sitcom with mostly happy endings, the baby will beat the odds and survive, and eventually come home with their family. If it's a drama or a show with a more realistic bent, the baby won't make it and the family will have to deal with the loss.
- A series of Shiro/Pidge fics in Voltron: Legendary Defender fandom has Pidge go into labor barely into her third trimester (without even realizing she has until their hyper-intelligent space dog nudges her belly), causing all manner of drama for the couple and Pidge to develop postpartum depression. The baby survives, though.
- Franziska von Karma in the Ace Attorney fic Turnabout Everlasting goes into labor two months early after suffering serious pregnancy complications. The baby is stillborn, leading to the already fragile relationship between lovers Franziska and Edgeworth to grow even more strained.
Film - Live Action
- Subverted with Jack. The titular character is born when the mother goes into labor at only ten weeks-but he comes out fully developed. The movie is about him growing up with a variation of Progeria, where he ages four years for each one he's alive.
- In the book Sit, Stay, Love, the heroine Gina Palmer was born prematurely and as a result, her entire family treated her like she was made of glass for years. As a result she's stubborn as hell and hates being seen as a weakling or accepting help.
- Renesmee Cullen in Twilight, though her early arrival is balanced by the rapid progression of Bella's half-vampire pregnancy.
- In Lurlene McDaniel's Brianna's Gift, the titular Brianna collapses from an aneurysm and is left brain-dead while pregnant. She's kept alive for the baby's sake (due to Brianna really wanting her daughter) but when she develops an infection, the baby needs to be delivered early. Luckily, the little girl survives and is taken home by the protagonist and her mother.
- Catherine Anderson's Perfect Timing has the pregnant heroine Ceara go into premature labor after using her healing abilities to fix a bad cut on her husband Quincy's hand. The baby very nearly dies until Ceara uses her power to heal her. This in turn almost kills Ceara, until the baby nurses from her and ensures both of their survival. The epilogue takes place at the baby's first birthday party.
- Anne's first child in the Anne of Green Gables series dies as a result of being born prematurely.
- Lord Fax in the Dragonriders of Pern series invokes this by raping the pregnant Lady Gemna into premature labor. The baby survives, Gemna doesn't.
- Lilias Craven in The Secret Garden went into premature labor from falling out of a tree, and was barely able to give birth to Colin before she died. Colin survived, but grew up an Ill Boy as a result.
- An animal variant happens in Rainbow Rowell's Landline, with Georgie's mother's pug. The dog was supposed to go in for a scheduled c-section in two weeks, but Georgie finds her atop a pile of laundry bleeding and already giving birth. She and her sister freak out, knowing how difficult it is for pugs to give live birth, but the pizza delivery girl who happened to be dropping off an order is able to help with the birth (she watches Animal Planet regularly). The mother and her three babies all survive.
- On Boy Meets World, Amy and Alan's fourth baby arrives when Amy is barely seven months pregnant. He's in NICU for several days, and while we get plenty of screen time for Amy and Alan to worry about him the B-plot has Cory trying to hide from reality and Topanga rebuking his efforts, until she realizes that hope and optimism are exactly what everyone needs. Baby Joshua survives, and grows up into a fine, healthy teenager in the sequel series.
- In the fictitious final season of Roseanne, Darlene and David's baby Harris is born at 28 weeks. Darlene goes into labor and the doctor tries a powerful drug to stop it, but her water breaks. The baby's on life support and Roseanne calls in two of the best neo-natal specialists she can, but what proves to save baby Harris's life is when the women of the family come into the NICU to hold her and speak with her. The Conners reveals that this is the only thing from the final season that was for real.
- This happens to Becky in the spinoff The Conners, featuring a difficult labor and a Screaming Birth played for drama. Becky blames herself for being too old (she's in her early 40s) and drinking when she didn't know she was pregnant.
- This happens to Bow in Blackish when she goes to the doctor about a headache and discovers she has pre-eclampsia. Baby Devante needs to be delivered via c-section two months earlier than expected.
- Andrea and Jesse's baby girl on Beverly Hills, 90210 is so premature she not only needs a machine to help her breathe but a blood transfusion. It didn't help that Andrea was having pregnancy complications beforehand and needed to be hospitalized. The baby lives through, though.
- The Aviator/Sabrina in the PPC goes into premature labor brought on by some time jumps. Her daughter survives, thankfully.