In response to Kassia Krozser's blog entry at Romancing the Blog entitled "The Romance Heroine Next Door" (link above), Wendy wrote: "...in romance novels the epilogue always seems to feature the heroine ripe with pregnancy, nursing an infant, chasing after a toddler or all of the above. Who says that a couple must have children in order to live happily ever after? Who made up that rule? And where are they so I can smack some sense into them?"
Since I have four kids, I don't really mind the epilogues showing the hero and heroine drowning in a swarm of children *g*, but I can certainly agree that it'd be nice to read the occasional romance where the protagonists chose not to have children.
However... I've read two romances lately in which the heroine positively KNEW she was infertile, due to surgery and removal of vital organs when she was younger, but who then got pregnant by the end of the book. This twist on the "happiness=fertility" ending bothers me. For one thing, at least one of the heroines was far from an angel and had slept around quite a bit (not to mention having several husbands), so the fact that she didn't get pregnant before she met the Amazing Super Stud and his Amazing Super Sperm seemed especially absurd.
But the impression a reader walks away with when reading this sort of plot resolution, the notion that a couple CAN'T have a happy ending if they're unable to conceive children, rankles on a deeper level than mere silliness. It's one thing to suspect you MAY be infertile but eventually discover you're not (as one of my heroes, who had undergone chemotherapy earlier in his life, did), or even to know you're infertile and consider adoption as an option (as another of my heroes did). But being certain you're infertile and then miraculously getting pregnant by the end of the book just seems... unrealistic? Absurd? Insensitive to those readers who are infertile and for whom a miracle is never going to happen? All of the above?
At any rate, Wendy's right. Have we all bought into the idea that a couple can't be happy if they're unable to conceive children? Or even that a couple can't be happy if they adopt children? If so, that's sort of a limited way to view happiness, don't you think?