Our ninth question comes from marabett, who asked...
"So, this may not be enough of a question to justify a post, but...We've seen a lot of discussion about how low fertility is for non-Firstborn fae, to the point where they'll even take human lovers just to obtain a baby who may later present significant issues of his/her own (the Choice, mortality, etc. etc.). Does this really take precedent over everything else? By which I mean, if you're a Daoine Sidhe having a fling with a rascally Cait Sidhe that you'd rather not have your spouse know about, would you, erm, take steps to ensure that you wouldn't give birth to a baby with a tail? Are there magical ways to block fertility -- after all, there don't seem to be any magical ways to *increase* fertility, or I assume the fae would make use of them...? Or is it as simple as a fae thinking in passing, "A child would be inconvenient," and voila, no offspring? Or...would the spouse in question be delighted at the birth of a child even if he weren't the progenitor, because hey, fae baby!
Are there rules and traditions around the conception of full-fae children totally out of marriage? If two single fae types who are dallying together for fun conceive, do they just start talking marriage without another thought, because it's just a given that proven fertility together is as good a basis for marriage as any other? Or is that so rare that it's just handled on a case-by-case basis? I noticed that we had gotten a lot of interesting information on how full-fae children are viewed in the context of a marriage, and how changelings are viewed, but not a lot of discussion about what would happen if, say, Helen and Raj found out that they were expecting.
Again, sorry if this is too picayune -- as a subfertile member of a species in which fertility is assumed as the default, I end up wondering about a lot of esoteric elements of fertility stuff even in fictional races.
Also, one more question, since we're on the topic of fae fertility...For a fae couple, is there something about managing to conceive one child that triggers increased fertility for a period afterwards? I ask because I've noticed several examples of fae couples who have no children for quite some time, but then have two or more in (relatively) rapid succession. Apologies if this is veering into spoiler territory."
Um, wow. Okay, points for a really detailed question. Also, wow are y'all collectively fascinated by babies. Is this a hint?
Anyway, we're going to break this down. First part:
"Is having a baby, period, more important than what that baby is? Is there birth control?"
Every fae marriage has its own rules. Some include fidelity; others do not. How likely they are to include fidelity is somewhat determined by the rank of the people involved. Two married Daoine Sidhe, for example, hoping for a Daoine Sidhe heir, are likely to practice very strict fidelity until they actually get a kid, because they don't want there to be any question of whether someone else can make a claim to their lands or titles. (Ex: Duchess has an affair, has a child with her seneschal. Child is made heir. Child dies in the absence of any other heir. Seneschal can now claim that their other child, as the sibling of the heir, has a legit claim to the title. Depending on how the local monarch rules, this might actually work. This is the problem with a system of governance wherein the person who wears the crown just does what they want.) Also remember that fae divorce requires the consent of any children; adding a third parent who is not part of the marriage vows only complicates things. Since many fae marry solely for procreation, this doesn't come up very often.
There is birth control, for those times when you really don't want to risk pregnancy. It's usually used right before and during long diplomatic missions. These are thankfully uncommon. (Some fae will also use birth control when they have plans for the next nine months/year that they'd really rather not change, viewing it as not tempting fate.)
"What happens with full-fae children totally out of marriage?"
Helen is not a pureblood, so I'm going to shift your example to Raj and Chelsea, as they're purebloods of approximately the same age. (Not that they're sleeping together, as Etienne would straight-up murder anyone getting his sixteen-year-old daughter pregnant, Oberon's Law be damned.) If the two of them had a baby, they would not be considered married, but would be considered divorced. This is the one time that the child does not get to choose which side of the family it will belong to. Raj and Chelsea would both be expected to make the case to their respective lieges for why they should (or shouldn't) have custody, and at the end, the baby would belong to one family or the other. There is no child support. There is no taking it back.
"Is there a fertility boost following the birth of a child?"
Yes! No one is quite sure why, but having one baby seems to make it easier/more likely that you will have another, leading to clusters of two to four children born within a decade of each other. Most fae think this is very unfair. They are not wrong.