Emma was born in the Enchanted Forest, but was raised on Earth. Her life growing up was a difficult one, and she was taken to an orphanage. When she got out, she became a thief alongside a man named Neal Cassidy, who she eventually fell in love with. However, Emma was caught in the act of a crime and was sent to prison where she discovered she was pregnant. To give the baby its best chance, she decided to give him away, and she became a 'bail-bondsperson'. She lived in Boston for a while.
When Snow White becomes pregnant, she and Prince Charming visit a man who can tell them if their baby will be safe from the evil queen or not; Rumplestiltskin. He informs them that while the Dark Curse will be unleashed, the baby will return in 28 years and save them from their doomed fate. In return, Snow White tells Rumplestiltskin the name of the baby, which is Emma. On the night that the Dark Curse is unleashed, Snow goes in labour and gives birth to Emma. However, Snow and Charming realise that they can't keep her, and they send her through a magical wardrobe which sends her to earth, keeping her safe from the Dark Curse's clutches.
28 years later, an adult Emma Swan goes on a date with a man named Ryan Marlow. It is revealed, however, that she is a bail-bondsman who has been tracking Ryan down. He attempts to escape, but his car had been previously stuck with a tire boot that Emma set up. She pursues him and tells him to give the money to his family, to which Ryan asks what she would know about family. Angry at this statement, Emma slams his head into the steering wheel which knocks him out, before replying, "Nothing". Later that night, she returns home with a cupcake, as it is actually her birthday. She lights a candle on the cupcake and makes a wish, before blowing out the candle. A few seconds after this happens, there is a knock on the door. Emma answers it, to see a little boy claiming to be her son. Confused and slightly unconvinced, she takes him back to Storybrooke, where he returns the boy to his adoptive mother, Regina Mills. Regina invites Emma inside for a conversation over apple cider, before Emma drives off. However, before she can leave Storybrooke, she sees a wolf in the middle of the road and dodges it, crashing into the town sign and being knocked out cold. She wakes up at the police station, where the sheriff belives that she crashed into the sign because she was drunk from the apple cider. When the boy - Henry - goes missing again, Emma helps Regina and Sheriff Graham locate him. She takes Henry home, and Regina gets angry and threatened by the presence of Henry's birth mother. Emma and Regina have a brief argument, before Emma decides to stay in Storybrooke to make sure Henry is alright.
- S1, E1: "Pilot"