This is an excerpt from the new novel, Maternity Leave, by Julie Halpern, released today and previously reviewed here.
19 Days Old
Two days and counting before Zach goes back to work as an IT specialist at a local bank. “What are you so worried about?” My mom holds Sam as I drag a pen along the seams of an envelope. Two half-finished thank you notes jeer at me. “I raised you kids without your dad around, and you turned out decent.”
“I’m not worried about Sam being decent. He barely has a sporting chance, what with being your grandson.” I smirk. “I’m worried about generally sucking as a mom,” I explain.
“Let me let you in on a little secret: all moms suck much of the time. The beauty about being a stay-at-home mom is that there is no one to watch you fail. It’s not like Sam is going to tell anyone. You’ll be back at work before he learns to talk anyway.”
“Mom, you’re wigging me out a little. And yet, you are very wise. You sure you don’t want to move in for a few months?”
“Oh, you’d love that. We couldn’t spend two days in Lake Geneva without the battle of the air conditioner. No, I’ll just be around for support when you need me. At least until I go to San Francisco next month.”
“I can’t believe you’re still going. You have a grandchild now!” I’m worried more about me not having her to help than my mom not seeing Sam, but it sounds better when the baby is the one being the baby.
“He won’t remember. And you’ll make it without me. What if I were dead? You’d have to do it without me anyway. In fact, pretend I’m dead. It’ll be easier.”
“Ma! Why do you always have to go to the dark side?” I ask.
“It’s part of my charm, I guess.”
Doogan looks at me, and I swear I detect a shrug. “She’s your mother,” he says.
I have managed to take care of Doogan for seventeen years. I’ll take that as a good sign. Then Doogan bites me, and I shove him off the couch.
20 Days Old
Zach goes back to work tomorrow. I am terrified, scared shitless, and entrenched with fear. I have to be alone with this baby all day, every day, and I don’t know if I can do it.
“You’re going to be fine. You’ve been doing it already for three weeks,” Zach tries to comfort me as we watch “Supernatural” on the couch. Sam sleeps peacefully on Zach’s chest. I give him the stinkeye, just in case he can sense I’m not happy with him.
“I haven’t been doing it for three weeks by myself. At first I was in the hospital, and you’ve been here the whole time, playing a supporting role, as has my mom in her morbid kind of way. Plus– fine? I don’t want to be fine. I want to be the best, most kick-ass mother on the planet. And beyond. I want to nurse him lovingly whilst I bake cakes and keep the house so clean you can hear little chimes of sparkle ringing from the countertops. I want Sam to learn sign language and ten other languages and to fit all the right shapes into that ball with the shapes cut out that five different people bought for him. Fine wasn’t good enough for me before I had this baby, so it certainly should not be good enough when we’re talking about the health and happiness of our first born son!” This would be the start of many a sleep-deprived diatribe on the subject of mama failure. But Zach will soon be lucky enough to get away from it all for ten hours a day, five days a week. Son of a bitch.
Middle of the Night
Full-on panic that Zach goes back to work tomorrow. Thank god for QVC. I don’t know what I’d do without the hypnotic beauty of twenty-four hours of gemstones.
21 Days Old
First Day Without Zach Goals
- Feed, clothe, change, etc. Sam
- cut fingernails
- paint toenails
- bake chocolate chip cookies
- take nap
- master Moby Wrap
Zach is gone, and so far so good. Nothing out of the ordinary, and I did manage to write three more thank you notes. Perhaps I will send them before Sam’s first birthday.
I spent much of the day practicing intricate wrappings of the Moby Wrap so I can wear Sam around when I go places. Working with at least twenty feet of fabric to somehow transform it into a safe nest in which Sam will lay seems semi-impossible, but I’ve made it my quest for the day. Or maybe the week. Why rush these things.
First Day without Zach Accomplishments
- Blah blah blah Sam
- Managed to knot my Moby Wrap and watched it fall on the floor
- Fell asleep while on toilet (nap?)
- Ate half a roll of refrigerated cookie dough (baked in my stomach?)
When Zach arrives home, the house is the same mess it was before he left. My face is still the same mess it was before he left. Zach looks like he just returned from a three week trip to a spa. I pray for a gigantic, dribbly poo to slither into Sam’s diaper so I can hand it off to Zach, but for once Sam’s baby buns have clammed up. Not that Zach would care. “I missed you so much!” he proclaims to Sam as he swings him around the room. I should take my act on the road. How much does an Invisible Woman make?
Copyright © 2015 by St. Martin’s Press LLC.
MATERNITY LEAVE by Julie Halpern
Published by Thomas Dunne Books
On-sale September 1, 2015
ISBN-13: 9781250065025 | $24.99 | Hardcover