In the meantime, Ann became an unwitting yet grateful hostage to Britain's National Health Service a stranger in a strange land plunged abruptly into a world of breast pumps and midwives, blood oxygen levels, mad cow disease, and poll tax riots. Desperately worried about the health of her baby, Ann struggled to adapt to motherhood and make sense of a very different culture. At once an intimate family memoir, a lively travelogue, and a touching love story, An Innocent, a Broad is utterly engaging and unforgettable.
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An Innocent, a Broad
By Leary, Ann
William Morrow & CompanyISBN: 0060527234
During my pregnancy with Jack, my first child, I worked in my stepfather's Boston law office and spent most of the day fantasizing about my baby and about its birth. I read someplace that one should keep a journal during pregnancy, and while I've always been too lazy for journal keeping, I thought I might chronicle the labor and birth, and perhaps even send in the result to one of the maternity publications that I had recently begun to read. These magazines printed real, firstperson accounts of childbirth, and I was especially fascinated by the home-birthing stories.
Who are these women? I wondered as I read one enthralling birth story after another. They scrubbed their kitchen floors and home-schooled their older children while they labored, then, when it was time to push, they pulled a plastic tub out of a closet, squatted over it, and blithely expelled a baby into the hands of an astoundingly capable husband. The children would help stitch up Mom, and the placenta would be stored in a lunch box in the freezer, presumably to be displayed annually on the child's birthday.
I admired the women in these stories for their stoicism and almost mystical strength, and I often imagined my own home birth. In my daydreams the home birth was never planned but happened almost against my will. I imagined that when I recognized the first pangs of labor, I would take a leisurely bath. Then, packing my pajamas into an overnight bag, I would realize that there was no time to make it to the hospital, and I would inform my husband in hot, gasping breaths that we would be having the baby at home. We would then spend the rest of the evening on our bed, laboring and breathing and ultimately producing a beautiful, plump baby that my husband would triumphantly slide onto my bare belly. (This fantasy would also, on occasion, include a handsome fireman who was called upon in a moment of panic.) Although I had never been able to endure a menstrual period without pain medication, I thought that with each dizzying contraction, a preternatural strength and instinctive wisdom would permeate my consciousness, and I would produce my baby with the calm efficiency of a mother cat. I also assumed that the entire birth story could be told on a single typed page.
I was wrong.
Jack's due date was July 3, 1990, but his birth story began almost four months earlier on March 23, when my husband, Denis Leary, and I arrived in London for what was supposed to be a long weekend. Denis was scheduled to appear the following night on Live from Paramount City, a BBC television show that featured unknown American and British comedy acts each week. We were young and broke, and producers were not yet in the habit of flying us anywhere, but the night before we had entered the first-class lounge at the Virgin terminal as if we flew first-class all the time, and during the flight I drank eight glasses of water, just as I'd been instructed to do in What to Expect When You're Expecting. Our first child was due in another fourteen weeks, and I spent the entire flight basking in the knowledge that this squirming, curving, rapturous movement inside me was from our baby. (Even in my thoughts, the word was italicized.)
For some reason I'd always had an uneasy suspicion that I would not be able to conceive a child, and when I did, I viewed it as nothing short of a miracle. Certainly I was aware that it didn't require a lot of intellect or talent to procreate and that most people could do it. But I've always known that I desperately wanted to be a mother, and I suspected that I might be punished for some premarital sexual high jinks by having my tubes sealed shut or my womb rendered useless by some invisible disease. It's a Catholic thing. The year before, after having lived together since college, Denis and I had decided to get married, and I wanted to immediately try to have a baby. Fortunately, Denis isn't one of those bothersome types who worry about actually being able to clothe and feed the child once it's born, and he was only too happy to participate in the babyproducing scheme. We stopped using the birth control that I had always feared was pathetically uncalled for, and miraculously, after one night of trying, I became pregnant. Now my neurotic mental flight patterns were rerouted, and I was overwhelmed with fear about the well-being of my unborn baby.
I had a recurring dream as a child. My mother leaves my brother and me in the car to run into a store, and while she's gone, the car starts driving by itself. I have to jump into the front seat and steer, but my feet can't reach the brakes, and the steering wheel keeps coming off its column, so we go careening through town, barely missing fatal collisions. We keep going. We want to stop, but we can't, and then I awaken. From the moment I learned I was pregnant, I felt as if I were in that car again, being taken for a ride I couldn't control.
A near miss occurred during my first trimester, when I began "spotting," a term I had never heard before but one that's relatively self-explanatory. In a panic I left work and started driving to Mount Auburn Hospital in Cambridge, Massachusetts, where I'd been assigned by my HMO to have my prenatal care. I drove through Charlestown and on toward Cambridge on what was then known as the Prison Point Bridge. I was trying to prevent the heaving sobs in my gut from working their way to the surface.
I knew it, I thought, and as I sat in traffic, I was almost completely engulfed in self-pity when I noticed a man in a pickup ...Continues...
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What People are Saying About This
“Fresh, heartfelt and hilarious...What a broad, what a momwhat a writer. I loved this book.”
“Sharp and funny and snide and soulful… I’d hate her guts except that I want to be her best friend.”
“Belongs next to David Sedaris’s Me Talk Pretty One Day and even Mark Twain’s Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court.”
“Uplifting, heart-cheering, and-in the most warm and human way-very, very funny….”
“Funny, irreverent, witty and wise…compulsively readable.”