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'Maternity Leave' Offers Aid and Comfort to Recovering New Moms

Macmillan Publishers

Many new parents know first hand the physical impact having a child can have on a woman's body, but a recent book by Julie Halpern looks at the bigger – and often funnier - picture of how childbirth impacts a fictitious new mother.

Annie Schwartz-Jensen is the thirtysomething hero of Maternity Leave, which is written in journal form and covers the six months after she gives birth to Sam and before she goes back to work at a middle school in northern Illinois. 

"The experiences that are painful and sad and everything are mostly about my son, but a lot of it is from stories that my friends and I told each other, and it's definitely fiction," says Halpern.

Halpern has two children - one daughter (7 years old) and a son (2 1/2 years old). Her initial bonding experiences with each child were very different. Her daughter was born premature and needing extra care, while her son did not sleep through the night until he was 18 months old. Halpern also went back to work after her maternity leave for her daughter was through, but is now a stay at home mother after her son was born.

Halpern wrote the book while her son was one years old and at the peak of sleepless nights, difficulty breastfeeding and less than loving feelings between everyone.

With five young adult novels under her belt, Halpern wanted to shift her writing focus after she became a stay at home mother. It wasn't until her publisher suggested that her Facebook posts about her experiences with her son would make a great book that Halpern considered writing a book for adults.

"It was so easy to come up with the book...and it was fun trying a new voice," says Harper. Once she starting writing, the finished product was completed in just six weeks.

Halpern knows that every mother's experience is different, but she hopes that in writing down fictional stories with real life inspiration, other women can connect with the character's struggles. From nitty gritty details about difficulties with childbirth and breastfeeding to parenting struggles, Halpern wants other mothers to know it is OK to not enjoy every moment of parenthood.

"With Maternity Leave, my hope was that other women out there would see that you don't have to love being home with your child as much as they make it out to seem like it's a wonderful, beautiful thing all the time. And it's not because we're people," says Halpern.

Julie Halpern’s latest novel is her first for adults.  It’s called Maternity Leave.  She’s also author of several young adult novels, including Get Well Soon and Have a Nice Day

Audrey Nowakowski hosts and produces Lake Effect. She joined WUWM in 2014.