Book Club Guide

Maternity Leave by Julie Halpern
from Thomas Dunne Books

From the book flap:

The profane, profound and just plain funny story of a professional woman who thinks she's ready for a baby but her maternity leave proves otherwise.

Thirty-six-year old Annie Schwartz-Jensen and her husband, Zach, waited to have a baby until the time was perfect. Annie got pregnant as planned, she hid her puke breath from the students in her seventh grade class, and drew up a detailed birth plan. She knew what to expect. She couldn't wait to raise her child in the most expertly precise way, using the trials and errors of all the parents who came before her in her ten years of teaching. She couldn't wait to feel the unconditional love, that moment everyone told her about, when she had a baby of her own.

"Maternity Leave" begins nine months later, as Annie gives birth to Sam, who comes out perfectly formed and screaming. After all those years of dreaming about a baby, this one is real.

And he scares the living crap out of Annie.

Discussion Questions:

Maternity Leave is categorized as realistic fiction. What about Annie's situation did you find relatable? Were there any situations or emotions which hit too close to home?

Maternity Leave opens with a graphic and hilarious birth scene. After the physical and emotional roller coaster of giving birth, are there memories which make you laugh?

The paths of Doogan and Sam intersect Do you see similarities in how Annie dealt with her pet and her son? In what ways do you treat your pets differently/better than your children?

Zach is a somewhat oblivious husband. Why do you think men are often portrayed as less capable in child rearing? Is Zach's level of cluelessness similar or different or different to your own experiences with partners during child rearing?

Annie struggled with breastfeeding but felt very strongly about persevering. Was there anything you felt you had to do with your children, even if it killed you? Was it worth it?

The grandparent name game can be a source of derision for some families. How do you think it was handled in Maternity Leave? Was it a sore spot in your families?

What do you think of the book's cover? Which mom represents your experience best?

Annie feels a lot of guilt throughout the book, often feeling like a bad mom. Do you think society sets up too high of expectations for new moms? What way could we help new moms feel successful?

Annie and Zach's sex life becomes far more complicated once baby Sam arrives. What do you think of Annie putting off sex for a while? What do you think of her role-playing solution? Depending on your book group, feel free to discuss how you dealt with the changes and challenges of sex after baby.

Annie used QVC to help cope with the insanity of middle-of-the-night feedings. What were tools you used to make it through those trying times?

The novel ends somewhat neatly, although life with a baby is never neat. Would you have liked a more realistic, messier ending? Is it okay to have a happy ending in fiction in order to leave the reader on an emotional high?

When Annie's maternity leave nears its end, she finds it harder to leave Sam than she thought. Could you relate to these feelings? How did you make your decision to stay home or return to work?

Copyright 2015 Julie Halpern