Maternity Leave Survival Reads

Dear Spring:  Thanks for springing.  Just in time to rescue me from complete despair that you were never coming.

So, it’s Easter Sunday and I don’t have a very Easter-y blog post for today, if you were looking for books about some aspect of the holiday.  Like chocolate bunnies.

If my blogging as of late has felt uninspired, please know I am in the final throes of training for a half marathon.  I wanted to be a more competitive triathlete so I just decided to do a half marathon training program, and then my training partner said that I will never know if the program works unless I actually run one, so then I signed up for a race twice the length of what I am sure I am capable of.  My goal is not to walk.  But the training has taken up my writing time.  I tried to write last week’s post after a seven mile clip through the park and my brain was refusing to comply.    So I am posting on a rest day, an amazing sunny day that I spent outside with my son.  On a topic I have long been considering.

Pregnancy and maternity leave were an interesting time for my reading. During pregnancy, my brain did not hang on to some of the books very well, except I did finish Mansfield Park and it did make me think enough to stay in my mind.  So did A Prayer for Owen Meany and The Grapes of Wrath.  Mystery novels slipped away from me, though, and the ones I read, especially on those summer mornings where the best I could do was walk on the treadmill, deserve a re-read.   Cloud Atlas being one of them. But it was not the pregnancy books that I wanted to post on.

It is the books that got me through the subsequent maternity leave that will be featured today.  The time when I had my very own tiny baby bunny.

Pregnancy requires a degree of survival, although mine was not high risk or especially horrid in any of those ways.  I was just tired, bleary minded, and wanting to fast forward to the baby part because I did not know any better. But it’s just a warm-up for the big leagues.

When I became a mother, I also I became someone who could read on my phone, as it was back lit and could fit in one hand, the other cradling possibly the hungriest infant that ever lived.  I did not only read in those long nights with nothing but the light of the nightlight and the one on my phone,  but it was a better activity than googling my exes and seeing all the places that my best friend checked into in the first year he lived in NYC (something I am really jealous of and something I am also really not).

So what makes a good maternity read?  Engaging and not too complicated.  My sleep deprived, pregnancy compromised brain needed scraps to hang on to but not too many scraps because the scraps would get too tangled up.  I also noticed that the books I am mentioning here are mostly series books, which can minimize the between book angst. Which is completely real, and should not happen at the same time as all the other angsts of new motherhood.

Some of the best books from that time:

Gone Girl, Jillian Flynn

Short chapters and a totally engrossing plot. I already was up most the night and I wanted to be up the rest of it because I just had to know.  And I could be like, just one more part and I’ll put it down… an hour later… ha. Very vivid memory of a time that did not make a whole lot of specific memories.

The Jo Mackenzie books, Gil McNeil  (starting with The Beach Street Knitting Society and Yarn Club)

This one still piqued my curiosity despite lacking the tension of Gillian Flynn’s suspense novel.  They are more a slice of life books than they are about discrete plots where people undergo major changes, but I like a woman following her creative dreams of having a knitting shop after her no good husband dies.

Nero Wolfe novels, Rex Stout

I have long read Nero in the spaces of my life where I needed a book to pull me away but not completely entangle me emotionally.  He was also a break from grad school read.  I do believe I have done 37 of this series, but I almost feel that this should have its own post.

The Plantagenet and Tudor novels of Philippa Gregory

These were more at the tail end of maternity leave, but they got me through January as well:  a double accolade.  I love Philippa’s true historical novels and the fascinating characters and historical events that she brings to life in her writing.  I find myself googling these people afterward.  As of now I have Three Sisters Three Queens on deck and maybe the Taming of the Queen, which I know is about the last wife whose inner light was thankfully not victim to the tyrant king Henry VIII.

What gets me through in my time of need!  If I had another baby, I would finish the Royal Spyness series and maybe some Louise Penny.

Happy Easter!


Thoughts/shares/comments always appreciated!!




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