Just 26 weeks into her first pregnancy, Ann Leary's water broke--an event she sardonically refers to as "the PROM" (doctor-speak for "premature rupture of membranes). Unfortunately for her, the "PROM" took place while she was strolling along Oxford Street during a weekend trip to London, where her (then-unknown) husband Denis Leary was booked to perform a BBC comedy show. Forbidden to return home and placed on total bed rest, Ann gets "knackered" from the medications pumped into her body to prevent premature labor. In some of the book's funniest passages, she makes great efforts to prevent her many hospital roommates from discovering she's American, lest they suspect she's freeloading off the National Health Service. (Don't let the bad pun of the book's title put you off; Ann's sense of humor is often as biting and gritty as her husband's).
Despite the doctors' best efforts, baby Jack is born two weeks later, while Denis is back in the U.S. working at comedy clubs (and trying to keep the couple from being evicted from their apartment). Jack is in relatively good shape, but Ann's mental state is at risk, as sleep deprivation, anxiety, and loneliness get the best of her. Among her postpartum goofs is befriending another woman whose baby is also in intensive care; she mistakes her for a slim, serene Earth Mother instead of the heroin-addict she really is. So, An Innocent, A Broad is not so much a drama of Jack's survival as much as it is a chuckle-fest at the expense of both Ann's predicament and of the Brits in general, whose overwrought sense of propriety is mocked non-stop. Beware if you think this might seem a perfect gift for a pregnant woman; the belly laughs are constant and likely to cause any expectant woman's water to break. --Erica Jorgensen
From Publishers Weekly
While pregnant, Leary, a television and film writer, fantasized about the birth of her son: it would include a home birth ("I would realize that there was no time to make it to the hospital"), an easy delivery (an "evening on our bed, laboring and breathing"), and, of course, a healthy child ("a beautiful, plump baby that my husband would triumphantly slide onto my bare belly"). This fantasy, Leary admits, occasionally included "a handsome fireman who was called upon in a moment of panic." Needless to say, it didn't happen that way. On a weekend trip with her husband, comedian Denis Leary (who was still relatively unknown at the time), to London in 1990 during her second trimester, Leary's water broke. No home birth, no healthy baby, no fireman. With a light touch and comic flair, Leary recounts the five months in London surrounding her son Jack's birth (they had to wait until Jack was more developed to travel back to the U.S.). Forgoing the gory medical details, Leary focuses on her life in and around the hospital and her naïveté about childbirth and parenting. Her cultural observations are especially droll, as Leary sorts out that "tea" is actually a meal and tries to prove that Americans aren't stupid: "I tried to look intelligent, but... I had nothing to read or even to look at, so I narrowed my eyes and stared at my fingernails, in what I hoped was a thoughtful way." Oddly, the one thing missing from the narrative is her husband, who plays a surprisingly small role. Still, this memoir is an easy read that finds the humor in this trying time in Leary's life.
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