With ten kids, my mother was pregnant for 7 1/2 years of her life. But she never made the cover of Vanity Fair—with or without her maternity clothes. Maybe that’s because in her day, pregnant women only appeared in maternity dresses made by Omar the Tentmaker out of 75 yards of black polyester with a contrasting bow at the neck.
My own views of pregnancy have changed over the years:
Age 5—With an Irish-Catholic mother, I think natural childbirth is what happens when you use the rhythm method of birth control.
Me: “Where’s Mommy?”
My Father: “Well, naturally, she’s in the hospital having another baby.”
Me: “You don’t mean…”
My Father: “Yes, I’ll be doing the cooking for the next few weeks.”
Me: “Eeeuuuw. Yuck.”
Age 12—Flower children get tie-dyed clothes and love beads. Omar’s clients get polyester maternity pants with stretch tummy panels. At Our Lady of Plaid School for Unwed Girls, we get the facts of life:
Sister Mary Sex-Ed: “Remember girls: teenage boys are raging masses of single-minded hormones. And they smell bad.”
Class: “Eeeuuuw. Yuck.”
Age 23—Girls are supposed to be doctors, astronauts, construction workers, anything but mothers. Omar opens a chain of Quiche Shops out on the West Coast.
Prince Charming: “Marry me and bear my children.”
US: “Eeeuuuw. Yuck.”
Age 33—We ask not for whom the biological clock tolls; but we would like to know how it got attached to that time bomb. Suddenly, our professional jobs, apartments, cars, size 5 wardrobes are meaningless. The only status symbols that count are stretch marks. Omar starts a catalog of maternity tents for professional women (made out of 75 yards of black polyester with contrasting neckties and boxy jackets).
Best Friend: “Trevor and I have something wonderful to show you.”
Me: “What is that strip you’re waving at me?”
Best Friend: “Our home pregnancy test that I just peed on. I’m so happy. I’m also going to throw up.”
Me: “Eeeuuuw. Yuck.”
Age 35—I’ve bought stock in Omar. Thanks to the glow of pregnancy, people assure me that even though I look like a Volkswagen in a black tent with a contrasting bow at the windshield, I have never been more beautiful.
Natural Childbirth Class Teacher: “Welcome to the Miracle of Birth. I’m going to stand up here with a perfectly straight face and tell you some real whoppers. Childbirth Whopper #1–To have a natural childbirth, all you need to know is how to breathe. Our mothers didn’t know how to breathe, so they had to have their babies with…DRUGS!”
Class: “Eeeuuuw. Yuck.”
[Reality check: Five minutes into Stage 1 of the Miracle, I’m breathing like a Mack Truck and yelling, “If I don’t see someone in surgical scrubs giving me some serious drugs RIGHT NOW, I’m outta here.]
Natural Childbirth Class Teacher: Childbirth Whopper #2– If you do all of these incredibly obscene exercises, you might not need an episiotomy.
Class: “Episi-what-omy? We thought all we had to do was breathe. We want to see that contract again. Eeeuuuw. Yuck.”
[Reality check: 2 1/2 months of exercises and you still spend weeks on an inflatable donut.]
[Reality check: Welcome to the world of pediatric antibiotics which cost more per ounce than your engagement ring.]
Natural Childbirth Class Teacher: “Nursing Whopper #2– Nursing burns up calories, so you lose weight as you nurse your baby.”
[Reality check: kiss those size-5s goodbye.]
Natural Childbirth Class Teacher: “Nursing Whopper #3– Nursing helps your baby’s jaw develop perfectly, so your child will never need braces.”
Real life ,, Age 47: I sat in the orthodontist’s consulting room. In front of me was a case full of plastic casts of his patients’ problem mouths, starting from one that was absolutely perfect and progressing down from there. I picked up the last one, which looked like it came from a cross between a chipmunk and the Missing Link. On the back was the name of my nursed-for-twelve-months son. But what could I do? Our Declaration of Independence guarantees every American child the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of perfect teeth.
Orthodontist: “Here’s my bill.”
Me: “Eeeuuuw. Yuck.”
Author Linda Huber takes a much darker look at the lies we tell ourselves about parenting in her riveting new psychological thriller, Baby Dear. Please see my review below.
Baby Dear by Linda Huber
Caro and Jeff Horne seem to have it all until they learn that Jeff is infertile. Caro married Jeff because her biggest wish was to be a mother, and he had the means to give their children a better life than she’d had. Jeff, who is besotted with Caro, is terrified he will lose her now they can’t have a baby.
Across town, Sharon is eight months pregnant and unsure if she really wants to be a mother. Soon her world will collide with Jeff’s. He wants to keep Caro happy and decides that getting a baby is the only way.
Then Caro is accidently drawn into an underworld of drugs…
Meanwhile, Jeff is increasingly desperate to find a baby – but what lengths is he prepared to go to?
Is Sharon in danger, and will Caro ever have the family she’s always dreamed of?
I was an English Lit major, so my (required) science courses tended to be known by names like Rocks-for-Jocks and Magic 101. In one of his first lectures, our tutor was embarrassingly excited about the scientific method—we didn’t know where to look—as he gushed about experimental and control groups. But I found myself thinking back to his lecture as I read the psychological thriller, Baby Dear.
In almost all of her books, author Linda Huber explores relationships and how they affect her characters. For most part, there is a focus on the bond between parent and child, and especially on what can happen when that bond is threatened or damaged. But in Baby Dear, she invites us to follow as she experiments on that bond, deliberately pushing it up to—and even past—its limits.
In this experiment, her characters fall roughly into the control groups described by my old tutor, with the ‘experiment’ testing that most primal of bonds—motherhood.
- Experimental Group: Caro Horne needs to be a mother. Every decision she’s made in the past years, including her choice of husband, has been aimed at that goal. The news that her husband is infertile is simply the end of everything that matters to her. “The child that didn’t exist, that never would, had changed her whole life.”
- Positive Control Group (exposed to some other treatment known to produce the expected effect): Sharon Morrison doesn’t need to be a mother. She and her husband Craig resent the imminent birth of their child. “Oh, they’d talked about a baby one day—in five or six years, maybe. But not yet. The baby had stolen five years of her life. Why had she kept it? Her good Catholic upbringing could take the blame for that.”
- Negative Control Group (group not exposed to any treatment): Julie Mayhew is first and foremost a mother. Left penniless with two small children after her philandering husband abandoned her, she can’t imagine being without her son and baby daughter. “Even during the worst time, just after Matt left, she had never stopped wanting her children. In fact, being Sam’s mum and looking forward to Amy’s birth were the two things that had kept her going.”
Even as Julie the good mother, Sharon the reluctant mother-to-be, and Caro the non-mother reflect their three differing states of motherhood, each is about to be profoundly altered by the introduction of a variable in the form of Caro’s husband Jeff. Outwardly, he appears to be a successful business owner with a lovely wife and a nice home. Internally, however, his need for Caro is a desperate imperative, and if that means a baby, he’s willing to need that too. When fertility testing determines that he can’t father a child, his world shrinks to one essential realization: he can’t lose his wife, so he must get a baby.
Author Linda Huber takes her time, introducing each character from their own point of view. This could have gotten confusing, but she is careful to set each head hop into its own section, identified by name and time. Not only does this allow us to see characters through each other’s eyes, but we also experience Jeff’s panic-driven deterioration.
As I’ve noted in my reviews of her earlier books, Linda Huber isn’t interested in the criminal villain—the godfathers, the outlaws, the career lawbreakers—who routinely employ evil as a tool of their trade, but who ultimately still have the potential for change, like the “It’s just my job” hitmen in Quentin Tarantino’s Pulp Fiction. Instead, for her psychological thrillers, she gives us a villain whose character and psyche are broken in some fundamental way.
“The baby was still crying on the sofa, blood smeared down the front of her pink cardigan.”
As the first line of the prologue signals, Baby Dear isn’t a mystery but an exploration into the bonds of motherhood that takes us down a dark path when obsession becomes madness. This is a character-driven tale where the measured introduction to the large cast steadily builds to a breathless speed. Each of the three mother figures moves from trying to cope with everyday problems—Julie’s poverty, Sharon’s fear of childbirth, Caro’s despair at her husband’s infertility—to sudden confrontation with her worst nightmare. The blend of character-driven pace with flawed and unreliable narrators leaves the reader to second guess everything happening.
Even with the prologue—which sets the stage for that dark moment at the climax of Baby Dear—casting an ominous shadow over the rest of the book, I was still absolutely riveted as Jeff’s unravelling connection with reality threatens each of the three women and their children.
There were a few subplots that didn’t come together for me. The secondary storyline involving the drug death of one boy plus Caro’s involvement with a little boy who turns out to be her nephew didn’t really seem to tie convincingly into the main plot or even to be resolved. And (without inserting spoilers), there is a complete turnaround in attitude which seems almost impossible to believe.
But if you like a character-driven psychological thriller that takes the time to set up the characters and the scene before building to a ‘can’t put down this book for anything short of smoke and/or lots of water’ climax, then Baby Dear is the book for you. It’s a riveting thriller by an author who has clearly established herself as a master of the genre.
- Book Title: Baby Dear
- Author: Linda Huber
- Genre: Psychological thriller
- Publisher: Bloodhound Books (May 16, 2017)
- Length: 240 pages