What do you get when you cross a standup comic with a premature baby? (No, seriously — it’s a real question.)
In the case of Paul Alexander and his wife Maggie, you get a hilarious recap of events and occurrences surrounding the early birth and first few years of their child’s life, a boy named Sean.
Alexander’s “memoir” is absolutely unique. It is skillfully delivered in short, humorous vignettes with punch lines you can never predict and an authenticity that anyone who has ever birthed and raised a child of either sex — premature or full-term — will immediately appreciate.
The book begins with Alexander’s unfortunate response to his wife’s announcement that she is going into labor a month early:
:”No, you’re not,” he says with a light chuckle.
Wrong response to a woman far gone in childbirth pain. Way wrong.
What follows after that is a rapid-fire recounting — served up with rare insight and keen intellect — of those first memorable months between any parent and their newly arrived alien presence — and a demanding one it usually is.
“We bought earplugs and a bottle of vodka for our downstairs neighbor,” he reports. And:
“You can tell a new dad by how he reacts to losing the baby pacifier. He frantically checks himself like a crucifix; forehead, belly, over the heart left, over the heart right…”
And every parent can relate to this truism:
“Baby formula smells ghastly. The price is the same.”
Occasionally, Alexander shifts from funny guy to philosopher, and many readers will be struck by the depth of his remarks:
“Time with a newborn is like running the marathon and collapsing across the finish line and then being told you’re (only) at the start.”
Month inevitably follows month until before you know it — or are ready for it — your child is standing and walking around.
“I wanted him to stand,” Alexander says, “but then I realized it might not be a great idea because his feet are a few inches long and his head is the size of a soccer ball.”
This book is positively packed with literary bon mots like that. Great stuff that you can imagine hearing at the Improv on any given night. In fact, that’s one of the venues Paul has played.
As Sean grows, the one-liners keep coming:
“If you put a tiny kid on a front lawn pretty soon lots of tiny kids are on your front lawn.” And, here’s one that makes for a cartoonish visual image involving a child-size thought balloon:
“Sometimes my wife dresses Sean up in a bear-ear hat or curly-cue wizard boots. He stares up at us, (and probably is thinking), “Until I get my motor skills, I’m at your mercy.”
These quotes represent only a fraction of all the terrific stories and wry humor this memoir imparts, of course. Succeeding chapters (and there are many) chronicle Alexander’s improbable move of his young family to a remote island in the middle of a Canadian lake — with attendant tongue-in-cheek depictions of the locals.
And captures such universally remembered events as baby’s first airplane ride, which typically involves a huge bag of toys and a dozen trips to the tiny lavatory.
In Paul’s quintessential description, he nails the penchant airline reservations agents have for always giving parents with small children the center or window seat.
“Not sure what class I was sitting in on the airplane, but every time I had to get out of my seat it was like giving the senior lady next to me a lap dance. I half expected her to tip me a twenty.”
We award Our Baby Was Born Premature a full five and a half stars. If you need a gift for parents — or grandparents — of any age, send them the hardcover edition of this gem. They can display it on their coffee table, entertaining visitors for years to come.