Our Baby Was Born Premature (the Same Way He Was Conceived) by Paul Alexander is a charming and honest debut novel that showcases the true triumphs and chaos of first-time parenthood. Cleverly constructed in what the back of the book refers to as “super-tweets,” the novel is Alexander’s personal collection of brief paragraphs, starting with his wife Maggie’s pregnancy and then organized through the first five years of his son Sean’s life. Alexander’s background in comedy is evident (he’s appeared on MTV, A&E, and Comedy Central); he has a knack for humour, even amongst the exhaustion, and sees material in the little things:
“He covered his head with a blanket and we pulled it off his face—over and over. It’s too bad you lose that joy in later years—unless you’re really stoned.”
“He figured out how to remove his diaper while wearing a onesie and then took a dump on the hardwood floor. At least this will clean up fairly easy. The cat yacks on the pillow covers; really hard to clean. The good news is—he’s smarter than the cat.”
But amongst the joking, there are sweet moments of insight and fatherly love, too:
“Morning. All’s quiet. A few birds are waking up. I open Sean’s bedroom door to see him. The light in the room is gray and feels morning-moist. He has just climbed out of his crib and is lying on a blanket on the floor by his crib. He sees me. Smiles. He yawns, stands up, and very softly says something impossible to understand.
Then he jumps into my arms. He is wearing blue PJ pants with a cockroach and huge beetle pattern on them. The PJ top is red with a ladybug on it, and he has on red socks. I think to myself, This is a love I have never experienced before. And trying to hug them while they are running is hard because they have more important things to do—like falling down laughing after eating a purple crayon.”
Originally living in Los Angeles, Alexander and the family moved here to Vancouver Island and now live in Port Alberni. It was intriguing to read his observations of the island as he writes about coming back periodically to renovate their house before the big move; he certainly paints a stark contrast between the two locations. As an Islander all my life, I found myself proud that the island was portrayed as such a peaceful haven (even with the occasional Canadian joke) and that they decided to call it home.
By the end, you feel like you’ve been watching Sean grow up, and you’ve gone through a private family album. Through Paul, we also get glimpses of Maggie’s personality, and quite often she is just as funny as him. If you’re looking for an easy, light-hearted read, this is it. It’s relatable for both parents and non-parents alike. At 168 pages, you may even finish it in one sitting. The ending feels a bit sudden, but it leaves on a good note that I think sums it up well: “the week is slow but the year is fast.”