By Sharon Muza, BS, CD(DONA), BDT(DONA), LCCE, FACCE, CLE
With Father’s Day right around the corner in the United States (this Sunday, June 17th) I thought I would share a book review of a recent nonfiction book I just finished reading. Man Vs. Baby by Matt Coyne (Scribner, 272 pgs, $11.55) that will make a great gift for any new or expectant father (or any father). In fact, this book would make a great gift for any expectant or new parent, regardless of gender or parenting role. It is simply that good.
Written by Matt Coyne, a new father in the United Kingdom, Man Vs. Baby started as a rather long diatribe offered up in a Facebook post by Matt in the wee hours of the morning, when his son, Charlie was three months old. That post went viral and future musings were received with such appreciation and fanfare, that Matt went on to create this book that was published earlier this year.
I thought it might be an interesting read for a birth professional, and while I have read my share of books written from the perspective of the birthing person, my experience with books written by the non-birth parent is rather limited.
From the first page, I knew I was in for a treat. Matt is simply hysterical. His colorful and detailed descriptions accurately define the experiences of a new parent in ways that many of us might not dare to say, but all of us have thought. Matt pulls no punches and lays it out straight, often in a very comedic way that most everyone who has parented an infant can relate to. With a bit of a “potty mouth” (the book has a fair share of expletives sprinkled throughout), Matt tells it like it is (or at least, was) for him.
“Throughout my adult life I’ve tried to read a book a week or so. I’m not naive I knew that I’d have less time so I thought I’d promise myself that I’d try and read a book a month.. It’s now been a couple of months and the only thing I’ve read is a pamphlet on Breast pumps. (and I’ve still not got to the end of that, I keep falling asleep during the paragraph on ‘nipple confusion’..)”
At times, reading through the paragraphs, I read something so funny that I wanted to call up a friend and immediately read the passage out loud to them. I stopped myself from doing this, as my reading was typically late at night and no one wanted to hear from me at that hour, but I wish I did. I caught myself laughing out loud many times, and sometimes even laughing to the point of crying.
“I was congratulating myself today on how I’ve got nappy changing down to a precision art. I’m basically like a Formula One pit crew.. in fact, in many ways, I’m better, because when you’re speed-changing the tyres on Lewis Hamilton’s car he’s probably less likely to piss in your eyes and projectile sh*t up your arms.”
This book is definitely a bit gendered and often makes fun at the classic stereotype of a “bumbling, confused father” who is trying to do things right and failing miserably. I am able to forgive this annoyance because the laughs are so great. Most of the new fathers I know are quite capable right from the start, and nowhere near as foolish as Matt portrays himself.
From breastfeeding to diapering, to lack of sleep, to dressing baby, to crawling to walking and more, Matt Coyne covers each age and stage with a keen eye to the comedy of the situation, even when one feels like crying. His perspective is spot on, and wonderfully funny at the same time.
“A baby crying is a weird thing. During the daytime you can listen to it and think that it’s endearing and cute. …At 3am it’s like having the inside of your skull sandpapered by an angry Viking.”
It is a treat to hear the father’s perspective and it is clear that Matt has a lot of respect for and appreciation of his partner, Charlie’s mother Lyns. We never hear her voice in this book, but he shares some funny moments involving her while all along continuing to being amazed at her birthing and parenting skills.
“Does anyone remember the show ‘Touch the Truck’ with Dale Winton (before he had his face retro-fitted)? It was on Channel 5 and basically 8 contestants put their hands on a truck and the last one to keep their hands on it and stay awake won the thing. Having a baby is like being on Touch the Truck.. the only difference is that on Touch the Truck you were allowed to have a piss and something to eat every 3 hours. ..and you won a truck.”
Just like labor and birth, you never know how parenting a young baby is going to go until you are in it, despite all your preparation. Being able to laugh about yourself and your situation goes a long way toward keeping your sanity when you want just to throw in the towel and walk away from the craziness of it all.
New parents (both mothers and fathers) will enjoy Matt’s stories and comparisons to other sticky situations in life, and no doubt will agree that parenting a new baby is both the most rewarding, challenging and confusing thing we will ever be asked to do. This book would make a great gift for any expectant or new father and also for the father with many years under their belt. Clients and family alike will appreciate Matt Coyne’s style and humor from beginning to end. When you get to a funny part, feel free to contact me and read it out loud. I can always use a good laugh. Matt has a second book out, Dummy: The Comedy and Chaos of Real Life Parenting and I am waiting to receive it from the library. It appears that a third book is in the works. In the meantime, you can join me in following along on Matt’s adventures on his Facebook Page.
Have you read this book? Drop your thoughts in the comments section below.