I was not prepared for Mike Birbiglia’s The New One.
TW Jen’s pregnancy has some high risk scary situations but, spoiler alert, the baby is OK because this story is about her first year on Earth…
I am a new mom. My son will be one year old in fifteen days and has spent 99% of his life in a pandemic. He has met approximately a dozen people all but three of which he met in the first three weeks of his life before the true impact of Covid was seen in America and things began to shut down. I knew reading a story and having a new baby would hit me in a particular way but Birbigilia’s story was particularly poignant to me for two reasons and I don’t think reading this further removed from the first, very weird, year of my son’s life would have made it any less of a gut punch.
1. Birbiglia is very honest that he did not want a child. He was very clear with his wife before they got married and her realization that she needed a child was a complete surprise to him. For me, I spent from 18 to 26 adamant that I would never want children and would happily be the childfree aunt that spoiled other people’s children. Luckily, when my feelings about having my own child began to change my husband and I were on the same page. Although one of us has moved to a new page of wanting a second baby and the other one of us has the uterus.
2. Once we decided we wanted to have a baby our journey to parenthood was, similar to Birbiglia’s, far from easy. For Birbiglia their conception issues could be resolved with a surgery that would either help get his wife pregnant nearly immediately or make his penis stop working. For me it was realizing that I had been living with undiagnosed PCOS and my road to motherhood was paved with numerous pharmaceuticals, shots and bloodwork. At one point Mike mentions that it was ironic how much he was putting into having a baby he didn’t really want which I completely agree with. The amount of effort I put into having my son was only possible because of how much I wanted him. I couldn’t imagine putting my body through what I put it through with only an ambivalence to the outcome.
I should state that is where our similarities end. Birbiglia is pretty honest that he is still a bit jealous of how much their daughter, Oona, changed their lives after his wife assured him she would not. His light hearted comedic style softens the blow that this is essentially a man writing about how he sometimes still finds himself put off by parenthood even though he does love his kid. But, while he loves his daughter it is really the love for his wife that comes through in this memoir. Oona is the product of his devotion to Jen and the acknowledgement that keeping her meant accommodating her request for a child.
Even if you can’t relate to parenthood, reluctant or not, this is a heartfelt memoir full of Birbiglia charm and he includes story about his relationship with Jen before they got married as well as being on the road, his sleepwalking disorder and other “typical memoir” things. It isn’t all babies and pregnancy. Just, mostly babies and pregnancy.
4.5 Stars rounding down because he named the kid Oona as a joke since she would be an only child