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The Miracle That Is First-Time Fatherhood

September 11, 1997|BETTIJANE LEVINE | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Becoming a father is one of the most common experiences on the planet. Yet it makes a man feel absolutely unique. Especially the first time around.

Paul Reiser's first child really is unique: His dad reportedly earned a publisher's advance of $5.6 million simply for describing what it was like to beget him.

"Babyhood" (William Morrow & Co.) is a simple, straightforward account, from Reiser's point of view, of how he and his wife decided it was time to do the deed, reap the reward and suffer the lifelong consequences.

"Walking into the house for the very first time with the child felt a bit like a honeymoon. The big difference, of course, is that when you carry a baby across a threshold, they're significantly lighter than the average adult bride, and, also, we didn't immediately jump into a Jacuzzi and bad-mouth the band at the wedding.

"Like the previous nine months, my wife did the actual carrying. I supervised.

" 'Careful, don't drop him. . . . Honey, you almost dropped him there. . . .'

"The short journey from the front door to the baby's room took an inordinately long time, because though he weighed significantly less than a wheel of cheese, we choreographed the move like he was a piano.

" 'OK, swing him around, now bring your end over. . . . Watch out for the umbrella stand. . . . You know what, let me move the sofa out of the way. . . .' "

Halfway through the house, Reiser remembers he has forgotten to videotape this momentous homecoming.

"Now just come in [the door] again," he tells his wife.

"I am not coming in again."

"Well, just back up a bit."

"How far--the hospital?"

"No, just out the door. Can you make him wave?"

"He's a day old."

"I'm telling you, years from now you'll thank me."

If you've already fathered a few kids, all this will be old news. If you're a first-timer, you're the perfect candidate for this book.

Reiser, who created, co-produces and stars in the TV sitcom "Mad About You," knows how to wrench a laugh from sticky situations. And in his life, since his firstborn arrived, every situation has been sticky or moist. That's kids for you.

Phoning from the set of his show, Reiser said his son is 2 years old now and that it took about a year, on and off, to write the book. "Something funny happened every day with this kid. But the trouble is, I was too tired to remember what it was, let alone write it down."

That--the tiredness thing--is one of the cliches Reiser said he thought he'd be able to avoid. "But no matter how hard you try, it hits you in the face. You say to yourself, 'Maybe it's a cliche but it's true. I can't believe how tired I am.' "

Same thing with love. "Everyone always says, 'You won't believe how much love you'll feel for that baby.' It's a cliche. But then, guess what? You look at the kid and you don't care if it's a cliche. You hear yourself saying out loud, 'I just can't believe how much love I feel for this baby.' "

If you've already fathered a few kids, all this will be old news. If you're a first-timer, you're the perfect candidate for this book.

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