When I was pregnant, I couldn’t wait to put together my son’s baby book. I imagined sitting at our dining room table with a cup of mint tea, writing notes and gently pressing photos onto the high-quality paper pages. Lou would be sleeping next to me in his rocker and I’d smile at his tiny, tired form while referencing the calendar on my iPhone to be sure I was copying the correct date of his first smile/laugh/bath into this timeless keepsake.
Then I’d flash forward to his college years when he’d come home over winter break and we’d look through it together and have meaningful conversations spurred by the mere existence of this meticulously crafted book, created entirely out of love and acid-free archival glue.
Lou is now 8 months old and there is no baby book. The first weeks were a blur of C-section recovery and learning how to keep an infant alive. The next few months were spent actually enjoying this little person, and, by the time it occurred to us that he might be the first first-born child without a detailed account of his earliest days, we were kind of over the idea of corralling his memories into one place.
Instead, the History of Lou is scattered. Tangible morsels exist alongside those in the iCloud ether and the card reader in our DSLR. We have an unreasonable number of Lou artifacts—pictures, hospital bracelets, videos, notes scrawled to each other about the last time he ate and what his poop looked like—they just aren’t affixed to pages in a book.
Here are some quick, easy ways to document your baby that don’t involve endless trips to Michael’s or boring your friends to death:
5 Year Diary
Babies are amazing, but they don’t hit milestones every single day. Traditional baby books are great because they prompt you to write about big things like the first tooth, word, and steps, but a lot of other tiny little things happen in between. I love the 5 Year Diary because it’s the perfect amount of space to write about the big stuff alongside the sweet little stuff. You get five lines, which is just enough room to jot down a few notes from the day, but not enough that there’s any pressure attached. If I fall behind, I’ll either skip a few days or my husband and I will challenge our sleep-deprived brains to remember what the hell happened last week.
And, not every entry is about him. Some days I focus more on our schedule, professional lives, or what’s going on in the world. Since each page will eventually have everything that happened on a given date for five years, it will be a unique snap shot of our lives for Lou to look through one day.
1 Second Everyday app
Continuing with the theme of quick, daily glimpses, the 1 Second Everyday app is just that. It pulls from the videos and photos on my phone, and once a week I go through the available footage and edit down my videos of choice.
At the end of this year, I’ll have a 366-second video of everything that happened in 2016, with minimal effort. I’ve already watched the compilation through June, and openly wept. It’s basically the opening credits of The Wonder Years.
iCloud photo sharing
Some itches need to be scratched, and for parents, sharing pictures of their kids is insatiable. And if you follow a parent on social media, it can be insufferable. iCloud picture sharing is a lovely, private space to share as many pictures of my baby as I want to people who (say they) actually want to see them.
Album followers can like pictures and comment, which makes it feel like Instagram without subjecting the random college friend I haven’t seen in 10 years to a roundtable discussion about how chunky Lou’s thighs are. (But omg, so chunky.)
I’m pretty terrible at sending thank-you cards, and having a baby has only exacerbated the issue. They’re always late, and therefore always begin with an apology, and therefore I always end up writing way too much to compensate. Discovering Print Studios has given my tardy, frantic thank you’s a chill pill. If someone has given us a gift, I make a note to snap a picture of Lou using and/or destroying it. Then, every month or so, I’ll upload photos to the app and await my package of actual, tangible pictures.
Tucking one of these bad boys into a late thank-you note alleviates some of the guilt because the gift giver gets a glimpse at how happy they’ve made my kid. Plus, I always print doubles to keep around the house or tack up in my office.
So yes, we've got his memories in many different forms, and when he's an adult and wants to know about his babyhood, he’ll have to be his own historical architect. But he won’t have to look hard to discover little pieces of his life mixed into ours: the CD Rob and I recorded with StoryCorps about becoming his parents; the tiny light blue cotton mitten I slipped in my purse to get me through my first day back at work; the sonogram picture that proved the little gummy-bear shape had a strong, beating heart and would grow into our son.
It might not all be in one place, but it’s all there.