You may want to watch this video "review" of the baby books I created before you read the rest of the post.
I have always wanted to make my children baby books beginning with ultrasound pictures and ending with their first birthday. In November a lightbulb went off in my mind: wouldn’t it be great to use their photo books as a way to reveal our pregnancy to them? I realized I could even do a smaller book for the baby with the ultrasound shot, belly shots, and family history fan charts.
I used a company I had never used before called Artisan State (update, they are called ZNO now). I did Leah’s as a test book, and it turned out to be just gorgeous. That motivated me to keep going. I worked all through Christmas break. I think it was likely 100 hours of work to make all 4. They ended up watching so much TV, but sometimes you just gotta do what you gotta do. Or in this case, what I wanted to do.
Part of what was so time-consuming for us was gathering everything from various sources. My journal, scrap pieces of paper, emails, their individual twitter accounts, printed photos that had to be scanned, etc. I had to resurrect our old PC with the pictures for Ian, which took forever to do. If only I had an organized record of all of their milestones. Lesson learned. So, I decided that I would just start and whatever I had or didn’t have would just make each book unique. While I was sad to see I had lost a few important documents and details, I also managed to find a few treasures I had forgotten about. Reliving my previous experiences in pregnancy, labour and delivery was both wonderful and scary, especially in anticipation of my fifth.
When we handed out the books, they poured over them for 45 minutes or so. Any anxiety I had about the books not being identical melted away. They each loved their own book. I realized that what I wanted was to have these stellar books that all contained the same info for each one so they would be easy to compare. What they wanted was for their mother to tell them the stories of their entrance into the family. Whatever I remembered, even if seemed insignificant, was a detail they treasured. They weren’t comparing themselves to each other, and I was ashamed that I had intended to use the books to do that (who walked first, who had the most hair etc). Each child was a gift in their own glorious way and they really don’t need to be compared.
After they seemed to get tired of their own book, Jerry told them to gather around him as he pulled out the tiny book. Jerry slowly turned the pages revealing ultrasound photos, belly shots, fan charts, etc. Karen kept asking “who’s Thomas?” (yes, we have named him already) over and over and louder and louder. They finally figured it out. Their reactions were priceless and very telling. Alexander was all about logistics: “who has to share a room (no one)? How are we going to fit in the van (that will be squishy)? Will this change our vacation plans (sort of)? Karen was bouncing up and down with excitement! At that age, a baby to care for sounds like the best idea ever (she maybe hasn’t realized that baby will grow to be yet another brother). Ian was very confused, and he just kind of sat there while the others jumped around. Once he finally figured it out, he started jumping too (maybe just for the sake of jumping). Leah was elated not to be the youngest any more, and started cleaning her room immediately to make room for the crib. I didn’t have the heart to tell her the baby would be sleeping upstairs.
The books are displayed proudly on the mantel, and the kids want to show any visitor who comes by. I think they will become one of our most treasured artifacts. For me, I think the memory of the night we presented them will remain one of my most treasured possessions.
I realized while I was putting together the wedding slideshow for my sister, that as important as pictures are, the meaning and emotion conveyed by words from parents to children are infinitely more valuable. A recorded memory of a special field trip Mom went on or a simple account of a memory your mother had of you in grade 2 is far more prized than seeing every grade school photo you ever had, no matter how cute and funny they may be.
What I included:
-Picture of me pregnant
-Church blessing certificate and transcript
-Birth info (weight, time, etc)
-Birth story ( I didn’t put in the gory details or anything, but I also didn’t make it seem picture perfect—I told them it was hard and after a few of them I went into shock and was offered more drugs after they were born than before; I told them I cried and had baby blues. But I also included the opposite emotions of joy and excitement when they came.
-Siblings’ reactions to them
-Milestones: when they rolled over, walked, first words, etc.
-Meeting relatives for the first time
-Growth chart (I kept this for Ian cause his height was always over the 100th percentile
-Pictures by relatives’ graves
-Funny sayings (these were from all their preschool years, not just the first year. I had way more of these for Ian than anyone else; he is the class clown of the family
-Letter from their Dad about how much he loved them
-Copies of cards or letters from significant people
-Many, many photographs. Everything from baths, to food in their hair, to grumpy faces, to first time in the baby car seat.