A few years ago, when I was pregnant with my first child, there was no acquisition more important to me than the perfect baby book. Growing in girth, I launched a massive search both online and all over Toronto, visiting every store I could think of. I was certain I’d know when I saw it—something whimsical and well crafted but not too commercial or cloying.
In my ninth month I finally found “the one”—a book that seemed the right fit for me, a very picky professional writer bent on documenting every detail of her baby’s growth (I take notes for a living, after all). I now realize that my obsession was tied to a subconscious notion I had that “A+ mothering” meant rigorous, baby-related record keeping. And in the first weeks after my daughter, Isla, was born, that’s just what I did. I sacrificed precious sleep to fill those crisp pages, taking pains to write neatly (and always with the same pen). My husband and I took turns so our daughter would later see that we were both invested; we were determined that the baby book would reflect the depths of our love.
As we became more and more sleep deprived, our commitment to logging milestones faded. Instead, our iPhones took over, filling up with photos. While we snapped away, that precious baby book languished on a shelf somewhere. For a few months, I actually lost it. I later found it beneath a pile of old, forgotten underwear, when my daughter was more than a year old. In it was the lock of hair I had dutifully taped in after her first haircut, along with the tiny hospital bracelet bearing her name. Absent was any mention of first foods, first tooth or her first giggle that, truthfully, was so momentous it brought me to a mess of tears. (This was preceded by many dark months of colic.)
While I’m in a confessional mood, I’ll also admit that the handprints I pressed into clay when she was three weeks old are still sitting precariously on a piece of rumpled tinfoil, on top of the clay kit box. They’ve been there for two and a half years now. Should I be ashamed to admit this? Possibly. But I know I’m not the only parent who didn’t scrapbook everything.
When Naomi Fogel’s son was born, the Vaughan, Ont., mom had no intentions of doing a baby book; busting out a glue gun wasn’t her style. Instead, she used the note function on her smartphone to keep a running log of firsts, with the idea of eventually pairing the narrative timeline alongside images in a photo book. “I always have my phone on me, so it made sense,” she says. She completed an album in time for his first birthday.
Lucky for those in the non-crafty camp, the digital universe is now resplendent with easy storage options. Many companies, such as Treasured and My Social Book, now offer creative ways of sharing and publishing digital files, an attractive option when it’s all too easy to lose or forget about the milestones and moments stored on our devices.
Erin Mutiger, a mother of three-year-old twins in Woodbridge, Ont., started out with the best of intentions. “I had a book ready to go, but when the boys came, I was too busy. I have little scraps of paper with milestones on them and a diaper box filled with their stuff—maternity-ward bracelets and outfits worn on the way home from the hospital,” she says. She wants to upgrade to a nicer box one of these days, but with her third child, a daughter, due to arrive any day now, she has different expectations. “Even if it’s not in the baby book, I know that my kids rolled over, sat up, had a first word, learned how to walk. I don’t need the exact dates of when they snuck into our bed at night to snuggle with us. I just need to remember that they did, and what it was like.”
This article originally appeared in our June 2014 issue with the headline, "On the record," p. 46.