Its been almost 5 years since my daughter was born and I am now just picking up the pink flowered baby book I got to record her early and precious moments. Up until a few days ago it was empty save a few words recording the weight and measurements of the first month. The blank pages scream vicious words reminding me of failures and disappointments, unmet expectations, and immeasurable pain. I suppose I had purposefully stayed away from it feeling too inadequate to complete it. I had no idea I may not be able to complete it from the lack of information I possess. I am finding that I have no photos or videos of my own from the first 6-9 months of her life. Worse I can't remember them. All of my memories are painful ones and my experience with Postpartum Depression has left me with a cruel amnesia of sorts. So here is what I am doing to fill in the blanks and hopefully the book as well.
1. Get Photos from Family & Friends
I have found that I possess no photos or film that I personally took from at least the first 6 months of my daughters life. Its embarrassing even though I had my priorities straight. Photos and film were just not possible and although its understandable it makes me feel like a terrible mother. I have asked my family to send me all of their early photos so I can fill out the baby book and create a small baby album. They have all been happy to help and I have just had to ignore the inner voice that tells me I will be judged. If you are too embarrassed simply say your computer crashed as mine has crashed twice since my daughter was born so its a viable story if need be.
2. Cover up Unnecessary Pages
Some of the pages I will simple not be able to fill out like her hand and foot prints. I could do them now but I found it was a better choice for me to cover that page with photos & mementos. Even had I not gone through Postpartum I would not have done all the pages. Some are just silly and not worth the effort. When you think about it baby books have changed very little if any and there is no reason you can't make it your own.
3. Get Silly
It may not seem like the time since its such a difficult experience but my husband is helping me to understand that its ok to laugh about some of it. When I don't have a photo and start to cry he offers to draw one for me. I haven't let him do it yet but I honestly think it might make for a more interesting book for our daughter to look at down the road. When I don't remember something he makes up a ludicrous story. Maybe a baby book shouldn't be so factual. There should be a section that asks when daddy tried to drink out of baby's bottle for the first time because he was that tired. When we were in the hospital for her UTI my husband slept walked into another patients room and stole a diet coke! I think my daughter would appreciate that much more.
4. Hand it Over
I wish I would have considered giving the baby book to my mother to do. My baby book was filled out to the brim and that woman is crazy about that stuff. We could have passed the baby book around. At this point it feels a little late but its still an option. It almost sounds better to toss this one and start a new one with 12 months with a letter from a family member for each month. I still may do that on the side. I think it would also be good for me because I don't remember much and I want to so badly.
5. Write Letters
The back of the baby book has a section for mom and dad to write letters. I think its my favorite part even if I can't tell her about her very early life. The weights and measurements don't seem so important when you are writing a letter to your child about their place in your heart. You're not going to tell them you weighed so much this month and so much the next month so why would it matter in a baby book?
6. Ask the Doctor
If you feel you need weights a measurements because you are a perfectionist like me go to the doctors office. It may not be for every month but it will give you a more complete picture. You don't need to tell them what you are doing simply request a copy of the records.
I have found very little on this subject which is odd. I feel like its a big deal for many of us and we don't know where to begin or who to ask for help. I ran across Postpartum Progress and found an article on just this subject that may be helpful as well by Katherine Stone: On Baby Books & Postpartum Depression. I highly recommend reading the comments on her post because many of the women share very helpful information and ideas. Even searching for the very subject it was difficult because it isn't a big talking point and Google confuses it with baby book as in advice.
In a way it feels like reliving it all over again. The depression is awful and I'm hoping completing the task will give me peace. It's hard to accept that I am missing memories from most of my pregnancy and 6-9 months afterward. I feel like these are memories I was suppose to have until I got too old or had Alzheimer's. I feel cheated and angry at myself and the world. Oddly I don't feel like God is punishing me, which I've been told before by pastors, because I cannot imagine such a sin. Its a complicated feeling as my daughter is here and I'm blessed but at the same time so overcome with guilt and grief. I welcome comments as I think everyone can benefit from the advice and wisdom of others experiencing the same thing.
After trying to struggle through the original baby book I bought I came up with a much easier solution for my particular situation:
7. Create Your Own Book
I've found many sites suggest using something like Shutterfly either just to create a photo book or an actual baby book. I am actually going this route now. I started using the old baby book, covering up unnecessary pages, and filling it what I could but it was still incomplete in my mind and very stressful. Since I am creating my own I chose what to include and can focus on what I remember instead of what I don't. It's still a bit stressful because it is tedious and I'm a perfectionist but it's a different and more manageable stress. I search around for odd or unique things to include in a baby book and then try to recreate pages using embellishments etc. Now I'm actually having fun and take great pride when a page turns out the way I want. For the time being I will have to stop focusing on what I don't know because it is just too painful. Creating my own will be much more fulfilling for me and once I'm done I will pitch the old one.