The first year of a child’s life is jam-packed with milestones and firsts. Whether it’s your first child or your fifth, you probably have it on your ‘Mama Projects’ list to create a memory book that chronicles all the special moments, all the growth and development, all the magic. Without question, it will be a book to treasure and enjoy with your child for years to come.
But damn if those books aren’t a massive undertaking for a busy mama*!
*I know I am generalizing by saying memory books are mamas’ work – and to all the dads out there who take on these projects for their families, I apologize. High fives and fist bumps all around for getting involved in this stuff! But if we’re being real, these creative endeavours are typically left to moms if they are to be done at all. Agreed?
When my son was born in 2015, I knew I wanted to create a comprehensive memory book that documented everything about that magical first year. I created a Pinterest board and started pinning ideas like a woman possessed. With all the ideas I collected, photos I took, and milestone lists I made, I figured the book would come together quickly and seamlessly at the end of my son’s first year.
Hours upon hours of sifting through thousands of pictures on my computer, trying to decide which ones made the cut. Then editing the chosen ones. The frustration of not knowing exactly how old my son was in certain pictures – was he 8 months in the shot with chocolate cupcake all over his face? Or 9 months? To a mama in the throes of creative enterprise, it matters!
Monthly milestones needed space. I wanted to include my son’s birth story too, along with pictures from my pregnancy.
Putting this book together became like a third job for me.
As thrilled as I was with the final result, I vowed to approach any future child’s memory book differently. After all, Mama’s sanity matters, and goodness knows she won’t have hours and hours to devote to this project when there are two little people to run around after.
Here are my tips for creating a fantastic memory book for your kiddo while still holding on to your sanity – let me know if you try any of them or have any of your own to add!
- Manage your pictures well Before Baby is born, create a folder on your computer. Name it for your child, or Baby Book, or whatever. Within that folder, create 13 more folders – one for each month of the year ahead, and one for your pregnancy. At the end of each month, plan to use one or two of Baby’s naps to look through all the pictures you took that month, and choose your favourites to go into that month’s folder. Try to be as selective as possible – you don’t want 200 pictures in that folder! Choose the pictures that really capture your baby and the moments – as up close and clearly as possible. In my opinion, quality is definitely more important than quantity in this case. Once you have made your selections and put them in their month’s folder, take some time to edit if necessary. I find I crop and straighten a lot of my pictures. Aside from that, I keep them as they are. I want the book to reflect real life. Filters aren’t real life.
- Track the milestones as they happen On your phone, use a list making app to track your baby’s monthly milestones. Because I am Type A and a little obsessive about organization, I typed all of the months into my list app in advance, along with prompts to help me remember what might be worth recording. So for example, under the ‘1 Month Old’ heading, I listed the following prompts: weight, firsts/started, number of naps per day, loves, hates, favourites, trips, special events. As milestones or noteworthy things happened, I typed them in next to the relevant prompt. Personally, I would never have remembered what my son’s first food was, or when he said his first actual word, if I hadn’t written it down when it happened. But that’s just me. Memory of a sieve.
- Write the birth story as soon as possible after it happens. If I had to recap my son’s birth now, it would be a pretty short read. You think you will never forget how, on the night you went into labour, your husband slept soundly with his PHONE VOLUME TURNED OFF while you writhed in agony in the guest room, texting him (because you didn’t want to shout and wake up your mother-in-law) that you needed a lower back massage and a hand to hold RIGHT AWAY, or the chaotic drive to the hospital where you felt every bump in the road, or the quirkiness of the doc who administered that amaaaaaaaaaaaazing epidural, or the flood of emotions that overwhelm you as you hold your baby for the first time…but time fades those memories. Write them down as soon as possible to ensure you capture the story in as much detail as you can.
- Choose the photo book company you will use and learn how to use their program early on. I’m a bit of a luddite. My students are all way more tech-savvy than me, and I would venture to say my son – who is 2 and a half – is more comfortable with technology than I am at this point. There are soooo many options to choose from when selecting which company to go with for the creation of your photo book. While most of them are pretty user-friendly (even for us luddites), they still require some time to become acquainted with all the features. For my son’s book, I used mypublisher.com. I had used them for years when creating memory books from my travels, so I was very comfortable navigating through their program. Sadly, they no longer exist. For my daughter’s memory book, I have decided to go with Mixbook. They have tons of cool options when it comes to themes, backgrounds, and ‘stickers’. I created our family photo album for 2016-2017 using Mixbook, and after some initial frustration with changing themes and figuring out what the heck a ‘sticker’ was, it was clear sailing. Find the product that is right for you – other companies that do photo books include – but aren’t limited to: Costco, Shutterfly, Picaboo, Snapfish…
- Don’t wait to start creating your book! I was overwhelmed when it came time to put my son’s book together. So many pictures. So much information. So many decisions. And when this mama is overwhelmed, she isn’t much fun. This project should be fun! Once you have chosen your photo book company and learned their program, there is no reason to hold off starting your baby’s book. Creating it throughout Baby’s first year instead of afterwards?? Genius! Why I didn’t think of that the first time around, I haven’t a clue. Your pictures will be more relevant (and placed in the correct month they were taken), your stories will be more vivid and detailed. And by the time your baby reaches that one year milestone birthday, the book will be practically finished.