In defense of empty baby books

I have a secret for all you kids - young and old - whose baby books are basically empty. It’s for the middle children whose parents can never seem to remember when you started walking or what your first word was. It’s for the babies of the family who don’t have any photos of themselves before age 7. Basically, this is for anyone who wasn’t born first.

C’m’ere....lean in.....shhhhhhhh. OK, here it is:

Your parents might not have documented your infancy the way they did your older sibling’s. But on some level, whether they’d admit it or not, they enjoyed it more.

OK, so maybe that’s a sweeping generalization, but it’s true for me. Evan is 3 months old, which I find hard to believe and my laptop’s hard drive find’s darn near impossible to believe. By this time in Kostyn’s infancy the ol’ Mac’s memory was bogged down to near-capacity with photos and video clips of him doing nothing more than staring wide-eyed at the flash or wiggling his limbs involuntarily. I actually had folders of photos categorized by weeks. “Kostyn’s 3rd week.” “Kostyn - Week 5.” How long I thought I’d keep up that charade, I’ve no idea. We also wrote long flowery letters to him every week in his baby journal, and took monthly notes for his baby book about his tiniest developments.

Evan’s first three months have been, to put it delicately, not documented quite so diligently. I think I’ve written in his baby journal three times, and two of those entries were penned when I was still pregnant. I have one specially named photo folder for him -- “Evan’s first week.” Nothing after that is labeled. I’ve cracked his baby book open exactly twice — once so the nurses could put his footprint on the appropriate page, and once in an attempt to start filling in such important details as “My Mommy’s name is...” Admittedly, I didn’t even get very far with that endeavor.

When I think about all that I feel a little guilty, naturally. But then I realize that I am experiencing Evan’s first months in an entirely different way than I experienced Kostyn’s. And not just a busier, more distracted way, what with having two butts to wipe and two mouths to feed and a toddler running around, chattering nonstop. Nope, it’s a (shhhhh!) better way. And I ain’t puttin’ that in no baby book.

Things are different this time because I am different. There are no first-time mom jitters hampering me from relaxing while I’m holding the baby. There’s much less second-guessing about my parenting style, which allows me to just do what feels right and to hell with those on the opposite side of the spectrum. And there’s even a neat little reserve of infant-related information in my head, which translates to way fewer trips to Google to try to figure out whether what’s happening at any particularly puzzling moment is normal or cause for concern.

From Day 1 with Evan, my arms knew how to hold a baby. My body knew how to soothe a fussy newborn. I hadn’t just read about the “5 S’s,” I’d lived it. I was better at swaddling him and burping him and even clipping his tiny fingernails.

I’m also more relaxed about the bad times. When he’s having a total meltdown, I know that sometimes babies just melt down. I know that it is not my personal failing as a mother if I can’t quiet him in the first 3 minutes. And just as babies sense a mother’s tension, they also sense a mother’s calm, which I’m sure is a big part of why Evan cries so much less than Kostyn did.

I think because of all this I live “in the moment” more with Evan than I did with Kostyn. Sure, we savored Kostyn’s every coo, and we took a gazillion photos and noted every milestone and talked endlessly about how Kostyn was just perfect right then and we couldn’t imagine what the next day or year might hold. But this time around my perspective on time is different. I see the example every day, running around my dining room table, of how quickly that next day and next year come. Those little onesies give way to big boy T-shirts in the blink of an eye.

I know I’ll have some explaining to do one day, when Evan stumbles upon Kostyn’s baby journal and realizes we wrote so much more to his big brother than we did to him. In my defense, I guess I’ll say that instead of being jealous of Kostyn, Evan should be thankful for him. Because Kostyn “broke me in” as a mom. He worked hard to get my arms just right for rocking and my lap just right for reading. He helped me memorize all the lullabies that I would eventually sing to Evan. He taught me a lot, as a good big brother should, about how to care for his little brother.

I’ll tell Evan that in these early months I didn’t have much free time, and I didn’t want to squander it scrapbooking and journal-writing. Instead I spent every free second I could basking in his tiny smile, inhaling that intoxicating baby scent coming from the top of his head, and generally enjoying him as he enjoyed me. He’s a happy guy, and I’m a happy mom. Baby books be damned.


Anonymous said...

The single most offered advice when I was pregnant was "Enjoy every minute...they grow up so fast!" I think because I heard it so many times, I actually took it to heart and I spend so much time just watching Leah and thinking about how amazing the whole experience is. Leah's baby book doesn't have a lot in it....and she is my first! The dishes may go undone, the laundry unfolded, but I've never missed a chance to grab a hug, kiss a boo boo, tickle a tummy or just watch her from a distance. The memories of those things will last longer than any baby book ever could! -Lyn

Riley's Momma said...

Excellently said, can you explain it to my lo when he comes?

Heather said...

Dylan's book doesn't have a lot in it, I think because I was too busy learning to be a mom, my second won't have a lot in it probably because I will be ENJOYING being a mom.

Robyn said...

Well said, Heather! Admittedly, Kostyn's baby book sort of drops off to nothing after about 8 months. And most of those later months (5, 6, 7...) were done way after the fact, when I'd sit down and go, "Now, what did he do when he was 5 months?..."

Kate Loves Hats said...

I completely agree Robyn! I think we have done a decent job of pics so far with Charlie...but I've stopped trying to "live up" to all the stuff I did with Jesse. And I am reminding myself more and more to just enjoy the time instead of running off for the camera! I think I am allowing myself to enjoy things more this time around.

Chelle said...

Y'know, Via doesn't have a "filled" baby book cuz I spent all my time with her! But li'l man Evan is so amazing...I miss him and his big bro!

Heather said...

What are the five S's?

LOVE that last pic of Evan. He looks so much like you.

Robyn said...

Heather - Swaddling, Side/Stomach positioning, Shushing, Swinging, and Sucking. Check out Dr. Harvey Karp's "The Happiest Baby on the Block." It'll change the way you calm your newborn, and make it a lot easier to do so!

Lis said...

I was putting Cora's Baby Photo book together the night I went into labor with Z. I have lots of pictures but not one has been added since that night. I have the albums bought for Z but no pictures yet. Someday. Enjoy now, They grow so fast I can't believe Cora will be 6 soon. It's amazing just how much they change. Can't wait to see you.