On Baby Books & Postpartum Depression

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babies scrapbookA Postpartum Progress reader has asked me to reach out to all of you for some advice about baby books, and I’m happy to do it, so here goes. What do you think?

I have been through PPD twice and am pregnant with my third.  I’m trying even harder to prevent or treat my eventual PPD this time around. My question today is something that stems from those first two times.

When my son was born, I was over the moon but also a wreck with anxiety and depression.  I did my very best, which were the essentials. As you know, every little task can seem daunting when dealing with PPD. I remember just bawling every time I looked at the small box of supplies from my home birth that sat next to my bed, waiting to be put away. I think it took me three months to actually do it.

So, pictures and baby books were out of the question.  I did take pictures but to actually print them off, put them in a book and organize- the thought made me want to cry because I knew I couldn’t do it.  I had no energy.   Same thing with a baby book. We were so strapped for cash when my son was born that I never felt I could spare the extra $20 for a simple baby book.

Two-and-a-half years later my daughter was born and of course, I felt terrible about not having a baby book for the first, so I didn’t think I could start one for her!  Although my PPD was different (much less anxious and weepy, much more angry at my husband, at the kids, at life- it actually took me ten months to recognize it as PPD, despite my keeping an eye out for it!), I still found it difficult to keep a photo album because I was just so behind on everything else. It caused anxiety. I didn’t know where to start.

So, I’m asking for some ideas about baby books. I actually think it would be really special and actually healing to start the project of putting these memories on display in an album, from my son’s birth (he’s 4 now!), through my daughter’s birth (nearly 2) and being ready for this wee one (due in January).  It seems like such a small concern, but to me it would just make me feel like I’ve climbed another mountain, conquered another aspect of this PPD.  It makes me feel like I’d be armed and ready, for this time around, proving that I’ve done it before and I can face it again (if it happens).

So, I was wondering if anyone else had a story like this, where an seeminly insignificant project meant something more to them; where taking a step to start and finish a project that intimidated them in the past was part of a healing. And, specifically, if anyone has any advice or help on starting this.  I am not organized at all and still deal with some anxiety, so if I can “plan” it in little steps to complete, I think that would be great.

Also, any thoughts on the “no baby book” for one kid and starting one for another? Any creative ideas for creating the essence of a baby book after the fact? I tried to save all their growth stickers from the doctor, but even that seemed to be stressful. I just was trying to get through the day.

Thank you so much for listening.

So what do you think? Share your thoughts.

 

Photo credit: © pilipa – Fotolia.com

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  1. I was full of good intentions when I had my daughter, but a baby book just never happened. What did happen was a blog I started to share photos with friends and family. I started the blog towards the end of my pregnancy, so it was up and running by the time she was born. Even in the midst of PPD/A/PTSD could take a few photos, put them in a blog post with as much or as little writing as I was up to, and hit publish.

    Another idea is a photo book where all you have to do is organize the images and let the company (Shutterfly or whoever) print it. It takes some time and work, but there’s something about not having to get the photos printed and put them in an album and write captions and wonder if it’s okay if you don’t embellish it with all the pretty scrapbooking things they have at the craft store. Okay, you can see my own anxiety creeping in there!

    Do what feels right to you, something little can be just as meaningful as something big. :)

    • I too struggle with this. Now that baby #4 is here it really stresses me that I have never put together a baby book for baby #1not to mention #2 or 3. I have good intentions but still can’t seem to get it together. I have tons of pics just not printed. I have made a few Smilebox but it takes me forever to decide which pics to place where. With baby #3 and now 4 I decided my goal is to make each child a book with one pic for each month for the first year and write milestones they reached for that month. Sounds simple but I’m still struggling and haven’t started the project yet. Another month goes by and I’m scrambling to think and write down what they did the past month so that one day I can put it all together. I don’t know the answer but wanted to let you know that you are not alone.

  2. I don’t have a lot of great advice because I am in the same situation as you. I saved a bunch of stuff but the baby book for my first baby is empty and I feel badly about it sometimes. I am pregnant with my second and wondering what I will do – and I feel the same as you did (how could I do for one what I didn’t do for the other)? So – I just wanted you to know you are not alone. I hope you do find a solution and experience healing through this project.

  3. This is a very meaningful post to me. I had PPD and PPD+anxiety with my children, now 9 and 4, and have felt guilty all these years because I just couldn’t get myself together at the time enough to manage the “extras” such as creating a baby book and albums. Some days it was all I could do to make it through a day. It is very touching and powerful to me to consider your idea of doing this now as an act of healing. Since you are still in the midst of having your babies, I think you might consider an online service such as Shutterfly to make photo books. I also don’t think it is at all too late to begin baby books for any of your children. Best wishes to you.

  4. I feel awful. My first son I didn’t have PPD, I just was young and didn’t think a baby book was that important. Now I wish that I had one, because small details are forgotten so easily and gone forever. I promised myself that I would do one and be dilegent about it with my second son, and then I met PPD and I didn’t even remember to take pictures the first 6 weeks of his life! I am trying to at least remember to post updates on facebook so I can go back and pull from there when I do finally feel like putting together a baby book. Why does it have to be so hard!?

  5. Also, how sweet you are for wanting that record for your child, and of course it makes sense that the huge creative act of organizing and archiving all the new-baby facts, figures, and feelings was complete overwhelm when even preparing a bottle is a monumental feat. And who would WANT to look all those little things in the face when they’re the source of the suffering too?

    My question is, in starting a book now, what would you like to accomplish? Having a record for your child when they are older? Documenting your love for them? Re-living the time? Organizing the artifacts? Each would have a pretty different retroactive solution, and identifying the ultimate goal might help inform the solution.

    With love,
    JJ

  6. PS – I have one more comment I’m sorry.

    One thing we did for my daughter that I’m SO grateful we did was create a gmail account for her. We invite all her family and close folks every year to send her a birthday email, and when the time is right I will give it to her as a gift. I also forward along photos from my phone on fun occasions with a little note. It is SO easy. PErhaps you could retroactively create an account and email the children’s grandparents to write a vignette about “What do you remember the day I was born?” “How did you feel the first time you met me?” and some little journal prompts so all the babies have a record but the responsibility isn’t fully on you?

    OK, really done now. I LOVE this challenge.

  7. First of all, it’s great you have this goal for yourself. When you have PPD, it’s nice to have something to take over your mind that is more constructive. It is the first step. But now you have to take “baby steps” and even if one day you do not do something because it seems like too much—don’t beat yourself up about it!!! Just focus on the goal. The steps are important but it’s been this long since you have wanted to finish these books so don’t let the time it will take for this project to stress you out. Doing one thing one day at a time is a good way to start. Have your husband help you….it can be a “team project”.

    As for the books that were never done, I feel you can still make a book with the little supplies you have. Any pictures that were taken, any mementos that were kept and any memories you had can be used. Even if you just have one picture per age. Even if you only kept one growth sticker. What you can do to make up for the lack of tangible items is write. Yes, write about your child. Write about what it was like to see them at that age. How they behaved, milestones they achieved (even if it’s something you feel is insignificant; it may be really important for them to know this when they get older), funny things they did/said, things you love about them and any entertaining story you can remember. Be creative and put your feelings and insights in there. It can be more than a baby book—it can be a story about your child.

    Writing is very therapeutic and can help you through your challenge with PPD. You were able to write to Postpartum Progress to ask for help so I believe you can handle writing for your book. My other suggestion is that you go digital. Yeah, make a DVD. You can make one right on your computer. I’m sure there are programs out there (free ones) where you can put together a slideshow of wording and pictures. When I got my computer it came with a Microsoft Suite software CD that had Word, Excel, Outlook and PowerPoint. That way, you won’t have to print anything out and then put it into a book. You can just transfer the picture to the slideshow program and go from there. And you can add your written story. As for the tangible items, you can just take pictures of those or a better mindset to have is, you don’t need the growth stickers if everyone can see the pictures of your child from one year to the next. People would be able to see the physical changes without needing to consult a sticker.

    I know it all sounds easier said than done. But like I first stated: Take baby steps. Maybe one day you write about the day you stopped breast feeding. Another day you write about how you felt when you gave birth to one of your children. The next day you relax. The day after that you load some pictures into your slideshow program. One day you have your husband write or organize pictures. What I’m saying is, maybe not do everything in exact order. Unless you want to. You can write out of chronological order, but then put it in the program in chronological order. And even if it takes awhile to feel like you can put the slideshow on a DVD disc, just SAVE the program. That way, its’ there and even if your child one day just watches it from their computer (because you can send the file electronically and not even make a disc. Isn’t technology wonderful?).

    I hope these suggestions help. I know what it’s like to feel so overwhelmed by things…even if someone else thinks they are not so overwhelming. This is a wonderful thing you are doing and I believe you can achieve this goal. Good Luck!!!

    • IIt has been over six years since I have been diagnosed with postpartum psychosis. I have made a great recovery. I still have depression/anxiety/OCD issues. I have trouble starting things and if I do start something, finishing it. I try to take my own advice. Baby steps. Not beating myself up if I do nothing one day. Finding a shortcut. But I get stressed and overwhelmed too. I try not to do it all in one day/hour/moment. I do things out of order than organize them in order. My first priority is my husband, six-year old daughter, 25 year old daughter who is pregnant with my first grandchild. But my priorities also have to be ME and the things I want to achieve. You have to be a priority too. How else is all those other things supposed to get done? OK, I’m done now, don’t want monopolize this thread, lol. Take care of you and your wants/needs and Good Luck!!!

  8. I suffered PPD with my first child (he’s almost 4 now) and I am currently pregnant with baby #2 and terrified of PPD again. I did buy a baby book with him and managed to put some pictures and stuff into it because I desperately wanted to have something from a year where I feel like i missed so much due to PPD. As I think about your situation since we all deal with PPD differently, while your pregnant start a scrapbook or shutterfly book meant for all your kids together rather than separately and put your favorite pictures and memories of when they were little and leading up to your pregnancy now. Instead of calling it a baby book call it a warrior mom book. The past pictures will not only remind your kids being little but it will be a reminder of how you have kicked PPD’s more than once and it will encourage you if you go through it again. You’ve got this Mama! PPD is awful, I wish it didn’t exist but I’ve also encoutered some really awesome people because of it! Good luck to you and I hope my suggestion helps :)

  9. I’m in a similar position – the ppa/d didn’t mix well with starting a baby book. Even now 2 and a bit years on and healthy, it still makes me nervous; nervous to revisit that time and I still get nervous about choosing the “right” photos. But I have a box where I put things, I write up the funny and memorable in a notebook and use Facebook to catalogue and chronicle. One day I’ll be able to put it all in one book…but if not, I remember that I don’t have a baby book and all is just fine with the world.

  10. Do you know someone crafty or have a close friend/family member who could help you? We had offers from other people to help write things down & add to our daughter’s baby book. It’s actually pretty special since her book is now what lots of people remember about her first year, rather than just us.

  11. I struggled with PPD/PPOCD with my last two (I have three all together.) I feel like society (and parents/in-laws) put too much pressure on us to keep the “norm” with parenting. It was part of the reason I had my meltdowns in the beginning.
    Thinking “I must keep a baby book and write down every single little detail of my kiddos life and keep everything from the hospital and write down every date and milestone and take pictures because if I don’t blah blah blah.” I already had enough stress as it was – sometimes waking up, breathing, eating and taking care of kids was all the energy I had – and there is nothing wrong with that.

    I started with my son and kept it up with my daughters – they each have their own memory box. I will organize one day (like, probably when they are in high school) but for right now everything is at least in there.

    Papers from the hospital, coming home outfit & hospital bracelets, birthday cards, artwork (intentional or not), blankie and stuffed animals, pictures, books, aired out balloons from birthdays, special Christmas ornaments, etc. etc. etc. Whenever I want to add something to it, I just simply open the box and put it in there. It’s not lost (the memories) and it’s all in one spot. When I’m ready, I will organize and go through it for them (and for myself.)

    I think it’s more important that I keep a 3rd birthday card for my daughter from my grandma then to write down the exact date/time/place/age that she said her first word (and stress out about writing it down so I don’t “forget.”)

  12. When I realized that I couldn’t keep up with a true book, or scrapbook because all the time I’d thought I’d have never materialized. I simply made notes on the right day on the calendar. I used Cozi for a little while and it has a journaling feature that recorded some memories. My youngest is 4 and I am about ready to tackle building a memory book for each of them. It does hurt to know it was another place I was less than the mom I wanted to be, but all we can do is to do our very best, and for me God and time will have to take care of the rest.

  13. I had baby books ready and plans to fill them with all the idealism of a new mother. Then I had my baby and severe postpartum anxiety came with it.

    My thoughts are that the most important thing that you can give to your child is your health. Don’t sweat the small stuff. Have a keepsake box with bits and pieces of things you want to keep, and store all the baby photos in a hard drive, on disks, or on a memory stick and put them in a fire safe box.

    Easy does it. We really do put too much pressure on ourselves to be what we think society expects from us.

    You ARE a good mom because you chose to BE a mom, and that is all your child needs. Guilt is poisonous, and eats you up inside, and as recovering moms from ppd, we just can’t afford to feed into it.

    Tell your children that you stored the memories of them in your heart so that they would never get lost. :)

    Be kind to yourself. Be gentle with yourself, and wait until YOU feel better first. It will keep.

    with love,

    Lisa

  14. I think it’s never too late….if you have pictures from your other two kids, then you could just put them into picture collages, for myself I did do a baby book……but I’ve gotten so behind for a picture book since then (he’s 3 now) I have a ton of pictures printed off… and one day i’ll get around to putting them in an album….maybe when my kids are in school :)

  15. I think I did better when I took the pressure of actually making and writing in the book off the table. I had purchased books for both kids (had PTSD with the first, but okay with the second), and I just stuck all of the things that I thought I might want to put in their baby books as mementos to organize “some day.” For my first child, when finally got around to making the baby book it was over a year after the birth, making the book became part of the healing process. I was starting to feel better and I wanted to take my child’s birth and early weeks and month for both our sakes. Making the book and looking at all of the good that came even during that difficult time helped a lot.

  16. No, I never did a baby book, wrote anything down, nothing. I am still really sad about it. The only thing I can say is I was very physically affectionate with my baby dtr. and tried very hard to be fully present in the moment with her. Maybe I could do one retroactively, I don’t know. I just feel like I’ve missed things I will never be able to remember/recall or get back. Sad enough that I can’t read the whole post right now. I hope to do that soon though.

  17. I bought a baby book that isn’t extremely detailed. Also, I estimate the times of the special events. I think I labeled my daughters first tooth as coming in at ” 8 months-ish” I figure she will know how her momma is and think it’s funny. I’ve only updated it twice in 21 months.

    I also bought a memory box so that I can throw the baby book and all the other stuff in it. I am going to try to limit myself to one box per kid. This is the one I have:

    http://www.amazon.com/Pearhead-Wood-Bank-Memorybox-White/dp/B000FSJUO4/ref=sr_1_5?ie=UTF8&qid=1377543731&sr=8-5&keywords=baby+memory+box

    Most importantly, I started grabbing greeting cards and writing a quick note to my daughter when ever I fell like it, on holidays and on special occasions. I will give them to her when she has her own kids or whenever I feel she is old enough to enjoy them. I even put very small (cheap) gifts in the cards sometimes. The cards have been a way for me to speak to her woman to woman.

    Good luck!

    As a side note… I went through my own baby book recently and my mother called me a “he” and misspelled my name.

    I love it cause that’s how my momma rolls.

    Anything you do for you kids will be loved. :)

  18. I missed much of baby #2’s early life because I was so sick with PPD. I just had #3 (three years later) and was/am determined to document the beginning of his life. I purchased a set of “baby age blocks” to take daily,weekly, and monthly pictures with … And eventually make a book. Part of me worried that he would have this and my other two wouldn’t, but I can’t go back in time and I also know that this is still part of my healing.

  19. We didn’t even have a camera when my first was born, so pictures didn’t come until she was 2-3 months old. I was so grateful that my sister took pictures with her phone while we were in the hospital otherwise we would’ve had nothing. As for a baby book, yes i had one, but it was very cheap, and mostly for milestones and years after first birthday, etc..i regret that i didn’t write every single detail though.