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What I Keep Instead of a Baby Book

When my son was born six years ago, my husband dutifully filled out the first few pages of his baby book as I sat on the couch trying to nurse our son, shell-shocked. Weight at birth: 7 lbs., 4 oz. Length: 21 inches. Eye color: blue/grey. But within weeks, the baby book was already gathering dust. In those early months of new parenthood, we could barely keep ourselves fed and bathed, let alone make time to keep up with jotting down milestones.

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But one day when my son took an unexpectedly long nap in his swing, I found myself at my laptop, writing him a letter:

In the middle of the night a few nights ago, Daddy looked at you, nestled in bed between us and said, "Isn't he the most beautiful thing you've ever seen?" And you are.

The words poured out quickly, as if they'd been stored in my body, waiting to get out. In between typing, I watched my little boy swing side to side, his arms occasionally lifting up into the startle reflex. Writing to him felt natural, as if I were telling a future, older version of him a story.

When you sleep, your arms float up like you're conducting music, and we call you "The Maestro." We love our little Maestro so much.

I am so glad that I took the time to memorialize these memories. Babies and kids change so swiftly.

I continued writing to him over the months to come. I liked capturing the little moments of our days, especially as he was changing so quickly. In retrospect, it also helped me process some of what I was feeling as a new mom.

When he was 7 months, I wrote:

I knew I would love you, little boy, but I didn't know the depth or intensity of it. I didn't know that you would capsize my heart. Turn me inside out. I didn't know that I would do anything in the world to protect you.

Because postpartum depression hit me hard after my son's birth, I'm especially grateful that I wrote down these small moments of love. In my memory, those months were a blur of awfulness; I was exhausted, broken and lost. Perhaps worst of all, I feared I was disconnected from my baby. But in reality, though it was an outrageously difficult time, it was also a time peppered with love and connection.

When he was 11 months:

You're so proud of all your new tricks—you can clap when we say, "Clapping." And your latest skill—waving. You wave both hands at the same time, fingers closing down on the bases of your palms. It's the cutest thing I've ever laid eyes on.

At almost 2:

You are so funny. Right now, you're in deep love with Elmo. A few weeks ago, you woke in the middle of the night, said, "Melmo" and promptly went back to sleep. And lately you've taken to carrying around a small jar of cinnamon around the house with you. When you want it, you point up at the spice jars and say, "mon-mon."

While I don't feel the need to remember exactly how old my son was when his third tooth poked through, I am so glad that I took the time to memorialize these memories. Babies and kids change so swiftly; some of the phases that felt like they'd take forever are now overshadowed by the current challenges and obsessions of the day.

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My son is now 6 and he laughs when I tell him these stories about his younger days. I hope that when he's even older, he'll enjoy poring over these jottings about his first years.

I know I do.

Image via morgueFile by user mconnor

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