On my birthday,
when I was a child, my mother would read to me from a notebook where she had
written out the details of the night of my entrance into this world. I remember
laying on the couch with my feet in her lap, listening as she described the
events of December 2, 1983, searching for some clues to my identity and my
existence in her carefully constructed sentences.
I was born two minutes after
midnight. Was I supposed to have been born December 1? Mom and Dad were
watching "Hill Street Blues"when Mom
went into labor, and there was a snowstorm that night. Was I destined to be a
police officer or a champion skier? These details became a kind of litany and
a road map to my identity. I twirled the diary’s contents in my head, sniffing
out meaning, searching for something in the pages to tell me more about who I
While I got
wrapped up in the story of my birth, what was really going on in those moments
was that I was bonding with my mother. Looking back, the birthday ritual
allowed both of us to reflect on how much time had passed and relive
the experience as though I were able to remember it, too. What I really felt,
at the deepest hidden point of my heart, was loved. My mother had taken the
time to record the story of my birth, and that struck me as extremely caring.
When I became
pregnant with my daughter, I vowed to show her the same tender care through
words that my mother gifted to me. I started journaling around the same time
that we announced the pregnancy at the end of the first trimester. “Hi Baby!
You have been in me for 11 weeks now. You are the size of a lime!”
Maybe you’ll burn the notebook when you’re done. That’s OK.
At first, I
thought I would confine the journal to my experience of being pregnant and
recording the major milestones. I wrote about every two weeks or so and noted
things like ultrasound appointments or what foods I liked at this point and
which ones made me sick (I’m surprised I can eat chicken again). However, over
time, other elements crept in that I didn’t anticipate.
I wrote to my
daughter about world events, such as the terrifying, destructive path blazed by
the so-called Islamic State in Iraq and Syria. I told her about the Paris
attacks, and I was very forthcoming about how scary the world feels when you
have a baby you’d do anything to protect. I also found myself sharing with her
my own personal fears and perceived shortcomings.
“I’m apprehensive about a lot
of the aspects of parenting. What if I don’t get it right? But, I can tell you
that as sure as the sun rises in the east and sets in the west, your parents
In describing those worries I felt relieved of a burden in
expressing these truths to a child who can’t read yet and won’t look at the
journal for years to come.
Many of us quit
writing in a diary when our teen angst dried up, but I want to encourage the
moms out there to get scribbling. You see, there was a reason I feel
emotionally resilient writing to my daughter: There are proven health benefits to journaling. Journaling helps you
sort through complicated feelings and problem solve. Stress relief is a direct
effect of this mental processing.
Perhaps you aren’t
interested in writing to a specific audience, like your future-grown-up child.
Maybe you’ll burn the notebook when you’re done. That’s OK. Just write. Let
it out, and you’ll see the benefits almost immediately. Being a parent is
stressful, and the mindful activity of journaling can bring some relief, some
perspective and self-understanding.
Even if you don’t
consider yourself a writer, give the baby journal a try. Someday, when your
child is old enough, you can sit together and share what you wrote, and discuss
it. Your child will be hungry for clues to the past, and you can use the time
to bond with them.
journey into the world and through childhood demonstrates a concerted interest
in your child’s life, and they will be able to pick up on how much love you’ve
poured into the pages. You will have an accurate record of events for when
memory fails, and, most importantly, you will become a more emotionally
resilient person by the sheer act of journaling. So pick up the pen and give
it a go. As soon as you do, and decades from now, you’ll be so glad you did.