What should I include in a journal of letters to my baby?
May 15, 2016 7:59 PM   Subscribe

I am hoping to document my pregnancy through a journal of letters to my future child. I am struggling a little with how to balance my current reality (wanting a document/record of my pregnancy) with the future of this child someday being a grown person who might read it.

I have always been an introspective and sentimental type and the idea of having a document/record of my pregnancy appeals to me. I also have this vague idea that someday the child might read it and enjoy learning a little more about what I was like during this point in my life.

Hence, the competing interest :-) There are some things I may wish, personally, to write about which might be TMI for my future reader. I am struggling with whether to treat the journal as my personal unburdening place and say whatever I wish, or to keep it as more of a performance piece and censor myself to avoid embarrassing the child who may read it.

For example, I do want to write a little bit about what we went through, medically, to bring him/her into being. I want them to someday understand how very loved and wanted they were. We went to some lengths here. It might hearten them to know we wanted them that much. On the other hand, it might embarrass them to know medical information about us that should perhaps stay private.

If we get a child who takes after my husband, they may not be up for much detail about their mother's inner thoughts. But a child who takes after me would! If I found such a book my own mother had kept, and I sensed while reading it that she was censoring herself, I might be a little disappointed. I might regret not having an authentic record of what she really thought.

I looked at some pre-made baby books and they were not what I wanted at all. Very cheesy and over-done. I just want to document our life during this special year and hopefully leave my future child a memento of the life we had while we were bringing them into the world. So, how should I handle potentially sensitive stuff?

(fwiw I am 15 weeks now...)
posted by JoannaC to Grab Bag (25 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
You can always abridge/edit it in the future, right? I'd brain dump now, ask questions later.
posted by padraigin at 8:02 PM on May 15, 2016 [6 favorites]

If your hypothetical kid isn't interested in reading it, they don't have to. On the other hand, I think a lot of people would pay any amount of money for a document like this written by their mother. By their grandmother? Great grandmother? Unbelievably valuable. I would say write what you want, and leave it up to your kid & future generations to appreciate it or not. Mmmaybe you could do something like writing *tmi warning* ahead of anything potentially sensitive.
posted by bleep at 8:03 PM on May 15, 2016 [7 favorites]

If it were me, I'd write the journal for me, now, which means including all of the inner thoughts. This ensures that it's authentic and real, and also serves a useful function for you.

Then I wouldn't show the child for a long time, until they were old enough to appreciate it. At that point I would go through and edit it. By that point you'll have a much firmer grasp on who your child is and what they would appreciate knowing. You'll also have much more distance from the pregnancy by then, which means you'll have an easier time cutting things if you think that, in hindsight, they are TMI.

All of which means you'll want to do the journal in some easily-editable electronic format, not longhand, of course.
posted by forza at 8:03 PM on May 15, 2016 [11 favorites]

Write it for you. Don't worry about future child. You don't even know them yet. :)
posted by k8t at 8:12 PM on May 15, 2016 [3 favorites]

Everything!!! Write it all down, you can always mess with it later if you have to, but I can't tell you what I'd do for something like that that's really comprehensive, written by my mom or grandma. Details, even the weird ones, are a big part of things. If it's got some adult information, well, don't give it to them until they're an adult. They'll appreciate it more then anyway. (Anecdotally, I'm almost 30, and I think I would not have even truly appreciated one of these until the last couple of years. So it might be longer than you expect until they're really into it.)
posted by gloriouslyincandescent at 8:18 PM on May 15, 2016 [3 favorites]

I would write the journal for myself, and write separate letters intended for my child. I would decide later whether I wanted my child to have access to the journal, too, and at what point in their life, given the actual child's personality.
posted by lazuli at 8:22 PM on May 15, 2016 [3 favorites]

I agree you should write it for yourself. Lots of kids wouldn't care. Some would. But it will definitely be a great project for you.
posted by Kalmya at 8:23 PM on May 15, 2016

How about every week you write a letter directed to a child of that age in years to be given as birthday cards as they get older? (You might have some catching up to do) so, for example, the first few weeks might be simply pictures you can hang in their room and increase in complexity/maturity as the weeks progress, until by the last weeks you are actually adressing your child in a time where they are older than you are now. It would be an interesting time capsule for them I think...
posted by sexyrobot at 8:31 PM on May 15, 2016 [2 favorites]

Adding my voice to the chorus - definitely write it for yourself. You can always edit it before you give it to your child. This is such a cool idea - I would have loved it if I got something like this from my mom or grandma.
posted by SisterHavana at 8:33 PM on May 15, 2016

I'm writing a journal now for my toddler son to read when he's an adult. I had to start over because my first attempt was so babyish, appropriate for his current age. So, a little different from what you're thinking of, but I think our kids will appreciate it! Even if not the words, the love behind it...
posted by bighappyhairydog at 9:11 PM on May 15, 2016

The medical stuff is my FAVORITE PART of my baby book. It was of only passing interest to me until I got pregnant, and then suddenly was the most fascinating document in the world, being able to compare my mom's medical care with mine.

The single best bit of this best bit is they were in one of the first Lamaze classes in Chicago, so my dad was in the first cohort of dads allowed to attend the delivery, and they had to fill out a research survey about their experience and whether they felt dads should be allowed to attend routinely. My dad thought they should because it was great, but they should definitely have to take a class first because there was quite a lot of screaming and pain and gore and it kind of required some prep. They got copies of their surveys back along with their obstetrician's comments (lamaze breathing seemed to help mom, dad was not a burden in delivery and followed instructions and did not faint) and some notes from the researchers on their very preliminary findings from the first cohort. It is a TREASURE.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 9:36 PM on May 15, 2016 [15 favorites]

How about structuring it so that the more explicit medical material is in a closed envelope inside the book, with a note on the outside identifying what's inside and leaving it up to your child if they want to read that part?
posted by Scram at 11:01 PM on May 15, 2016

My mom wrote a memoir about a time in her life when she was pregnant with me and on welfare. Like, not just a baby book, but an actual published book. I love every word of it. Do what others have suggested; brain dump now, maybe edit later, but don't sweat anything being TMI.
posted by transient at 11:08 PM on May 15, 2016 [1 favorite]

Nthing the "write it for you" brigade. But like lazuli suggested, I would write something separate for your child - a lot of the content may be the same, but the audience is different, so write that separate journal bearing that in mind.

You may go through times in your pregnancy - or during labor, or as a new mom - when you feel helpless / depressed / scared / angry, and question your decision to have a baby. That is all completely normal, but it's probably not something that you would want your child to read until much later, possibly until they've had children themselves / you're dead / never.

I don't think you can be completely honest in your journal if you're self-censoring. And there are some thoughts and experiences that you will go through that your child may struggle to deal with - even as an adult (depending on your relationship and also on who they grow up to be). So having two journals seems like the best approach.

(Anecdata - my mother, if she had not felt constrained by social norms and expectations, probably wouldn't have had kids, I think. I was her eldest, she had a difficult pregnancy with me, and an even more difficult birthing experience. She's made the best of her life, but we don't have a good relationship, and a lot of it comes down to how me being born changed her life for the worse, and how I then failed to live up to what she expected from her children. I don't know the details, but I know enough to know that I would never want to read her journal - if she has one - it would just bring up a lot of stuff that I spent years getting over.)

I don't want to put a downer on your idea - I love it, it's beautiful for so many reasons! I just want to point out that "what you're experiencing" and "what you want your child to know" are not the same thing - they may overlap by 90%, but that remaining 10% is important to recognize and plan for.
posted by finding.perdita at 11:20 PM on May 15, 2016 [1 favorite]

If you structured it as a memoir rather than a journal, you could have several topics/chapters, and add to them whenever something new came up. Eg. (just some ideas) "my family before you", "the pregnancy week-by-week", "words of wisdom from your mother", "things your dad and I did while you were cooking". Then your child could have some control over what they read about, and when. Nthing that this is a wonderful idea!
posted by superfish at 11:23 PM on May 15, 2016

Hey I did this. My kid (a boy, now 25, I gave it to him on his 18th birthday) was eventually fascinated by the "current affairs" of the day. He's has never mentioned the scared young woman I was when I was writing it. He doesn't care much for photos, but it has held onto the journal.

So, be yourself. Share what you want to share. They might not appreciate it (who can tell?) Or they might never tell you that they appreciate it. They are not obliged to enjoy this gift, but it is a gift no-one but you can give. Don't overthink it. Do it, and set it free.
posted by b33j at 5:24 AM on May 16, 2016

And the Gulf War started during my pregnancy, and I overestimated it's impact on the world. My fear for my unborn baby came through in the text. My boy says now, that I never understood politics. It's a fond and not serious tease - he has a lot of respect for my intellect. I think you can say "by the time you read these, we will know each other, and I won't be able to imagine life without you, but right now, while you are a possible potential you, and I don't know if I love like a mother, be like a mother, I'm scared, even while I anticipate you." Its' respectful and not at all "i never wanted you".
posted by b33j at 5:28 AM on May 16, 2016

I don't have kids, but my best friend's kid just turned one. She has her mom's pregnancy/baby journals from when she was little and has been writing one for her daughter. I think if she were trying to keep up with two it wouldn't be happening. Also, she really appreciated all the detail in her mom's notes about pregnancy and baby development, to compare her own experience.

As someone not having kids, I also have stuff my parents wrote me when they were around my own age and pregnant/young parents, which is interesting, too. I really like the notes my dad took about things he was doing in the early 80s (like taking a night computing class, because he thought it was going to be important), and anything that comes through as particularly candid in their notes. My mom's baby journal kinda alternates between candid and details about stuff I wore and people who showed up to baby-related events and got me baby gifts or whatever, and those parts are way less interesting. I think they both were writing with me as an audience in mind, which is a little sad because it's more sappy and less "holy hell I am exhausted and covered in baby vomit." The great realization of my early 30s has been really understanding that all adults are making this adult stuff up as they go along, so I treasure any little snippets of text that give me a sense of my parents grappling with that, too.
posted by deludingmyself at 5:36 AM on May 16, 2016

writing about any fears and worries you have could help them when they have children. i wouldn't filter the negative (if you have any).
posted by andrewcooke at 5:42 AM on May 16, 2016 [1 favorite]

My mom wrote a journal like this for me. I'm 25 now and she still hasn't given it to me. I'm dying to read it but think she might have arranged for me to only get it when she passes away.

I hope that my journal from my mom contains all of her inner thoughts about her pregnancy and my childhood. Some specifics...

* If I were your child, I would be really touched to know that I was conceived via IUI, IVF, etc. - like you say, it would show just how wanted I was. I was conceived naturally and basically the only detail I wouldn't want to know would be "Sarah was conceived in the back of the blue 1987 Rabbit, doggy style." I would be fascinated by the medical details, pregnancy symptoms, etc.

* I think it's okay to be very candid - even to share feelings of regret, insecurity, or fear - as long as you plan to give your child this journal after he/she is fully grown. My mom has always seemed like a natural super-mother, and the glimpses I've had of the anxiety and insecurity she felt/feels about motherhood have really humanized her. If the journal she wrote for me shows more of that, I think I'll find it very comforting, both in the event that I decide to become a mother, and with other struggles in my adult life.

* I would also include some things about you-yourself, not you-the-mom. Since age 20 or so I've been fascinated about my parents' lives before I came along. It's strange but fun to think of them as young adults, as newlyweds, etc.

This is a really sweet project. And congratulations on the baby!
posted by schroedingersgirl at 6:26 AM on May 16, 2016 [3 favorites]

I do this for my kids. Here's how I do it. I have my own journal where I write things about the pregnancy or motherhood I don't want to share (my pregnancy-related anxiety, in detail, for instance). I rarely write there but do on occasion. I also have a journal for each of the kids. With the first one I started when I was pregnant. After the baby was born, I offered it to our family members as well. We all write either in the pages of the journal or in letters with envelopes which people write in if they choose to, and I paste into the journal. The grandparents write frequently. The great grandparents wrote before they passed. I write most frequently. I include thoughts about how I feel physically and emotionally as a mom and occasionally as a person in my own right. I also write to them a lot about what they're doing at the moment (you have the most adorable army crawl going on right now. Your favorite foods are asparagus and chicken soup). My tone is appropriate for an older child or adult. I hope to give each kid their journal at their bat mitzvah, though I may wait until they are older. It's not all rainbows and unicorns, but the tone is very loving and respectful even when I'm telling them about their three year old attitude or ten month old sleep drama.

I figure they can take it or leave it, but if they are sentimental and interested in their ancestors like I am, they'll appreciate it. I got the idea because we have something similar for our vacation home which my folks have had for 45 years. People write a few pages in the guest book about their trip or even what has been going on in their lives since they were last in the cabin. It's like a family journal. I re-read it a few years ago and it's at times really funny and other times really touching, especially when we've all written about something hard we went through and it's there described in four different voices from four different perspectives.
posted by Amizu at 7:06 AM on May 16, 2016 [1 favorite]

I include some current events too, interwoven with stuff about parenting and stuff about the kids themselves and stuff about me personally or my husband.
posted by Amizu at 7:11 AM on May 16, 2016

I got a journal when I was 18 or so from my mom which was sweet, but definitely edit it later. I read a passage that started with "Your father and I got intimate...." (and thankfully didn't elaborate after that). I got kind of embarrassed and squicked out by that.
posted by starlybri at 7:17 AM on May 16, 2016

I find my mom's pregnancy / baby journal in my early 30s, and it was in one of those fancy books and in the living room, but also it was full of a lot of emotional stuff and I feel like I know my mom so much better and have a lot of empathy for her scared younger self. The entries on her job and relationships with her parents / in laws were illuminating.

I vote to write what you want, then give it to the kids at an appropriate time. I remember opening the journal as a young teen and noping right out when I found a graph of mom's contractions, if you want an idea for ensuring that the kid doesn't read it too young.
posted by momus_window at 5:33 PM on May 16, 2016

Do this for yourself if you want, not for the child. Leave it for later to decide if you ever want to give it to your child, or get rid of it. To some such a journal would be a treasure, to others a burden. There is no way of knowing now how your child will react in the future. Write what you want to write, then put it away. Sometime in the future you will know what to do with it.
posted by mermayd at 4:44 AM on May 17, 2016

« Older I think he's been hanging out on Reddit again.   |   Should I go to Nantucket? Or to Acadia National... Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.