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Baby Book Failure

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Somewhere between "first time you brushed your own teeth" and "first time you dressed yourself," I fell off the wagon.

woman looking at baby book

Jeanne Sager: My daughter Jillian's baby book is filled with detailed notes up to that point. First laugh: September 29, 2005. First solid food: Rice cereal, October 9, 2005. First time she stood up: March 22, 2006. In the scrawling mixture of cursive and print that is a clear sign I was consuming too much caffeine to combat too little sleep, I dutifully tracked the moments I was afraid to forget.

In those early days -- when sleepless night bled into colicky days and back into nights spent pacing the floor -- I marked the time by making notes.

I detailed the days B.C. (before childbirth). I wrote my birth story, skimping on specifics for the sake of the daughter I hope will page through the book one day -- much as the pregnant me looked through my own mother's memories, searching for clues to my future.

A writer by trade, I let the rules of sentence structure slip through my fingers on late nights, scribbling out fragments: "December 2006, first long car trip to Aunt Chris' house."

There was desperation in those scribbles. I was checking off the milestones, ensuring that my child was "normal." Rolled from tummy to back? Check. Rolled from back to tummy? Check. The baby book is a mom's validation in written form. We read into it, quite literally: Yes, I'm a good mom. I'm doing things right.

The baby book let me keep up with each step the way What to Expect helped me through each month of my pregnancy. It offered consistency. Reassurance. It became a crutch when I worried over the stretch in time from "first garbled sound" to "first word."

I was like a mom obsessed: "What's that, honey? She's eating her first carrot? Hold on a second -- I have to write that one down before I forget!"

And then, suddenly, I stopped. We were at the pediatrician's office when it hit me. Jillian had just turned 3, and after a party with her friends and a few dozen cupcakes (decorated to look like doggies), we were visiting the doctor for her annual checkup.

The nurse weighed Jillian on the table, then walked her 'round the corner to check her height on the big-girl chart on the wall near the bathroom. "She's 30.4 pounds," the nurse said. "And 3 feet tall."

I untangled my fingers from my daughter's and reached inside my purse, searching with my hand for the little record book I've had since Jillian's very first visit with Dr. T. Inside that book is the list of every vaccination, every ounce gained, every jump in height. But it wasn't there. I had to scribble the numbers on a stray grocery-store receipt instead.

That receipt was still in my wallet, waiting to be copied into the record book, when I did my weekly purse cleanout later on. When I found it, I set off looking for the book. I searched through each of my kitchen drawers, then pawed through the piles in my office.

I finally found the record book at the bottom of a stack of photos (the backs of which had been carefully dated, and all names transcribed). It was sticking out of the baby book, exactly where I'd left it a year ago -- a few days after Jillian's second birthday. One day after her last well-care visit to the pediatrician.

The little record book was marking the page headed "My, How You've Grown." My daughter was 34 inches long at her last visit, and weighed 26 pounds and 8 ounces. My, she has grown.

But the book won't tell you that. Flip to the "You Can Do Anything" page, which contains the list of "firsts." Her last "first" was at 25 months -- the day she climbed out of her crib and graduated to a toddler bed.

After that, I just stopped. In the scheme of things, I guess I'd finally realized that my daughter's first carrot didn't amount to a hill of beans (or carrots, for that matter).

I didn't stop caring, though -- and the pile of dusty pictures is proof of that. They haven't yet made it into the albums stacked on the shelf in the living room, but they're all there: My daughter's first trip to Sesame Place. Christmas morning with her toy kitchen and her set of butterfly wings. Taking a bite out of one of those doggie cupcakes.

Looking back, she'll see in full color how she grew, the clothes she fought me to wear, the hairstyles I fought her to finesse.

But she won't read about it. Because milestones have been passed. My child -- and time -- is marching onward. I mark time these days by the piles of too-short jeans I set aside for my friend's daughter, the drawings that threaten to take over the walls of my office.

I don't need the baby book to reassure me that Jillian is growing. But I sure wish she'd slow down.

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1 comments so far | Post a comment now
Ten Tees January 9, 2011, 11:26 AM

Good info. Good reading. I’ve just got a single opinion to offer about tee shirts.

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