Shortly after I told my mother that I was pregnant with her first grandchild, she gave me a journal. She hoped I would fill it with reflections on this special period in my life. But by the time my daughter started kindergarten, the book was still blank; I never wrote a single entry and I regret it to this day.
Not only will documenting this time allow you to capture fleeting observations about pregnancy, it can make for a happier, healthier journey. Preparing for motherhood is often an emotional roller coaster, but expressing your feelings can ease stress, and in turn boost your physical resilience and immunity, says psychologist Diane Sanford, Ph.D., coauthor of Life Will Never Be the Same: The Real Mom's Postpartum Survival Guide.
"Logging your thoughts can help you to begin developing an attachment to your baby," adds Lara Honos-Webb, Ph.D., a psychologist in San Francisco. And once your child is older, giving her the details can reinforce the special bond you share.
The first step: Decide how you'll do it. You can use a book to jot down memories and store mementos such as your ultrasound printout, swap stories with other moms-to-be in an online journal at parents.com/community, or upload everything onto a blog. But if staring at a blank page (or screen) is daunting, try sharing the responsibility with your husband, using a camcorder to interview each other once a month.
Not sure what to write or talk about? Read on for smart suggestions about which aspects of pregnancy to highlight.
What to Write About
Breaking the News
Describe the scene when you found out you were pregnant. Was it something you were anticipating, or more of a surprise? How did you tell your partner? Don't forget to include the best reactions you received from your friends and family when you first shared the excitement.
Your Changing Body
Chart your baby's development as well as your own. Record big moments from doctor visits, such as how you felt when you first heard his heartbeat. Discuss your physical experiences too, from the odd foods you craved (peanut butter and pickles, anyone?) to your weirdest symptoms (like drooling all the time!).
Picking a Name
Discuss how you chose the perfect one. Was your little one named after a relative or a friend? What were you considering before you found out your baby's sex? Did you and your husband immediately agree on a name or did one of you have to lobby long and hard for the winner?
The Emotional You
With pregnancy comes a seesaw of moods, from the wonder that may overcome you each time the baby kicks, to your growing excitement over meeting her. Share the lows too; not only can expressing negative emotions take the edge off them, you may be able to laugh at them later (like the time you snapped at your husband when he brought home the wrong flavor of ice cream).
If you've been through pregnancy before, your second one won't be any less special. Focus on what makes carrying this baby unique. Perhaps your first child didn't kick much, but number two is practically turning somersaults in your stomach. Or maybe it took months to start showing with your first, but this time you were sporting a bump within weeks. Also describe how you told your firstborn that she'd soon be a big sister and how she responded to the news.
Your Pre-Mom Life
Paint a portrait of your life (and your partner's) before kids, it's easy to forget once you're elbow-deep in dirty burp cloths. List TV shows you never miss, favorite songs, and the activities that keep you busy (craft nights, cooking classes). Talk about your girlfriends and what you like most about your career. Detail how you decided that now was the right time to have a baby. Finally, as you find yourself making predictions about what your baby might be like, write them down they'll be fun to look back on later, as your little one's personality reveals itself.
Originally published in the April 2011 issue of Parents magazine.