A few years ago as my best friend was opening her baby shower gifts — items everyone has seen a dozen times in the predictable pink, blue or yellow — she came to mine and suddenly the room was silent. Her eyes filled with tears and everyone strained to see beyond the tissue paper. For the remainder of the shower my gift was slowly passed around the room and I was repeatedly approached with all kinds of questions. I realized it was the best gift I had ever given and it didn’t come from the registry.
It all started from a conversation several months into her pregnancy. She was in her mid-thirties and this was her first child. Her only regret in waiting to start a family was that her grandparents were not going to be around much longer and her child would never know them. This made her incredibly sad, but it gave me an idea.
The next day I got in touch with everyone in her and her husband’s family and extended family. I asked them to think of something they’d like to tell her baby: advice, wisdom, humor, a famous quote, anything, and email me the responses along with a photo that captured who they are. A month later I had dozens of notes and photos. I uploaded them onto the website Shutterfly and started creating a book.
Each page had a photo and entry addressed to her baby. I asked my friend and her husband to do this as well (but I didn’t tell them what it was for). She wrote a beautiful letter, which I put on the first page of the book, along with a picture of her ultrasound. I dug up some childhood artwork of hers, scanned it, and made that the cover art.
Shutterfly gives you a lot of layout and theme options. I had her parents send me baby photos of her. They even found some black and whites of her grandparents as children. I put these in the back of the book along with famous quotes about family and love that I pulled from the internet. The book became a modern-day version of a family tree, a way her child could learn about his/her family and put faces with names. In the end the total cost of producing the book was $75, but since her grandparents passed away a year after her child was born, it became priceless.