by Lily Clayton Hansen
Time was the topic of conversation when I met with a group of 11 busy parents recently. In collaboration with my friends, AJ and Aaron Greenberg, founders of Biograph, we decided that I would film different parents using their new app to demonstrate how it worked. No one takes more photos than the parents of an infant who are, understandably, excited by every expression. Yet, what started out as a simple interview project quickly went deep. People tend to give it to me straight (“you’re so easy to talk to”) and the parents in this project were particularly candid. Perhaps it was a rebellion against the trend to make everything look “A OK” on Instagram or, just pent-up thoughts. Since the birth of their first kid, as many admitted, they hardly had time to have genuine conversations with their spouses, let alone friends. And yet, everyone wanted to talk about the experience of raising a human for the first time. The days had flown by and they wanted to nail down their memories before they vanished.
As someone who is more self-reflective than most (“to a fault” she often jokes) Jackie Papadakis was excited to reminisce about the first months of her daughter’s life. Although she adores her son, Jackie was excited to finally have a little girl and almost went into crisis mode as to what to name her. Finally settling on Rose Marie, a less traditional Greek name than her two-year-old son Lazarus, Jackie met her little darling in December. She unexpectedly went into labor during a routine doctor’s appointment. Since Rose came knocking early, she had been savoring every moment knowing how quickly the last maternity leave went. She also wanted to remember it all. As sleep deprived as Jackie was on the day that we met, she could still recall memories in vivid detail. She knew that if she didn’t prioritize memory-preserving and storytelling now, they quickly would be gone. “You think you won’t forget because every little thing seems so important— but you do!” she insisted.
There also was no better way of spending an evening in her eyes than talking about her multifaceted experience of motherhood. Yes, kids were a miracle but they were also challenging. Even self-aware mothers like Jackie still tend to question their every move. Flipping through photos and telling stories was like a natural mood lifter – one Jackie, a child psychologist, will suggest to her patients. “Recording stories with one of my closest friends literally just put me in the best mood. I need to remember to do this more often.”
Envisioning the Future
Similarly, Lauren Rose Orsley and her husband Evan used the book as an excuse for a late-night chat. While I had made it clear that there was “NO pressure” to come up with anecdotes beforehand, Lauren did being the overachiever that she is. Boy, did their prep work generate some interesting conversations from how pregnancy had changed Lauren’s perception of her body for the better (“I never felt more attractive”) to their hopes and dreams for their son. The couple already envisioned looking at the baby book with August and his future wife one day down the line. It was important to them that they record what a character he was from the beginning in order to encourage his individuality. Improvising on the spot Lauren explained, “August, your daddy and I hope for you to be a man of your word and focus on your goals but also live in the present moment and just be yourself.”
It was a particularly interesting statement that made me wonder: if more parents asked these types of questions early on could their kid’s trajectory change for the better? I think so. Lauren was rightly confident that her investment in writing down words of wisdom for her son will pay off big time. “For the first four months we were consciously off of technology in order to be as present as possible but now we’re ready to honor him by documenting every little moment in this app,” Lauren explained.
From Shock to Excitement
Imagining their baby Sienna as a fully grown adult wasn’t feasible for parents Jeff and Marissa Snyder just yet. As the pair openly admitted, they were both still in shock that they had a child at all. Jeff, a veteran restaurant manager, and Marissa, a self-proclaimed tacos and tequila aficionado, had met while he was opening a restaurant in her hometown. After a whirlwind few years of long-distance dating, they sat one summer afternoon on their back porch in Hendersonville, Tennessee, and reflected. Years of late, wild nights were gone. They were now giddy with excitement about school photos. It was amazing how things had changed.
“Sienna had her first professional photo taken at her daycare center last week. Besides looking beautiful, the best part was that she didn’t spit up on herself,” Jeff joked.
While Marissa hadn’t dreamed of having a child since she was a kid, she also got a kick out of dressing her up whether it was in an Easter bonnet or her first Halloween costume. Perhaps because neither of their families lived close, the holidays felt like a bigger deal. They had the photos to prove it and were excited to finally have a dynamic scrapbook where they could properly store them. Until this point, even their most treasured pics had been sitting in a stack on their kitchen counter. “Even though she doesn’t know what’s going on yet, it was still so cool to see Sienna sitting on Santa Claus’ lap and have that classic holiday experience with her,” gushed Marissa.
Yet, the moment that makes even the most stoic people sentimental was perhaps their favorite to talk about: the sonogram. Half-joking that it was confirmation things were about to change (hey, those tests can be wrong!) it was also overwhelming in a good way. The experience is one that most people forget about easily because they are too busy worrying about diaper cream or finding affordable daycare. Even though Sienna was unrecognizable in the image, it was still a moment that Jeff and Marissa wanted to immortalize. Laughing about how she looked like an alien in the sonogram or like she had her nose pressed against a copy machine, the image was still moving nonetheless.
“Hearing our baby’s heartbeat was a symbol that she was real and made me immediately burst into tears,” laughs Marissa who clearly wasn’t expecting to be so moved. Recalling that moment has been particularly critical when the new mother starts to questioning herself. Asking me if anyone else I had interviewed struggled with how to manage their new life I responded, “yes!” The moment was just as story worthy except in a different way. To me, it represented the truth that mothers need to cut themselves some slack and take more time to pat themselves on the back. Maybe, they also need to talk to one another beyond the usual playground chit-chat.
Biograph’s App as the New Form of Self-Care
On my Uber ride home, I felt like telling everyone how Biograph’s new form of scrapbooking is a revolutionary self-care tool. How easy is it for humans to focus on all that we’re doing wrong or, even worse, zoom through life noticing nothing at all? Parenthood is not for the faint of heart. It is a job you do day in and out that can be thankless at times. There is no one giving you positive affirmation but there are countless media voices conjuring up everything that could go wrong. So, how does one keep their sanity afloat and self-esteem bolstered when raising a child? Take a step back, choose a photo, and flip on your voice record. Tell a story to prove all that you’ve done right, even if it was just selecting a name that perfectly embodies your child’s personality. Then, save your Biograph for later when you need a boost of joy and inspiration. It’s a beautiful thing to have a well-crafted memory and even better when you can use it as a time machine.