Last week I contributed to an article for Metro about keeping a diary. It discussed whether this is now an antiquated activity in a world that’s social media-obsessed and where people share what they’ve eaten for breakfast with the Twittersphere. I talked specifically about keeping a pregnancy diary (Dear diary… Is the written journal’s pen mightier than the blogging sword?).
I kept diaries throughout my two pregnancies and really loved it. I still add to them for important milestones such as birthdays and starting school. I found it a great experience and was reminded when commenting for the piece that I had actually kept diaries for many years at different intervals in my life.
Here are some of the questions that journalist @McGuinnessRoss asked me about my pregnancy diary, and my answers, which reveal my motivations for recommencing with diaries during my pregnancies.
Why did you decide to keep a diary for your pregnancy and afterwards?
It was actually my husband’s suggestion! – Probably because I was talking about my pregnancy too much. It was such a new and exciting time for me, so I thought it was a lovely idea to document everything that was happening and how I was feeling. I put down thoughts and details that weren’t for public consumption. After their birth, recording important milestones seemed the natural thing to do.
How long have you been writing the diary for?
I started the first diary a couple of weeks into the pregnancy on March 21st 2008 and it went right up until my daughter’s birth date (December 2nd 2008). I then did an entry when she was six months old and every birthday since. She started school last week, so I documented this too.
I automatically started a diary a couple of weeks into my second pregnancy. This pregnancy diary contains my reaction when I discovered I was expecting twins! This time around I went past their birth date and continued writing for their first two weeks (I think I was in shock). Again, I made a further entry at six months and their first birthdays; and have just done one for their second birthdays.
In what ways did it help you?
I found it quite cathartic. It was a channel for writing not only about events in the pregnancy, but also about my many worries and neuroses. I was aware that I was probably boring my husband, so it was good to write down what I was feeling instead. It also helped me to gain some perspective.
Did you have a diary when you were younger? if so, what kind of things did you put in it?
I did have diaries when I was younger. The earlier ones mainly contained stuff about which friends weren’t talking to which, the boys I fancied and how much my boobs had grown (or which outfits showed them off to best effect) – The things that were obviously important to me at the time!
My mum bought me a five-year diary just before I started University. Again boys featured heavily, as did the student union.
Do you find you write differently in your diary than in your blog posts? if so, in what way?
Yes. The blog posts are definitely from the heart and feature things what are important to me at any given time, but the diary entries are far more candid and reveal details that I wouldn’t put out into the public domain.
Do you think diaries are a good thing or do you accept that they are a bit passé these days in the age of the blog/social media?
I think they are lovely keepsakes; and it’s actually really nice to have the physical entity. They may seem a bit old-fashioned, but I certainly don’t think they should be resigned to the history books. They are very different to a blog. A blog puts your personal thoughts and feelings into the public domain; that’s its reason, and the emphasis is on sharing. A traditional handwritten diary is far more private – you can literally write things that you wouldn’t (at the time) share with your nearest and dearest. You don’t write it with an audience in mind and it is far more likely to include details that are important to the writer but mundane to other people.
They are very different mediums and have very different aims.
Have you let anyone else read your diary?
No. However, when I go to update it and flick through, I often read little bits out to my husband: funny little anecdotes or something that really makes us stop and think (mainly where has the time gone?!). As time goes by it is far easier to share their contents. Many things that weighed heavy on my mind at the time are now quite comical in retrospect. My plan is that my daughters will read them in the future.
What is the goal of a diary, in your opinion?
It is so easy to forget about thoughts, feelings and events during specific periods in your life; memories become very hazy. My goal with the pregnancy diary was to keep a record of as many details as possible during this important time in my life. Every time I go back to the diaries I love to reminisce and there is also that romanticism of leafing through a handwritten book. Ultimately I think it will make for a unique memento for my daughters. I hope they enjoy reading them on their 18th birthdays (that’s when I intend to hand them over).