You know the saying when the student is ready, the teacher appears? I’d say the same goes for Keepster - the service that allows you to turn favorite messages into printed books, whose Instagram ad interrupted my doom-scrolling late one night.
“Turn meaningful messages into professionally printed chat books!” the ad teased. Ready to welcome a distraction from my scroll-spiral, I clicked.
I’d been looking for something like this, though I couldn’t quite find the right words, nor could any search engine. Modernized baby book meets text message scrapbook meets chat book, so to speak. See, as a first-time father to a nine-month-old baby girl, I had nearly a year’s worth of text correspondence that quite literally told the story of my daughter’s life thus far, and our journey into fatherhood.
From early family updates to friends’ unwavering support (much needed during the marathon miles of surrogacy) to the clear-as-day evolution of our communication (and relationship) with our beautiful baby girl’s birth mother. It was all there, in our messages.
Tasked with the undertaking of creating the perfect baby book to somehow encapsulate and commemorate the nine-plus best months of our lives thus far...I had painstakingly spent hours finding the perfect pictures, which, of course, were all on my phone - peppered throughout my texts, and flooding my camera roll. It wasn’t until I needed to scroll back through a lengthy text thread with my brother and Lily’s birth mother for a certain snapshot that it occurred to me.
I had my own sort of baby book right here, in my messages.
“Isn’t it crazy that someday, we can literally show Lily the very first texts we shared with her birth mother? Or the reaction our friends had when we sent them the first picture we had of her? It’s literally all documented in our chats and messages! Basically a built-in baby book!”
I held my iPhone up for emphasis as my husband rearranged his pillows, a pre-bedtime ritual I’d found endearing since the first night we shared together.
“Pretty wild, sweets.” Nick, my husband, patted my hand as he reached for the digital baby monitor with his other. “Surrogacy in the age of 2020, right? Everything is so digital...and so special. Even more reason why we need a real-life, hold-it-in-our-hands book”. He smiled at me, knowing full well that the ball was in my court with this one.
Nick definitely thought I was trying to shirk my duties of creating one of those fat, glossy baby books and I couldn’t quite blame him for assuming as much ... I’d been fairly vocal that the process seemed a little out-dated, tedious, and designed for the cookie-cutter family which we certainly were not. We’re a truly modern family: two Dads, one cat, and one baby girl born to a birth mother whom we had picked from a fat, glossy catalog of potentially hundreds, making it possible for us to take on the roles we’d dreamt of since our own childhood: fatherhood.
Sure a lot more went into it ... and no baby book prompts could ever really showcase that. Weirdly though, our texts could.
So, I set out to find a way to gather those thousands of texts - photos included - together. As luck would have it, that same night, on what had to be my fourth hour of endless Instagram and Facebook scrolling (I blame the current state of our world for revving up my blue-light addiction and insomnia I'd battled since law school days) I stumbled upon Keepster’s ad. As I clicked through their Instagram, a sleepy-but-triumphant smile worked across my back-lit lips. The student was ready, indeed.
It only took me a few minutes to find their ‘baby books’ inspiration page on their website: I immediately recognized the language that I myself had been using: “Meet the modern-day baby book… filled with meaningful messages and photos, straight from your phone.” I couldn’t have said it better myself! I also couldn’t wait.
I checked the baby monitor - all clear - and silently slid my MacBook Pro off the nightstand. I headed straight for our guest room turned makeshift office, booting up my machine. Within 20 minutes, Keepster was rapid-fire downloading onto my Mac. In another 20, my iPhone was plugged into my Mac, synching those thousands of texts, chats, photos, and emojis while I watched the how-to video.
“Much more than a photo album, a Keepster book is a whole new kind of baby journal. Think of it as a chat book with all of the messages you’ve sent of your little one to friends and family.”
Exactly, Keepster, exactly.
Once I completed my first Keepster backup, I was ready to roll. Now, not only could I turn all of my messages into a baby text message book but I could rest assured that each and every message I’d synched was safe, no matter what happened to my phone, or the threads themselves.
Peace of mind is always a plus.
I dumped nearly every message, photo, and emoji - across multiple messaging platforms, from iMessage to WhatsApp - into a Keepster Folder, labeling it: Lily’s Wonderful Life. I took advantage of the built-in search functions, finding that perfect pregnancy snapshot her birth mother had sent by searching for the words: BUMP UPDATE that I knew the text had contained.
It was all so easy, and right there, on my screen. With us being on the other side of the country there were all the texts, post-doctor appointments updates, ultrasound pictures, and even farmers market baskets piled high with fruits and veggies as evidence of Lily’s super healthy in utero diet - at Nick’s not-so-subtle insistence.
Once I had a folder filled to the brim with messages that mattered, I chose a clean and minimal ivory color for the book's cover. I uploaded one of our favorite photos of Lily for the cover and wrote a special dedication.
“To our precious Lily Ann. You complete our family in ways we could never explain. You expand our hearts in the most incredible way. You are our brightest light, our number one girl. These pages tell the story of your life so far. We cannot wait to write the rest with you! Love, Daddy and Dad”
Tears pricked at my tired eyes as I pressed order - selecting four copies: one for Lily to have wherever life took her, one for us, and one for each of her overjoyed grandparents. I couldn’t believe it: in under an hour - and at 2 am - I'd finally found a way to create the ultimate family keepsake and modern-day baby book.
I decided to surprise Nick with the Keepster book once it arrived, and again, as luck would have it, I received the package from Keepster on the very same day that he'd jokingly asked about my progress with the baby book. Lily had just discovered the taste of banana, for the first time - we’d captured it with our iPhones, sent it out to our families and Lily Love group chat, and he teased that it was a must for the baby book. At this point, everything Lily did was a must-save memory.
“Yeah, I have a feeling we’re gonna need a Volume 2, 3, 4, and 5.” I smiled as I handed him the box. He gave me a confused look as he shifted Lily over on his lap to open with both hands. I watched as he tore open the box - pulling out the beautiful, hard-bound, book he wasn’t expecting. Glossy, thick, great quality itself - an added bonus - I could tell that Nick was stunned.
“You did all this?” He poured over the pages, one by one, grinning from ear to ear. “I cannot believe this...wait...remember this? Oh God, I can’t believe I forgot this!” He pointed to an early exchange we’d had with the agency, and I could see in his eyes he was immediately back in that moment - filled with hope, and a healthy dose of uncertainty...we had just started the journey to fatherhood, and back then it had all felt so fragile and far off.
We had the texts when we updated our family on the birth mother’s selection, the texts when we joked with friends who the Godparents would be, even the texts with one another, swapping baby names, surmising future professions, finally ending on: “Happy. We just want the baby to be happy. And ours.” All of the texts, all of the photos, all of the memories...packed into a beautiful, modern-day, baby book.
We sat together for an hour, our daughter squirming and giggling on our shared laps as we pulled her in to look, “Lily girl, see this? It’s you! It’s before we even knew you...but God, we already loved you.”
Someday, our daughter will cherish this book, and the many other Keepster books we will order in the future: she will get to read these messages and hear of these moments, hopefully recognizing just how over the moon Nick and I have always been to have her in our lives. Until then, we will get to relive those messages and moments whenever we open our Keepster book.
SO thanks, Keepster. A modern-day baby book for the modern family.
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