Sarah and Amanda Berry-Williams, two lesbian moms of three from Greenville, Ohio, created Love Leaf Books because they “want every parent to feel included in every aspect of their child’s life, and this includes the baby book.” When you place an order for one of their books, they e-mail you a questionnaire before they ship it, so they can customize your book with your parental name(s) (e.g., Mommy and Mama), as well as pages about a pregnancy, donor, surrogate, or birth parents, as you desire. They also ask the very open-ended questions, “If there is something unique about your family that we should include or exclude (ie, do you have step parents, adoptive/birth parents, single parent, etc that you want titled as such) let us know” and ”Is there any other information that might help us customize your book?”
Amanda informs me that they can include room for as much or as little information about donor, surrogate, or birth parents as desired, including names, spaces for them to write to the child, photos, and more. For adoptive families, for example, the books “are highly customized according to each unique adoption, and in accordance with how much the adoptive parents want.” They can include a page about when the child was officially adopted, space for the adoption certificate, and a page about their birth and adoptive names, as well as room for birth parents on the photo pages and family tree page. She also said that they have customized books for children adopted at later ages. (Because of the amount of extra customization required in those cases, however, there may be some additional cost.)
The book itself is a spiral-bound hardback with a cutout on the front, with numerous color selections and your choice of several cute images, plus the child’s name, showing through from the first page. Small decorative images on the inside are whimsical without being overly cutesy — a good thing, in my opinion. It includes pages for all of the information one might expect from a baby book — vital statistics such as weight and height, birth date, memories from the trip home, and milestones such as first bath, word, smile, steps, and more. There are also pages for each year up to age five, which allow you to record memories of birthday parties and ongoing milestones, as well as quotations and drawings from your child her/himself. I particularly like that throughout the book, we are encouraged to note not just information, but our feelings about the various events.
My one constructive comment about these wonderful books is that the title of the page for birth information, “It’s a BOY [GIRL],” might not sit well with parents who are sensitive about gender labels. Of course, “It’s a Biological BOY; Gender Identity TBD” is clunky. It might be nice to offer an option to title the page “It’s a BABY.” Even if the child turns out to be cis-gender, the lack of assumptions might feel better for some, especially transgender or genderqueer parents. (Update: Amanda confirms that because of Love Leaf’s customizable approach, though, you may request this, if you wish.)
The Love Leaf albums are lovely, but for pure stylishness, the baby books from Rag & Bone Bindery have an edge — even though they have a number of limitations that make them less than ideal for many LGBT families. Husband and wife bookbinders and designers Jason Thompson and Ilira Steinman have been producing handcrafted books since 1991. They recently added baby-book options for same-sex parents. Their books reflect their design background, with gorgeous patterned cloth (or cloth and paper) covers, bound in ribbon, and extra-heavy page stock. They’ve been featured in American Baby, InStyle, Parenting, People, TotSnob, and more.
The Rag & Bone’s book’s thickness is deceptive, however, since the pages are only printed on one side. That may be a plus for ease of reading, but means there is really much less room for content in these books than first appears (unless you choose to complete the blank backs of pages on your own). The pages also focus much more on “fill in the blank” information, with much less space than Love Leaf’s for parents’ (and others’) free-form thoughts. The books end after the child’s first birthday, too — not a problem for those who want to use them as baby books, but not as comprehensive as Love Leaf’s five-year span.
More critically, while they offer one page where parents can describe “Our Path to You,” there are no areas specific to information for birth parents, donors, and surrogates. Also, the book is set to work for same-sex parent couples, but not single parents. Furthermore, the Family Tree page, while stating “Father” and “Father,” also assumes “Grandmother,” “Grandfather,” “Great Grandmother,” and “Great Grandfather” for both sides of the family. That will work for most families, but leaves no room for those who are second- (or third-) generation same-sex parents. (Yes, it’s a myth that LGBT parents “make” our kids LGBT — but statistically, some of us are still going to have LGBT offspring.)
If you are a two-mom or two-dad family without same-sex or single parents further back in your family tree, and with little desire to include detailed information on birth parents, donors, and surrogates, then Rag & Bone’s beautiful books are worth a look. If you want a more customized book that reflects your family’s names and structure, or one that captures more years of your child’s life, then one of Love Leaf’s still lovely and sturdy, but less stylishly bound albums are the better choice.
If cost is a consideration, note that Love Leaf’s books, despite their customization, are only $39.50 (barring particularly extensive customization, as mentioned above), versus Rag & Bones price of $72. Amanda told me that their goal “is to provide quality books for families of all types at an affordable price. Because we don’t think having a baby book that suits your family should be a luxury only for the well off.”
If you buy a book for yourself or others from either of the above, please tell them Mombian sent you!
(I received copies of the baby books for review, but get no referral fees or other compensation from sales of the above products.)