The NICU days are stressful, as may be the days that follow if your preemie comes home with medical equipment and special needs. Prematurity is a difficult journey – one that right now, you may feel you’ll never want to relive – and so keeping a baby book or scrapbook for your preemie might be the furthest thing from your mind. But as challenging as this journey is, it still represents your baby’s beginnings. Someday, you will want to remember (even the most difficult days) and your child may want to know more about his or her babyhood.
You don’t have to be a seasoned scrapbooker to record your preemie’s early life. You don’t need to be a great photographer or a clever writer. You don’t even need to devote a lot of your time and energy to keeping a stereotypical baby book for your preemie if that’s not how you want to spend your hours. There are so many ways to document the NICU journey and transition home, and all of them are equally telling and beautiful. To help you get started, here are some tips and ideas for making memories in your preemie’s first days, weeks, and months.
- Blank, template style baby books can be really fun and pretty, but they’re usually more appropriate for babies who will go home a few days after birth. Then again, if you’ve already been documenting your pregnancy in one of these, just mod it for the NICU. Add new ‘firsts’ – as many as you want. Paste pictures in pages that you’re not going to use. Or look for a baby book that’s made just for parents of preemies. These usually include pages for milestones like coming off a ventilator, for surgeries, or for recording incremental weight gain.
- Or keep a NICU journal. Any blank book can become your NICU baby book, and a blank book offers the flexibility to include every day’s accomplishments and setbacks, along with your feelings. It may not be as fancy as a scrapbook or even a commercial baby book, but later on, a NICU journal can feel a lot more personal. And if you do decide you want to make a baby book, you have all of the information you need to create one right in your journal.
- Preemies come with so much unique paraphernalia like the tiniest diapers, itty-bitty clothes, pacifiers and bottles that look like they belong to a doll, and even hospital items, that you may want to consider making a memory box. Besides hospital bands and tiny hats, youcan save cards, name tags, and other mementos that can’t be taped or glued into a baby book or journal.
- Writing a book may seem like too big a task, but your NICU journal can become a wonderful hardbound book that will eventually become one of your preemie’s favorites. Companies like Picaboo or Shutterfly make it easy to turn your words and photographs into a professional looking book you can share with loved ones.
- Take plenty of photos and videos of your preemie. It may seem strange that you’d want to look back on the time when your baby was surrounded by wires and tubes and medical gear, but you will because your baby will only be this small once. And no matter what equipment surrounds your preemie right now, there is still plenty of innate baby beauty there. Try using your camera’s macro setting to get up close and personal with your preemie’s hands and feet, photograph your preemie next to a stuffed animal (if allowed) for scale, or shoot through the isolette windows to get a new perspective.
You may find that some of these memory keeping ideas feel right at different times. Some parents keep a NICU journal and a baby book. Some do one or the other, then create scrapbooks and printed books when their preemies are older. Some prefer video to photographs or vice versa. It really is up to you and your family, and you can start at day one or start at year one no matter how you decide to document your NICU journey.