When my first son K was born 11 weeks early, it was a terrifying and stressful experience for our new family. He spent over 60 days in the NICU. The medical staff was constantly concerned that he would suffer brain bleeds or that he would acquire infections. But through all of the challenges, we were also able to celebrate milestones such as getting off oxygen and being allowed to wear actual pajamas. During the whole ordeal, there was no way I ever thought I would want to remember any part of that experience.
On one of our last days in the NICU, one of my son’s primary nurses presented me with a scrapbook that she created during his stay. I was so surprised and touched by her thoughtfulness. When did she have the time to put it together? I had taken photos, but I never thought I should document any of the unique experiences we had in the NICU by creating a scrapbook. I was so caught up in the stress of the situation that the only thing I could think about was our ultimate goal — to leave the NICU.
Every so often I look at the scrapbook. I am so thankful that someone made it for us. Back then, I never thought it would be important to save his tiny blood pressure cuff or a preemie-sized diaper just to show him how tiny he was. Today when I look at him as a healthy and happy five-year-old, it’s amazing to see how far he has come. And it’s so fun to show him the pictures and mementos from his preemie days. Looking back, I wish I had spent more time creating my own scrapbook. I believe the process might have been therapeutic for me.
There are several hospitals that provide scrapbooking classes for families of babies admitted to the NICU. For example, the Brandon NICU at the University of Michigan and the NICU at Texas Children’s Hospital have weekly NICU scrapbooking classes for families with preemie babies. In the article on Texas Children’s Hospital’s blog, “How to Cope When Your Baby Is in the NICU,” parents are encouraged to participate in activities like taking photos and chronicling their baby’s progress in a scrapbook. The ordeal of having a preemie that must spend time in the NICU can be labeled as a form of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, and scrapbooking is an outlet that can be utilized as a method for reducing your anxiety.
Did you have a preemie in the NICU for an extended period of time? How did you deal with the stress? Have you ever used scrapbooking as a method to help you through hard times? Or, do you scrapbook for fun?