Creating the memories
You have just a premature baby, maybe he is 16 weeks early or maybe she was born only 4 weeks early. Each and every baby is special and our premature babies are even more so. And like many parents, you want to record what your baby is doing.
Milestones for a premature baby vary so much from those of a full term baby. Our milestones include when he is taken off the ventilator, spent time under the billi lights for jaundice, finally being able to breastfeed and the list goes on. The baby books on the market cover from birth but make no allowance for your baby’s early birth.
I think it is important to record all these milestones as they happen. Each day your baby is growing, getting bigger and the memory dims about all that you are going through. And that is good in some ways, the pain of giving birth to a premature baby eases with time. The guilt and the self-doubt that something you might have done or even didn’t do might have caused your baby to be born early (yes these are normal feelings and if you talk to most Prem parents they have gone through this stage). But looking back its hard to remember the feelings when your baby had his first breastmilk or how old she was when you first were able to put her to the breast (even though she only managed a few feeble attempts at nuzzling before falling asleep) and that magical moment when the doctor says you can go home tomorrow.
Here we will try and give you some ideas for creating and saving the memories, good or bad, for the future. If you have any ideas you would like to share with other mothers please submit them to us.
1. Ensure that someone takes a photo of your baby soon after birth. In most hospitals, the nurses will do this and mum is probably too much in shock to worry about it.
2. Most nurseries will take footprints of your little one for you. Hopefully, this too will be in the first couple of days. It is good to try and get one done at major marks in your baby’s life. 100 days, 6months, 1st birthday. You can then use them to compare how your baby has grown. Footprints are usually done not hand prints because it can be hard to get a little baby to open out their hand but some nurses are willing to try, so just ask them if you want the hands as well as feet.
3. Try to collect some of the pieces involved in your baby’s struggle for life. We collected a temperature dot, a blood pressure cuff, her first nappy size (this still has the ability to shock people that she was small enough to fit what looks like a baby doll nappy), the prem dummy. Start a memory box to put all these things into. Look at what is around her and what is being thrown away after use as to what you or your prem might be interested in seeing in a few years.
4. Keep the cot tag and anarmbandd.
5. Make notes daily. We had just a notebook that we carried everywhere with us. In it we recorded what was happening to her today, how much weight she had gained, how much milk she was taking, what we were feeling. Somedays nothing happened so nothing was recorded, other days we wrote pages.
6. Some Ideas for your notebook
- Have a page in your notebook to note first. First hold, First nappy change, First time you helped feeds.
- Have a page for Feeds – the different amounts of milk your baby is taking
- Have a page for weights, babies are usually weighed every couple of days, record the results.
- Have a page for room moves, each move usually means a step closer to home.
- Have a page for the doctors your baby sees
- Have a page for special nurses – you will be dealing with a lot of nurses but some will take a bigger roll in your baby’s stay.
- Maybe a page with medical terms you are given and what they mean.
7. Keep a journal. I tried to start one of these but keeping up with it was hard for me but some have recorded everything that was happening in a journal and have a lasting memory of their time in the hospital.
8. Take up scrapbooking. We found this was the best way for us to record Sarah’s birth and after. It allowed us to join the many photos we had taken with the notes that we made. Originally I was going to do one for her first year. But the hospital stay was so important and we had so many photos and thoughts that we have one album just for her first 11 weeks up till the point when we came home. Some of the pages where very hard emotionally to do and some took me weeks to do. But looking back it was good to do and get out some of the emotion. There are pages in her album that are still hard to look at and we often warn people about these pages (Sarah had open heart surgery at 6 weeks and we took photos of her in the ICU straight after) but they are all part of who she is and what she went through.
9. Take lots of photos and keep a list of the date taken. See photo tips
10. If you can access a video recorder use it often to record daily happenings. Videos give an extra dimension to photos. Get reaction of people to your little one. Grandparents first visit, their thoughts can be recorded.
The primary aim of PIPA is to provide practical and emotional support to the parents and families of premature infants. However we do not offer professional advice. We are parents of preterm baby’s and not medical staff. We do offer understanding, support, encouragement and friendship.