Using Layered Templates to Document A NICU Experience | Guest Post by Laura Wonsik

Happy Friday friends! Ali is delighted to welcome Creative Team member Laura Wonsik as she shares how she documented her recent NICU experience using one of Ali's layered templates.

Layered Templates are a great way to document and tell your stories. Not only do they serve as a foundation for your stories, but they take some of the additional thought out of the design process to allow you to focus more on the words and photos. As Laura says, these templates give you the gift of simplicity when your time and energy is limited.

Here's the layered template that Laura used for the photo portion of these pages: Slanted 8.5x11 Layered Templates

Here's Laura:

My daughter Isla was born unexpectedly and prematurely at 33 weeks while we were 2.5 hours from home. She spent 16 days in the NICU following her birth while my husband, 4 year old daughter and I navigated this unexpected transition as well as daily life from a distance. It was the hardest thing I have ever gone through but thankfully she came out of it strong and we are all home and settled now.

Like all parents with a new baby, we were taking lots of photos and they piled up quickly. It was a crazy scary whirlwind experience that soon became a blur.

As the days in the NICU wore on with no definite timeline of discharge, a haze of beeping monitors, medical terminology that went over our head, conversations with neonatologists, social workers, nurses and lactation consultants and frequent consumption of medium quality cafeteria food, I considered how to best document all of the photos, milestones and experiences we were having as parents of a preemie in an energy efficient way.

About a week into her stay, I decided to start a NICU log using a template for ease of design. Thankfully, all of the photos are time and date stamped in my phone so I was able to piece the days together relatively easily. I only had about 30 minutes to an hour of time (well...energy) every day so I knew I needed to streamline the process.

I decided that photos would tell most of the story and I would create a template for as much journaling as I needed or felt inspired to include for each day opposite the slanted photo design template.

I created the template for the journaling by making a color block that followed the angle of the slanted template and changed the color to match each day’s photo cluster. I used the font “Archer” for the title and journaling. (I also created a template similar to the slanted ones for more vertical photos.) I also changed the size to 6x8 because I knew there would be a lot to print when we came home.

These templates gave me the gift of simplicity. When your energy is limited, making decisions, even small ones, can be exhausting. By settling on a single design to repeat for each day, I was able to focus on the journaling and photos. The only other decision I made was what color to make the top of the journaling page.

My plan is to put these in an album with the story of her birth at the front and a few of my favorite photos of her from the NICU in 6x8 page protectors at the end.

I am so thankful that I took the time to document this experience, the achievements, the setbacks, the joys and the sorrows. As we have returned home those days feel more and more like a dream so I am thankful that I captured the details for her to see when she’s grown. I want her to know what a strong girl she is and what she overcame.

Thank you Laura for sharing your story and your experience with all of us!

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15 thoughts

  1. Untiedt says…
    06/21/2019

    Thanks Laura for sharing your story and showing us that simple layouts like these are beautiful too. Sometimes the photos & words are enough. You have a beautiful family.

    Reply 0 Replies
  2. PoochPatrol says…
    06/21/2019

    Thank you for sharing this with us Laura. I had a baby in NICU for medical issues after his birth about 30 years ago. I can see how so much has changed. I understand your stress during that time. I wish that it was as easy to take pictures then as now. Digital photography has really made low light shots so much easier. We weren't allowed flash photography so we had to use 1000 ISO film which is very grainy and always off colour. I only have about 5 pictures from a 2 and half month stay. So happy for your family!!

    Reply 0 Replies
  3. hgauvin says…
    06/21/2019

    Wow Laura, this is awesome! You'll be so thankful you did this while it was happening. What a wonderful book this will make!

    Reply 0 Replies
  4. rhondaw says…
    06/21/2019

    This is absolutely amazing and beautiful! Thank you so much for sharing.

    Reply 0 Replies
  5. roos1111 says…
    06/21/2019

    Hi Laura, congratulations with your little baby girl! I am so happy that you were able to document this special time. When my son was born premature with 33.5 weeks, 34 years ago, I wrote down a lot of things. Also in my diary. A few years ago I have copied and pasted that text from my journal, and printed those comments in a little textbook from Blurb. And I am so happy that I did! In the years to come you will be so happy that you have documented this!

    Reply 0 Replies
  6. Houston says…
    06/21/2019

    Laura, you are amazing! Isla will surely look through these layouts and know how truly loved she is by her strong, beautiful, Mama and family.

    Reply 0 Replies
  7. Kristin409 says…
    06/21/2019

    Laura, Congratulations on the birth of your beautiful daughter! She is gorgeous as are you! Praise God for her good health and the relatively short hospital stay, although I’m sure it seemed like an eternity at the time. I was eyeing the beautiful pictures of your family in the Stories by the Month post yesterday and appreciate you sharing this post with us today. Not only is it a great encouragement and motivation to tell our own stories, but also the great tip of using a layered template to make it easier and less time-consuming than it might be otherwise. You are so sweet to share such a personal part of your journey with us to encourage and inspire us to tell the stories of our own journey. God bless you and your beautiful family! 💜

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  8. minkaclark says…
    06/21/2019

    She will so love this when she is older. Amazing. Thanks for sharing.

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  9. kelfergie1803 says…
    06/21/2019

    this is beautiful Laura, it brought tears to my eyes both for your experience and the memory of my own NICU bubba's journey (33.5 weeks). All the best with your gorgeous girl xx

    Reply 0 Replies
  10. ElenaFarinas says…
    06/22/2019

    I am sorry you went through this and am in awe of your journaling!

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  11. meganb13 says…
    06/22/2019

    Thank you for sharing. It is beautiful.

    Reply 0 Replies
  12. Kilsby says…
    06/22/2019

    Absolutely love this, your amazing!

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  13. sarajeanne12 says…
    06/24/2019

    I had a NICU experience of about that same length of time -21 days - with my first son who was born at 32 weeks as well. I pieced together a NICU album for him not too long after we came home and luckily I was able to remember/find a lot of the details to put in the journaling - though not as detailed as yours is with journaling each day. What a treasure to have! I have often thought that with how unexpected a premature birth is, I wish that I could create a journal for the hospital to give to the new moms to write everything down in. In that moment, you’re so focused on just figuring out what is happening that even a dedicated memory keeper can forget/be too exhausted/think she’ll remember all the details and not write them down, and/or not know what details she’ll wish she’d remembered. Maybe someday I’ll be able to make that come true so that all NICU moms can have a record of their baby’s first weeks of life.

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  14. SilkyTenn says…
    06/26/2019

    Absolutely beautiful! I wish I had taken notes at the hospital when my son was born. We think that we'll remember the details forever, but we lose the emotion and intensity of the moment when we don't write it down as its happening. Its so awesome that you were able to do all of this while in the middle of such a difficult time. Congrats on the precious little baby!!

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