What is the NICU?
The neonatal intensive care unit, or NICU, is the place in the hospital where newborn babies receive advanced medical care. Roughly 8 out of every 100 babies born (which equals over 300,000 babies per year in the US alone) will need care in the NICU. (1,2)
The majority of babies in the NICU are there because they were born prematurely. Some other reasons babies are in the NICU include:
- Birth trauma
- Breathing difficulties
- Feeding complications
- Being born to drug-addicted mothers
- Being born with conditions that require surgery
- and more....
It’s not an experience any parents want for their newborn or for themselves. It means being separated from their baby, relying on strangers to be the main caregivers, worrying about their little one's suffering and long term wellbeing, all before they’ve ever had a chance to bond and spend time with their own baby.
Why a journal?
This journal tackles a simple yet pervasive problem parents have in the NICU - keeping track of everything.
Most parents are overwhelmed by the NICU routines - daily weights, new medications & dosages, IV fluids, feeding tubes, ventilators & oxygen settings and so much more.
The way many parents start to grasp the information and make sense of it all is by writing it down.
This journal gives them exactly the place to do this, with the prompts they need to remember what to ask and what to jot down.
The journal will consist of enough pages to track 2 months in the NICU. Each week, there will be 7 days of "Daily Tracking" pages, followed by 1 "Weekly Summary" page.
Daily Tracking Pages
Weekly Summary Pages
At the end of each week, parents can write longer entries as well as keep track of any new milestones reached, baby's likes & dislikes. Each week has a different inspiring quote, which can be left as is, or it can be used as a space to display weekly photos of their NICU journey.
How does this journal empower parents?
I’m fortunate to work in a NICU where parents are welcomed and encouraged to be involved right from the beginning, but after hearing from parents around the country, it's clear that many feel utterly left out of their baby's life.
I can't tell you how many times I’ve heard parents say “I never knew I could read a book aloud to my baby!” or “I never got to give my baby a bath until right before she came home.” And yet parents want to be involved! Studies show time and again that parental involvement during the NICU is highly beneficial for long term emotional wellbeing and bonding. (3,4)
So I thought - what's a good way to let parents know they can do these activities? How might I encourage them to learn more at their own NICU?
This small "What we did today" section lets parents know that these NICU activities are possible. It encourages parents to ask their nurses “When can I start giving my baby baths?” or “Can I read books to my baby today?” or “How can I learn more about massage when my baby is stable enough for it?”
I hope this small section will encourage parents to communicate with their NICU staff and connect with their babies much more.
This section also helps parents remember that they're bonding even when the only thing they can do is make a phone call (many parents live far away from the hospital) or just touch their baby because he's too fragile for anything more. Those things still matter so much - they are the building blocks of a foundation that is growing each day. This journal reminds them daily of these important steps.
Who cares if it’s professionally designed and printed?
Parents do and I do! When nothing else feels normal or comforting about having a baby, a “normal” journal that looks as beautiful as anything you’d find at the local Barnes & Noble helps parents feel appreciated.
Nobody really wants to use medical pamphlets or cheap stapled brochures as the place to track their baby’s every day - they want something that feels good & looks good - something they’ll be proud to use each day and share.
And now that we've reached our first goal of basic soft-cover printing, we're aiming for an upgrade! I've contacted the printer, and if we raise a total of $8,000 I'll be able to publish the journal with a premium-quality flexible cover for the journal, AND add a silky ribbon bookmark to make finding your place easy!
The good stuff - the Rewards!
All backers at $1 and up will get 2 great perks:
1. You'll have access to our comments section. So here's your chance to share your story - Did you have a baby or grandchild in the NICU? How was your NICU experience? Did you journal during your NICU stay? Why would a journal like this have helped you? Why are you backing this project? We'd love to hear your NICU story!
2. You'll also have instant access to our *BACKERS ONLY* social media images, which allow you to show off your Kickstarter Awesomeness and your NICU Pride! Share on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook & more! Copy any of these images into your IG/FB/TW/PIN!
The Pen & Notepad
The pen will have both blue & black ink (fancy!), engraved with the "Our NICU Journey" banner. The notepad design isn't finalized yet, because you - yes YOU - get to help decide on the final design! The quote on the notepad will be determined by backers. Stay tuned for an update where you get to select your favorite inspiring quote to adorn the bottom of the notepad.
What more can I say? The journal is going to be incredible!
So many of you want to give back that I've made it super easy to donate journals. Just pledge at any dollar amount you feel comforrabe, and you can choose to have your journals donated.
Who should you donate them to? Well, if you have a NICU baby in your family, then donate journals to your NICU. If you're not sure who to donate them to, I'm here to help!
I've selected two of my favorite organizations to partner with - Little Giraffe and Preemie Moms Rock. They're both non-profits who are dedicated to making life better for NICU families, and they'll take your donated journals and deliver them to brand new NICU parents.
You will tell me who you're delivering your journals to right after the campaign ends on May 24th.
If the journal is shipped to you, your shipping charges cover that shipping cost. If you are donating your journal, your shipping charges will go towards the printing of a bookmark to be included with your donated journal.
Each bookmark will have a handwritten (by me) message (from you) to go with your donation.
The Milestone Cards
If we reach stretch goal #2, $11,000, I'll publish a deck of 24 double-sided NICU Milestone Cards to accompany the journal. Every backer who pledges at least $20 will be able to add $10 to their pledge to receive one deck of cards. (The deck will probably retail at ~$18 + shipping, so this is a huge discount! Because backers are AWESOME!)
This is a mock-up - the actual cards may change slightly. But you get the idea - they're gonna be adorable! The messages included will most likely be:
- I weigh 21 pounds (all the way through 7 pounds)
- Today I am 24 weeks (all the way through 39 weeks)
- Today's my due date
- I'm off oxygen
- I'm off CPAP
- I'm off the ventilator
- My first bath
- My first bottle
- My first full feeding
- Mom's first diaper change / Dad's first diaper change
- I'm rooming in today!
- I love kangaroo care!
- And many more - at least 40 milestones!
The Care Package
Everybody loves Care Packages! This NICU-specific care package contains one journal and pen, a water bottle, NICU crib art to decorate the baby's bed, all beautifully gift-wrapped in a cute and useful green cooler tote.
Add a Name
Be a part of the journal, for real!
Wouldn't it be so cool to see YOUR NICU baby's name in the journal? Can you imagine the smile on you'll put on that special someone's face when they see their name featured in the first edition of the journal?
The finished artwork will be cuter, this is just a mock-up. Rest assured it'll be as adorable as the whole journal, in the same style, so it's gonna look great!
You'll submit the name(s) you'd like added to the journal immediately after the project is successfully funded. And if you want to add more than one name to the journal, simply add $25 to your pledge for each additional name. Questions? Send me a message!
If you really want to help NICU parents by contributing a generous donation, I want to thank you with a pretty cool and unique gift. At this level, 2 lucky backers will work with a professional, best-selling author who will help transform your NICU story into a short memoir.
A professional writer based in San Luis Obispo, CA will spend time talking with you, gathering your story, and will thewrite a 2,000-3,000 word essay as a memoir of your experience. (appx 3-5 pages).
This is truly an incredible gift for any NICU mom or dad, and it also makes a fantastic gift for any child who spent time in the NICU. A keepsake to treasure forever. You will receive the digital file, as well as a spiral-bound copy of your story.
It's best to message me before pledging at this level, so I am sure we're in agreement about the timing and content of having your story written.
All the Rewards
If this campaign raises more than the $6,000 goal, I have some fantastic ideas in mind to put any extra money to good use. For those of you new to Kickstarter, these are called stretch goals, and I'd love to reach some or all of them!
I can't say yet exactly which goals will come first, or what price point we'll need to unlock them, but some of the ideas include:
- Upgrading to more durable cover (deluxe softcover or hardback, depending on funds raised) with an attached ribbon bookmark
- NICU Milestone cards
- Completing the design & printing of the next journal in the series
and more! So don't ever think that you don't need to back the project, even if the goal has been met!
The NICU non-profit groups I'm so proud to be partnering with:
These non-profit organizations do incredible work to support NICU babies & families, and I'm honored to be partnering with them for this project.
"Little Giraffe Foundation is dedicated to funding neonatal research and supporting the patients and parents of the NICU. When we lost our daughter, Cheyenne, we were devastated by the feeling that the world had lost a great person. This organization dedicates itself to sharing her legacy by working toward improving the lives of those just like her."
"We (at Preemie Moms Rock) remember how trying it was to be a NICU parent. The stress of having a less than healthy baby, the strain of traveling between home and hospital, the physical weakness after giving birth, sleep deprivation, and the pain of having to leave our babies at the hospital were all very real. With all of those physical and emotional stressors, who has time to plan meals? Who considers going out for a movie or a dinner date? We certainly did not. But those things are so important.
We started Preemie Moms Rock for those reasons. We've found that NICU parents (particularly Moms, because we are Moms) neglect themselves. Forgetting to eat and having to grab fast food. Never unplugging to take some time away from the stress. Through Preemie Moms Rock, we hope to provide meals, opportunities to get away, and hopeful conversation to Preemie Moms and families."
How will the money be spent?
Thanks so much! Do you want to help even more? Please share this on your social media and email your friends about it!
The more we raise, the more good things we can create for NICU families!
Risks and challenges
The journal is ready to print - it's been tested and refined by dozens of actual NICU parents and nurses, the designer is putting the finishing touches on it, and the printer is ready to go. Once the campaign is fully funded, they should be printed and ready to ship within 8 weeks (hopefully sooner!)
I wish they could be ready faster, for those of you who are in the NICU right now, but it does take a little time to make the magic happen!
Of course, there may be unforeseen delays at the printer, or with the necklace production, but these are highly reputable partners and they're likely to run right on time.
I want to thank you from the bottom of my heart for your support. You are doing more than just preordering a NICU journal - you are helping create a beautiful, quality resource for NICU parents to enjoy for years to come. Yay you!
1 Epidemiologic Trends in Neonatal Intensive Care, 2007-2012 http://jamanetwork.com/journals/jamapediatrics/fullarticle/2381545
2 NICU Admission Rates Rising for Infants of All Weights http://www.medscape.com/viewarticle/848722
3 Parental Presence and Holding in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit and Associations with Early Neurobehavior https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3700586/
4 Parents’ views on care of their very premature babies in neonatal intensive care units: a qualitative study http://bmcpediatr.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/1471-2431-14-230Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
- (30 days)