Hand to Hold's Official Blog: Written by Parents for Parents

Mementos: How We Remember Our NICU Journey

I’m a saver! I love to hang on to mementos. I love tangible things that bring back vivid memories. I have the most mementos from our preemie Haley’s NICU stay. Every year around her birthday and homecoming day I pull out the box and remember. I remember how tiny she was when I look at the tiny diaper. I remember how amazing she was when I look at her perfect footprint. I remember how proud I felt when I look at her first bottle.  It’s good to remember and see how far we have come. 

A shadow box with 2 pictures and a diaper

A shadow box with 2 pictures and a diaper.

There are so many different things that you can save from your time in the NICU. If there is something you wish to save, you can surely ask your NICU nurse if they will allow you to take it. These mementos might seem silly to some, but having them reminds you of a special but hard time. While some might think you will want to forget that time, many of us want to hold on to it and remember how amazing our preemie is for all they overcame.

What do you do with everything you save?  Shadow boxes are great for displaying some things. I’ve seen some wonderful shadow box displays. I have a small shadow box I’ve hung in my family room. It serves as a constant reminder of how much we have all grown from our experience. I also have a box that I keep on my dresser with many special things I have saved: her first pacifier, her first bottle, a diaper, her first little hat, her eye protection from phototherapy, and blood pressure cuff, her foot prints and her first 2 outfits that were handmade by a friend. Many of those items are the best way to remember and show others how small she was.

Most of the items I have in my box of mementos.

Most of the items I have in my box of mementos.

I’d love to hear from all of you.  What kind of things have you saved, or what do you think you will save from your time in the NICU?

Julie Cruz About Julie Cruz

Julie Cruz (PA) is a stay-at-home-mom to four wonderful children and she enjoys spending her days with them. She and her husband are currently in the process of adopting a child from Haiti. She loves volunteering in the NICU as a mentor mom, conversing with other parents and bringing them special surprises. She is the author of “Tiny Feet,” a book about her NICU journey and things she learned along the way.


  1. One day after son Cody finally came home from the NICU, I started going through the stuff we brought home from his 9 week stay. Part of me really wanted to toss everything, I didn’t want to have those memories of the NICU. But my husband said it would be good to save some mementos and he was right. We saved his phototherapy mask, his medical ID and his first hat he wore in his incubator. We also saved his specially made blue name tag that the nurses made and put on his incubator. I wish there was a way I could show you how cute and special the name tag is. It made our day to finally see his name on his incubator.

    • So glad you husband convinced you to save a few things. It took some time before I looked at the items I saved but now I look at them regularly and remember how much that time in our lives impacted us and made us all stronger.

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