Unsure of his daughter’s prospects after she arrived six weeks early, Brad Mitchell began taking videos each day he and his wife had with her.
Doctors constantly reassured him that Lillian would pull through, but it was difficult for the couple to see beyond the oxygen masks, feeding tubes and various medical procedures at the time.
“As the days went on, we kept recording, and we decided that no matter how things went, we wanted to be sure we had full documentation of her first year that we could look back on and enjoy, and maybe even one day share with her,” Mitchell told TODAY.
A year later, a video featuring one second from every day of Lillian's first year of life has gone viral.
The video, "365 Days in 365 Seconds," begins in a Toronto hospital and concludes with friends and family singing “Happy Birthday” to Lillian at a September 10 party. In between, the girl grows from sleeping newborn to curious infant to the animated, laughing toddler she is today.
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"As you look back, only 30 seconds of the video is being stuck in that hospital, and at the time, it felt just like an eternity," Mitchell said. "But now that we look back we see hundreds and hundreds of other seconds that followed, it just kind of washes that away."
Today, Lillian is on the verge of walking and "doing great," Mitchell said.
"She’s not walking on her own, but she climbs up on the couch and climbs up on the dog’s back sometimes," he said, referring to Pierre, the family's French bulldog who makes frequent appearances in the video. "The two of them are inseparable."
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Mitchell, 28, took all the videos on a camera he bought a year ago in preparation for his first child.
"I thought it would be nice to have a lot of good quality photos in her childhood. I had no idea we would be using it for this," he said.
Every day, Mitchell recorded about 10 short videos and selected the second that best represented that day. He began pulling together the final video a month before Lillian’s birthday, sifting through 15-20 clips every evening.
"For the most part, we were trying to make sure we got all the good milestones in there, all the holidays and any exciting moments with the family," he said.
Mitchell is not sure how his video caught fire, but he said the best part of the exposure has been the comments the video receives, particularly from other parents of premature infants.
"They’re all coming out and sharing their stories. I remember back to those few days (in the hospital) when we were just so skeptical and so unsure," Mitchell said. He recalled how he and his wife, Lin, would comb the internet seeking out details about their daughter’s condition, and whatever information doctors gave them.
"My wife was at the hospital every single day and it was good for her to read those kind of stories and think, 'Okay, this is normal. The baby is going to be fine. She’s going to pull right through this,' and maybe even see one or two videos, just like ours, and it would give her that reassurance," he said.
Mitchell, who works in digital marketing for a bank, said making videos is strictly a hobby. He can't imagine pulling together another one as large as "365 Days in 365 Seconds" any time soon. In fact, he admits that he and his wife don’t pick up the camera as often as they used to.
"I think we’re both pretty sick of the all video things for now, but we still take a lot of pictures and capture the big memories," he said.