Nova’s Adoption Story Photo Book

I cried six times while working on this photo book (yes, haha, I counted!). It’s impossible to sum up in words all of the emotions we felt throughout our adoption. It was truly the most magical, painful, surreal, wonderful and brutal time in our lives. All of those emotions are real. I put off starting this book for nearly five months because I was so intimidated to try to capture all of that. In the end, I kept it pretty simple—mainly photos—and told the story as truthfully as I could.

For this post, we partnered with Canon USA to create a custom photo book. It was my first experience with their hdAlbum PRO photo books, and it won’t be my last. The software was super easy to figure out. I decided to make a 10×10-inch album with a photo cover. It’s super high quality with glossy pages. I used a mix of high quality and low quality images in my book (some of it is actual screen shots, but they are still important memories I wanted to include) and it worked out seamlessly. If you want to make your own custom photo book, visit and you can use the code ABM18A for 40% off all hdAlbum photo books through 6/3.

Start to finish, our adoption process was 18 months. We kept a private Instagram account for so much of that time to document our process. I pulled images from that for all of the stories of the adoption process before we met Nova. One of the most important things I wanted to include in this book was all of the photos we had of Nova while she was in China. Recently, we were able to receive even more photos, which are such a treasure to us. I’m happy they are all now safely together in this album.

One of the best memories of our life. I wrote all the text from us to Nova. I hope that when she’s old enough she will see how loved and wanted she was, even before we were together.

The adoption process is so full of paperwork, notary appointments and post office visits. So this obviously needed to be included in our story.

This is from when we first found out what our official “family day” would be!

I also included a lot of little things in the book, like the fact that we consciously knew we were decorating our tree for the last time as a family of two.

There are no words to describe how excited we were.


 Our family day.

Nova’s first nap in out hotel room. We were just staring at her sleep.

I included as many full-page photos as I could. I really loved that about these albums! The full-page photos go all the way to edge and make the book look so beautiful.

Probably my favorite photo from our first day with Nova.

Our first plane ride.

This was one of the only family photos we were able to get in China.

The big moments are all there, but the little ones like this are what really tell the story. I got the maximum number of pages (100) so I could squeeze in as much as possible.

Flying to the US with Nova.

Our first morning at home—in Nova’s new home. I did a full page of text on the opposite page.

Even though this is a grainy phone photo, it’s one of my favorites and I love how it looks blown up full page.

And a few days after we arrived home we celebrated our first Christmas as a family of three. It was slow and quiet and very chill.

I ended the book with just a few family photos from around that time.

Here you can see how the book looks fully open. It’s nice and big, but still fits perfectly on our bookshelf.

And here’s the back of the book.

I already can’t wait to make another book. After seeing this book in person, I think I am going to do one large book for Nova every year. I think that’s a reasonable goal I can keep up with and then I may do some random book like vacations and stuff for my own collection, too.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on photo books and memory keeping with a young child! I’ll be honest—it’s a lot of pressure! Everything is SO CUTE and going SO FAST. I think that these books will be a simple, realistic way for me to keep up with documenting her childhood.

Thanks for reading! Elsie

P.S. Check out My Advice to Families Considering Adoption, How We Chose Our Children’s Names, and if you like making photo books, check out 3 Ways to Add the Year to a Photo Album!

Credits//Author and Photography: Elsie Larson.

  • This book is sooo beautiful and I was very touched by your story and all your thoughts about it. My mother made a book with photos of me when I was a toddler, too. Unfortunately both of my parents aren‘t any longer with me. But this book is really precious for me and I love to watch all those pictures. Often I still have to laugh about them and the memories stay with me. So please continue making lovely book because they are a wonderful gift for your daughter. X

  • Your album is beautiful! But :/ just tried to order my book I’ve been working on all weekend to use your code expiring today… but it won’t let me create an account with a Canadian address! 🙁 Going to contact customer service tomorrow and see if they can do anything, or maybe ship to a friend in the US. But what a bummer. Anyone know any great printing options for Canada?

    • Canon has amazing customer service. I hope they can help! xx

  • This is a beautiful gift and a beautiful book. There are SO many cute photos when they’re little. I started printing ABC books every 6 months or so with just instagram photos. We’d do things like A is for Aunt Becky (pic of our daughter and Aunt B when we visited her in New York), S is for Strawberry (pic of us picking strawberries), etc. Its a fun way to print lots of pictures and keep up with the memories. I like to think having an ABC book with her own photos helped her learn her letters and helped her remember and identify friends and family who live far away. I think I ended up making 4 or so of them. Anyways, just a fun idea.

  • I love, love, love this so much!!! Fantastic, uplifting, touching.


  • Such a beautiful book! I love the convenience of photo books but really struggling with pulling the trigger as I just love a physical photo so much. Do you miss having physical photos?

    • I don’t really miss them. But I do still print single photos sometimes to hang up or give away. But I think for feeling organized I kind of prefer the photo books.

  • This was SO absolutely beautiful!! My heart is just full of so much love for you and your family – lovely post!!
    xx J

  • I decided to use the chatbooks app instead of the traditional baby book. I do one book per month & try to have at least one photo per day (sometimes I forget a day, sometimes its multiple – especially if he’s meeting a new family member or friend). I love that I can print one for us and one for my mom! I am also doing one book of just his monthly photo (taken on the same blanket with the same stuffed animal) & a description page of his milestones for that month. Its almost like a flip book to see how much he’s grown! It’s so easy & makes it so the photos come out of my phone.

  • This turned out gorgeous and it’s such a fun way to remember all of the big and little moments of her adoption. I’ve been trying to find a way to document some of my travels and this seems perfect. Thank you for sharing!

  • Love this! I’ve started making annual photo books (and then extra ones for holidays etc), and to keep it super simple and I use 99% photos from Instagram and update it monthly. I’ve made quite a few photo books before, but these annual ones are by far my favorite!

  • What a beautiful book you’ve put together, thank you for sharing such an intimate story with us xx

  • First of all, I’m crying. This is so beautiful and it’s obvious that she is so loved.

    As an answer to your question, my goal is to do one scrapbook (no more than 100 pages) for each year of my baby’s life. His first year was 76 pages (and my pregnancy album was only 44 pages). Digital scrapbooking is the only hobby I have — and also ‘work’ since I write copy for a few designers — so I just keep a running spreadsheet of what needs to be scrapped, what products I REALLY want to find photos for, etc. and just work as I can around his schedule.

    I’m saving all the files to print duplicate copies when he wears them out and also so he can take copies when he has a house of his own (if he wants to).

  • Your story is so beautiful! Last night I read through all the posts about your family’s journey. I will take your wisdom and insight with me the rest of my life. (Ps I have heard that Virtual Reality treatment is an option for people who are legally blind. Every day new things called impossible are becoming possible! Nova is at the beginning of a bright future with you as her mother!)

  • It’s a great idea. I think over time you will take less camera photos and more mobile photos and possibly get into a different frequency. I started off making two a year and I’m now about 3,5 years behnd… but you should focus on her first books. Keep everything from her early years and go over those albums/items with her when she asks… each year they retain additional details and slowly form their own history. But the ask, they are curious about their origin and they need all that love and all that affirmation because kids at school (mostly) will ask and will give her thoughts and words about her origin that she hasn’t heard from you. So yes to those albums, they’re gorgeous. You never have too many. I have two from the trip over and one for the baptism, plus one for the first six months here. Four in half a year, but she only wants to see, over and over again, the first three ones. ????????????

  • I don’t even know you 3 in person and in crying ????
    I guess I think of how fortunate this little girl is to have you both sas parents. I currently live and work in Shanghai and I know how sad it is to have so many kids left behind bc of really petty reasons.
    As for the photobook idea I LOVE it. I’ll definitely do one a year for my son. If he doesn’t take them all to college, I don’t care I’ll gladly keep it ????????????

  • Yes, this is so beautiful! I wish that all children would get to flip through their stories like this (with or witout a fancy album book! 🙂 ) and see how much love there has been in their lives!

  • That made me cry looking at it, I can’t imagine making it! So happy your family found each other.

  • Thanks for posting this, it’s so beautiful, I’m moved. We have a 6months old, and I keep a baby diary from pregnancy with pictures (polaroids, printed, film…)that she’ll get at 18, Plus a separate photo album (analog). Not sure if I will give that one to her or keep it to myself lool.
    Looking at your pictures of the first day I’m reminded of our first days. The alienating feeling, the complete cluelessness, the infinite LOVE..isn’t it so weird to suddenly have a child?! And not knowing anything about it as a person? I mean, they probably told you something about her beforehand (I wish I were so lucky lol) but still..the shock must have been incredible. Nova looks so comfortable and calm in the first day pictures…what a lucky family.

  • I can only imagine the crying as you made it, because I cried while looking at it! It’s beautiful, and I, sure when she’s older it will be one of the many things she can look back on and see how much you loved and wanted her. It may be minimal, but in a good way, where it focuses you on the important things. I’m sure she will cherish it,.

  • This is so sweet and inspiring. I want to start make one for my baby too. Hope the three of you will always be happy 🙂

  • This made my heart melt. Thank you for sharing these personal moments

  • This is so special this book and story of your adoption of ypur beautiful daughter. Perhaps a set of hand prints to put on the back so in time you can look back and see how small her hand prints were. I have 3 sons and i have their small hands in a frame that i finally put together as my eldest is 30 this and my middle son 21 youngest 18, the simple frame with the 3 hangs in my sewing room. Precious memories and makes me smile ????

  • I have loved that you allowed your followers to be a part of the journey of adoption. Watching your family grow together through struggles and joy, i feel more and more that adoption is a possibility for my family. Thank you.

  • This is the SWEETEST DIY ever. What a fabulous idea to make a photo book for her. I’m sure she’s going to love looking through this for years to come! My heart always swells when you share the adoption story with us so I can only imagine how it feels for you and your family!

  • Beautiful book! I’m working on the book for my son’s first year (he just turned 1!) and taking much the same route that you are — hardcover book, square pictures, mostly one picture per page but heavy emphasis on full page photos, some pages with text. I know I could probably spent a ton of time on it but done > perfect.

    I’ve done one photobook per year before he was born to capture our lives, they’re mostly short but it’s where random things like weekend trips, cooking at home, weddings, etc. go. I make separate book if we take a trip that’s 2 weeks. Struggling with the idea of if I should be making him his own books in addition to the family books going forward (his book is his story, the family book is our story). I see the first year book as the story of how he came into our lives and how he grew. We take SO MANY pictures of him that he may have to have his own books!

  • This is completely off topic but I noticed the sleep pillows you used on the plane in one of your pictures. What did you think of them? Have you done a review or do you plan to?

    The book is amazing.

    • We loved them- they are really awesome for long flights were you need to sleep through the whole night. But after we had Nova with us (on the way home) they were less useful for sure… they take up too much space when you’re trying to manage a little kid between your seats.

  • Love the book Elsie! I use Chatbooks for my photo books. The app has improved a lot since they first started and I find it’s pretty reasonably priced. I’ll settle in for the evening after everyone else is asleep and work on a book. Like you, I do some full pages and some with captions. I have 3 daughters and they love flipping through the books I’ve made. I have a mix of hard and soft-covers, all in the their 6X6 size, they also have 8X8. I’ve done books from our family vacation to Disney World in 2016 and random trips here and there. Some by month. I even tried my hand at a “yearbook” for 2017. This year, I made a book for my mom for Mother’s Day. I can’t wait for her to see it!

  • Thank you for sharing your journey. I hope Nova feels as safe and loved as your pictures show. The idea of the yearly photo book is brilliant! Such a treasure. If I was evenly remotely organized, I would do that too! Best to your family of THREE!

    • Safe! You’re right that’s what she looks like!! So much feeling in those pictures…

  • This was SO beautiful and heartfelt it had ME in tears too! CONGRATULATIONS!
    María Eugenia

  • Love your photo book! I find what helps me the most is to stay on top of it. I try to make a few pages every month while it’s current in my mind. Once time passes and it becomes more sentimental, it’s so much harder to choose what to include. I also try to take the pressure off by reminding myself that anything I create with family photos and memories is enough. There is no such thing as perfect.

  • Tears come to my eyes reading such a beautiful story. You could not have captured it any better. Thank you so much for sharing such a heartfelt emotional journey.

  • The book is beautiful! I love that you put captions as well, so when Nova grows up, she can look back at her childhood. She is so lucky to have you. ❤️

    Charmaine Ng | Architecture & Lifestyle Blog

  • It’s hard to keep up with photos while being present as a mom for sure. My biggest struggle is editing the photo selection because every image is so precious to me, ha! What I’ve been doing is picking a predetermined number of photos at the end of each month so I have fewer to sort through at the end of the year. I sometimes permit myself an extra photo or two, but I never seem to have a shortage! Love this album and all your Nova posts. <3

  • It’s beautiful! A book a year is reasonable. I don’t have a huge amount of pictures of me as a child (because it was the 80s and 90s, no phone cameras) but I love looking at picture albums from my childhood and I wish I could have had something for every year to see the evolution of my childhood (I don’t have a great long term memory so my childhood memories are fuzzy). I think Nova is very lucky to have this to look back on in her future.

    • It feels SO MINIMAL to me, but when I think of her moving out with like 18-20 books…. that’s a lot too. haha I should probably not make like 10 a year….

      Thank you for the kind words!

    • OMG your story made me cry for you all out of happiness! Congrats!

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