During our last weekly session (now done online - thanks, Covid19), my counselor asked me how I felt about where I am at emotionally in being ready for Finley. That was our goal when I first met with her, to prepare me to welcome another child. So, this is what I said: I am finally confident in communicating where I am at and what I need. I no longer question how I am feeling and just allow myself to be right where I'm at on any given day at any given moment. I feel stronger and more sure of myself and the choices I make. I feel like I am learning, even now before she arrives, how to mother my baby in heaven and my baby soon to be on earth.
I don't know if that's the answer she was looking for. In fact, I don't know if I answered the question at all, but to be able to say all of those things, was a big step for me. At the beginning of this awful journey, I was so worried that I was grieving "wrong". I didn't want to make people uncomfortable. I didn't know how to communicate what I needed or stand up for myself. And in all of those ways I have grown, significantly. You're probably wondering what that has to do with Finley, and really, everything. Because I know I'll be able to ask for help, when and if I need it. I know I'll be able to confidently advocate for her health and any testing that will provide us relief. I know that being able to give myself grace in my own grief journey instead of questioning my every thought and action, will allow me to be more present with her. And I know, although it will be an ongoing balancing act, that I will be able to mother both my children well.
And if you're wondering (because I was), my counselor thinks we are ready too. She is more than confident with how far we have come.
I don't like to speak for Austin, but I do feel the need to address his journey briefly. Austin is not where I am at in regards to feeling ready for Finley. In fact, he doesn't even like to acknowledge her. And you know what, that's okay. Because I know Austin, I know him as a Dada, and I know the minute he lays eyes on his little girl, he will fall in love; just as he did with his little boy. Austin might not know it, but he shows he's ready and that he loves her in ways that I see. By putting up her crib, assembling her dresser (that included over 100 nails), and going to every single appointment with me even though all that means now (thanks to Covid19) is he sits in the car.
On that note, I had so many people warn me or ask me about me and Austin at the beginning of this journey. They all seemed to be concerned about our relationship when we never were. There's this big statistic that people who lose children are more likely to divorce, which is actually quite annoying - to put that type of pressure on a relationship that is already challenged in grief. However, I was listening to a podcast the other day and the interviewee, who is a grief expert and also a child loss survivor, was asked about child loss causing divorces. His response was this: "Child loss does not cause divorces. Judging your spouse's grief causes divorces." And BOOM, it hit me. Austin and I have never once in the nearly 10 months we have been on this journey judged how the other has grieved even though we grieve completely different. I grasp for every book, blog, podcast, social media group, and any other outlet to help me express my pain and share Finn's life. Austin needs space, silence, distraction, and to express it on his own in Finn's room or when we visit Finn weekly at his resting place. And guess what? Both of those are okay. One is not better than the other, because everyone grieves differently. If you're looking at our journey and assuming you'd be like one or the other, don't. Because you don't know, until you know.
The emotional depth of our relationship has taken on new heights. I will ramble to him about how I feel, knowing I am making no sense, and he will look at me and say, I know exactly what you mean. Because he does...even the rambled thoughts he understands because each day we live with the same pain. We are the only 2 people in the world who know what it's like to be Finn's parents, and we are the only 2 people in the world who know what it's like to live without him on earth. There is no one who will ever understand me like him and vice versa. I am more in love with Austin today, than I have been in our 7 years together. I thank God for this nightly, and pray that our love continues to flourish.
The Perfect Shower
Before Covid-19 struck, my friend Shannon, who has been an essential support person in my journey, approached me about hosting a baby shower for Finley. I was hesitant, but eventually gave in. I asked for a very small shower with only a few friends and family members. We have been so blessed by so many that asking for anything else just didn't feel right. But I knew (or maybe Shannon did more than me) the emotional support that those close friends and family would provide would be key in helping ready my heart for Finley. Of course, just like for all of you, Covid19 changed our plans a bit. The shower ended up being a Facebook group, and only I attended in-person with my 2 gracious hosts Shannon and her mother, Granny T (love ya'll). Despite the distance, every single one of my friends and family members gave the most thoughtful gifts, many of which incorporated Finn, and it was everything I needed to know that my sweet boy won't be forgotten when his sister arrives. God knows what we need. And boy did He deliver.
Here are just a few of the Finny inspired gifts.
A Finn doll repurposed from one of Finn's muscle shirts from Shannon and Granny T.
A lion (Finn is a leo) that included a note that said: "To help always keep bubba close & remind her to stay brave and strong even when she may be scared." - From Kate
A rainbow blanket embroidered with her name and the sweetest tag from Skylar.
I have heard so many stories from other parents walking the child loss journey of people rushing them to "move on," and I am just so thankful to be surrounded by people who so fiercely protect my baby's memory and would never expect me to move on, only forward.
Finley's nursery was designed around the rainbow wallpaper that I believe her big brother picked out for her (I won it in an Instagram giveaway moments after having a breakdown over Finny).
Her crib sheet serves as a reminder to this Mama not to worry because God has her in the palm of His hand.
The picture frame was a gift from the shower from Shannon and Granny T. And the cap has an 'F' on the front like Finn's 'F' hat complete with "LIL SIS" embroidered on the back.
Finny was my sunshine, my only sunshine. And Finley, she's my moon. My light in the darkness - hence all the moon references.
Big brother's picture is hung on the wall so she can see what a handsome guardian angel she has.
Although it will be a while before Finley understands this, it's my way of mothering my Finn with Finley. All of his toys that she will use will have a green heart sticker.
Next week, due to Covid19, Austin has the week off. We will put out all of the things that we used with Finn for Finley: his bassinet, pack-n-play for midnight changes, swing, and his car seat. Along with that, we will put away some of his bigger toys that have remained untouched in our living room. This along with packing our hospital bags, are our final physical preparations for Finley. It's sure to be a tough week as our home transforms back to what it was when we readied ourselves to welcome our first perfect baby.
Since losing Finn, I have opened myself up to world full of bereaved moms like myself, and because of this, I have heard so many stories of how these sweet children have entered Heaven. Living in this world without a child is bad enough, but the guilt these mothers live with is an unimaginable pain to me.
ABCs of Sleep
With that being said, you will notice Finley's cribs does not have bumpers. With Finn we followed the ABCs of sleep and will do the same with Finley. The ABCs of sleep are to prevent SIDS. They are: Alone (never place anything - other than a paci in the crib with baby. Sleep sacks or swaddles should be used in place of a blanket.) Back (always place baby in their safe sleep space on their back. If they can and do flip over, that's okay as long as you always start them on their back.) Crib (baby should not be placed in bed, on the couch alone, in their swing, in a car seat, or in any sleep space other than a sleep approved bassinet, pack-n-play, or crib).
Trust me, ya'll, I've heard it all, "My mom raised 5 children, and we all slept with her." But I have heard way too many horror stories. It's not worth the risk of living everyday without your child. It's just not. #knowbetterdobetter
I'll never forget going to Finn's first Christmas at his Memaw's and the looks I got when I took him out of his car seat that he was so peacefully sleeping in. Car seats are not a safe sleep space if they are not in their intended base (in the car or attached to the stroller). They should not be left sleeping with the car seat on the ground.
Finley's dresser, just like Finn's, is anchored to the wall. There is a whole episode on Netflix with bereaved mothers who have lost their children because the dresser fell on them. ("Broken" - Deadly Dressers) Obviously, it will be a while before Finley can climb on her dresser and this be a risk, but I'd rather have it done now than forget later. #knowbetterdobetter
Fan vs. Chandelier
If you can't tell, I really enjoy decorating. I would have loved to have put a beautiful chandelier in Finley's room, but did you know that a fan can prevent the occurrence of SIDS by 72%? For more information, visit this site: https://www.thespruce.com/sids-prevention-tip-ceiling-fans-may-reduce-the-risk-of-sids-2504908.
The look of a pretty chandelier would never be enough for me to overlook this staggering statistic. #knowbetterdobetter
Blinds and Electrical Cords
This one is fairly obvious, but all electrical cords and the blind cords will be secured and/or out of reach for her curious little hands to prevent strangulation and shock. #knowbetterdobetter
I don't want you to be in my shoes because of a preventable death. I hope this doesn't come across as mom-shaming because I don't intend for it to, it's simply to do my part to prevent the preventable.
A Few Updates
My book is still in the works. The illustrating style that the publishing company offered was not my vision for the book, so I have outsourced the illustrations. So blessed to have been connected with someone who I believe will bring the book to life. I'm hoping to be reading it to Finley by the beginning of next year.
Praise God, we have also heard from one of Finn's organ recipients. Back in January we received a letter from the family of Finn's liver recipient. It was heartfelt and filled with immense gratitude. They have expressed a desire to meet one day. I just sent our response last week. We still have to communicate through the Organ association until all parties have signed a waiver to release contact information. It took me a while to respond, and I still haven't printed the forms for us to sign to be able to release contact information. I'm just not ready yet. The recipient is the baby boy (now a toddler) who is the exact age of Finn. We are so glad to finally have a face and name to match a life Finn saved, but we just aren't ready for next steps at this time. I look forward to the day we are.
My Hopes for my Children
One of the activities Shannon had the baby shower group do was to complete the following hope statements for Finley. She then printed and bound them so Finley can always see how loved she is. In closing, I want to share my hopes for her and for Finn. I am including the blank document Shannon made (thanks, Shan), if you'd like to do something similar.
I hope you love dancing with Jesus.
I hope you become... (you already did Finn, you became a hero. I am so proud of you.)
I hope you don't see how much Mama and Dada cry. I hope you just see how much we love you.
I hope you're not afraid of... (Bubby, I hope you weren't afraid that night. I hope you knew you were safe in my arms and then blinked and knew you were safe in the arms of Jesus.)
I hope you learn to play ball in Heaven with your pawpaw and fish in the sparkly blue water!
I hope you laugh at all of Momo's funny antics and her and Pawpaw's bickering. Is he still complaining about her food?
I hope you never forget the love your mama and dada have for you. It's the overwhelming kind, Bubz. The kind that brings us to our knees in thanks to God for your beautiful life. The kind that threatens to knock us out with pain when we remember the happiness you brought into our lives. The kind that doesn't forget and continues to grow each and every day.
I hope you respect Jesus. I know you do, after all, he saved you!
I refer to Finley by both her first and middle name (Blake). We will see what feels right when she enters the world.
I hope you love Jesus.
I hope you become a confident, loving woman whose inner beauty radiates outward for all to see.
I hope you don’t feel overshadowed by your big brother. You are so loved and so wanted. You have brought light back into our lives and are proof of God's faithfulness.
I hope you’re not afraid of being yourself and live without fear of the future.
She is clothed with strength and dignity and she laughs without fear of the future.
- Proverbs 31:25
I hope you learn to love fiercely and laugh freely.
I hope you laugh more than cry and that life brings you far more ups than downs.
I hope you never forget you are a beautiful child of God and how blessed your Mama and Dada feel to have you.
I hope you respect the memory of your big brother and are always eager to learn about him.
I am so thankful for this beautiful girl growing inside of me. She has saved me in so many ways. But that doesn't mean that pregnancy after loss isn't hard...on both me and Austin. Because it is. It's so hard to be reminded of all of the excitement and nerves we had leading up to Finn. It's hard to remember the joy I had designing his nursery, a room I now rarely go into. It's so hard preparing myself for the labor, knowing the beautiful moment to come, one that we already shared with the most perfect little boy. But despite how hard any of it is, we know God planned this perfectly, that although we might not always feel ready, He knows we are.
Today we are 4 weeks (or less) away from our moon, our light in the darkness and 9.5 months closer to our sunshine, our only sunshine. I love you both, forever and always.