Today is the birthday of another special little boy called Finley. Three years ago he was born, and sadly he never woke up.
A mere few weeks after my Finley Arthur died, I was reading on what would become my local Sands group’s page about how they were fundraising for a cold cot for the local hospital. I had no idea at all what a cold cot was, and in my ever eager need to have answers, I started googling. One of the first links that came up was a link to a website that actually made my heart skip a beat, Finley’s Footprints. I clicked on the link to find a world dedicated to a beautiful little boy, who is so loved and so missed. I found this Finley’s mother, Mel, a bit of an inspiration. It was one of the first encounters I’d had with the parents of an ‘angel baby’ using their grief and the loss of their baby to do something positive; in doing so, she created a lasting memory of his short life, ensuring that his impact was far reaching.
I’ve been reading her book After Finley, and I’ve genuinely been astounded by the similarities in the emotions and thoughts expressed in the time so soon after Mel’s loss and my own. I didn’t begin keeping a journal so soon after my loss, and have often regretted it. I try and read back on posts I made on pregnancy forums, facebook, etc. to try and recapture some of what happened. Reading After Finley has helped to dig up some of the memories and thoughts that I experienced in the time immediately following Finley’s death, and I am grateful for that. I find myself grasping at any memories that exist, no matter how terrifying or sad they are, as they are all I have left.
I wish I’d read After Finley before my Finley died. Because we’d gone to hospital not knowing anything was wrong, and lost him so incredibly suddenly, my brain could not process things. Mel had a lovely bereavement midwife who helped her to create a lot of memories with her son. When I finally had the opportunity to see Finley after he’d passed away, I found myself wanting to just hold him and to experience all of the things I’d imagined I would do with him while I was pregnant. When we saw him I did pick him up and hold him, but I was hesitant. The patient liaison officer who went with us when we saw Finley encouraged me to hold him, talk to him, and have photos taken. But was it morbid to sit cuddling my dead baby? Was it wrong to want to dress him, and touch his little hands? Was it disturbing to want to look upon his beautiful face and imagine how it would be if he were alive instead? My husband thought so, and I wasn’t sure if I was going crazy. We got a few photos, including one of me holding him, and looking back on them now, I wish I could have so many more.
I’d say that some of my biggest regrets are not having somebody to sit and tell me that these feelings were normal and ok. I remember wondering if people would find me weird if they found out, and in a way it prevented me from creating some of the memories I wish now that I had. I so wish that I had seen him naked; I know that may sound strange, but I never got to see the entirety of the person that I had literally created inside of my body. I wish that I had plaster casts of his hands and feet. I wish that I had kept the sleeper/baby grow that the hospital had dressed him in, but the idea of leaving him with nothing to wear upset me. I didn’t go to see him prepared with the things that we had intended him to have if he was still alive. I wish I’d seen him in the clothes that we’d chosen for him, wrapped in the blankets, and snuggled up with his toys. I wish that I’d read him a story and given him a bath. But at the time, I was afraid.
The goal that Mel Scott is trying to achieve is so so important. Taken directly from her website:
Our next project is to create a professional e learning package for midwives, doctors and funeral care staff to help them to understand what helps parents and why. We need to raise $5000 to cover the cost of this project. If this project does not happen, parents will remain burdened with the guilt and regret of not having memories to treasure, parents will remain upset by the unfortunate comments and actions of staff who are not confident in caring for the bereaved.
And she is so right. The amount of guilt and regret I feel for not having these opportunities is limitless. I think of my tiny baby in the cold room in which we visited him, and wish so desperately that I’d had the opportunity to spend three days with him in a room that was a bit like home. To be able to look back on hundreds of photos instead of the 20 or so that I have in total. And to know that I had had the chance to make informed decisions about how I wanted to handle saying goodbye to him.