This beautiful little man was sweet and tiny and perfect – as all new little bundles are, but his session was extra-special. You see, he is the youngest of three boys – one of which who is at home watching out for him, and one who is watching over him from up above. If you’d like to read more about this family’s story, of how they have pulled through a tragedy – and not only learned from it, but have helped others heal – then take a few minutes to read the words of this little guys’ Mama. Feel free to pass it along to anyone you know who is going through something similar, as it’s always healing to hear of others that have gone through a similar journey.
And Mister Finlay – you are one very loved baby, with a family who adores you. It was a gift to capture these first images for you – I know your Mum and Dad will treasure them.
Mother’s Day Testimony
” Ever since I was a pre teen I had predicted I would marry young, and have all my children by the time I was 26. I am 26, Kelly and I have been married going on 9 years and we have had 3 beautiful children together. What I couldn’t have predicted is what being a mother would look like for me. I never expected to have a perfect marriage, life or children but I never in a million years would have thought I would have to go through some of the things I have experienced.
Our eldest son Noah was born after 26 hours of excruciating back labour. If you’ve met Noah you know he can be “energetic”, and the combination of his energetic personality along with suffering from colic for the first year and a half of his life made for a trying time. On top of that, at 8 months old he had to start wearing a helmet for 23 hours a day to try and correct his head flattening. I found this first 18 months of motherhood to be much more difficult than I had expected. Things didn’t seem to be going as easily as they should be, and the stress led to feelings of guilt, as though I should somehow be doing more to make things right. However i had no idea that what was coming next for our family would make these early days of motherhood seem like a walk in the park.
In 2012, we decided to add onto our little family. We tried for 6 months before we became pregnant, and although it isn’t that long to try, it felt like eternity. Each month the test read negative I felt a growing disappointment, concern and almost loss. It happened so easily the first time, what’s wrong with me? I then felt just a small fraction of what it must feel like to be unable to conceive, and I ache for those women who live a lifetime of that reality. However we did become pregnant, but at 20 weeks I began having regular contractions and I thought I was going to miscarry. Up until this point I had never felt heartache and fear like that. My contractions did stop but I was put on modified bed rest. After a follow up ultrasound we received crushing news. Our baby had a heart defect that may not allow him to live until full term and if he did reach full term he may not survive the three reconstructive heart surgeries he would need. We named our little fighter Miles Gabriel. Miles meaning soldier or in Hebrew, gift from God and Gabriel meaning God is my strength. Once he was born we learned that Miles’ heart condition was even more complicated than anticipated and he was placed on the transplant list at 3 days old.
When I became a mom to my second child, I could have never prepared myself for what the next 4 and a half months would bring. As a mom you want to protect your children, take away their pain and dry their tears. I quickly learned that I couldn’t always be there for Miles the way I wanted to. I had to let go of my baby and leave him in the hands of some of the most amazing doctors and nurses for countless tests, procedures and pokes. When I could be there and hold him in my arms, I was. The quiet trusting person I used to be rapidly evolved into a vocal and relentless advocate for my son. When the doctors and nurses rounded on Miles twice a day, finished and went to leave, I often said, “I have another question?”. His cardiac surgeon would laugh and say, “of course you do”. A doctor, like many who have to try and maintain a professional distance from their patients, softened toward me and we became quite the amusement at rounds poking fun back and forth.
There is nothing more excruciating than watching the slow decline of your child’s health. I had to sit back and watch my son struggle to eat, sleep, and breathe. And what was so frustrating was seeing this decline despite the human beings we depended on exhausting all options. Now we just had to wait. Wait for another family to lose their most precious thing, their child. How can you wish for another family to hurt in order to save your son. It seems pretty sick, but we did. When we were in the ICU we met a family whose two year old had fallen out of a window. He was declared brain dead. Moments before they walked into an O.R to say goodbye to their son for the last time, the Father spoke to Kelly about the kind of peace they were feeling, that through their loss they were able to give life to another small child through donating his organs. He asked Kelly how old our son was. When kelly told him Miles was just a mere 5 and a half pounds, he said, if only their hearts were the same size. We will always remember this family, their bravery in the midst of their ache.
After months of waiting for a heart to arrive and so many prayers that felt unanswered, I began to question my faith. I didn’t question whether God was real, or if he loved me and our children, I questioned my faith in him to save Miles. I kept thinking back to the verse about faith the size of a mustard seed, If thats all I needed why were we still sitting in a hospital room watching our son die. Maybe I wasn’t praying hard enough or believing in this miracle enough? We had just been waiting so long and as much as I believed I couldn’t help but feel a little alone on the journey.
Miles passed away in my arms on November 30, 2013 after waiting for a heart for nearly 5 months. Leaving his little body in that hospital room was the hardest thing I have ever had to do. I knew it was just his body, and that he had already gone to be with Jesus, but that was my baby. It was the precious little body I had fought to protect, the skin i poked over and over again, the face that both smiled and cried at me, the soft little fingers that held me and the lips that breathed sweet breathe on me as we snuggled. I left the hospital feeling empty and broken like I never thought I could. I knew the reality of Miles’ condition and the likelihood of receiving a donor, I knew in my head, but my heart just never thought we would walk away without our miracle.
It wasn’t easy making the drive back to Kelowna without Miles. I can’t thank our friends and family, church, and complete strangers enough for supporting us through our transition back to life here. Kelly went back to work and I slowly emerged back into society. Every day hurt but by the grace of God we were surviving.
Months later I was diagnosed with low iron. Despite diet change and supplements I still wasn’t feeling any better. It turned out that I was also pregnant. Kelly and I still hadn’t decided whether or not we would have more children, but I guess God decided for us. Surprise! I found shockingly, that I was excited. Really nervous but excited. Would this child also have a heart condition, could I go through that experience again? A few days later I miscarried. My joy and hope was crushed. Why is this happening? I was pretty angry, frustrated and discouraged. What did this mean? Maybe we shouldn’t have more kids. Kelly and I decided not to plan anything, not to stress about the what if’s and just let God decide for us. I didn’t know it at the time but only a few weeks later I was pregnant again.
Pregnancy is supposed to be this amazing and wonderful experience to be enjoyed. This time I was filled with so much fear I didn’t even really allow myself to get excited until after our first ultrasound where we heard our baby’s heartbeat. But even then I knew we would need more follow ups and echo’s in Vancouver to see if we were having a healthy baby. Two echo’s showed that the baby’s heart looked strong and healthy. I felt so relieved. But anxiety made a comeback when after an ultrasound to check fluid levels we were told our baby’s measurements suggested the possibility of dwarfism and that he was presenting breach. Kelly just laughed at my doctor and said that after what we had been through, we weren’t afraid, as long as his heart was alright! We decided to try a procedure to turn the baby head down. Baby did not like this, his heart rate dipped dangerously low but returned to normal when the doctors pushed him back to where he had been. Yet another frightening experience. It turned out that on the day I was supposed to have a planned c section that the little stinker turned head down all on his own, thank God for small mercys, I wouldn’t need a c section after all.
Finlay Gabriel was born April 5th, 2015, on his daddy’s birthday. Finlay is scottish for fair warrior, a perfect name for our little miracle baby. Finn’s birth wasn’t without worry. He came out with the cord wrapped around his neck, he wasn’t breathing. He was rushed to the exam table where they bagged him and rubbed his little body. I couldn’t see him but what was worse is I couldn’t hear him, I knew something was wrong. I couldn’t lose another child. It was the longest minute of my life. I can’t describe how I felt when I finally heard him cry. And as it turned out Finn’s growth is normal and he is feeding and gaining like a champ. We couldn’t feel more blessed to have him home with us.
I still find every day a challenge and some days are more difficult than others. I still don’t know how to answer the question, “how many kids do you have?”. I catch myself saying something different every time. When I answer, three, I get the following question, “how old are they?”. On occasion I have said the age Miles would have been, or focus on how old Noah is. And if I answer two, I feel like I’m lying, but save myself the awkward lie or the real answer, that one of my boys lives in heaven now. I came across this quote the other day, “A mother is not defined by the number of children you can see but by the love she holds in her heart”.
When Jeff asked me to speak today I had no idea what to say or what was relevant for other Mother’s to hear. I don’t do public speaking, that’s Kelly’s job. But I just couldn’t say no for some reason, even though the thought of it made me feel a little queasy. I hope that some of you are able to take something from my story. I’ll never understand why we have gone through some of what we have but I wouldn’t change any of it. We have been given three amazing children and although our time with Miles was short, he changed so many peoples lives, including those children who can now wait and receive their heart transplants within province. Miles helped bring change. He helped make us the family we are today. We have been told that many marriages don’t survive the loss of a child, but in truth Miles brought us closer together as spouses and parents. I couldn’t ask for a more amazing partner in my Motherhood adventure.
Being a mother isn’t easy, nobody said it would be. But I hope you feel encouraged in all your trials and challenges, fears and grief. God is bigger than it all.”