When you’re a first-time parent, that first positive pregnancy test is a pivotal moment in your universe. The life you have been so comfortable and familiar with suddenly shifts on it’s axis. Your priorities, emotions, lifestyle, and social structure completely change. The safety and well being of the little life you are growing becomes the most important thing in your world. Within motherhood, there is never a moment you aren’t thinking about your children and that absolutely starts during pregnancy. From subconsciously cradling your growing belly to your constant inner monologue, “Did I eat enough or too much for her today? Is she growing at the correct rate? Is accidentally waking up on my back actually dangerous for her? Did I feel her move enough today? How in the hell am I supposed to drink that much water in a 24 hour period?!"
Through all of the heartburn, sleepless nights, and extreme body changes in that short nine months there is also extreme happiness and hopefulness. Each month that passes gets you even closer to all of the future plans you are dreaming of as a family with your new child. Finding out the gender, choosing a name, transforming the extra bedroom into an adorable nursery that is just waiting for the baby to enjoy. That excitement overflows into every aspect of your life. I can honestly say those days were some of the best of my life. There is an innocence there in that first taste of maternal bliss that really doesn’t come close to anything else I have ever experienced.
Then reality has a way of making its presence known and sometimes all of your future plans come crashing down midflight.
I went into labor naturally 5 days past my due date and arrived at the hospital with a very much alive baby in my womb. I was terrified and overjoyed all at once. Certain that in a few hours we would have our bouncing baby girl earth side with us. Unfortunately, we never had those happy moments. Instead, her chaotic and extremely delayed emergency delivery led to my husband almost losing us both. When it was all over, we held our perfect and beautiful, but dead baby girl in our arms. Our daughter, Finley, was stillborn after 40 weeks and 6 days of a relatively healthy pregnancy.
1 in 160 pregnancies end in stillbirth. That is around 24,000 babies a year in the U.S. and 25% of those stillbirths in the U.S. are considered preventable. A term stillbirth occurs between 37 or more completed pregnancy weeks. For us, there were many warning signs showing she was in distress during labor and our time in the hospital. The warning signs were ignored and the time to safely deliver her was allowed to pass. Unfortunately, we are part of that 25%.
The challenges that followed that next year are honestly hard to even put into words. The grief was so intense that I was questioning whether I could even handle living in a world without her. The heartburn turned to heartache, the sleepless nights took up permanent residence in our home and the next round of body changes mocked the childless mother I had become. My body and mind would play tricks on me constantly and test my survival capabilities. I didn’t want help. I didn’t want words of encouragement or support. I didn’t want to see anyone. I wanted to be alone. I wanted my daughter. I wanted to stop spending days drowning in grief laying on the floor of a perfectly decorated, yet childless nursery.
I dreamt of encapsulating myself in a chrysalis, wrapping myself so tightly that I could hold in the unrecognizable mess that I had become and never leave. But deep within that mess were layers of hope, maybe I could emerge and come out on the other side with grace and courage to continue working towards my dreams of being a mother with living children. So selfish wants aside, I pushed through, faked smiles and worked towards becoming a mother who could honor Finley by living, working each day to find happiness, and by once again, delicately laying down plans for the future.
In November of 2019, I had my second positive pregnancy test. Just as before, another pivotal moment in my universe presented itself. Except this time there had been no comfort or familiarity beforehand. The innocent maternal bliss was guarded by protective walls, trying to prepare myself for the possibility of another round of heartbreak. There was so much love and excitement to finally have life growing inside of me again,. Finding out there were two lives growing inside of me, made it even harder to keep the thought of “it’s all too good to be true” from my mind.
Amazingly, my twin pregnancy flew by without complication. Patrick and Teagan were born on July 7th 2020 perfectly healthy and thriving. I was finally able to realize that the constant inner monologue and worry about your children never truly goes away. This time the post pregnancy monologue just had much more positive dialog instead of only pain and grief.
More than a year has passed since our Rainbow Twins entered our world and almost three years since Finley died and was born. Not a day goes by that we don’t think or talk about her in some way. She is just as much our daughter as any one else’s child. Her siblings enjoy looking at the few pictures we have of her and its beautiful to see the similarities in their features. As we pass milestones with Patrick and Teagan, I am reminded of the life we are missing out on with our firstborn. While this is my first time experiencing these moments of motherhood, I feel I should already be a seasoned mama here. Finley made me a mother and because of her, I will never be the woman I once was. Because of her, I am no stranger to the love and pride a mother feels for her children.
We will always have a missing piece of us through this life but she is forever loved and remembered as our first born daughter, and their big sister. I am a mother of three who only gets to raise two.
♥ Finley Anna Duffy, November 26, 2018 ♥