Tori & Finn

I remember the moment I found out that I lost Finn. Immediately my head swarmed with one million thoughts. Among other things, my thoughts were immediately changed from getting to have a baby sometime within the month, to going to the hospital right away to have our baby. Having given birth before, and being medically educated … I knew. I knew everything that was about to happen. I knew that regardless of whether I was ready or not, whether Finn was alive or not, my body was about to endure one of the toughest and most dangerous and sacrificial things a woman can do: labor, and birth, and delivery, and everything that comes with having a baby. On top of all of this, I also knew that because she was so near term, my body would produce milk.

Breastfeeding, among many other women’s health topics, has always been something that I am very passionate about. I ultimately do believe that “fed is best” and however you nourish your baby is wonderful so long as they are fed; but for me, continuing to feed the life I bore with my body was my ultimate goal. Because of my success with feeding Harper as a newborn and into her toddler life, I had a feeling that it would be the same way with Finn. However, now Finn wasn’t alive. I would no longer have the chance to feed her, to nourish her, to be blessed to be able to form that special connection with her like I did with Harper. That was all stolen away from me in the instant I found out that she was no longer living.

I refused to let her life be in vain. I couldn’t let her life for 35 weeks and 5 days, the way she changed my body, the way my physiology changed for her, go to waste. So somehow, in the immediate midst of deep suffering and darkness, I knew I had to donate. I really didn’t know where to donate, or how, or if I even qualified for donation, but I had a peace that if I had the strength to try, then we would find a way to make it happen. I knew this was part of the Lord making beauty from Finn’s ashes. I really felt called to do this. I knew that if I could no longer feed Finn – my second baby girl, the beautiful life that I so longed for – that I would choose to feed other babies who needed it. Babies that, because of Finn Powell, because of how she changed me, would hopefully be able to live a long fruitful life … even though she did not.

So, I set out on a mission. I set a goal of 6 weeks and 1,000 ounces. And for 6 weeks I exclusively pumped nearly every 3 hours throughout the day. Because even though I did not birth a live, screaming, breathing child, I knew my body thought I did, and I was determined to use it for good. In the early days, pumping was the main thing that gave me purpose – to eat, to stay hydrated, to nourish myself so that I could nourish others – even when the thought of what had just happened to us made me a complete sick, nauseous, not hungry, not thirsty, emotional wreck.

As the days went on, and my maternity leave entailed healing myself from a traumatic birth that left me with empty arms, I was grateful to be able to continue to be able to pump. Though I didn’t have a baby to rock, and nurse, and cuddle, and bathe, and clothe, and put to sleep … I felt that because of Finn Powell I had a job to do. Brent and Harper were an integral part of my success while exclusively pumping. Because, if you know anything about breastfeeding, exclusively pumping or otherwise, you know that it is hard work — especially in the first few weeks. It is rough and messy and painful and exhausting … and takes every extra ounce of energy you have to produce milk for another human. I actually read that it takes more energy for a woman’s body to produce milk (~25%) than it does to operate her brain (~20%) and her heart (~20%). This was a great comfort to me, considering my brain and heart felt so broken and clouded by death that I chose to use that extra energy instead to produce a life-giving substance.

During all the time I spent pumping, I found useful ways to make the time pass by. I started by using this time to pray. If you were to come to my home, you would find a list of women. A list of women that is longer than it should be, longer than I wish it was. Women who have reached out to me after learning of Finn’s passing to share with me similar stories of pregnancy loss that they had endured. I kept this list nearby and prayed for each woman by name, and for the child or children that they had lost. This was sacred time to me. I still keep this list, and continue to pray for these women each time that I pass by. Women, who because of the unfairness and sadness of the death of a child or children, feel more like sisters to me.

I also used this time to bond with Harper. She loves to learn, and that I love to teach her. I love that she asked questions about my pregnancy, and subsequently breastfeeding, and pumping, and donating milk. I loved that I was able to describe to her all of the ins and outs of what I was doing and why … down to the pathophysiology of how and why women’s bodies make milk in the awesome way that they do. I loved that she knew about my pregnancy, how Finn was growing and her milestones in the womb week by week, what happens when you give birth (sorry PDS 4K parents and Mrs. Douglas). But now, I also got to teach her about breastfeeding. I got to teach her how incredible a woman’s body is so that she would hopefully be able to better appreciate her own one day. I felt that it was my responsibility as her mother to show her the strength of a woman, even and especially amidst such tragedy.

One of my favorite memories of my pumping days was Harper watching Brent help me. He would bring me water, and snacks, make sure I was comfortable, and often stay up with me at night while I pumped, and then take the bags to the kitchen to help me label them with the time, date, and ounces. We got to celebrate together and he would cheer me on as the ounces continued to increase. Harper would see him doing this and then start to offer the same. “Mama, have some water,” “Mama, here’s a snack,” “Here Mama, I got you a pillow,” “Mama, I’m so proud of you!” So I wasn’t shocked when she asked to help me label one of my bags after a pumping session. I walked to the kitchen with her and watched her grab the Sharpie we used to label the bags. And in the space where we would label with date, time and ounces … she just simply wrote “Mama.” ♥

I am so proud that I was able to reach my goal of 6 weeks and exceeded my goal of 1,000 ounces by a couple of hundred. It made all of our hearts happy to be able to donate this week. I am thankful for my doctor who supported me from the beginning, for Chelesa Presley for helping encourage me and immediately setting me up with Mothers’ Milk Bank of Mississippi, and for Mothers’ Milk Bank for being such an incredible and beautiful resource for NICU babies across Mississippi. And again, I am so thankful for Finn Powell’s life. I honestly believe that part of her coming, was so that others could live … and that because of Finn Powell, beauty from ashes will continue to grow in the lives of others we don’t even know.

“To appoint unto them that mourn, to give unto them beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness; that they might be called trees of righteousness, the planting of the LORD, that he might be glorified.” Isaiah 61:3

“But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” 2 Corinthians 12 9-10