Last February 27th, I awoke parched. Lips chapped and contractions pounding. No food or drink twelve hours before an 8:00am c-section. I can honestly say that although I had never before been hospitalized or even endured so much as stitches, I was not scared. I was not afraid of my surgery…I was afraid of the surgeries Finn would face in the days to come. “The unknown” loomed heavy over my head like a thundercloud.
After what seemed like an eternity in a room that was much too cold for a hospital gown, he came. Whimpering, he entered the world with about fifteen people ready to receive him and whisk him off to the NICU. My first question: “What level is it? (referring to his level of SB)” They guessed, “low.” The lower the better. After a few minutes, Dr. Stanley handed him to Joey. I peeked over, and although I only saw his tiny button nose, my heart melted like wax within my chest. Our Finn Joseph Armstrong.
I’m sorry you weren’t born healthy. It’s just not fair. Not fair for little babies to be sick. Oh, but you are loved as much as anyone could ever be loved. You were not created in jest or at random, but marvelously made and for some great end. I am proud to be your mommy. Happy first birthday!
(and also a Happy Birthday to my mom, who is our biggest fan. I love you, mom!)
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Grandpa! The boys played golf.
Gram and Finn
Ready for church
Uncle Chad is so funny!
Celebrated Finn’s bday early.
So we traveled to Phoenix this past weekend to surprise Grandpa Milt for his 80th birthday. The whole fam was there…all sixteen of us, minus Luke. We missed you, Luke! We had such a great time with family. Loads of laughter and reconnection with my own flesh and blood.
It was Finn’s first flight and we were worried to say the least. Our neurosurgeon and the Spina Bifida forum moms reassured me that his shunt would do fine on the plane since it’s a pressurized cabin, but I was terrified nonetheless. I breathed a sigh of relief as we passed through the metal detectors unscathed. We were amazed that Finn didn’t even make a peep during take off or touch down. He was an angel. Tugged his ears a lot, but who knows why…
SO…here’s the fun part of my story:
As we were switching planes in Houston, we see a young man roll up to the ticket counter in his wheelchair. He’s about our age, good looking and seemed confident. We wanted to ask him why he was in a wheelchair (hoping he had SB), but of course, that’s rude. Turns out, he’s on OUR PLANE. He’s in the first row with TWO spots next to him. Joey and I both looked at each other and smiled. He nodded that we could sit by him. Be cool, Ashley; don’t embarrass yourself.
I’ll try keep this long story short…Joey asked him how long he’d been in a wheelchair and he told us about his drunk driving accident as a teenager that broke his back. He was wearing a Phoenix Suns jacket and hat and told us he’s an ALL STAR wheelchair basketball player for the Phoenix Suns. He was returning home from the All Star tournament in Houston. We of course told him about Finn and he was genuinely sad for us, which surprised me a bit. But then he told us we’ve got to get Finn into wheelchair basketball as soon as possible…because, “The Biff’s are bad a## at basketball!” Excuse my language, but this quote is just too good not to share. Yes, he told us they nickname the players with Spina Bifida, “the Biffs.” They are usually some of the better players because they’ve been in a wheelchair most of their lives and learn to play at a very young age.
With a smile on my face and a lurch in my stomach that only God can produce, I quickly looked out the cabin window at the purple and red wing. I was trying to avoid bawling right there next to this guy. My eyes welled with tears as I thought of how sweet God was to sit us next to Kelly, an All Star wheelchair basketball player who thinks my son is going to be a rock star. This was no coincidence. It reminded me that God has taken care of us and He will continue to.
Happy Birthday, Grandpa!
..this is how my mom says, “ketchup.” My grandma says, “Catsup.” Whatever… Here’s a few updates on our family, Finn and his progress overall:
- Finn finished the SIPPC skateboard study in November. Thank Jesus. He hated that thing! If I were him, I’d be scared to be strapped down and shooting across the wood floor too. The researching doctor came to our home to do a post-test on Finn’s cognitive development. He was still right on par and even passed a few “tests” he probably shouldn’t have at his age. This kid is hesitant though. He is certainly an observer before a doer. The doctor said she’d call us with the official “results” that next Monday but we haven’t heard…and that was November.
- Little Man’s been crawling much better! He doesn’t exactly get on his knees, as his adductor muscles aren’t strong enough to keep them together. But he can army crawl with any U.S. Marine and he’s motivated mostly by graham crackers.
- Please continue to pray for Finn’s shunt to work properly. He’s been more irritable than normal and tugs at his ears too often for my comfort. Wondering if he generally just gets headaches.
- We went on our first family “hike” on Sunday. Finn LOVED the backpack our buddy, Marquette, bought him. Thanks, Q! He was grabbing at tree branches, pulling daddy’s hair, giggling at every bounce and banging Joey’s head with an empty water bottle. Can’t wait to take him to Colorado this summer!
- Follow up eye appointment revealed that Finn’s eyes are normal! We thought the right was still turning in some, but he just has a wide nose bridge. The surgery worked (for now, at least)!
- Weird day in Norman yesterday: two escaped and armed convicts wrecked a stolen truck into a fence a block south of Finn’s daycare (all schools on lock down), a bank was robbed by a man on a bike and there were two fatal car accidents just a mile from our house. Praise God and the Norman Police Dept that both convicts were found. This allowed us to sleep peacefully and awaken to a snowy day.
- Most recently, we’re working on kneeling to play.
- That’s all I can think of for now.
I’ve tried to convey this most recent development in my heart and mind to a few friends…I’m not sure it makes sense to anyone but me, but I’ll attempt to explain anyway. Maybe you’ll get me.
Since Finn’s shunt revision last Thursday, I’ve felt…well, fearful…but also this overwhelming realization that Finn is not my own. He’s really not my child. Because if he were like me (or Joey), he’d have been born healthy. And he’d have been the runt of the nursery. And he’d be crawling all over the place, pulling up on furniture and active as can be. His biggest health scare would have been an ear infection. I think if he were like Joey and I as babies, I’d take more ownership of him. Like somehow my health and abilities and childhood rubbed off on him. His strengths were because of me.
tired from the hospital
Once, while I was pregnant, a well-meaning gym member came up to me at the front desk. He asked how my pregnancy was going. I lied and said, “Great!” He told me that my child was going to be the healthiest child ever born. “He’s going to come out of the womb running.” I smiled, went back into the office and cried.
So if Finn were “like me,” maybe I’d be deceived into thinking that somehow I had something to do with his health or abilities or brains. But he’s different; so the Lord’s given me this palpable sense that Finn is HIS. Not mine. I’ve just been chosen to be his momma. And Joey is thankfully his daddy. We’ve been called to advocate for, protect, guide and cheer on this little angel here on earth…but his life is completely out of my control. Of course this would be true if Finn were a “normal” healthy child, but I’m not sure I’d realize it. It is a blessing to share life with Finn, no matter how difficult it will be. And it has indeed been difficult.
on a walk
We left the hospital late Friday morning. Finn was more irritable post-op this time around. It worried me a lot. Joey and I are working through those feelings of confusion, sadness and frustration as we face the reality that our son is not “healthy” and that his life will undoubtedly be riddled with medical trials. We are confronted with a new fear that multiple shunt revisions will cause permanent damage to his brain and alter his otherwise normal mental development. Questions about the purpose of prayer and God’s sovereignty loom in our hearts as we navigate our own version of faith in the midst of trouble.
Thanks for praying for us when we’re not sure how.
On Saturday morning, our joyful baby Finn was back. Video to prove it:
Changing Table from Joey Armstrong on Vimeo.