I’m not sure on which social media platform I saw Mel’s request for people to review her book (probably on the Butterfly Awards Facebook page) but I thought I would volunteer and give it a go. I am regularly consumed by my own thoughts of losing my baby and wanted to get a glimpse of how other parents felt.
After thinking this was a good idea to do a book review I suddenly felt massively overwhelmed. I’m not even sure when the last time I tackled something like a book review. It was probably during university or study abroad when I was utterly appalled that my Vietnam History class papers were all papers on literary books! It was a struggle to started reading (particularly knowing the outcome) and afterwards I struggled to write a review. This book is so clearly precious to Mel – it’s her tribute to her darling boy. Obviously this was going to have a considerable amount of triggers for me.
I put my metaphorical “big girl panties on” and started to read. Thankfully, as this is a diary of Mel’s thoughts at the time when Finley entered and departed the world, the language is easily accessible to everyone. This is one of its strengths. When you are speaking about the simplest thing: the love for your baby; words just flow. The book is an expanded version of Mel’s diary from when she and Baz came home as parents without their baby to receiving the post mortem results. It covers how this affected them as a couple; how their friends and family supported them and the shock of the situation they had been landed in.
As I read and sped through the pages I found myself nodding along. Mel writes with such love and care for her baby. Finley was a normal pregnancy, no real alarm bells, everything should have been fine and then it all went wrong. Same as Alexandra. He was a big baby. Same as Alexandra. Everything was pointing to Finley coming home to his Mummy and Daddy and being part of a loving family and growing up with a cousin of a close age. The unfairness that that didn’t happen was just palpable.
At first the similar comparisons were a comfort. It was nice to know that there is someone out there who gets exactly what emotions I experienced as a loss parent. Then that comfort turned to frustration – Finley passed away in 2009; Alexandra in 2015. I was concerned that in the book there are two occurrences where Mel is told that baby’s movements slow down towards the end of pregnancy. She was told this by medical staff. I’ve got no idea if this was correct advice at the time however, it certainly isn’t now. I would have liked to have seen this clarified in the book in an afterword or perhaps in footnotes on the page where movements are mentioned. Tommy’s and Kicks Count are both charities where anyone can download information cards/posters or find support.
Another part where I struggled was where Mel talks about visiting psychics and spiritualist churches. I’ve written about my complete lack of a belief system before and Mel clearly has a very spiritual way of looking at the world. She is able to draw comfort from sources that I just don’t see or feel. As I’m a bit of a “concerned Nellie” I was worried for her going to spiritualist churches and psychics as I felt that she could have been taken advantage of. She was in the most vulnerable of places and I was concerned. If you do have an interest in a similar belief system then you might draw some inspiration or comfort to know that others share your beliefs.
I didn’t expect to feel jealousy. Mel and Baz got to spend such valuable and precious time with Finley in the family suite. Jealousy is an ugly emotion – we all know it however, loss parents are starting to open up about their feelings of jealousy and how they acknowledge and cope with this. The days that Mel and Baz were able to spend with Finley were crucial to creating memories. This part of the book provides readers who may be professional carers with an excellent window to how their care is received and why such care and dignity is utterly needed.
Ultimately, I would recommend reading Finley’s Footsteps (if you are a loss parent too) not only to reassure yourself that you’re not going stark raving bonkers – you’re grieving but also to get a glimpse into loss just a few years ago but a completely different world: social media as we know it was in its infancy and gaining traction. Sadly care of bereaved parents is still patchy and it’s through social media that many loss parents are shouting from the rooftops for better care, research and to connect and comfort each other. Finley’s Footsteps is one of many books being published this year (Feathering the Empty Nest, One Day of Winter & Self Therapista and Behind the Smile from Joel – The Complete Package to name a few). They all have a place in the baby loss sphere; you can take elements that resonate with you from each one. Each one is and will be a privilege to read; to get to know each precious baby that was so wanted but ultimately couldn’t stay with us.