Welcome to episode #75 of the Mount Motherhood Podcast.
In today’s episode, we chat with Michelle, mother to two boys, one of which, Finn was born at 32 weeks and stayed in the NICU for 57 days. After experiencing the emotional rollercoaster of multiple hospital stays, Michelle founded Finn and Co. Gifts. She developed Finn the Panda to help comfort babies during hospital stays, as well as to foster the bond between the baby and their caregivers, even when they have to be apart. Michelle also speaks of all of the wonderful features including the voice recording capabilities of Finn the Panda. Michelle also shares the complications in her pregnancy that led to a premature delivery including placenta previa, preeclampsia and HELLP syndrome.
Michelle is also offering 20% off for our community. Use coupon code: MOTHERHOOD at checkout!
You can also follow Michelle and all Finn and Co developments on Instagram.
You can find a full transcript BELOW.
Host - Ivan [00:00] Welcome to the Mount Motherhood Podcast. Thanks for tuning into another show and just a reminder to take a moment, leave a review and subscribe so we can reach more listeners around the world.
Host - Iva [00:20] Welcome to the show Michelle. Can you start off by introducing us to your family?
Guest-Michelle [00:25] Yeah, thank you. So happy to be on here with you. Um, my family is me and my husband William. We've been married 10 years this week and we have two sons, our son James, who's about four and a half and our youngest Finn who just turned two.
Host - Ivan [00:44] Well first congrats on the 10 year anniversary, wonderful milestone and to, to dive right into Finn and Company. Um, how did that come to life and um, can you share sort of how it's transformed?
Guest-Michelle [01:01] Yeah, absolutely. Um, so Finn who I mentioned, he's our second born and um, he was a very difficult pregnancy for many reasons. Um, besides the normal challenges. Um, I also had placenta previa and was told that two ultrasounds that he was a girl. And then as I got further into my pregnancy and placenta previa became an issue, I moved out of midwife care and into doctor care and was planning for a C-section at 36 weeks, um, which I did not make it too as he came early, at 32 weeks when I got, uh, preeclampsia and HELLP syndrome. So it was a pretty traumatic experience. Um, I went from thinking I had indigestion to going into the hospital and having him delivered within four hours cause we were both just not gonna make it any longer than that. So it was a very traumatic start.
Guest-Michelle [02:03] He was in the NICU for 57 days. Um, nothing was as I expected it or had prayed for or had hoped for. And so it was just a lot to mentally overcome and then physically be able to be there for him every day. Um, we did get to then bring them home after 57 days and we had other struggles with feeding and having him gain weight and then at about four months old. He got RSV. Um, and we had to take him back into the hospital to be treated. He had serious breathing issues that we really struggled with and we were there for about 10 days. Um, so after all of that I came home and I was trying to settle back into a normal life. Um, he had come home on some oxygen and a monitor and it was just all very overwhelming. I also experienced a lot of guilt after the RSV that I didn't feel after the NICU.
Guest-Michelle [03:02] Um, I know a lot of moms do go through that with the NICU experience. Like, why didn't my body do this? Like it was supposed to and they feel a lot of that then. But for me, it came later after the RSV. Um, because I personally felt like my body, it's like I did what I could do. It just gave up for whatever reason with um, his delivery and the preeclampsia. But with the RSV I felt like I should have done better. I felt like I should've protected him. And so I was working through some really negative thoughts and trying to just have a normal life. And so one night I just kinda hit a wall, did a little pump and dump. If you know, then you know what that means. Had a couple of glasses of wine, went into bed and just prayed for God to give me something that could help me and could help others cause I needed somewhere else to direct my thoughts than in a negative circle of guilt and condemnation and just feeling so bad.
Guest-Michelle [03:59] And that's when he gave me the idea of a stuffed animal that could help bond parents and their babies even when they can't be there all the time. And so that's, that was a year and a half ago. And um, ever since then it's been something that I've been able to work on and focus my energy on. It's been a huge part of my healing process. Being able to tell our story in a way that I never have and then consequently be able to connect with other moms and be able to talk to them and physically be there for them and deliver bears to them and have those conversations because I have understanding of kind of where they're at a lot of the times. So yeah, that's how it started and it's kind of just grown to the place where a lot of it is still on a very individual connection with moms. Um, but we have been able to get into a couple hospitals in the gift shops and most recently into a local hospital here, Sacred Heart to be handed out to patients.
Host - Ivan [05:06] And I know there's some opportunities for, for sponsors to get involved. Can you talk a bit about that and how people can help?
New Speaker [05:14] Yeah so that's kind of where we started because I hadn't really gotten the word out into hospitals yet, but I had people who loved the idea, loved the business and loved what we were trying to do. So, you can sponsor a bear for a family and we will find a family to donate it to, so it will just be gifted to them. Finn and Co...everything online is Finn and Co Gifts because the bear is really designed as a gift. As a mom who was in the hospital with their child, I certainly wasn't googling gifts to buy for myself and for my baby that I thought would help me because I was so entrenched in what I was dealing with. But people around me so wanted to be able to give and to help take care of us. And so it was really designed as a gift or for the hospitals to be able to just hand to families and say you're important and you are a part of this healing process.You know it's so scary you don't know what to do and your sometimes scared to even touch your baby. But to know even though you're not a doctor you have huge healing powers for your children.
Host - Ivan [05:14] And can you talk a little bit about the voice recording?
New Speaker [05:15] So the recording device is for up to one minute. Um, you can record a lullaby or Bible verses or read a story on it and then it's made so that it can be played back once or on repeat. So say a nurse is going in to do a blood draw or just a diaper change, even, then they can plus press play and your baby can hear your voice. A lot of people also use it for like their kids who are, um, too young to be allowed into the NICU or other family members who aren't allowed in like grandparents.
Guest-Michelle [05:47] Then they can record little messages for babies and children in the hospital and um still feel connected to them and bonded with them through the process. And, um, it has, we have decibel apps that we recommend to you. So like if you have a premature baby, you can use the app to make sure you're in the right range of like 35 to 45 decibels. Um, and then for older children, obviously it isn't as big of a deal. But, um, yeah, so just another way to connect with them. I had used my cell phone with my son, um, because I sang one lullaby over and over and over again to the point that I was hoarse and I just started to press play and he would immediately calm down. And I also had our older son James record songs for him that I could then play for him as well.
Host - Ivan [06:35] Well, that's a wonderful, wonderful feature. And, uh, back to, to your family specifically, can you describe the bond, um, between, between your children and, uh, you know, also maybe describing their, their personality and what defines them? Uh, for, for those of us that don't know them.
Guest-Michelle [06:52] Yeah. Well James, he is um, just a light. He's a overachiever in a lot of ways. He was, he grew up so quickly for me. He was walking at 10 months and talking at a year and I just felt like I went from a baby to like a toddler and now sometimes feels like a 10 year old. He's trapped in a four year old body. Um, but I had, I had worked on the first couple of years of his life and my husband stayed home and when I got pregnant with with Finn, with our second, we decided to switch and my husband started a business and I started it to be home. So I had a couple months with him before I had Finn. And was in the NICU. So it was a hard transition and, and with hard for him to understand why his brother wasn't coming home and he wasn't allowed in to see him.
Guest-Michelle [07:47] Um, but I remember so distinctly that day that we did bring Finn home and he just took on the role of big brother and very quickly and um, I was very protective over his who he calls any Finny Winnie Binny bear. Um, so he was just an awesome big brother and then Finn, he's turning out to be a little bit of a ham. Um, definitely knows that he can get us to laugh and you know, we've probably let him get away with a little bit more in some ways. And his favorite thing in the world is probably four wheels and anything with a motor.
Host - Ivan [08:26] All right. Well, no, that's great to learn more about both of them and, and another, another family question, but if we, um, I guess, what's, what's, what would be the best, a superpower or what would you say your husband's super power is? And then if we had him on the show, what would he say your superpower is?
Guest-Michelle [08:4] So my husband's superpower would probably be, um, just his ability to care for me and for our children. Um, and to step up in any situation. Um, the NICU was obviously a really scary time, but he was there doing the skin to skin and singing to him and interacting with the doctors and the nurses and gaining the information and learning what he needed to, um, just as much as I was. And so it was really a partnership and he felt very needed and he was very needed.
Host - Ivan [09:20] And then if we had him on, what would he say your super power is?
Guest-Michelle [09:27] Um, he'd probably say it to be able to, um, find strength even through very hard times. Um, I've suffered a few losses and been through some traumatic experiences and I just kind of learned how to do this as I call it, "lock it up" time where you just do what you have to do and get through what you need to get through and take care of the people. And, um, in talking to moms going through challenging times like this, it's, you know, the mom who really needs the care like that my husband and my family around gave me so that I could do the things that I needed to do for my child so that I could show up strong for him because other people were caring for me.
Host - Ivan [10:16] And back to, um, the, the organization you have, what I guess what, uh, mentors have you had, uh, in sharing and sharing advice to how you know for how to establish the organization and then, uh, to grow it and make more connections in, in your area?
Guest-Michelle [10:37] Um, well in my area I've definitely connected with some people. Um, we had a small group of women who would meet once a week and we were all kind of starting our businesses. Um, there's a musician, uh, Mountains in The Sea. Her name is Angela. She has a recording of twinkle twinkle on her website that she provided for the bear. Um, my sister in law, Sarah and our friend Hailey, they both run event companies and are very successful in that and they've really encouraged me. Um, and then on a bigger scheme, my, uh, cousin's wife, she is the co-founder of Slumperkins. And she has talked to me just kind of whenever I've had a question on the process and the stumbling blocks that come up, she's been available for me to talk to. And she was really also an inspiration of being able to see what she did and what it was doing for children and wanting to do something specific to the community that I was a part of, of moms who had children in the hospital.
Host - Ivan [11:40] Well, that's great. And uh, you know, we're excited to follow, follow the journey of, uh, you and your family. And lastly, what, what advice would you give to parents who are, um, you know, just being faced with, uh, NICU stay or just a challenging diagnosis?
Guest-Michelle [11:59] Um, I guess I would say that as hard as it is, um, you are so incredibly vital and important to your child and to their healing process. And their comfort level. And, um, you know, you have to be strong on their behalf. So don't forget to ask people for the support that you need so that you can be that strength for them. I think that one of the greatest things that we had was our community around us and our church and our friends and our family that so supported us and helped us take care of, um, the everyday things of life, like food and a clean house and getting work done so that we could be the parents who were there with their son and strong for him.
Host - Ivan [12:51] Well, thank you so much for taking the time, Michelle, and, uh, we wish you all the best with uh, with Fin and Company and, and, uh, we can't wait to see how it, how it develops and all the impact that it makes within your area and, and beyond.
Guest-Michelle [13:05] Awesome. Well, thank you so much for having me.