Motherhood Crush // Jessie Love

When I first started dreaming up The Fair Finch blog, I knew that I wanted to do mother interviews, specifically with moms who have a unique perspective on motherhood. So I’m beyond thrilled to introduce you to my first mother interview with Jessie Love.

From the moment I met Jessie, I had a huge crush. Her down-to-earth personality was so refreshing and her openness, honest and moving. About a year and a half ago, Jessie lost her second son to a rare disease when he was eight days old. Now, she’s eight months pregnant with her third. Below she shares about honoring her son while healing, explaining loss to a toddler, plus some amazing advice for all mothers.

Hi Jessie! You’re currently pregnant with your third child, CONGRATS! Can you introduce us to your first two children?

Oh my goodness, yes I can. My firstborn is Troy. He’s almost four and his heart is so kind it takes my breath away. It’s not even something I can take credit for as a mother — that’s all him. He’s always been gentle, empathetic and he’s pretty easy going. When he first met his newborn cousin, he held him and whispered, “I got you. Shhhhhh, it’s okay. I got you.” And all of us burst into tears. He’s just a kind, loving soul.

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Franklin is our second child. He defied so many odds when he was born. He was diagnosed with Trisomy 18, which a quick Google search will tell you the odds were never in his favor. My specific risk of having a baby with Trisomy 18, after looking at my age and such, was .003%. 72% of those babies don’t live past 13 weeks, either by miscarriage or termination. But my Franklin lived to 36 weeks, he was born alive and he lived for eight full days.

He lived when the medical community said he wouldn’t, he fought when they thought he couldn’t, and he left a scar on my heart that I never want to go away.

The very first time I met you, you actually talked about Franklin and I was so impressed by your openness in person, and also on your Instagram. Can you talk about deciding to share your experience?  

When we got Franklin’s diagnosis, we did struggle with what we were going to do — whether we were going to announce it or not, and if we did, what our intentions were. Being faced with a situation like ours caused us to take a deep, hard look at how we use social media.

On the one hand, we’ve become accustomed to sharing so much that NOT sharing something as big as this would feel like living a lie and almost denying Franklin’s existence. On the other, would sharing about Franklin feel attention seeking? Are we doing it so people feel sorry for us? To use it for likes? We did end up sharing about him. For me, I shared about him on IG for a couple reasons.

I wanted his story to be told. I wanted him to live outside the four walls of my house. I wanted his memory to be wider spread than my circle of friends and family.

I also shared because I needed support. I needed a place to put my thoughts about him and work them out and have people tell me, “You’re doing great. You’re a great mother. He’s a strong boy. We love you. You got this.” And my community showed up.

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I had complete strangers show me a level of generosity, kindness and love that still humbles me. One IG friend donated to a Trisomy 18 organization in Franklin’s name. Multiple IG friends sent me physical gifts in the mail. Dozens messaged me with stories of their own grief and loss, knowing that sometimes only someone who’s been in your place knows just what to say. I consider it an honor to have heard and be trusted with those stories.

Now, a year and a half later, sharing about him is less about needing support and more  from the simple fact that he’s my son and a giant part of our lives, just like my other kids. When we got his diagnosis, the main thing I worried about was him being forgotten. I knew his life would be short and I didn’t want him to become something that was big for a while and then no one really talks about or acknowledges. That could very easily happen. If conversation leads to it, I’ll talk about him just as I would my other kids.

I don’t ever want to feel like I’m hiding him or embarrassed or ashamed to talk about him. I need to know that for my own heart’s sake.

When in your pregnancy did you receive Franklin’s diagnosis and how did that effect the rest of your pregnancy? 

We got the first trimester blood results back probably around 14 weeks. They said, don’t worry, it’s probably a false positive. They sent us to have an NIPT (Non-Invasive Prenatal Test) done, which is a more specific blood test than the general first trimester blood test. Then those came back positive. We researched how often these tests can come back with a false positive, and still held onto hope that maybe, maybe we could defy the odds.

It wasn’t until we had an ultrasound that plainly showed his anomalies we realized there was no denying it — it showed his heart defect, his omphalocele (his intestines grew outside of his body), his bent wrists and strawberry-shaped head. We left that appointment with tear-streaked, swollen faces and tight chests and sick to our stomach. The rest of my pregnancy didn’t look much different.

We had to make impossible decisions during my pregnancy, the main one being: Do we choose interventions or not?

The medical community calls it choosing between peace and hope — peace being allowing your child to live comfortably for as long as their body lets them, usually hours, and letting them go in peace. Choosing hope means medical procedures, surgeries, medicines and interventions that give your child every chance at living a longer life, but one full of tubes and discomfort and a life out of your arms and in incubators.

It’s an impossible decision to make and I want to be clear — in no way do I have any judgement for mothers and fathers who choose peace, who choose hope, or who choose to terminate their pregnancy early on. All decisions are made with love for their child and there is no decision that feels good. They all feel like pits in your stomach and broken hearts.

You and your husband choose hope and after Franklin was born he lived for eight days. On your IG you share about those eight days with #8daysofgratitude. Can you talk more about that attitude in the midst of such deep pain and loss? 

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They say that the “firsts” are the hardest in the year after losing someone — the first Christmas without them, the first would-be birthday, the first anniversary of their death. And boy are they right. I dreaded his birthday and anniversary of his death.

We decided for his eight days of life, August 23rd to August 31st, we would go away just the three of us — me, my husband and Troy. We went somewhere quiet to reflect, enjoy each other’s company, and just remember him. #8daysofgratitude was my husband’s idea.

Instead of letting depression, heartbreak, and mourning completely take over that week, which it so easily can, he wanted some structure to force ourselves to find something to be grateful for each and every day.

In doing so we felt that honored Franklin’s memory in a way we felt good about. So every day we each found a moment separately to step aside, be still, think about him and find something to be grateful for.The first couple of days were easier for me — the obvious ones like Franklin, my husband, Troy, modern medicine — and then towards the end, it started to get hard.

I started to throw mental fits when I had to sit down to write these dumb posts because in reality I was so, so sad. I didn’t want to be grateful; I was upset that instead of holding my son in my arms I had to be writing about him and his life and his death. But like most hard things, I’m so glad we fought through and finished.

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Eight Days of Gratitude is something our family will do every year and it may not always look the same, but it’s a tradition that will grow as our other kids do, and keep Franklin’s memory here with us instead of fading as the years go by.

How did you explain Franklin’s death to your son Troy, who was just a toddler at the time? And how does Troy think of Franklin now? 

Troy was just over two when Franklin died so he didn’t comprehend much more of an explanation than, “Say goodbye to Franklin. He’s going bye-bye and we won’t see him again.” But that boy has continued to break my heart into a million pieces when he talks about his brother all this time later. He’s three and a half now and still — STILL — brings him up out of the blue. He was so young when he died I’m still baffled that he thinks about him on his own to be honest. I mean, I’m still having to remind him five times a day to wash his hands after he pees.

Even just recently we all sat down together at the table to eat dinner and Troy holds out his hands and says, “Let’s pray, guys.” We don’t actually pray with him that often so it struck us odd when he said that.

My husband asked him, “Troy, who taught you how to pray?” Troy looked at him matter of factly and said, “Franklin. Me and Franklin pray all the time.”

Then he just closed his eyes and bowed his head and meanwhile my husband and I stare at him dumbstruck. That moment still gives me chills when I think about it.

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He’s just now starting to ask why Franklin isn’t here, and I thought my husband gave him a perfect answer, he said Franklin had a special body that only let him live for eight days. We have to be careful not to use the word “sick” because we don’t want him to think if one of us gets sick it means we are going away and are never coming back. We also don’t want him to be afraid of death. It takes a lot of thought to fully decide on how you’re going to present such a big life lesson to a three year old. We can only hope we’re doing it right.

Do you have any advice for other mothers who are healing after the loss of a child?

For mothers who are also healing: they say it’s a club no one ever wants to be a part of. First, there is no thought you could ever have that’s wrong. Try not to pile on guilt on top of any grief or pain you are already feeling. I guarantee every mother who has buried their child has had dark, selfish thoughts that they wouldn’t want to repeat to anyone. And that’s okay. It’s perfectly okay.

Second, time doesn’t heal, but it does change things.There will come a day when you get through the entire day without crying.

Then you’ll have new thoughts like I’m a terrible mother for not crying for my child, but we’ll take those new thoughts as they come. It won’t always feel this way.

Third, accept help. If someone wants to send you groceries or watch your other children or clean your house, let them. As a last point, support groups can be immensely helpful. It’s also okay if you don’t want to go. Try groups in person, try groups online, call a friend, journal, start a hobby, try anything — but just try. You can do it.

And how about advice for friends who want to be supportive but don’t know how? 

To those friends who know someone grieving and don’t know what to do, I would encourage you to not take anything personally because I promise, it’s not you. Even if that friend is flat out yelling at you, it’s still not you. It’s the pain. It’s the grief.

Looking back, I can confidently say that doing something, even the wrong thing, is better than doing nothing.

I think you’d rather your friend look back and say, “I wish they had done something different” rather than “My friend didn’t even show up.”

Another piece of advice — I know every person who says this phrase means well and wants to help, but the phrase, “Please let me know what I can do to help” is actually not very helpful at all. Now it places the burden on the hurting friend to think of something for that person to do, overcome the guilt of asking for help, wondering if it’s too much to ask or attempting to coordinate it, and it becomes more stress than if you hadn’t offered to help at all.

I know it can be hard to guess what a person needs, but the basics are still there — send over takeout, have groceries delivered, offer to watch any other kids so the parents can have a quiet moment, send gift cards, send flowers, pay to have a house cleaner come. But I find it better to be specific instead of general. In a time where literally everything feels overwhelming, just having friends just take control was really nice for me.

If you’re looking for something nice to send, I really like what Laurel Box is doing. They’re a company who specializes in gifts for the grieving woman, and they’re so beautifully curated and thoughtful. I love what they stand for and highly recommend them.

After Franklin’s death, was there a point you and your husband knew you wanted to have another child? 

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I always knew I wanted to try again to have another baby. I just needed to know my body could have a healthy baby. I also didn’t want to end my child rearing journey on the death of a baby. Even though I always knew we would eventually try again — and I think my husband did too — we weren’t ready to talk about it for about a year. It was too painful to even talk about, and we needed to do some healing before we opened our hearts again to the idea. For us, the year mark was when the idea stopped taking our breath away quite as strongly, and we started to have more discussions towards adding to our family.

This time  around you’re having a girl! Having only boys, how are feeling about adding a girl into the family? 

Juniper is our baby girl due April 4th. Everything with her this pregnancy has been more than her brothers — more nausea, more food cravings, more movement and kicks in the belly. She’s going to be a little spitfire, I know it. I kind of love it and then also she makes me nervous, haha. Even though I mainly grew up with girls, I’ve been so accustomed to boy-land with super heroes and trains and Power Rangers that a girl feels so foreign to me. Pink? Princesses? Ruffles?

I’m so looking forward to the dynamic she adds and I can’t wait to see what a strong, confident woman she’ll become.

In preparing for a new baby, I imagine Franklin is on your mind a lot. How has that experience changed this pregnancy?

Oh man, this pregnancy has been night and day different. For one, I don’t take anything for granted. Nothing. With Troy, all the tests and screenings I assumed would be clear. They almost felt annoying to have to go through. But with Juniper, when we got our NIPT test back normal, I hung up the phone, sat on the couch and just burst into tears.

I had no idea how much stress my body had been carrying waiting for that test to come back. No longer do I assume any test to come back normal, any stage to be normal. Health is the number one thing we care about. This baby could have been a boy, girl, purple, spotted, 11 fingers — as long as it was healthy and not in pain.

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I’ve also gone through stages where I feel guilty, like I’m moving on from Franklin, cheating on him by bringing in another baby into this family. But as my husband reminded me — we can’t live in sadness forever; we just can’t. It’s not fair to ourselves, it’s not fair to Troy, it’s not fair to Franklin’s memory.

We’re not replacing him. We’re not erasing him. We’re becoming a family of five and making him and Troy big brothers.

Another thing I learned about you early on is you’re an avid knitter! How long have you been knitting? And what attracted you to knitting? 

I’ve been knitting for about 13 years now, ever since I graduated high school. I’ve always been an old, retired grandmother at heart and knitting is one of the hobbies that stuck. In the beginning I loved just making things with my hand and knitting proved to be everything I needed — tactile, portable, not a ton of supplies or parts.

But now as I’ve grown and evolved it represents so much more — it represents slow fashion, the spirit that lies within something that’s been crafted by hand, creating lasting and quality pieces in the best materials I can afford and a minimalist / less is more mentality.

I love the feeling and calm I get from working with natural materials, whether it’s the wool of the yarn or the metal or wood of my needles.

I love spending time thinking about color, stitch patterns, design, the softness of fibers. I’ve found an absolutely lovely knitting and fiber community on IG and I’m continuously inspired by everyone’s talents. It’s a place for me to get lost a couple moments a day and inject some inspiration into my day-to-day routine.

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A few months ago you actually took a solo vacation to attend a knitting conference. Can you talk about that experience, and being away from your child for that long?

Am I a terrible person if I say it was amazing? HAHA. My husband sent me to Norway, a country I’ve always wanted to visit, for my 30th birthday. Franklin was actually born on my exact birthday, August 23rd, and my 30th birthday also would have been his first birthday. I had been dreading that day the entire year.

Turning 30 is hard anyway, but all I kept thinking about is — he should be here.

My husband gave me the airline tickets on the day of my birthday (ugly tears) and I planned the rest of my trip in the months that followed. The Oslo Knitting Festival was in October, and I used that as a jumping off point to plan my trip. I started off in Oslo, then took a train across the country to Bergen, which is a seaside fishing town that’s as picturesque as they come.

In the six months or so before my trip, I had been struggling with depression. It’s not something I normally struggle with, but I felt a general sadness most of the time. Even the smallest things gave me anxiety and I just felt so…incapable. But traveling is great at giving fresh perspectives and being able to navigate a foreign country by myself gave me a boost of confidence and made me feel capable again.

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I don’t want to say that traveling cured my depression because I think that’s a dangerous statement, but exploring a foreign place by myself with total control of my time is something I desperately needed. I didn’t worry about Troy because I knew my husband was taking great care of him and I just focused on myself. If I wanted to sleep in, I did. If I wanted to spend three hours in a coffee shop, I did. If I wanted to travel all the way across town to go to a viking ship museum, I did.

I landed in Norway feeling nervous and self-conscious and anxious, and I left feeling empowered, fulfilled and ready to come back home to my people.

If you’re feeling stuck or in a rut, changing up your environment is the best thing you can do. It doesn’t have to be an international trip — even a part of town you’ve never been to or a hike up a local trail can breathe some fresh life into your blood.   

What are knitting right now that is exciting to you? 

When I was in Norway I started a Marius sweater, which is a very traditional Norwegian pattern that dates back hundreds of years. I still haven’t finished it but once I do it’ll always remind me of my time there.

Also knitting for Juniper has been therapeutic, moving my hands when my head and heart are antsy but have nowhere to go. It makes my heart beam to build up her handmade wardrobe and I can’t wait to wrap her in wool the second she’s born.

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What is the biggest challenge you’ve found raising a family in Los Angeles? And also what is one of your favorite things? 

We used to be cool and hip and happening and lived in a loft in Downtown for a couple years, but after a while we sold out for the driveway and a backyard in the ‘burbs. What can I say — carrying ALL your groceries and cutting off the circulation in your fingers while waiting for the elevator gets old after a while.

I do wish Troy had an opportunity and the space to just explore. Now, I’ve never lived anywhere like this, I’ve basically always lived in a suburb of some kind, but if what I see in movies and on vacation is accurate, then I imagine Troy being able to go off and explore on land — like real, dirt land without cement covering most surfaces. I wish he had access to a little more nature that wasn’t so curated.

However, one of my favorite things about living in Los Angeles is the exposure to different cultures, ethnicities and experiences he wouldn’t get living in a smaller town.

Everyone looks different than he does — his preschool is a beautiful blend — and he’s never questioned it. Maybe he’s too young to quite tell a difference, but something also tells me he’ll never really notice. Troy has also developed a taste for Thai food, dumplings, curry and a wide array of foods that I’ll attribute to having such easy access to. And to parents who can’t get enough stir fry.

Do you have any favorite places to take kids in LA?  

The California Science Center is a great little gem — Troy is too young to really understand the science behind all of it, but it’s free to get in and if you take the Metro then you don’t have to pay for parking. Troy LOVES taking the train so it’s a perfect day excursion when I want to feel like a good parent and have a big day. There’s a touch tank with aquarium animals and tons of fun things to just let them explore.

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But if I’m having a day when I absolutely need some space I head over to Giggles N Hugs indoor play place in Glendale (creepiest name but best place ever). It’s normally $12 per kid to get in, but Wednesdays are half-off days. They’re also a restaurant and serve organic entrees (like mac and cheese with pureed squash in the sauce — those suckers don’t even know they’re eating vegetables), lattes, beer, wine and desserts.

Also, what’s your favorite LA gem just for you? And date spot?

Fiore Market Cafe in South Pasadena is my favorite quaint little spot. They fresh bake their bread every day and it is soft and absolutely from heaven. I always get their roasted chicken sandwich and an oatmeal raisin cookie. My mouth is watering as I type this. They have tables outside and it’s just a perfect, quiet, quaint little garden environment to enjoy the SoCal sunshine and indulge in some comfort food.

As for a date place, Downtown will always have a soft spot in my heart.

Colori Kitchen is a hole-in-the-wall Italian place that looks underwhelming from the outside but secretly contains the most delicious Italian food inside. It tastes like food from actual Italy, like there’s some Italian grandmother in the kitchen cooking up her tried and true recipes. The menu is creative and fresh and you can bring your own bottle of wine. And for dessert the cheesecake is like nothing I’ve ever tasted before. Instead of dense and thick, it’s light and fluffy and they pour a raspberry sauce over it to complement the cream cheese — it’s a perfect treat to complete your meal.

Lastly, what’s the best piece of advice, or something you want to share, that’s really impacted the way you mother?

With the amount of sharing we do as mothers over social media these days, it can be SO easy and tempting to compare. But the fact of the matter is, you can’t do everything. We can’t all champion everything. I feel like people nowadays have certain things they feel very passionate about — cooking and eating organic, home organization, DIY projects, decorating the perfect home, shopping secondhand, budgeting perfectly, homeschooling, yoga. The list goes on.

My advice would be to always remind yourself that you can champion a couple things well, but we can’t all do it all.

It’s impossible and we’re going to wear ourselves out. If someone is really passionate about eating organically and meal planning, they probably aren’t also going to have a perfect capsule closet and all the patience for their homeschooled kids and a spotless, bohemian-inspired home.

This blog post from Wonderoak called Mom Guilt is a Liar sums it up superbly — I highly recommend this read. Let’s not take ourselves so seriously and know we all have something in common — we love our kids fiercely. The end.

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Thank you so much Jessie for sharing! If you want to connect with Jessie and see more of her beautiful family and impressive knitting you can find her on IG @thebonvivant.

 

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