Surprise! Welcome Finn!

Here’s a post that I’m thrilled to write. On February 7th, we welcomed Finn Mikhail Macdonald to the world. He joins big brother, Theo, who is three years old today.

Those who’ve been following know that our daughter, Nora Pepper, died in December 2017 after being born with a very rare and completely surprising birth defect. But my husband, Todd, and I knew we weren’t done building our family. Or so we hoped. We never learned our recurrence risk for Nora’s condition, despite doing whole genomic sequencing, the most comprehensive option available. Our odds were either 1 in 4 of a repeat (if the condition was inherited), or 1 in a billion (if it was a random mutation) of being struck by the same lightning twice. But there was no way to close that gap.

When you’re hit with such a devastating loss, and medical uncertainty, you can’t help but think, “Was our healthy child the fluke? Or was our unhealthy child the fluke?” And then, “Could we go through this again, if it happened? Are we brave enough to try?”

Well, we tried. And the pregnancy was its own special kind of hell, because Nora’s condition doesn’t show up on imaging or any kind of prenatal testing (since we never found the gene responsible, we had nothing to test for).

So I had to basically have a baby and see if it … worked. Brutal.

Happily, Finn seems healthy, as far as we can tell. He’s very different from our sweet Nora. He cries, he eats (and eats!), he opens his eyes, and he seems very engaged with the world around him. In other words, a typical newborn, just like Theo was.

The second Finn was born and screamed and latched immediately, a huge weight was lifted. Worry and heartbreak that I didn’t even realize I’d been carrying around for so long dissipated. I can’t describe how happy we were, and still are, to have this beautiful new creature join our family.

To be totally honest with you, the end of 2017 and into 2018 was devastating. Not only did we have the worst surprise of our lives when Nora was born and passed away in December 2017, but I lost my dad to cancer in March 2018. This was also a surprise. He sincerely thought he had more time. They both departed way too soon. It was too much. I was numb for about six months. That’s why Finn has the middle name Mikhail. That was my father’s name, the Russian version of Michael.

At least our Finny has two amazing guardian angels watching over him.

And, of course, two furry ones. (Token pug picture of Olive and Gertie…)

Thank you to everyone for following this saga. I kept the pregnancy a secret for the most part. I learned the hard way not to count my chickens. Hearing congratulations for Nora and then condolences two weeks later was very hard. So I didn’t want to say boo about a baby until there was one. Well, boo!

It was such a thrill to have the same photographer who took our Nora pictures, Sarah Ann Photography, back to chronicle this new arrival. We also got to share Finn with the incredible NICU doctor who cared for Nora, which felt so gratifying. It was such a wonderful way for things to come full circle. I hope that now we can close out one tumultuous chapter of our lives, and begin an exciting new one.

101 Replies to “Surprise! Welcome Finn!”

  1. Congratulations to you all. Finn is beautiful, you are brave, and your family is lovely, from your guardian angels right on down to your pugs. ❤️

  2. I am soooo very happy for his new turn of events. Precious, precious children- all three of them. I wish you and your family, peace, blessings, and deep joy.

    1. I meant “this” not “his” turn of events.
      Also, my daughter insists I use the Oxford comma above.

  3. Congratulations to you and your family, Mary! You helped me edit my book (Timber Howligan) back in 2014 and I’ve been forever grateful. You helped me become a better writer and a better critiquer. I enjoy following your blog, and am especially delighted to see such happy news for your family.

  4. What an extraordinary journey you’ve been on this year, from tremendous heartbreak to joy. I had no idea. So happy for you and your family.

  5. Oh, I am so happy for you and your family, Mary! I hope you are relishing in every dirty diaper, every cry, every feeding, and the abundance of love that he has brought to your family. Congrats!

  6. That’s a lot of heartbreak and hopefulness to weather in two years, Mary. Wishing you and Finn lots of health and happiness.

  7. Congratulations on your beautiful boy. Thanks for sharing your touching account of all you’ve been through.

  8. Mary- This is such wonderful news. Nora’s story was heartbreaking and I’m so glad you were brave. You gave yourself such a gift.

  9. Oh, such joyful, happy news after such deep losses. May the new chapter ahead continue to bring your family healing and hope as Finn makes his way bright way through the world. Congratulations one and all!

  10. Congratulations on the birth of your son. I can’t even imagine how difficult it must have been to lose Nora and to carry the fear of losing another child for the 9 months you carried him.

    Wishing you and your family so much love and happiness together.


  11. Mary, since the day I heard you tell it here, the story of Nora has never left my heart. Your little boys are lucky to have a mother with such an open and hopeful perspective.

  12. Many many congrats and thanks for sharing your story. Very beautiful and brave to go ahead and try again after such a huge loss.

  13. Wonderful, WONDERFUL news!!! Congratulations to the whole family. Welcome, Finn! You are a rock star, Mary. <3

  14. I am so happy for you, Mary. I wept over your post about Nora and now rejoice on the arrival of another miracle — each one a precious soul designed and created by God. How very difficult this pregnancy must have been in so many ways. Congratulations to you and your husband.

  15. Congratulations on the birth of your beautiful new baby boy. Finn looks so tiny in the photos! Enjoy your precious family.

  16. Finn came when you needed him. I’m so happy for you. A new chapter begins. Nora and your Dad will always be with you.

  17. Congratulations Mary! This is wonderful. You have a beautiful family and giving Finn your father’s name is a lovely tribute.

  18. Oh wow, that is such amazing news and this post brought a tear to my eye! I’m so happy for you Mary. May the rest of your life be filled with joy and happiness xxx

  19. I have been following your blog for well over a year so knew what you were going through. Congrats on the birth of a healthy boy. I too had a Nora-type story (although quite a bit different) so I understand the mix of joy and fear in subsequent pregnancies. Nothing will take your memories of Nora away but nothing beats a healthy baby for helping you heal. I look forward to more posts about your boys and writing.

  20. What a joy it was to read this post. Congratulations on the birth of your beautiful boy Finn and happy birthday to big brother Theo. And I’m sure you’re right about the guardian angels looking down on you all.

  21. Shedding some tears here for you and your family. It’s wonderful that you’re expanding your family with this beautiful child. It makes so much sense that you kept it secret, but I am sorry you had to go through that agony. Wishing you many years of wonderful regular family life together.

  22. So happy for you, Mary! The photos of your dad and Nora Pepper around Finn are lovely. Warmest congratulations and best wishes to you all!

  23. Congrats on the arrival of baby Flinn! Thank you for sharing your brave and beautiful story. After the heartache of your journey, I’m so happy for you & your lovely family and wish you all joy ahead.

  24. Hey Mary,
    From someone who ‘understands’ everything when you write about ‘surprise, loss and the total devastation’ … congratulations to you, your hubby and family. The call to try again, which is hugely courageous, is something that can sometimes feel like a mammoth sized 9-month-long hurdle that keeps you on tenterhooks, not only for the courageous couple but for the inner circle of grandparents, siblings and close friends and doctors involved…the greatest support network you can wish for. So happy you can now relax a little and enjoy the ride. Wishing you many blessings. Debbie x

  25. What miraculous joy for you and your family! You must have an unwavering faith to move through the pain and loss you were forced to face unexpectedly and still be walking and breathing. Blessings on all of you, and may the bond of love that transcends heaven and earth fill your heart and beyond!

  26. Wow, I am bleary. PRECIOUS, not previous, and Riggs not RIggs on my last comment. Just finished the rough draft of my latest novel and I am not typing straight!

  27. What joyous news after such heartbreak! I’m so happy for you and your family, Mary. Congratulations on beautiful Finn!

  28. Thank you for so bravely sharing. Love all of these pics – for all the love depicted. (And have loved for many years all your insights on writing.)

  29. Thank you for sharing your story in this beautiful post. Having been in your situation many years ago, I am experiencing a range of emotions as I think back.
    I am so happy for you and your family. Welcome little Finn! And, Nora, you will not be forgotten.

  30. Well, I am just weeping reading this! I am so, so happy for you and your family!! Many blessings to you all, and welcome to the world, beautiful, beautiful Finn!
    xoxo Nancy

  31. May the memories of your Dad and Nora warm your hearts and give you strength. Blessings to you and your sweet family.

  32. Congratulations! I’m so happy you have another sweet baby in your family, and wish you many joyful moments with your beautiful family.

  33. Mary, my heart both aches and is filled with joy for you and your family. Your strength and hope is beyond amazing—and look at that beautiful result. Congratulations and God Bless You all! 😀 Hugs.

  34. Baby Finn is precious, Mary. Congratulations! What a moving story. My heart goes out to you with the loss of little Nora. I can’t even imagine. I admire your bravery and strength during such a challenging time. Much joy and happiness to you and your beautiful family.

  35. Congratulations, but what a heart wrenching time! So thankful for Baby Finn and your growing family. You have a gorgeous family, and may God bless you all!

  36. Dear Mary, congratulations on the birth of your beautiful baby boy, Finn! Theo looks like such a proud big brother. I was also so sorry to hear about the loss of your precious little girl, Nora. Thank you for sharing your story—your courage is truly inspirational! Love, Anne-Marie and family.

  37. I will never forget your moving post about Nora Pepper. She is smiling down form heaven and your new family member. My heart is full for you and your entire family.

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