You may recognize Fifi + Mo as the dynamic duo from their fun “mommy and me” Instagram account. With over 80,000 followers, Christina and Finley Smallwood are doing more than promoting small businesses by showcasing their clothing. They became role models for special needs families by sharing a glimpse into Finley’s life with Cerebral Palsy.
“When I meet a fellow special needs mom, I know she views the world through similar eyes as me,” Christina said. “She’s aware of the special needs world and we see beauty in different places than most.”
Finley is not your typical three-year-old. She’s a fashionista on a mission to walk on her own. Christina and her husband Josh adopted Finley after struggling to have children. Finley was later diagnosed with Cerebral Palsy due to being born prematurely and suffering from brain bleeds.
Luckily Finley was a candidate for a life-changing surgery called Selective Dorsal Rhizotomy (SDR) that could help her walk on her own. The surgery cost $50,000 plus travel expenses for the Smallwoods. That’s when Christina found YouCaring, the 100% free online crowdfunding site, and decided to take action by starting a campaign for Finley.
To ensure that they reached their fundraising goal, their family went above and beyond. They created the Dare to Dance Challenge and received publicity on Finley’s story which led them to raise over $66,000. They traveled to St. Louis, Missouri in October 2016 for the SDR surgery and it was a success.
A Look Into the Life of a Child with Special Needs
Since then, Finley has made huge strides towards walking on her own. Christina documents these milestones along with a look into the life of a special needs family on their Instagram account. Even on the overwhelming days, Christina know’s it’s important to share all aspects of their life.
“When I have those overwhelming days, documenting them is really helpful for me,” Christina explained. “Before we started blogging I felt really alone on our journey, but now, I feel like I have friends I’m venting to, friends that either understand or that are extremely sensitive to our journey.”
To share what a day in the life of a mother with a special needs child is like, YouCaring hosted an Instagram Takeover with Fifi + Mo. Unlike other families, a typical day in the Smallwood family looks a bit different. When asked how their daily routine differs, Christina said it’s not much different than raising another three-year-old besides the stretching, assisting with medical devices, diaper changes, and leg bracing.
Raising a child with special needs can be difficult, but also extremely rewarding. Christina is motivated every day by Finley’s strength and willingness to grow. When asked how Finley inspires her, Christina said, “I feel like I’m most inspired by that ability to only focus on the positive and smile like you have no idea that it could be different.”
For any parent facing their child’s diagnosis, Christina offers a piece of advice. “This is going to be very hard, prepare yourself. Toughen up. Look to your baby, if she is smiling, you should be too. Trust your gut and listen to your instincts. Most of all, speak up in a kind way.”