Mothering Caroline Grace

learning how to be the mom of an angel

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Caroline Bunny

This week has been hard.  I’ve had that pressure on your chest that won’t let up, no matter what you do.  The past few nights I have been very glad to have our Caroline bunny to hold tight in my arms.

A few days after Caroline died was our second wedding anniversary and what would have been her two-month birthday.  My husband and I took a trip into the city to accomplish a few goals.  Unfortunately, one was to buy a dress and a suit for her funeral.  The other goal was to go to one of those bear building stores.  My husband had talked about going there to build one for Caroline before she passed away, and it felt right to still do it for her.  We brought sunglasses to wear if we needed them, but we made it through without any tears.  We chose a bunny with a pattern of multicolored flowers on the fur.  Flowers are something that we associate with Caroline, and she had a musical bunny that she loved, so it was perfect.  We each picked out a heart for the bunny, and went through all the steps of putting it together.  We named the bunny Caroline.  The most difficult part was checking out – the cashier asked us how old our daughter was.  We didn’t have the heart to tell her the whole story, so we told her that she was 2 months old, and the cashier responded that it’s a fun age.  That stung, but what could we expect her to say when we kept our secret?

We built Caroline bunny for our daughter, but it has helped us through our grief instead.  Holding something in your arms is sometimes the only thing that helps when you miss your daughter more than words can say.  I like to think that Caroline smiles when her bunny comforts her parents.



Back to School

Although I have been back to work for some time, the fall semester has now arrived.  I am a graduate student and taking a few courses this fall, but getting back into the class routine has been harder than I thought it would be.

The demand to concentrate has certainly increased.  I am now responsible for learning a lot of material.  Even though I really don’t care what grades I end up with, I want to do well.  I just don’t know how possible that is right now.  I have a light course load so that I can hopefully keep up.  However, the fact that I have now taken 3 light semesters (spring and summer were light too) means that I will be stuck here even longer, when all I want to do is leave.  I want to take my degree and run.  In fact, I seriously considered quitting right after Caroline died, but my husband wouldn’t let me.

When I walk into a classroom, it is bizarre to think that no one else there knows what I’ve been through this year.  Caroline is in every thought, but other students and professors outside my department have no idea how amazing her life was.  They don’t know that every topic winds up relating back to her.  In one class we were learning about blood and its properties, and all I could think about was Caroline’s heart.

The wave of grief is with me this week and lingering.  A friend of mine left town for a new job, and it hit me harder than I thought it would.  Now that I’ve experienced the greatest loss imaginable, other losses are harder to bear than before.

For now, I am taking it one moment at a time and trying to survive this week.  Back to school is hard.


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5 Months

Caroline, today you would have been 5 months old.

Your father and I miss you so much, sweetheart.  We can’t believe that you have been an angel for almost 3 months.  When I pray, I tell God that He better be taking very good care of you.  I’m still your mama and that means that I’m still suspicious of the best babysitter you could possibly have.  Missing you every day, sweetheart.

My husband and I had a moment this past weekend.  It was his weekend off from work, so we had the full two days to entertain ourselves.  We spent Saturday binge-watching Breaking Bad and we went out to dinner.  By the time Sunday evening came around, we were sick of staring at screens, but there is not a lot to do in this town.  We live far from family so visiting someone for the afternoon was not an option.  We fell into a well of boredom, trying desperately to think of something to do that would help us escape.

That was when my husband came and hugged me, and I responded, “Me too.”  I knew he was saying that he missed Caroline.  I cried for the first time in weeks.  If she was still here, we wouldn’t sit around watching TV all weekend – we would be busy taking care of our 5 month old daughter.  Life is so different now.

I suggested we go for a drive.  We got in the car and I drove us to a grocery store to pick out some flowers for Caroline.  The first two stores didn’t have what we were looking for, so we continued on to a third and got her a beautiful bouquet of purple and white daisies.  They look beautiful next to her urn and I hope she likes them.  Going to pick them out allowed us to do something for her and to actively be her parents for the first time in a while.  We took care of our little girl, and it was what we needed in that moment.


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Memory Monday

Caroline was born early on a Wednesday morning.  By Thursday afternoon, we were told that we could take her home.  I remember being shocked to hear it… you mean BOTH of us can go home?  What an unexpected joy.  We came in to the hospital thinking that we would never take her home, but the doctors were ready to release us the day after she was born.  How incredible!

We decided to wait until Friday to leave the hospital; we were still learning to feed Caroline through her og tube and were still making arrangements for her hospice care.

The time came when all arrangements had been made and it was time to take her home.  We were unprepared to take Caroline home; we hadn’t even bought a car seat.  The thought of driving home from the hospital with an empty car seat behind us was more than my husband and I could bear.  We planned to just go out and buy one if we were able to take her home, but the hospital donated a car seat to us instead so that we wouldn’t have to go shopping.  It was very kind of them.  Our parents had been staying at our apartment while we were at the hospital, and they kindly got us all the essentials that we would need.  Everything was ready for Caroline to come home.

My husband went to get the car so that they could show him how to install the base of the car seat.  He told me later that when he got to the car, he cried for a few minutes because he just couldn’t believe that we were really taking our daughter home.  He pulled himself together and brought the car up to the doors of the hospital and installed the base.  He then came back up to our room and they showed us how to strap Caroline into the car seat.  She was dressed in a pink dress with little pink socks and a pink hat.  Our princess was ready to go!  We said goodbye to the nurses and took the last few pictures in L&D room 5.

I had to leave in a wheelchair, and one of the nurses wheeled me through the halls.  My husband carried Caroline in her car seat.  I was tearing up the whole time and beaming – we were going home!  I remember seeing Caroline’s eyes widen as we walked the halls; she had never left our room and was seeing more of the world than she ever had.  We got down to our car, clicked in the car seat, and we were on our way!

I sat next to Caroline and she did great.  My husband drove the most careful 10 minutes he ever has and we arrived at our door.  We then realized that the people at the hospital had never shown us how to take the car seat out of the base – but how hard could it be?  Well… we couldn’t figure it out!  There were 6 adults standing around this car seat, searching for a button or latch and finding nothing!  After a few minutes of struggling I unbuckled Caroline and took her inside.  My husband and dad had to take out the whole unit to figure out where the latch was located.  The directions were on the bottom of the car seat of course, hidden from view when you’re a new parent struggling to figure it out.

This was our first laugh at home as a family, and I will never forget it.



Happy Guilt

I don’t cry very much anymore and it makes me feel guilty.

Guilty for being happy when Caroline isn’t here to be happy too.

As each day passes, my thoughts turn more to celebrating her life than mourning her death.

Tomorrow will be 3 months since her death.

Isn’t it too soon to be feeling this way?

What is wrong with me?

Will the grief smack me in the face again soon?


Decisions Made

With Caroline, we had to make a lot of difficult decisions, often when there were many bad options and no good options.  Facing a rare trisomy diagnosis is terrifying, and I have no judgement for anyone in the position that we were in.  The decisions that you make are made out of love and the best decisions for your individual family.

Gracefully, as we made decisions, they turned out to be the right ones for us.

One big decision was delivery.  Once Caroline approached term and had a shot at survival, I debated whether or not we should deliver her vaginally or have a c-section.  My OB was willing to do whatever we wanted, despite our MFM’s recommendation that a c-section wasn’t worth the risk for a child that is not going to live.  My OB’s flexibility was kind but lacked guidance – for weeks I went back and forth about it.  When you are facing something like this, you wish that doctors could tell you what you should do, but in the end, they have no idea either.  There are no guarantees.  It is your decision to make.

There were very few upsides and many downsides.  I made so many pros and cons lists, with cons dominating each side.  With a vaginal delivery, there was less risk to me and future children.  I would be able to hold Caroline right away and would not be drugged up for my time with her (I planned to go med-free, partially for this reason).  She would get the benefits to her lungs of squeezing down the birth canal.  The downside was that vaginal delivery raised the risk of stillbirth – Trisomy 13 babies are sometimes so fragile that they do not survive vaginal delivery.  On the other hand, a c-section gave Caroline a better chance of being born alive.  However, I would be medicated during delivery and if she only lived for a few minutes, I would never be able to hold her because they would still be sewing me up.

These are the hard realities that bounced around my thoughts in that 3rd trimester.  Either decision was likely a lose.  The advice that I got most often was to think about what I would regret later, but either way, regrets were a possibility.

We decided in the end to stick to our original plan and had a vaginal delivery without monitoring.  We decided to take an emergency c-section off the table.  I did not want to know if Caroline’s heart had stopped during labor so that I could continue laboring with a little bit of hope.  I had a picture of Caroline’s heartbeat trace in a frame on the tray in the delivery room, and it helped me to think positively that she would be alive when she was born.  It was next to the picture of our cats, so that she could meet them if she never came home with us.

Again, gracefully, we made the right decision for us.  Caroline was born with eyes wide open and crying, even though the neonatologist had thought that she wouldn’t have the strength to cry.  Thankfully, she was alive and doing very well!  We took her home a few days later, and she spent most of her life at home on hospice, cuddling with her family, feeling the sunshine, and being kissed over and over and over.  She is my miracle baby who overcame all the odds and gave me the best 58 days of my life.  She is my favorite person and we fought hard for her to have the best quality of life that she could.  I thank God every day for my time with her and that she did not suffer.

No regrets.


Getting Healthy

I  am having a hard time getting into a workout routine.

I should be lifting Caroline, not hand weights.  I should be burning 500 calories a day from breastfeeding alone.  When Caroline was with us, my baby weight was melting away.  After she passed away, I quickly gained a lot of it back.  It was as if my body was revolting against what was happening.

I want to lose my baby weight, not just because I would feel better about myself, but because I want to be ready.  Ready to try for another baby.  I am NOWHERE NEAR emotionally ready yet, but when I am, I want to be back down to my pre-pregnancy weight so that I can be healthy for Caroline’s sibling.

There have been times already when all I think I want is another child.  Those first few days of coming home to a quiet, empty house screamed that it needed to be filled.  That I couldn’t go on with my house so empty.  I couldn’t bear it one more second, and cried every time I entered my home, filled to the brim with silence.

Soon, the rational voice inside of me would take hold and remind me that I need to take time to grieve.  I need to survive the anniversary of the ultrasound that turned our world upside down.  I need to survive the holidays.  I need to survive Caroline’s first birthday.  I need to know that I can survive these days.  Before I think about taking care of another life, I need to take care of my own.

So for now, I try to eat healthy and exercise a few times each week.  The pounds are coming off slowly but surely.  One day, I will reach my goal, and sometime after that I will be happy to gain it all back for another beautiful miracle.