Mothering Caroline Grace

learning how to be the mom of an angel


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A Day at the Zoo

This past weekend, my husband and I went away to the city to spend some time together.  We visited the zoo, and as we went to the visitors center to get a map, we saw a group of about 4 children with special needs and their parents.  The children were in the type of wheelchair that I only dreamed of needing for Caroline.

Something struck me when I saw this group.  I felt a sense of camaraderie with them, even though I carry Caroline in my heart.  I am the mother of a child with special needs, even though no one can see it.  I thought it was wonderful that they had all found each other and were able to have a beautiful day at the zoo together.  I didn’t have support from other parents like this when Caroline was here with us.  I felt an urge to talk to them and hear their stories, but I held back.  I didn’t want to disturb them, so I kept walking.

We got our maps and came out of the visitors center, and they were gone.  I asked my husband if he had noticed the children, and he gave me a knowing smile.  Of course he had.  Caroline is always at the forefront of our minds, and seeing those families was a glimpse of what could have been if she was still here with us.  


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Why I’m Celebrating Mother’s Day

Last year, by no less than a miracle, I was able to spend Mother’s Day with my daughter.  That makes this Mother’s Day my first one without her.

I have been bombarded by articles in these days leading up to Mother’s Day, seeing titles similar to “Surviving Mother’s Day as a Bereaved Mother” and “Ten Ways to Support a Loss Mom on Mother’s Day.”  It has made me wonder if I’m crazy.

Am I insane to be excited about Mother’s Day?

Perhaps it’s a lack of experience with this holiday after Caroline’s death, but I am excited for the day that celebrates my motherhood.  

I want to celebrate that my body kept her safe.  I want to celebrate the beauty of her birth.  I want to celebrate that I fed her.  I want to celebrate the diapers I changed for her.  I want to celebrate the cuddles and the love.

The love that didn’t end with her death.

Caroline has completely changed my life.  Everything I do is an attempt to make her proud of her mom down on earth.  I am her mother every day, nurturing her memory and loving her.

That is something that should be celebrated.

I am an amazing mom.

Is it beyond hard to face life without her in my arms every day? Absolutely, but I am proud of the mother that I have become.

I hope Caroline is proud of me too.

Happy Mother’s Day to all of the moms with empty arms.  You have just as much of a right to celebrate your motherhood this weekend as the moms with their arms full.  Arguably, more of a right.  Stand proud and remember that you face the impossible every single day, and your motherhood always shines.  Your love for your children is an unstoppable positive force unleashed on the world.  You and your motherly love deserve to be celebrated.


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Here’s to you, Caroline!

My husband spent months deciding on the perfect design for his tattoo in memory of Caroline, and he got it this week!

 
He absolutely loves it and so do I!  It is on his outer right calf, clearly visible when he wears shorts.  It is his first tattoo, and he chose a design for our very special little girl.

Caroline’s footprint is the actual size of her footprint at birth.  The sun is something we associate with Caroline;  she loved being out in the sunshine.  The 58 is because she lived for 58 days.  We are so thankful for all of that unexpected time.  There are six flames off of the sun for her six beautiful fingers on each hand.

While I have been able to wear necklaces in memory of Caroline, my husband has not had that opportunity.  He is not a necklace-wearing-type of guy.  This has been hard for a dad who is hurting just as much as I am.  He misses Caroline so much and is so proud of her.  Now he has a way to show the world that he is the father of an incredible little girl. 

Caroline is so loved by her daddy!


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I Said Her Name

Yesterday, I gave a talk in front of all of my mentors and colleagues about my research.  This is the first time that I’ve been in front of them in this way since just before Caroline was diagnosed.  It is traditional to share acknowledgements at the end of a talk like this.  I included a thank you for my funding and people who have helped with the project.  I also included Caroline.

I made a decision to say her name.

I have been underwhelmed by the support I’ve gotten at work.  There have been a few who have gone out of their way to be there for me and who do not shy away from talking about Caroline, but most have acted as if nothing has changed.  I came back to work without my baby and everything has changed, but I do realize that my world was the one that was rocked.  I think about her every second of every day, but many have probably already forgotten about my baby.

But not yesterday.  I said her name.  I took the opportunity to thank those who had been there for me during a very difficult year.

Maybe it was inappropriate, but I decided that I did not care.  I realized that if I don’t show that I want to talk about Caroline, no one ever will.  That is just about the worst thing I can imagine in the coming years, so I acknowledged the girl who is always with me, guiding the person that I have become.

I said her name.


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Rediscovering Me

I searched around the house until I found them.  My bag of colored pens was deep in our storage closet, anxiously waiting to be used.

I used to consider myself an artist.  If you asked me when I was 10 years old what I was going to be when I grew up, I would have told you that I was going to illustrate children’s books.  My grandfather was an artist too, and used to take me to local art meetings.  I remember at one the topic was framing and we were supposed to bring a piece of art for the speaker to discuss appropriate framing and have examples.  I brought a picture of a girl and a dog sitting outside that I had drawn in art class.  My picture was discussed during the framing presentation, and the framer commented on how much he liked my picture, not knowing that it was the work of a child.

Somewhere along the line, life got busy and my artistic side faded into the background.  I became occupied by school, science, and life.  Having a career that involved saving the world became more important and I stopped drawing.

When we got Caroline’s diagnosis, one thing I decided was to go buy some pens and to make her a book.  I wrote the book and included everything I wanted to tell her.  That she was loved, and that she’d be happy in heaven, and that her mom and dad would be okay.  I drew pictures to accompany the words.  I became that children’s book illustrator after all.

 

I read that book to Caroline as she entered heaven.

 

Now that Caroline is in heaven, I have decided to pick up art again.  Being so close to death puts everything into perspective.  I love to draw.  Why don’t I do it more often?  Life is short and we have to do what makes us happy.  I took the pens out of the closet and I’m determined to make my world a little more beautiful.  Perhaps I can save the world in more than one way.


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A New Normal

It has been almost 4 months since Caroline died, and I think I’m starting to see my “new normal” that everyone talks about.  I can say for the first time since Caroline’s ultrasound last November that I’m starting to be productive at work again.  I am much more capable of meeting deadlines and concentrating on my writing.  I get less looks of pity and more empty smiles as I walk the halls.  I am disappearing back into the shadows.

It feels good to start pulling my weight again, but part of me is sad to be finding my new normal.  There is a fear of forgetting everything I want to remember.  A fear of letting other people forget.  I wish I could hear her name from someone every day, but that’s not how this world works.  I will have to say it for my own ears to hear.

I am thankful for the ways that I have found to mother Caroline.  I have a friend who lost her daughter too, and we meet up from time to time to talk about our kids and be with someone who understands what we’re going through.  My husband and I attend a support group for bereaved parents.  I bought a dozen pink roses and placed them by Caroline’s urn; I love to bring flowers to my sunshine.  I am looking into ways to be a contact for other families facing a similar diagnosis.  No one could ever find a contact for us, and it was hard to be alone through all of the heartache and decision making.

I want to give back in memory of my Caroline.  I hope Caroline is proud of me.

I am certainly proud of her.