Mothering Caroline Grace

learning how to be the mom of an angel


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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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Eight

As television starts back up again, it is time for a post that I have been thinking about for a while.  I have always been a fan of Grey’s Anatomy.  I have often thought back to a scene where Cristina talks to Meredith’s therapist and tells her about Meredith’s pain level.  At this point in the show, Meredith has lost her mother, her father has never been there for her, and she is barely hanging on.  Derek doesn’t understand the loss in her life and the support system that she needs.

 

 

Since my daughter died, I have thought that this same fact is true for me.  I live my life at an eight.

 

I am willing to bet that the same is true for anyone who has lost a child.  On a pain scale of 1 to 10, we are always at an 8.  This is beyond the comprehension of everyone but those closest to us.  They are the ones that notice that we live our lives at an 8.  They are the ones who know that the smiles, while they can be genuine, are hiding the deep sadness that comes when a part of you has left this world.  Caroline is my first thought in the morning and my last thought as I fall asleep.  I try to be strong for her and put on a brave face, but sometimes I have to sit outside in the sunshine to feel close to her.  Sometimes I have to run out of the building at work to burst into tears because I can’t stand pretending that I’m okay for one more second.

If you are reading this because you know someone who has lost a child, be the friend who notices their pain.  If months have gone by and you think that they are doing okay, know that they are not.  Give them a hug and the chance to tell you how they feel.  They live their life at an 8, but you can make that 8 a little easier to bear.


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Looking Up

Miss Caroline seemed to have a preoccupation with the ceiling.  Sometimes there was a clear reason for her to be looking up; the fluorescent lights in the kitchen were soothing to her and always managed to help when she was upset.  Other times, we would just be sitting around the living room, rocking her back and forth, and she, very often, would look up.  I don’t think it was reflexive; she was very capable of following faces with her eyes and tracking things as they moved across her visual field.  There was usually plenty of activity in our house to look at, especially when she was awake and everyone vied to take a picture or talk to her or stare into her deep eyes.  Still, she would look up.

I like to think that there was a reason.

That her angels were with her and she was looking up at them.

Of course, I will never know during my time on this earth if this is true, but this is what I believe.

When I found out about Caroline’s diagnosis, I started reading.  I read family stories and research articles, and then moved on to books.  I started searching for evidence that heaven is real and that children have a special place there.  I have always believed in God, but the doubts creep in when your child is facing a fatal diagnosis and you can’t imagine why God would allow it.  This mother needed to know that her baby would be okay.  One book in particular really resonated with me.  It is called Touching Heaven: Real Stories of Children, Life, and Eternity, by Leanne Hadley.  In some ways it was a difficult read; it is written by a children’s hospital chaplain about her experiences with dying children.  However, I walked away from this book with some comfort that Caroline wouldn’t be scared when she left this world, and I don’t think she was.

Another book that I read about heaven was Proof of Heaven: A Neurosurgeon’s Journey into the Afterlife, by Eben Alexander, M.D.  The scientist in me was drawn to this account by someone who should be the biggest skeptic of heaven there is.  In the book, he describes his near death experience while fighting bacterial meningitis in a coma.  He argues that there is no way that what he experienced had anything to do with his brain, as it had essentially shut down due to the attack it was facing.

These books gave me some support and comfort, but I think the answer had been with me all along.  I have to think that there is a point to all this.  That there is a higher power and that souls are real and eternal.  Through my journey with Caroline, I saw the way that she inspired so many people.  I was upset that I would not get the time that I expected with my little girl, but she did more in 58 days than some people do in 58 years.  Her lifetime was short but fulfilling.  She showed me God’s grace.  I miss her so much, but I think she is happy and playing in the sunshine in heaven.

It is now my turn to tell her story and continue the work that my amazing little girl started.  I will look up, the way Caroline taught me.


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Music

There are a few songs that always make me think of Caroline.  Sometimes they make me smile, and sometimes they make me cry, but they all are carried in a special place in my heart.  Sometimes music is the only way to put your finger on a feeling that you can’t quite describe.

This first song was my anthem during Caroline’s pregnancy: Brave by Sara Bareilles.  It played on the radio on the way to the hospital and while there, we found her singing it in a concert while flipping through TV channels.  I don’t think that was a coincidence.

 

This next song touched me both before and after Caroline was born: Let Her Go by Passenger.  I remember hearing it on the radio after getting Caroline’s diagnosis and bursting into tears.  I had the same experience a few weeks ago when it was again on the radio.  I didn’t want to let her go but I didn’t have a choice.

 

This final song reminds me of the love I have for my daughter: All of Me by John Legend.  It usually makes me smile, but occasionally leads to tears.  My husband claims that I ruined the song for him because I told him that it reminds me of Caroline and now he cries every time he hears it.  I don’t think I ruined it though; I think it’s the perfect love song for our little girl.

 

Missing you, Miss Caroline.


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Silence

I never knew silence could be so loud.

I walk in the door and the absence of sound is deafening.  For two months, our family shared in the joys and frustrations of caring for an infant.  There was always something to do; she needed to be fed, or rocked, or bounced, or held tight.  We were sleep deprived and loving every minute of it.  We took a picture of Caroline with a chalkboard every day, documenting how many days old she was.  Now the chalkboard is in a closet somewhere and there are no more updates.  We were blessed to spend 58 days with her, but of course it is never enough.  Why did our sweet child have to go so soon?

Now, the only thing that we can do at home is go online or watch TV.  The familiar baby sounds are gone and we are bored and empty.

I miss our family unit of 3.

I miss my sweet Caroline.


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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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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?