Mothering Caroline Grace

learning how to be the mom of an angel


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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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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.


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Memory Monday

This is a memory with Caroline that I will always hold close to my heart.

The weekend before Caroline passed away, my husband had taken a long weekend to get some extra quality time with his girl.  We decided to take Caroline for a walk around our apartment complex to get some fresh air and enjoy the sunshine.  I carried her in her wrap and we walked around for about 10 minutes, then sat with her on a chair swing by the apartment playground.  There were two children playing on the playground, a little girl and little boy.  The girl looked about 10 years old and the boy a few years younger.  It soon became clear that they were siblings, as they worked together to pour sand down the slide.

We rocked Caroline for a while on the swing, and then decided it was time to go back home.  As we got up to go, the little girl ran up to us.  She first asked, “Is that your baby?” I thought it was a funny question but answered yes.  She then asked to see her.  I let her see Caroline, knowing that it would lead to more questions.  The little girl called her brother over to look at the baby.  The little boy, being more blunt and less inhibited, asked, “What’s wrong with her nose?”  I told them that she has a nose that is just different from everyone else’s.  The little girl then said, “Oh it’s different.  That’s cool.”  I then said that we had to get going and said goodbye to the two children.

This little girl made my day.  Her immediate acceptance of Caroline’s cleft as something different and cool was proof again of the wonderful nature of childhood innocence.  I wanted to find her mother and thank her for raising a child who was so sweet and accepting of children with special needs, but decided it would be creepy of me to go back and ask the children where they live.  Instead, I will thank her here – thank you for your child, who helped to lift my heavy heart.