Mothering Caroline Grace

learning how to be the mom of an angel


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How Pregnancy Announcements Feel as a Bereaved Mother

As the mother of a beautiful, sweet, wanted daughter who left this world too soon, I struggle with hearing that friends and family are pregnant.  Instead of hearing that they are expecting and beginning to glow with happiness, I hear:

“My perfect little life continues to be perfect.  Just wanted to shove that in your face while you grieve.”

“I know that your hopes and dreams for your daughter were shattered, but I wanted to let you know that my hopes and dreams for my child are very much intact!”

“My baby is still alive and yours isn’t.  Just thought I’d let you know.”

Each announcement is a stab in the heart and leads to an hour of crying in bed, holding one of Caroline’s stuffed animals tightly in my arms.  I feel really bad about reacting this way.  I’m really not the jealous type.  I want to be genuinely happy for them, and at times I am, but that initial news is always hard to swallow.  It is another reminder of what I’ve lost.  I spiral into a crying mess, missing my daughter, watching the world continue to turn when I want to hit the pause button, and it prevents me from feeling truly happy.

I am grateful for the texts and the emails that let me process the news on my own.  A phone call or in-person announcement doesn’t give me the opportunity to bury my face in a pillow and cry, which is what I need to do.

I am hopeful that there will come a day when I don’t feel crushed by the pregnancy announcement of a close friend.  I don’t know if it will take a living child of mine for this to change, or if I will always have a hard time learning that another life is coming into this world, a world that my daughter could not stay to enjoy with me.  I hate being fragile like this, but this is how I feel.  And you know what?  I have every right to be fragile right now.

I have wounds that I will tend to for many years to come.  With those wounds comes fragility, but also strength.  I am a survivor of the unimaginable.  I am the mother of a child in heaven, full of love for my beautiful, sweet, wanted daughter who left this world too soon.

 

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Memory Monday

I didn’t know real exhaustion until after Caroline’s birth.  I went into labor overnight, so my husband and I got no sleep the night before Caroline was born.  Because of this, we started our marathon at a disadvantage, as many parents do.  In the hospital, nurses often came in to check on me as well as Caroline, and it felt like a time warp.  If the nurses didn’t write down the time of Caroline’s next feeding, there was no way I could remember.  Time is an enigma in the hospital.  My husband was so exhausted that I watched Caroline for the majority of the next night so that he could get some sleep.  I was still running on the adrenaline of Caroline’s birth and the wonder at how well she was doing.  The next day, grandparents helped me to get a little sleep, but there was so much planning to be done!  We were taking our little girl home!  We didn’t even have a car seat.  We couldn’t stand the thought of having a car seat installed in our car and driving it home empty, so we figured if we needed one, we would go out and get one.  Kindly, the hospital was able to give us one.  We continued making plans for hospice care, all the while taking care of our beautiful Caroline.

When we got home, time was less of a warp.  We started to get into a routine, but Caroline liked to be awake and fussy around 2-4 am.  My husband and I worked together to learn how to calm her.  I learned that he has infinite patience when he’s exhausted, and I do not.  At one point when I had gone several days on little sleep, I was looking for a pen to label my breastmilk.  I couldn’t find one, and I crumpled into a pile and broke down into tears.  At that point I knew I really needed some sleep – a simple problem felt like the world crashing down.  My husband, on the other hand, never got frustrated the way I did.  He always asked if I needed help, even when I was snapping at him.  I really don’t think I could have done it without him.

One night, I was so exhausted and Caroline would not stop crying.  This was a serious problem, because when she cried, she wasn’t breathing, and when your heart is in bad shape, not breathing is not good.  I was walking around with her and bouncing her, because looking around at different rooms and feeling the motion often soothed her.  As I walked around with her, I was telling her, “You are driving your mommy crazy, do you know that?  Yup, driving mommy crazy.  Calm down baby girl!”  Eventually she did, and I kissed her goodnight as we both tried to get some sleep.

I felt bad later for telling her that she was driving me crazy.  Who says that to their baby?  However, I think it was a moment that we needed to have.  I would never get to tell her as a teenager, so in my exhaustion it came out.  Strangely, it is one of our mother-daughter moments that I most treasure.


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Survival

November 7th and 8th were all about survival.  A year ago on November 7th, we had our routine anatomy scan ultrasound that showed us that there was something wrong with our baby girl.  A year ago on November 8th, we saw a genetic counselor and MFM to get the worst news of our lives – that our daughter likely had Trisomy 18 or Trisomy 13 and had a 90-95% chance of dying before her first birthday.  We found out a few weeks later that Caroline had Trisomy 13, the rarer of the two conditions.  Any shred of hope for a normal life for our daughter was then gone.  It was devastating on so many levels.

I didn’t know how to handle these dates.  They didn’t mean anything to anyone but me.  Even my husband wasn’t crumbled into a pile of mess the way that I was.  I hoped that family would reach out to me on that difficult day, but no one did.  The dates mean nothing to them.  Only to me.  I know that it’s irrational to expect everyone to worry about me as I pass each milestone but I still hope for it.  It would make me feel less forgotten and alone.  The world is moving on but I am stuck in my grief, and have no intentions of letting it go.  It is my connection to my amazing daughter.  I will never stop loving her, so I will never stop grieving.

On November 7th I went to work.  I had a busy day that kept me distracted, that is after crying on the drive in to work.  That night I came home and ate dinner, then went to the movies with my husband.  We saw St. Vincent.  It was a good movie and a nice distraction.  I needed to survive the day, and did.

The next day, I went in to the city for a training session.  It was with a group of parents and I told my story.  There were tears but I made it through the training and the hour-long drive home.  When I got home, I finally had the chance to break down with the house to myself.  I thought about the bottle of wine in the fridge, but didn’t drink it.  I cried myself to sleep.

November 7th and 8th were hard, but I survived.  It is unbelievable that I have been grieving for a solid year.  It has gone by so quickly and yet so slowly at the same time, the worst and best days of my life.  The juxtaposition of devastation and joy that has occurred in the past year was something I never believed could happen until I experienced it.  It is certainly possible to have the best and worst year of your life at the same time.

 

 


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Grief Caught Up

I had big plans this weekend, starting Friday afternoon, so although I knew Friday was Caroline’s half birthday, it didn’t really hit me then.  Instead, Monday was so hard.

I felt it from the moment I woke up.  That pressure on your chest that goes along with the greatest grief a person can come to know.  I packed the stuffed bear that the funeral home gave me in my bag to take to work, because I knew it was going to be one of those tough days where I need to hold something in my arms.  I really don’t care if anyone thinks I’m crazy.  I’m not, I’m just grieving in my own way and if I feel like I need a bear in my arms, I will take it.

During my drive in to work, some song that was a little bit sappy but had nothing to do with Caroline brought me to tears.  I had a grief explosion of ugly crying in the car.  There is no controlling those explosions of grief; when it happens, you just have to feel it and try to get through it.

I left work early because I had reached my capacity of getting work done for the day.  I didn’t have any more in me left to give.

Thank goodness for my husband who was there for me when he got home.  His hugs and the way that he is happy to bring up Caroline in conversation help to keep me going.

Missing you, peanut.