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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Miracles

My daughter is such a miracle.  She had such an impact on the world in her short time here, but she also taught me and my husband so much about love and miracles.

When we found out about her diagnosis, it was crushing.  We cried for days, mourning the life we dreamed of living with her.  We named her Caroline and decided that we would make every memory with her that we could during the rest of my pregnancy, and we did.  I started a journal and made notes about doctor’s appointments as well as what was going on in our lives and how I was feeling, emotionally and physically.  We bought the essentials that we needed for the hospital, packed our bags, and waited as we approached full term.

Doctors prepared us for the worst.  First we didn’t know if she would make it to term.  Then we didn’t know if she would be stillborn.  Then we didn’t know if we’d have minutes, hours, or days with our daughter.  It seemed that the most likely scenario was to go home from the hospital without her.

We prayed to have some time with Caroline to show her that we love her, and that she would not suffer.  I never prayed for her to be healed.  I can’t say exactly why I never did.  Perhaps because of my faith in medicine and her doctors.  Even more so, perhaps because she was perfect the way she was.  I couldn’t ask any more of her than to be the beautiful person she was meant to be.

It was a miracle that Caroline was born alive.  Her OB cried along beside us, as she didn’t even need any resuscitation.  Having minutes with her was another miracle.  Having hours with her was yet another miracle.  Taking her home from the hospital was another miracle.  Having the time at home to care for her and love her and meet more of her family was another miracle.  Having both of her parents holding her tight while she passed from this world to the next was another miracle.

Caroline had a special message to send to the world.  She showed us that life is precious and delicate and should never be taken for granted.  She also showed us the beautiful strength she was given to survive well beyond the time predicted with her diagnosis.  She made us parents, and showed us the meaning of unconditional love.  When my husband first brought Caroline to me after she was born, I remember looking at those big, bright eyes and being amazed by the miracle in my arms.  What a miracle it was to be her mother.

Every baby is a miracle.  Every baby is here for a purpose, and every baby matters, even if the only life they knew was that in their mother’s womb.  Being Caroline’s mom has been the most difficult experience of my life, but more importantly, the greatest joy I have ever known.


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Memory Monday

Every day holding Caroline was such a blessing.

She was so light that you could almost forget that she was on your chest.  Her breathing was best on her side, so that was how we would always cuddle.  She slept often, fatigued by her heart condition, but only got fussy in the evenings.  She never complained about being passed around from person to person.  When she was first born she liked to be wrapped up in a swaddle, and later on she liked to have her limbs free to wiggle.  She wore a new outfit almost every day, and we would find mittens and socks to match.

She had the most amazing new baby smell and her hair was SO beautiful.  It was very curly and somehow both dirty blonde and strawberry blonde in color.  She loved to suck on her pacifier, but you had to hold it in place for her.  Sometimes she would swing her head from side to side when she didn’t want the pacifier, making the cutest noise.

Every day I told her that I loved her and kissed her forehead.  Probably a thousand times.  Every day I told her that she was a miracle baby, my miracle baby.

We will cuddle again in heaven, sweetheart.  Your mama still loves you very much.  See you soon, Miss Caroline.


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My Mom Identity

I am Caroline’s mom.  Her death does not change that.

It’s not obvious to the world that I’m a mom.  I don’t have spit-up in my hair and I don’t have a stroller in the trunk of my car.  No one asks me about Caroline or how it is to be a new mom.  But I am.

I’ve faced what is probably the hardest challenge a mom can face.  To do everything you can to keep your child comfortable, and to hold her as she passes from this world to the next.  I did that for her.  My whole life led up to that moment – I was meant to care for my beautiful baby, surround her with love, and to tell her that she doesn’t need to be afraid.  I told her that she’d play in heaven and we’d see her again soon.

Now I will keep her memory alive.  Her life matters.  She was a true miracle.  It is an honor to be Caroline’s mom.