Mothering Caroline Grace

learning how to be the mom of an angel


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Working Mom

“The pictures of your baby are beautiful,” said someone walking through my office.

“Thanks,” I replied, with a fear of what was coming next.

“I don’t know how you can come in with that beautiful baby at home,” she said.

I smiled, not wanting to share my life’s story with this total stranger.

I wish I still could.

I keep pictures of me, my husband, and Caroline on my computer desktop at work.

Seeing those pictures every day is worth every awkward interaction in the world.

Love, love, and more love to you, Miss Caroline.

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Memory Monday

Every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday they came.  Since Caroline was so stable, her nurses came just three days a week for about an hour to check her vitals and be there to support us.

Caroline hated having her vitals taken.  She was not one of those babies who want to be loose and free; instead, she preferred to be comfy cozy in her jammies and wrapped up in a blanket.  It was even better to be cuddled in mommy or daddy’s arms.  So when a nurse came to check her heartbeat, her respiratory rate, and her lungs, she certainly protested.  She did not want that cold stethoscope anywhere near her.

Every exam I asked the nurses how she was doing, and every time her vitals remained stable.  Every exam I asked if her lungs were clear, since I had been told that they would likely fill with fluid due to her heart condition, and the answer was always that they were clear.  Caroline was full of miracles.

Caroline’s nurses were there to answer any questions we had, from cleft palate care to baby rash.  I would have read all of the parenting books I could get my hands on, but I didn’t think I would take her home so I couldn’t bear to read them ahead of time.  I was so grateful to have Caroline’s hospice nurses as a resource.

Because of the quality nursing care that we had, we were able to spend all of our time enjoying and loving our sweet baby girl rather than wondering how she was doing or what to do when she pulled out her o-g tube.  We were able to take care of Miss Caroline and show her all the love in the world.  Every day I am thankful for the time at home with our beautiful child, and for everyone who helped to make it possible.

Missing you so much today, sweetheart.

Mommy loves you.

 


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Holiday Blues

We are getting to the point where we need to decide what we are doing for the holidays.  Going home to family is a plane ride away, and I want none of it.  We are getting to the point where we should book if we want to go before the prices rocket up, but my husband and I have decided that we don’t want to travel this year.  We wanted to go home for Christmas last year, but with Caroline’s condition we wanted to stay close to my OB.  So you would think that we’d be itching to go home this year… but we’re not.

The thought of watching nephews open presents without Caroline there to grab at the paper ties my stomach into knots.  The looks of pity, or worse, of “why aren’t they over it yet?” from family and friends would be too much to handle.  I’m not trying to say that my family is mean or that they would try to hurt me, but I know I would see it in their eyes.  I would feel like my grief was on display and know I’d be the gossip point of the month.  “How is Kristina doing?”  “She seems okay, I saw her laughing and smiling so it looks like she’s getting over it.”  “I don’t know, I saw her leave the room when the boys were opening presents and she didn’t come back for a while.”  “I heard her crying in the bathroom.”

Maybe it is the grief talking but a quiet Christmas at home with my husband and Caroline’s ashes is all that I feel I can handle this year.  Maybe if I went home I would find my family to be incredibly supportive and I’d have a great Christmas, but I don’t think I’m ready for that.  I need this season to miss my daughter and be permitted to feel what I need to feel.  If I want to cry all day, I want to be able to do that.

Hopefully I will feel up to going home for Christmas next year, but this first Christmas needs to be ours.  If anyone has suggestions for getting through that first holiday season, I’d love to hear them.

Missing you always, Miss Caroline.


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Memory Monday

We arrived home two days after Caroline was born.  It felt so good to be home and cradling Caroline in my arms.  The grandparents cooked everyone dinner and we started to settle into our new routine with our newborn miracle baby.

We have two cats, and their names are Nelson and Booda.  Nelson is a little grey cat, weighing about 7 pounds.  Booda is a large black cat, weighing about 18 pounds.  We did not know how they were going to react to Caroline.  Since we didn’t think we would be bringing her home, we hadn’t tried to prepare them at all.

When we walked in the door, Booda noticed Caroline immediately.  His eyes became very wide and he watched from a distance, curious about the new family member but cautious.  It took Nelson a few hours to notice Caroline; once she let out a cry he looked around with big eyes, trying to find the source of that strange new sound.

Over time, Nelson grew a soft spot in his heart for Caroline.  When I would rock her, Nelson would come sit on my lap to be close to her – something he never did before.  Booda played the role of the jealous older sibling.  He sulked over the attention he was no longer getting, but I think all the visitors we were having also made him anxious.

With the use of some aluminum foil, we were able to make the cats disinterested in Caroline’s bassinet, although Nelson would still try to jump in from time to time.  The cats hated that we would lock them out of the room at night, but we couldn’t risk them jumping into her bassinet while we slept.

It was rare to be able to get a picture of Caroline and her kitties, but there are a few that we now cherish.  Although there were times of jealousy, I think they both loved her.  I wish I could have watched them all grow up together.


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Memory Monday

After three days in the hospital, we were all ready to go home.  As I was wheeled out the door, my husband carried Caroline in her car seat.  I distinctly remember her eyes during the walk to the car.  They were so wide and alert as we walked the halls of the hospital.  She was leaving the delivery room for the first time, and taking in all of the new sights with wonder.  She was filled with life, on her first adventure.

Those eyes are the most beautiful thing I’ve ever seen.  They let you see right through to her beautiful soul.  Caroline’s eyes and her gorgeous curly hair were enough to melt your heart.  She truly was an angel here on earth.

Missing you every second, Miss Caroline.


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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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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.