Mothering Caroline Grace

learning how to be the mom of an angel


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Caroline’s First Birthday Recap

When I get sad, I get quiet.  Apparently, that also applies to my writing.

However, I would love to share what we did on Caroline’s special day, March 26th.

We live quite a distance from our family and many friends, so we asked that they help us celebrate by sharing pictures of their sunrises.  We woke up to see the sunrises for our girl who so loved to be outside in the sun.  It was the perfect way to remember Caroline.

Both my husband and I took the day off from work to be together.  I had plans to wake up at Caroline’s time of birth (5:48am) to take my own sunrise picture, but unfortunately we had a rainy day and it could not be done.  Instead, we slept in and woke up to Caroline’s sunrises from across the country.

Some of our sunrises:

AZ

Arizona Sunrise

IN

Indiana Sunrise

ID

Idaho Sunrise

FL

Florida Sunrise

CT

Connecticut Sunrise

MA

Massachusetts Sunrise

 —

We decided to go out to brunch together.  At brunch, we let our emotions wash over us and talked about the day that Caroline entered this world.  We are so thankful for the happy memories that we made with our little miracle.

Another way that we celebrated Caroline’s birthday was with random acts of kindness.  At brunch, an older woman came in alone and sat at a table across from us.  We decided to pay for her lunch in Caroline’s memory.

Friends and family participated in the random acts of kindness too, which was one of my favorite parts of Caroline’s birthday.

Some messages we received:

“This morning I watched an exhausted mother of three small children struggle to juggle her responsibilities and her sanity. While she tried desperately to find her wallet within her huge diaper bag, I quietly paid for her items. Happy Birthday, Caroline!”

drinks

“Caroline is still bringing so much joy! She made my coworkers VERY happy while working on report cards! Happy birthday!!”

“Happy Birthday, Caroline!! I have your picture hanging up in my room as a reminder of what pure love is and to cherish and remember our loved ones every day. I remember talking about you with your mom and watching her smile as she shared your baby books with me. I wanted to buy a stranger a coffee today in the drive through, but since no one was behind me, I left a gift card and told the cashier about your sweet 1st birthday party, and why I was paying it forward. He was really inspired to do the same! You continue to touch people’s lives, Caroline!”

 —

After brunch, we went to the nearby grocery store to pick up supplies for Caroline’s special day.  We went in intending to only get a cake, but we emerged with a cake, a fresh bouquet of flowers, a “Frozen” Happy Birthday balloon with Elsa and Anna, and a pink balloon to release for our sweetheart.  You only have a first birthday once, right?

We came home and set the flowers and balloon by Caroline’s urn.  We again gave ourselves time to feel what we needed to feel.  That afternoon, we wrote letters to Caroline and attached them to our pink balloon.  We released the balloon for our special lady.

balloon1

balloon2

I then did the one thing that I had specifically planned to do.  I read through my journal of our time with Caroline since her diagnosis.  I laughed and I cried.  I plan to do this every year on her birthday to make sure I remember it all.

journal

That evening, we celebrated with the cake we had bought earlier.  We even broke out the party hats that we had purchased for Caroline’s one-month birthday.

cake

Overall, it was a very emotional day.  On the one hand, we remember Caroline’s birth day so fondly because we had no idea if she would even be born alive, and we experienced the miracle of her live birth.  On the other hand, it was so sad and so hard to not be able to celebrate with her.  I imagine she would have gotten frosting all over her face and been full of giggles if she was still physically with us.

Thank you to everyone who shared memories of Caroline and let us know that we were not the only ones to remember her special day.  Sometimes the best gift to a grieving parent is to let them know that they are not grieving alone.

We ended the day by saying a prayer together for Caroline.  We cannot wait to see her again someday.  We love you, we love you, we love you, our strong, wonderful daughter, Caroline.  Happy first birthday!

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Memory Monday

I kept a journal for Caroline during my pregnancy and her life.  Not this one, but a paper, feel-in-your-hands journal with questions for my doctor’s appointments as well as letters to my precious baby girl.  I recently took it out to find my genetic counselor’s card, which inevitably led to some reading of my time with my sweet daughter.  Today’s Memory Monday is an excerpt:

12/18/13: Hi sweetheart.  Your mama has had a lot of hip pain recently but you were more active today which was reassuring and made me happy.  Today we did some Christmas shopping – got my mom a bracelet and got my dad a spatula for grilling.  Getting a present for your daddy has been difficult – I have a few ideas but nothing has worked out and I’m running out of time!

Today I made you a preemie sized tutu with green and purple tulle and pink ribbon with purple flowers.  It came out really pretty and it’s too beautiful for the onesie that inspired it so I have to get one that will better match it.  I am glad to have an outfit ready for you if you come early.  It feels like picking out your prom dress and your wedding dress and your mother of the bride dress because it may be the only outfit you wear and I want it to be beautiful just like my baby girl.

Loving you always,

Your mommy,

Kristina


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Grieving Together

They say that men and women grieve differently.  I think a more accurate way to put it would be that people grieve differently.  I am thankful that my husband and I have been able to support each other through our grief, regardless of that fact.  As couples become more similar to each other as they get to know each other, we have taken a similar journey with our grief.  We started so differently but now we cope in very similar ways.

Before Caroline was born, we dealt very differently with her diagnosis.  I needed to be prepared in every way.  I scoured the internet for family stories and research articles about survival and quality of life.  I made her a purple and green tulle tutu with purple flowers for pictures if she was very premature.  I ordered a pink ruffled romper with a pink flowered headband for pictures if she was born closer to term.  When I made and bought these outfits, I thought that they would likely be the only outfits that she would ever wear.  Even so, I bought a few extra outfits in preemie and newborn sizes, just in case.  I made and gathered books to read to her.  I made sure we had blankets, booties, and mittens.  I got special paper for ink footprints and handprints.  I made a chalkboard for pictures that might not ever be used.  I called the funeral home to make an appointment.  This is the way that I grieved – I did my best to prepare myself for every possible outcome.  I wanted so badly to have some time to love on her and get to know her, but I had to prepare myself for the worst.

My husband grieved very differently.  He couldn’t shop for Caroline.  I couldn’t leave my journal out, because if I did he would try to read it and about a sentence in, would burst into tears.  “How do you write this without crying?” he would say.  I honestly didn’t know, but my journal was my outlet.  As I wrote about Caroline’s appointments and documented my pregnancy, it put my mind at ease that I would never forget my time with her.  To my husband, the writing seemed an exercise in masochism.  His approach was to just not talk about the fact that he may never meet his daughter, and although I didn’t understand it, it was okay.  It was his way of processing the unprocessible.

I remember when Caroline was born, and we were able to TAKE HER HOME, seeing how happy my husband was.  It was startling.  I don’t think I realized how miserable he was before until I saw how happy he was to spend time with Caroline.  When he went back to work, he would come home almost every day with a new outfit for her to wear.  He knew that we would have to say goodbye someday soon, but he was the happiest I had ever seen him.  I was happy too.  Looking back at pictures, we both glow in every single one.

When our daughter went to heaven, our grief became more similar.  We both cried often for the first week or so, but then it lessened.  We both talk about Caroline all the time.  My husband has told me that he’s so glad that I kept a journal.  He had me put excerpts from it in a baby book that I made for her.  I have bad days and he has bad days.  Most of the time, they fall on different days so that we can take turns being the comforter and comforted.  Other times, we have bad days together and cry together, holding each other close.  I don’t know how I would get through this without him and am so glad that he hasn’t reacted by wanting to pretend that she didn’t exist.  He acknowledges her every day and is as proud as I am to have her pictures hanging throughout our home.

The grief of losing a child is certainly life-changing enough to have the capability of putting immense strain on a marriage.  I am happy to say that my spouse and I are closer than we have ever been.  We lean on each other and support each other, loving our daughter Caroline every second of every day.