Mothering Caroline Grace

learning how to be the mom of an angel


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Remembering Her Sweet Soul

Caroline had a sweet demeanor.  She was such a content baby, never fussing as she was passed from person to person.  She loved to be cuddled and warm.  She loved snuggling with mommy and daddy.

As she grew, she became more alert and we got to know her beautiful blue-gray eyes.  She explored the world around her with those eyes, and loved taking in the sights when we moved from room to room.  We took pictures at home that captured Caroline’s alert moments in a way that no one else could.  However, our amateur photos had lighting and color issues that could use a professional’s touch.

We decided to have a photographer professionally edit our favorite photos taken at home.  She went beyond our expectations by removing Caroline’s feeding tube from some of her pictures.  Caroline hated that feeding tube.  The edited pictures now capture Caroline’s free spirit in a way that you could not see with that plastic tube taped to her cheek or her chin.

 
I am very protective of my pictures of Caroline.  Second to my memories, they are the firmest link to my time with the sweetest baby in the world.  I find myself looking at this picture often every day, still amazed at the beautiful miracle I was blessed to meet.  Through this photograph I can feel the love in her eyes and remember how it felt to stroke her hair and kiss her forehead.

Every day apart is impossibly hard, but I am so honored to be Caroline’s mom and wouldn’t trade it for anything.  Her sweet soul inspires me every moment of every day.

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Memory Monday

I am so grateful for every picture that we have of our dear daughter.  We had professional pictures taken immediately after Caroline was born and the day before she died.  I am ever grateful for those precious memories frozen in time and the photographers who stood by our side.

I placed something in Caroline’s hospital bag that I didn’t know if I would use.  A week or two before her due date, I had the idea to get a chalkboard and decorate it with her name and pink baby stickers.  The idea was to update the chalkboard with how old she was and to take pictures of her with it.  It would give us a way to look back and know how old she was each day.  We knew of the strong possibility of not getting a chance to take chalkboard pictures, but we hoped and prayed for some time with our little girl.

We were so thrilled to be given time together!  In the hospital, we started by taking pictures of us, Caroline, and her chalkboard every few hours.  Soon, she had survived her first day, and the chalkboard proudly read, “I made it through my first day!”  Every day from then on, we took a chalkboard picture.  “Caroline is 5 days old!”  “Caroline is 1 week old!” “Caroline is 22 days old!”  “Caroline is an 8 week old inspiration!” “Caroline is 58 days old!”  Each day, her chalkboard age declaration ended in an exclamation point, because we were thrilled to be witnessing the miracle before our eyes.  Every day, minute, and second was such a gift.

We always waited to do Caroline’s daily chalkboard picture until we had a visitor or when Caroline was most alert.  In the progression of pictures, she gets more alert the older she gets.  It was amazing to see her grow and interact with her world.  We made a collage of all of the chalkboard pictures, and it shows how loved she was and still is.  Every person who was able to visit was thrilled to be in the chalkboard picture, and the collage reminds me how loved Caroline is by so many people.

Love you forever and ever, Miss Caroline.

 


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Turkeys and Shoppers

Today is the biggest shopping day of the year, which means that my husband is hard at work.  I am instead at home, sitting at my computer with the heated throw that my husband got me (I’m always cold) and sipping on some hot tea.  I have homework to do that I’d like to get done before he gets home, but first I will write.

Thanksgiving was a hard day, even though on the surface it was a lovely day.  We slept in, ate a big breakfast, took a nap together, went out for dinner, and then watched football before going to bed early.  It was a bittersweet day that I did enjoy but went to bed sad, wishing I had needed a high chair at dinner and could have dressed Caroline in a turkey outfit.  Instead, we decorated a small Christmas tree for Caroline and put all of her ornaments on it.  There is a void in my heart that cannot be filled by anyone but her.

Thanksgiving is one of my favorite holidays and this is the first time it has been both happy and sad.  That is the reality of being a bereaved parent – you are always a little happy and a little (or a lot) sad.  The two emotions coexist in a way that was never possible before.

I am so thankful for my daughter.  She has taught me so much and led the most meaningful life.  She helped me to believe in miracles again and inspired so many wonderful things.  She made me a mom and for that I am forever grateful.  I love her so much, always and forever.

I am also thankful for my husband, who has been my rock of support through the best and worst year of our lives.  If not for him, I surely would have quit my program and abandoned my life here.  He is my shoulder to cry on and my inspiration to keep moving forward.

Yesterday, me and the husband were talking about long lines for store openings.  I have never been one to go out shopping on Black Friday – I hate crowds and long lines.  However, I thought that there was one person I would have braved the crowds for – Caroline.  Or another child someday.  If there was some toy that my child wanted for Christmas, and the only way I could afford it was to go out on Black Friday, I would do it.  Being a mom drives you to do things you never would otherwise, because you love your children so much and would do anything for them.  If I could have died for Caroline so that she would have the chance to live a long life, I would have in a heartbeat.  However, I was not given that option.  For some reason, God wants me to stay here while my baby is in heaven.

All I can do now is try to keep moving forward, making Caroline proud when I can.  I anxiously await the day when we are reunited and the void in my heart is once again filled.


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Memory Monday

After Caroline was born, doctors told us that the first 24-48 hours would be telling.  Changes happen with the heart after birth that were likely to be severe for Caroline.  However, she remained stable through that time.  This was one of many, many miracles that we saw because of her.

I had written in our birth plan for Caroline’s heart defect to be confirmed if she lived longer than expected.  We reached that point, but then became uncertain when asked if we still wanted the test done.  The doctors thought that the prenatal testing was valid and were not sure what we would gain by having the test repeated.  We decided to take Caroline home, love on her, and decide about the heart echocardiogram later.

At two weeks old, we decided after much deliberation to schedule Caroline’s echo.  We wondered how it was possible that she was still doing so well, and suspected that her heart defect was not as severe as thought prenatally.  We didn’t want to put Caroline through any more tests than were necessary, but this one was not invasive and would let us know what was going on and if we needed to make any changes to her treatment.  The deciding factor for me was when I asked her pediatrician if she felt comfortable treating Caroline’s symptoms without input from cardiology, and she said that she would feel much more comfortable if they were consulting on her case.  It was time to find out what was happening with Caroline’s heart.

We took Caroline, all bundled up, to the hospital for the test.  I remember it being a very windy day.  We covered Caroline’s car seat in her pink blanket with ballet slippers printed on it.  We arrived early and got inside quickly with her stroller to escape the wind.  Before Caroline’s appointment, we planned to visit the nurses who had taken care of us weeks before on the labor and delivery floor.  They were all amazed at how much Caroline was eating (15 ml every 3-4 hours if I remember correctly) and how well she was doing.  She followed them with her eyes as they swarmed around her, taking in the miracle baby.  We took pictures with the nurses and it was another one of those moments that validated me as a mom; I got to show off my precious newborn and have her met with nothing but smiles.  I am so glad that Caroline got to see all those smiles.

We then went back to the outpatient wing for Caroline’s echo.  They gave me a hospital wristband for her when we checked in, but since she was so small they told me to just hold onto it.  We were soon called back for the echo.  Two women performed Caroline’s scan, and the results were then sent to a local children’s hospital so that a pediatric cardiologist could read them.  Caroline LOVED the warm gel on her chest.  As the tech performed the heart ultrasound, she fell asleep on her mommy.  The tech commented that Caroline was the most well-behaved baby she had ever had for the test – most babies end up screaming and protesting.  Caroline was so easygoing and sweet.

The test took much longer than expected, so Caroline’s daddy had to leave for work before they gave the results.  I talked to the cardiologist and found out that Caroline still had a double-outlet right ventricle (DORV) heart as well as complex problems with her circulation.  I had some hope that the scan would show us that Caroline’s heart was healing, but those hopes were shattered.  Even so, I felt better knowing the situation and having cardiology in on the conversation of how to manage Caroline’s symptoms.  We took our daughter home and spent another amazing month with her.

I say this all the time, but everything about Caroline was a miracle.  It was easy to get discouraged and sad, knowing that your child has a condition with no cure and that any second could be her last.  However, God and Caroline kept me going through all of the tough decisions and heartache.  Having the chance to love Caroline was worth every second of heartache.  Being her mom is the best.

 


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Memory Monday

Last year, we passed out Halloween candy.  An orange shirt with a black cat and “boo” printed on it covered my small but present baby bump.  We smiled as each trick-or-treater came by, dreaming of taking our baby out to trick-or-treat sometime soon.  I was just starting to feel what might be kicks, but I wasn’t sure.  I was so excited to start feeling my baby move.

I was anxiously awaiting our 20-week ultrasound, coming up on Thursday.  All we knew at that point was that our baby had a great heartbeat and my stomach was growing the way that it should.  We were anxious to see a glimpse of our baby and find out if we were having a boy or a girl.  According to my husband, it was a boy because apparently men in his family only have boys.  I thought it was a girl.  I knew the diagnostic aspect of the ultrasound but I pushed my fears aside and thought that since everything had been fine, we had nothing to worry about.  If there was something wrong with the baby, we would maybe need more medical care but we would do whatever we needed to do to help our baby thrive.

We had no idea what was coming.

The last moment of blissful ignorance was during our ultrasound.  The tech asked us if we wanted to know what we were having, and she told us that it was a girl!  We were so amazed and happy.  My husband thought about dancing with her at her wedding in that moment.  I thought about talking her through boy trouble.  The tech was kind enough to give us that moment of pure joy and listen to our stories of how spoiled she would be as the first female grandchild.  She was such a miracle.

My grief is coming full circle.  I have no idea how to get through this week.  A year ago on Friday, we got the worst news of our lives, that there was something wrong with our baby.   A year ago on Saturday, we got the crushing diagnosis.  I haven’t been writing as much this past week because I get to the keyboard and freeze.  I don’t know what to say.  There are no words.  I miss my daughter.


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Wave of Light

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Today I lit a candle for my daughter.  Until this year, I knew nothing of Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Day.  Now it is a day that will be marked every year with the lighting of a candle for Caroline.  It was nice to come home after a long day to light a candle and spend some time reflecting and focusing on Caroline.

Loving you always, my sweet baby girl.

 

 

~ A Prayer for Caroline ~

Dear God,

Thank you for bringing Caroline into my life.

Amidst the heartbreak and sorrow, Caroline taught us all so much.

She taught us to treasure every moment with our loved ones.

Because of her, I believe in miracles again.

She made me a mom, the role that I had anxiously awaited all my life.

Today and every day, please take good care of my daughter.  Please let her be happy in heaven and feel the sunshine that she loved so much.

Please tell her that her parents love her and miss her and will be there soon to hold her again.

Tell her that she is perfect in every way.

Tell her that her life held so much meaning.  I believe she accomplished more in 58 days than some do in 58 years.

Tell her that I love her more than words can say.

Amen


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Memory Monday

I remember Caroline’s first bath in the hospital.  It was the day we were leaving, since Caroline’s temperature had been too low until then for a bath.  She loved being under the heat lamp, but was not too happy to feel the warm, soapy cloth on her skin.  However, she loved having her hair washed.  She was like a lady at the spa, enjoying her massage.  Her daddy and I took turns soaping up our little miracle.  My mom took pictures.  We all teared up.  We then got her dressed in her going-home outfit: a pink dress with pink socks and a pink hat.

When we took Caroline home, we continued with sponge baths for a while.  Once we could see her beautiful belly button, I splurged on a whale-shaped tub so that she could have her first real bath.  We filled it with water and made sure the temperature was warm but not too warm.  When we first put Caroline in the water, she was upset and cried.  By the end of that first bath, she was getting used to the idea of lying in water and had calmed down.

Soon, Caroline loved her bath time.  We would place her in the water and she would fall asleep.  She had such a peaceful way of enjoying her baths.  After she was done, we’d get her dressed and cuddle.  Her hair was the curliest right after bathtime and smelled heavenly.  My little girl was perfect in every way.